Monthly Archives:: September 2014

Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo | Book Review

September 29, 2014 Book Review, Young Adult 4 ★★★★★

Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo | Book ReviewRuin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo
Series: The Grisha #3
Also in this series: Shadow and Bone, Siege and Storm
Published by Henry Holt and Co. on June 17, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Fantasy & Magic, High Fantasy, Romance
Pages: 417
Format: Hardcover
Source: Birthday present
Amazon Add to Goodreads
5 Stars
The capital has fallen. The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne.

Now the nation's fate rests with a broken Sun Summoner, a disgraced tracker, and the shattered remnants of a once-great magical army.

Deep in an ancient network of tunnels and caverns, a weakened Alina must submit to the dubious protection of the Apparat and the zealots who worship her as a Saint. Yet her plans lie elsewhere, with the hunt for the elusive firebird and the hope that an outlaw prince still survives.

Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozova's amplifiers. But as she begins to unravel the Darkling's secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction—and claiming it could cost Alina the very future she’s fighting for.

Oh MY gosh. Ruin and Rising is here!!!! Right!? Don’t worry, I read this right when it came out. It has just taken me this long to figure out how to write a review for it. Leigh Bardugo is my hero. Now, I can’t guarantee there won’t be spoilers for the first two books. And I can’t guarantee this review will be anything but a bunch of fangirling with no real point. But either way, here are my thoughts. As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. Before I even begin, can we all just have a moment of silence for the end of the Grisha trilogy? I am SO sad it’s over.

2. This book broke my heart and then put it back together again. I mean, oh wow. The Darkling. Mal. Sturmhond/Nikolai. I just can’t.

3. I will take Nikolai for myself and not let you have him. He is just so perfect. I have grown to love him so much through each book.

4. Everything I said I loved about the first two books, Shadow and Bone and Siege and Storm, are still valid. Plus I love these things MORE.

5. Leigh Bardugo made some very brave and almost rebellious decisions with how everything turned out and how everyone ended up. People die. And you’ll care about it. Since Leigh owned these decisions, though, they WORKED. She did not go about this halfway. She jumped in the middle of a dark and deep pit of sharks with a bloody paper cut on her thumb and said, “Bring it on.” This lady has GUTS.

6. The writing just slayed me. Oh, the beauty and the dynamism. If Leigh re-wrote the dictionary, I would read it.

7. There was so much action and excitement, and ALL my questions were answered. And the ending was amazing.

I wish I had been more emotionally equipped to write a more thorough review, but we all know that doesn’t happen often with the end of a trilogy. I loved it, bottom line. You need to read this trilogy. And, chances are, you already have since you’re being brave and reading my review. But if you haven’t or if you haven’t finished it yet, just DO it. It’s amazing and wonderful and definitely my favorite trilogy ever.


Debut Author Event | Sandy Hall Interview & Book Signing Recap

September 26, 2014 Author Interview, Debut Author Challenge, Debut Dish, Event Recap 4

sandyhall

 

I was beyond excited when Macmillan wrote to me and asked me to be their designated blogger for Sandy Hall’s A Little Something Different signing and book talk at The King’s English bookstore in Salt Lake City, UT on September 13th. I got to the bookstore about a half hour early so that I could meet Sandy and Nicole (a publicist at Macmillan), and ask Sandy some questions before her event started.


The Interview

king's english(I recorded this interview on my phone, so not all of Sandy’s answers are direct quotes. If they are, I put them in quotation marks. Makes sense!)

Jana: What inspired you to write A Little Something Different?

Sandy: “The site itself.” I heard about the site and thought, “Oh, that’s really cool. I’m going to tell the kids at work about it. Go read free books online.” They love being involved in stuff, and online is just natural. Then I said to myself, “No. I’m not going to tell them. I’m going to write a book. And I don’t want them to find it.”

Jana: Why the 14 points of view?

Sandy: “I wanted to write a pretty generic story. One of my friends had given me this idea: boy/girl, parallel lives.” Essentially, this story has been done before, but why not read it from everyone else’s point of view? I wanted to give this plot we have seen before a completely different edge.

Jana: Two of the narrators are non-conventional book characters: a squirrel and a bench. What was it like trying to jump into their minds?

Sandy: “The whole point of them was so that there did not have to be someone lurking in the bushes listening to Gabe and Lea’s conversations. I had to come up with some other way to give them private time, since they are not two of the narrators themselves. I really wanted to pick something quirky. I liked the idea of the bench because there’s benches everywhere. And there’s squirrels everywhere. So it’s not that far-fetched.

When we were doing some of the edits, my editor Holly said we needed to make the squirrel more like Doug from Up. That’s why he has the exclamation mark after his name in the book.

Jana: How have your library patrons reacted to your book deal and all this excitement?

Sandy: “We had my launch event at the library, and we had like 100 people show up, which is a really big deal. They are very excited.”

Jana: I co-host the Debut Author Challenge, which is a challenge where people are supposed to read as many MG/YA/NA debuts each year, and I always ask the authors these five questions when I highlight them on my blog. I thought I should include you as well!

Sandy: “Oh yeah, sure!”

Jana: Describe your book in five words or less.

Sandy: “A quirky, quick little story.”

Jana: Why should readers pick up your book?king's english 2

Sandy: “Because it’s definitely not just for girls, and it’s definitely not just a romance. I also think it would make a pretty decent book report book. There’s a lot going on to talk about.”

Jana: What’s the best thing about being a debut author?

Sandy: “It’s so sad, but the first thing that came to mind is: the food! But no, I’m getting to meet so many people and I’m getting to learn so much. It’s almost everything you would expect it to be, but it’s cooler, weirder, and more tiring. I can tell you, touring will get old. I don’t even know what day it is. I can’t wait to go home on Monday. My body rejects being on a plane, so flying every day is really hard.”

Jana: What’s your favorite movie theater candy?

Sandy: “Oooo. Ummm. Strawberry Twizzlers.”

Jana: What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?

Sandy: “At home I have a Magic 8 ball. I know I have something extra crazy on my desk right now. I remember when I left I was going to come home and wonder what that’s doing there, but I can’t remember what it is! At work I have a graffitti Justin Bieber Valentine from one of the kids, and I love it.”

Jana: What do you think of the book cover?

Sandy: “I love it. I love the color, I love how it feels, I love the quality. And I think a great looking paperback draws people in.”

Jana: And those are the Debut Dish questions! One more question for you: what was your favorite scene to write?

Sandy: I love the midnight breakfast scene. It was a tradition at Rutgers, so it’s near and dear to my heart. I also love the fight scenes, and both of them were Victor scenes.

Jana: I really loved the end, but we can’t just go and spoil that for everyone. And I found myself relating to Lea and her awkwardness in relationships.

Other things discussed: Allergic reactions to mosquitoes, how even people who aren’t shy can relate to being weird in relationships, unofficial plans for Sandy’s next book (she’s not wanting anyone to know until it’s done.), Master’s degrees in library and information science, how there’s a pretty great interview of Sandy at the end of the book for more information, and how Sandy is quitting her full time job to write more.


The Book Talk

sandy signingThe book talk was fun! We had a small group of people, so we basically just chatted about all kinds of things like we were friends. There was no need for a moderator, and nobody had to raise their hands. We just kind of threw everything out there. We all sat in chairs outside on the back patio. It was a nice, intimate setting. It was so intimate, actually, that I felt weird taking pictures! I learned a few more things about Sandy and her book, which I will just lay out right here.

  • Sandy tends to like reading contemporary novels with some romance in them, but not necessarily romance novels.
  • Sandy would really like to write a bit of everything. Big Foot even came up as a possible story line!
  • When asked about the book cover she responded with, “I feel like it would taste good if you could lick it.” That was probably the highlight of the evening for me!
  • When asked about the 14 different viewpoints, she informed us that the book started out with 23! Holy cow!
  • “Buttprint”, which is used to describe someone (like jerk, punk, or meanie head) in the book was pulled from her group of guy friends.
  • We talked about a lot of other books like Code Name Verity, Outlander, Isla and the Hppily Ever After, Zac & Mia, and Scott Westerfield’s new book. Sandy recommends Love is the Higher Law.
  • We talked a little bit about where we were on September 11th, how old we were, what we were doing.

It was such a fun evening, and I was so happy Macmillan wanted me there! It was nice to meet Sandy and to learn more about her book. I’ve also never been to The King’s English Bookshop before, so it was fun to see a new place! Thanks to Sandy for the interview!

So, have you read A Little Something Different? What did you think? I was finally able to read it myself, and it’s a fun little romance! Definitely quirky, just as Sandy said. :)


The Debut Dish: Christina Farley + a Giveaway

September 21, 2014 Author Interview, Debut Author Challenge, Debut Dish, Giveaway 7

The Debut Dish, a Debut Author Challenge feature, is where you go for the scoop on some pretty awesome debut authors and their new books! Hopefully these interviews will inspire you to add many, many more books to your to-read list. Because, really, who doesn’t need more books in their lives?

This is a special Debut Dish, because we’re not only celebrating Christina Farley’s debut, Gilded, we’re also celebrating the release of the second book in the series, Silvern, in just two days! If you’ve already read Gilded, what did you think? If you haven’t yet, I hope you’re planning to!


Gilded (Gilded #1) by Christina Farley
March 1, 2014 from Skyscape
Add to Goodreads | Author Website

Sixteen-year-old Jae Hwa Lee is a Korean-American girl with a black belt, a deadly proclivity with steel-tipped arrows, and a chip on her shoulder the size of Korea itself. When her widowed dad uproots her to Seoul from her home in L.A., Jae thinks her biggest challenges will be fitting in to a new school and dealing with her dismissive Korean grandfather. Then she discovers that a Korean demi-god, Haemosu, has been stealing the soul of the oldest daughter of each generation in her family for centuries. And she’s next.

But that’s not Jae’s only problem.

There’s also Marc. Irresistible and charming, Marc threatens to break the barriers around Jae’s heart. As the two grow closer, Jae must decide if she can trust him. But Marc has a secret of his own—one that could help Jae overturn the curse on her family for good. It turns out that Jae’s been wrong about a lot of things: her grandfather is her greatest ally, even the tough girl can fall in love, and Korea might just be the home she’s always been looking for.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Vivid, action-packed, passionate

Why should readers pick up your book?
If you’re a reader that’s looking for a unique setting, strong female characters, and Asian mythology then this is the book for you. Think an Asian Percy Jackson for teens.

What’s the best thing about being a debut author?
I would say it’s the reader community. I never expected so many people to come behind Jae’s story and be supportive of it. I was worried that many people wouldn’t ‘get’ the Korean element or find it interesting. So it thrills me that that is the part that has drawn them to the story. I’m also so appreciative of the debut author groups that I’ve been a part of for their support and encouragement.

What’s your favorite movie theater candy?
Twizzlers.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
It’s a toss-up between my homemade Chewbacca snow globe and my terra cotta warriors that I bought while visiting Xi’an, China.


Silvern – Out September 23rd

Silvern (Gilded #2) by Christina Farley
September 23, 2014 from Skyscape
Add to Goodreads

Jae Hwa Lee has destroyed Haemosu, the dangerous demi-god that held her ancestors captive, and now she’s ready to forget about immortals and move on with her life. Then the god of darkness, Kud, sends an assassin to kill her. Jae escapes with the knowledge that Kud is seeking the lost White Tiger Orb, and joins the Guardians of Shinshi to seek out the orb before Kud can find it.

But Kud is stronger and more devious than Haemosu ever was. Jae is soon painfully reminded that by making an enemy of Kud, she has placed her closest friends in danger, and must decide how much she can bear to sacrifice to defeat one of the most powerful immortals in all of Korea.


Giveaway

In celebration of a fantastic two-book year, a successful debut, and the upcoming release of Silvern, Christina is offering up an autographed copy of one of the Gilded books, plus swag from both! The winner will choose which book they receive. USA only, please. :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway


The Caged Graves by Dianne K. Salerni | Mini Book Review

September 15, 2014 Book Review, Young Adult 5 ★★★★★

The Caged Graves by Dianne K. Salerni | Mini Book ReviewThe Caged Graves by Dianne K. Salerni
Published by Clarion Books on May 14, 2013
Genres: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 329
Format: Hardcover
Source: Borrowed from Library
Amazon Add to Goodreads
5 Stars
17-year-old Verity Boone expects a warm homecoming when she returns to Catawissa, Pennsylvania, in 1867, pledged to marry a man she has never met. Instead, she finds a father she barely knows and a future husband with whom she apparently has nothing in common. One truly horrifying surprise awaits her: the graves of her mother and aunt are enclosed in iron cages outside the local cemetery. Nobody in town will explain why, but Verity hears rumors of buried treasure and witchcraft. Perhaps the cages were built to keep grave robbers out . . . or to keep the women in. Determined to understand, Verity finds herself in a life-and-death struggle with people she trusted.

Inspired by a pair of real caged graves in present-day Catawissa, this historical YA novel weaves mystery, romance, and action into a suspenseful drama with human greed and passion at its core.

One of my friends recommended The Caged Graves to me after loving it so much. I’ll be honest, I was worried it would not be my thing. At the same time, though, I was very intrigued by the story, which was inspired by the author’s discovery of a pair of caged graves in Catawissa, Pennsylvania. Dianne K. Salerni could not find the answer to why these graves were caged, so she wrote the story she imagined might have happened. I decided to give this book a try, and I ended up really loving it. The Caged Graves did not hit me like a ton of bricks in the beginning. It was only AFTER I finished, and realized that I was thinking about it days later, that I discovered how much I enjoyed it.

I really love Gothic literature that incorporates mystery, history, and romance. The Caged Graves combines all of these things with a little suspense and hints of the paranormal. Ever since I read The Crucible by Arthur Miller I’ve been very intrigued by the history of witches that were heard of in the Northeastern states. This is a pretty substantial theme in The Caged Graves, which gave me yet another reason to pick it up. I quickly began to discover all these elements I so love reading about, and grew more and more excited with each page turn.

Verity is not your typical 19th Century girl, who sits by submissively as men plan out her life and tells her what to do. She’s got this modernized personality that was so refreshing to read about. She does not take no for an answer, she does not sit idly by and wonder, and she is far above the cattiness that frequently surfaces among southern belles in literature that covers this time period. She is stubborn and brave, and will not hesitate to put her nose in things others wish she would leave well enough alone. She’s not always prim and proper, and I love that about her. I’m pretty sure I’d be a lot like her if I lived in 19th Century America.

Nate, Verity’s husband-to-be, is your typical Southern gentleman. He’s sweet and chivalrous, and always seems to say the right things. That’s why I was not especially fond of him at first, though. I felt like he said everything he said because he felt it was the right thing to say, not necessarily because he wanted to say it. He did grow on me because I realized that that was how he was brought up. And he’s so NOT the smooth talking romantic. I laughed as he tripped over himself. I much preferred Hadley, the blunt doctor who had no problems going outside the societal norms, much like Verity. His concern and friendship towards Hadley in a town where everyone gave her odd glances and spoke to each other in hushed tones when she was around, was very endearing. As much as this situation sounds like a love triangle, it was a very realistic one. So often, today’s love triangles are self-inflicted either because the heroine can’t choose who she likes better, one of the heroes can’t accept that the heroine is taken, or vice versa. This love triangle is understandable, though, as Verity is torn between who she should like (because her dad wants her to) and who she wants to like.

I liked quite a few of the secondary characters as well, including Verity’s father who has no idea how to raise a teenage girl but is trying really hard to, as well as Beulah, Verity’s crotchety housemaid. Each character was very well written and stood apart from the rest. There’s a couple sweet moments where the idea of segregation dissolves and African Americans and whites come together to help and look out for one another. I was so happy to see this, especially during a time where racism was rampant.

The romance is very sweet and tender, yet understated. It was certainly not the entirety of the plot. I loved that it played a side role to Verity’s quest for learning the truth about her mother’s past. I liked that this book was not riddle with historical facts. There was just enough to allow me a sense of the time, but not so much that I felt bogged down by a history lesson. I really, really loved this story and would recommend it to anyone looking for something outside the normal equation of young adult literature. The Caged Graves reads like adult fiction but is centered around young people, making it a book that transcends age groups and can be enjoyed by all.


When Do You Decide to DNF?

September 11, 2014 Discussion 38

i can't

 

So, I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately. A LOT more than usual. And I’ve been reading books I worried I might not like. I do my best to request books that I think I will love, but so often I only have a small summary to go off of and no reviews from my trusted friends. And then the reviews start to roll in and I begin to regret requesting. But since I did, I feel I owe it to the publisher and the author to give the book a fair shot regardless of what I’ve read about it. You know what it’s like. They spent money on me to send me a book, fully expecting that it would benefit them. Unless I read something super extreme about a book (like it contained brutal violence, lots of swear words, or animal cruelty), I will do my best to give it the shot it deserves.

So often, my book lover’s intuition is correct and I know pretty quickly that I’m reading a book that will ultimately end in DNF. Once I feel that way, I’m pretty positive that reading 20-50 more pages will not change my mind. I’ve been known to DNF as early as 20 pages in. And I feel like that’s fair. I read until I knew I would not be finishing it. In doing this, I can end a happy person instead of an annoyed person who wasted their time. I’ve seen, though, that some people mention in their review policies that they will read a book until they are halfway through, no matter what. And I wonder why they torture themselves. So I figured I’d ask you to weigh in on this.

Do you have a DNF policy? If so, what is it? When do you feel it’s ok to quit reading a book and move on?


Every Time I Think of You by Tracey Garvis-Graves | Book Review

September 9, 2014 Adult Fiction, Book Review 3 ★★★★★

Every Time I Think of You by Tracey Garvis-Graves | Book ReviewEvery Time I Think of You by Tracey Garvis Graves
Published by Self on September 16, 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Mystery, Romance, Suspense, Thriller
Pages: 360
Format: eARC
Source: From the author
Amazon Add to Goodreads
5 Stars
Thirty-year-old Daisy DiStefano has two people she holds dear: the grandmother who raised her, and her three-year-old son, Elliott. But when Daisy’s grandmother is killed in a seemingly random act of violence, Daisy must take steps to protect herself and her child.

Despite a thriving career in San Francisco, thirty-six-year-old Brooks McClain has returned home to spend what little time his mother has left before she succumbs to the deadly disease that is ravaging her. The seasoned investigative reporter has taken a position with the local newspaper and been on the job less than twenty-four hours when he’s summoned to cover the death of Pauline Thorpe.

Brooks is all business, but the more time he spends with Daisy DiStefano, the more invested he becomes; there’s something about a single mother, a defenseless child, and an unsolved crime that has stirred Brooks’s protective instincts like nothing ever has before.

And when the unthinkable happens, Brooks will do whatever it takes to clear the name of the woman he’s fallen for and the child he’ll protect at any cost.

Romantic and suspenseful, Every Time I Think of You shows how far two people will go to fight for the ones they love, and the life they’ve always imagined.

I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again. I will read anything Tracey writes, and I was extremely excited when I heard she was writing a romantic suspense novel! As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. I think I’ve mentioned this point in every review I’ve written for Tracey’s books, but I just love her characters. She is so good at writing about people you can find common ground with. I’ve never been in Daisy’s position. I’m not a single mom, I did not go through a nasty divorce, nobody in my family has been murdered, and I have never been as alone as she has. But I could still identify with her feelings of inadequacy, her worry that she had failed, her concerns for the future, and her desire to tear down the walls she has built around herself.

Likewise, I have never been in Brook’s situation. I’ve never had to give up a career to move home and take care of my parents, I do not have an immediate family member battling a tragic disease, and I never tried my hardest to get out of the town I grew up in. But I identified with his deep love for his family, his worries that he was not strong enough to go through things that were thrown his way, and his fears for the future as well. Tracey writes characters you become invested in and care about. You can tell these people are real to her, and she cares for them too. We learn so much about both Daisy’s and Brooks’s pasts, and I think that is just one of the many reasons readers will care about them.

2. I really enjoyed the realistic timeline of Daisy and Brooks’s relationship. It began as a simple reporter/victim relationship, but turned into Brooks worrying about her safety, into Brooks caring about her happiness, into Daisy recognizing how nice it is to have him around, into friendship, until it finally blossomed into something that seemed sweet and meaningful. Everything developed out of a mutual, supportive friendship and genuine need of one another. You feel like they have a chance.

3. I also enjoyed how Daisy and Brooks handled their feelings. Regardless of how they felt about each other, their families came first. Daisy was constantly putting the needs of Elliot ahead of her own, and Brooks did everything in his power to help his dad and comfort his mom through her illness. It was so refreshing to read about a mature, adult relationship that was both give and take on both ends. They both have so much at stake, so they proceed with caution rather than lustful feelings. And they both have to make a lot of difficult decisions.

4. I learned a lot about ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), and I appreciated that Tracey used her book to raise awareness for a disease that does not get a lot of recognition, especially in books where cancer is usually the culprit. She treats the disease with sensitivity, and the emotions she conveys really send a message about what this disease does to a person and their family. For me, it was much more effective the reading medical jargon.

5. The mystery aspect of the story was very intriguing, and I was constantly trying to figure out the reasoning behind Daisy’s grandmother’s murder. Again, it was real. This could happen to me! And that made things even creepier. The suspense was a little less than I was hoping for, but definitely enough to keep me flipping pages as fast as I could. The climax is a doozy.

6. The romance, while slow-burning, is so romantic and wonderful. I’m going to say flat-out that Brooks is a guy who will make you swoon. He’s the perfectly flawed hero that leaves you hopeful that there’s someone like him out there for you.

7. Tracey’s writing is flawless. She has me hanging on her every word every time. She never forgets to write you, the reader, right in to her stories, leaving a part of you there when it’s all over.

Basically, Tracey has done it again! I always worry that someday she will write something I won’t love, but it has not happened yet and I’m pretty sure it never will. I wholeheartedly recommend that you go and get yourself a copy of Every Time I Think of You. It has a little something for everyone, and it will leave you even more excited for what she has in store for us next!


The Debut Dish: Kate A. Boorman (+ Giveaway), Edith Cohn, Vicki L. Weavil, and Kat Spears

September 7, 2014 Author Interview, Debut Author Challenge, Debut Dish, Giveaway 4

The Debut Dish, a Debut Author Challenge feature, is where you go for the scoop on some pretty awesome debut authors and their new books! Hopefully these interviews will inspire you to add many, many more books to your to-read list. Because, really, who doesn’t need more books in their lives?


Winterkill by Kate A. Boorman
September 9, 2014 from Abrams/Amulet and Faber & Faber Ltd.
Add to Goodreads | Author Website

Emmeline knows the woods outside her settlement are forbidden. The mysterious enemy that wiped out half her people lurks there, keeping them isolated in an unfamiliar land with merciless winters.

Living with the shame of her grandmother’s insubordination, Emmeline has learned to keep her head down and her quick tongue silent. When the settlement leader asks for her hand in marriage, it’s a rare opportunity to wash the family stain clean–even if she has eyes for another. But before she is forced into an impossible decision, her dreams urge her out to the woods, where she finds a path she can’t help but follow. The trail leads to a secret that someone in the settlement will kill to protect. Her grandmother went down that path and paid the price.

If Emmeline isn’t careful, she will be next.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Creepy isolation, forbidden love, dreams.

Why should readers pick up your book?
Because creepy frontier thriller with romance. But seriously, it might very well be the only YA fantasy you read this year that has a pioneer-feel, things that go bump in the night, AND kissing. And starvation and murder AND heart-breakingly beautiful trees. And a physically-vulnerable but strong heroine AND a deadly winter looming. So.

What’s the best thing about being a debut author?
They buy you a pony!! Or so I heard. I’m readying my backyard, anyway… Actually I should probably confirm before the hay delivery.

What’s your favorite movie theater candy?
Popcorn’s not technically candy, so… popcorn. LAYERED with butter.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
An unopened, hand-painted, mini Day of the Dead skull… full of tequila.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Spirit’s Key by Edith Cohn
September 9, 2014 from Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Add to Goodreads | Author Website

By now, twelve-year-old Spirit Holden should have inherited the family gift: the ability to see the future. But when she holds a house key in her hand like her dad does to read its owner’s destiny, she can’t see anything. Maybe it’s because she can’t get over the loss of her beloved dog, Sky, who died mysteriously. Sky was Spirit’s loyal companion, one of the wild dogs that the local islanders believe possess dangerous spirits. As more dogs start dying and people become sick, too, almost everyone is convinced that these dogs and their spirits are to blame—except for Spirit. Then Sky’s ghost appears, and Spirit is shaken. But his help may be the key to unlocking her new power and finding the cause of the mysterious illness before it’s too late.

Describe your book in five words or less.
A ghost dog mystery.

Why should readers pick up your book?
Not every book is for every reader. But perhaps if you are an animal lover who wants to imagine your pet could live beyond the grave, then you should experience the magic of Spirit and Sky.

Perhaps also if you like superstitious islands.

Perhaps particularly if you like quirky southern characters.

Perhaps you will be lured by my publisher’s pitch: SAVVY meets BECAUSE OF WINN DIXIE.

Perhaps you like classics, if so you may pick up my book because of this fantastic blurb by Newbery Honor winning author Rita Williams-Garcia. “As compelling as it is inventive, Edith Cohn’s SPIRIT’S KEY dangles magical charms before the reading mind. Surely a new classic.”

What’s the best thing about being a debut author?
Getting read by kids. I recently got to sign an advanced copy of SPIRIT’S KEY to a kid reader who won it in a giveaway at the Kids Author Carnival I attended in New York City at the Jefferson Market Library. My first signing to a real live kid! I can’t wait for her to read it.

What’s your favorite movie theater candy?
Fun Dip. Though only the most special theaters have it now. If you’ve never seen it, it’s a Willy Wonka candy dip stick that comes with three packets of flavored pixy dust sugar. You dip the stick in the sugar and make your face light up with joy.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
A sewing machine. When I’m not writing, I sew dog collars for fancy pups.


Crown of Ice by Vicki L. Weavil
September 9, 2014 from Month9Books
Add to Goodreads | Author Website

Thyra Winther’s seventeen, the Snow Queen, and immortal, but if she can’t reassemble a shattered enchanted mirror by her eighteenth birthday she’s doomed to spend eternity as a wraith.

Armed with magic granted by a ruthless wizard, Thyra schemes to survive with her mind and body intact. Unencumbered by kindness, she kidnaps local boy Kai Thorsen, whose mathematical skills rival her own. Two logical minds, Thyra calculates, are better than one. With time rapidly melting away she needs all the help she can steal.

A cruel lie ensnares Kai in her plan, but three missing mirror shards and Kai’s childhood friend, Gerda, present more formidable obstacles. Thyra’s willing to do anything – venture into uncharted lands, outwit sorcerers, or battle enchanted beasts — to reconstruct the mirror, yet her most dangerous adversary lies within her breast. Touched by the warmth of a wolf pup’s devotion and the fire of a young man’s desire, the thawing of Thyra’s frozen heart could be her ultimate undoing.

CROWN OF ICE is a YA Fantasy that reinvents Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen” from the perspective of a young woman who discovers that the greatest threat to her survival may be her own humanity.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Dark YA SNOW QUEEN retelling.

Why should readers pick up your book?
H. C. Andersen’s classic fairytale is retold from the POV of a seventeen-year-old, mathematically gifted Snow Queen, who must reconstruct a shattered enchanted mirror or spend eternity as a wraith. Set in a magical version of nineteenth-century Scandinavia, Crown features a shimmering kingdom of snow, a loyal wolf pup, a talking reindeer, dueling sorcerers, various enchantments, and a love that just might melt a frozen heart.

What’s the best thing about being a debut author?
Being able to share my book with readers.

What’s your favorite movie theater candy?
Nonpareils.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
A slinky.


Sway by Kat Spears
September 16, 2014 from St. Martin’s Griffin
Add to Goodreads | Author Twitter

High school senior Jesse Alderman, or Sway as he’s known, could sell hell to a bishop.  He also specializes in getting things people want—term papers, a date with the prom queen, fake IDs.  It’s all business with Jesse.  He has few close friends and he never lets emotions get in the way.

But when Ken, captain of the football team, leading candidate for homecoming king, and all around jerk, hires Jesse to help him win the heart of the angelic Bridget Smalley, Jesse finds himself feeling all sorts of things.  While following Bridget and learning the intimate details of her life, he falls helplessly in love for the very first time. He also finds himself in an accidental friendship with Bridget’s younger brother who’s belligerent and self-pitying after spending a lifetime dealing with cerebral palsy.  Suddenly Jesse is visiting old folks at a nursing home in order to run into Bridget, and offering his time to help the less fortunate, all the while developing a bond with this young man who idolizes him.  The tinman really does have a heart after all.

Describe your book in five words or less.
An antihero comedy.

Why should readers pick up your book?
SWAY delivers an unexpected story with a protagonist who is at once a horrible person, and the coolest guy you could ever meet. Sometimes I still have trouble liking Jesse when I read SWAY, but I will always love him. Jesse can be counted on to say what the rest of us are too polite to say. The humor is not for the faint of heart. In fact, I’m sure my mother hates most of the humor. But it’s like my editor said, “If you are afraid to let your mother read it, then we’ve done a good job,” or something to that effect though, I’m sure, much more eloquently stated.

What’s the best thing about being a debut author?
For me, the best part about being a debut author is working with a real editor for the first time. You always read about it in author acknowledgments but I really had no concept of how hard I would be pushed by my editor to do my absolute best work. I’m sure the experience is very similar for people who pursue an MFA in creative writing or who take creative writing classes at the university level, but this was a first for me. My editor had a real vision for SWAY–she understood from the beginning what I was trying to accomplish with my characters and my story line and just made it so much better than I ever could have imagined.

What’s your favorite movie theater candy?
Twizzlers. They’re fat free so, you know, health food.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
I have a little bottle of foot spray. It is supposed to make your feel better if you’ve had to stand for long periods of time. My job often involves lots of standing and walking, sometimes I don’t get to sit down at all during the day. I’ve never actually used the spray since I would feel a little weird pulling off my shoes and socks in my office and spraying my feet. But there it is, right next to my jar of peanut butter for afternoon snacks. There might be something weirder under the heaps of paper and binders, etc. but finding out would involve desk cleaning which I only do twice a year.


Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson | Book Review

September 5, 2014 Adult Fiction, Book Review 9 ★★★

Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson | Book ReviewBefore I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson
Published by Harper on June 14, 2011
Genres: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
Pages: 359
Format: eBook
Source: Bought from Amazon
Amazon Add to Goodreads
3 Stars
'As I sleep, my mind will erase everything I did today. I will wake up tomorrow as I did this morning. Thinking I'm still a child. Thinking I have a whole lifetime of choice ahead of me...'

Memories define us. So what if you lost yours every time you went to sleep? Your name, your identity, your past, even the people you love — all forgotten overnight. And the one person you trust may only be telling you half the story.

Welcome to Christine's life.

Every once in a while I have a hankering for a really great mystery or psychological thriller. I had seen Before I Go to Sleep popping up around the Internet, and was very intrigued by the concept of a woman who wakes up every morning with no idea who she is, where she is, what year it is, and who is sleeping next to her in bed. How scary would that be? I dove right in, and turned the pages as quickly as I could! As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. This book is CREEPY. Christine is at the complete mercy of others. She has to decide whether or not to believe Ben, the man who tells her every morning that he is her husband. He has this routine he goes through, where he tells her the basics of her life so that she understands what she is going through. She is also secretly seeing a doctor on the side who is trying to help her regain her memories and her ability to remember memories. Every morning he calls her on a cell phone she had no idea she had so that he can remind her of things Ben is not telling her.

This doctor has Christine write a journal of her every move and experience so that she can read it the next day and remember more things more quickly. As she continues to write and he continues to call her and tell her where she hid it and that she needs to read it, Christine begins to find this new power that enables her to make her own decisions. She also begins to have flashes of memory. As she remembers she starts to realize how many questions have been left unanswered.

2. I was a little turned off by the bluntness of some situations. Christine discovers the flaws of her older-than-expected body, and I was left uncomfortable by her bodily explorations. I felt very icky when I read about her longings for intimacy, and later the descriptions of her intimate encounters with Ben. Things were just very detailed with nothing left to the imagination and, since I was already creeped out by the story itself, I guess I was just extra sensitive. I mean, she is taking the word of a stranger and sleeping with him because she feels she has to. *shudder*

3. I never felt like I trusted anyone. I was just always on edge, wondering if anyone was telling her the truth. This book really lives up to its description of psychological thriller. My mind was going every which way.

4. There were several slow moments, where I just wanted to get done with the details and learn who the bad person here is! The problem with Christine forgetting everything every night is that every morning she gets up, we have to read about her and her journal-reading and her epiphanies over and over again. I just wanted to move on.

5. Just when you think you’ve figured it all out, you’re given something that makes you question your thinking. The plot is twisted and complicated, and you will really probably just want to jump ahead to the end to put yourself out of your misery. Luckily I was reading on a Kindle, so I could not just jump to the end. Stick with it, though. No peeking! You’ll be happier. The ending is pretty exciting. :)

All in all, Before I Go to Sleep is creepy and intriguing, if not a little slow in places. I’d definitely recommend it to anyone in the mood for a thrill!

 


How to Love by Katie Cotugno | Mini Book Review

September 3, 2014 Book Review, Young Adult 1 ★★★

How to Love by Katie Cotugno | Mini Book ReviewHow to Love by Katie Cotugno
Published by Balzer + Bray on October 1, 2013
Genres: Contemporary, Contemporary Romance, Realistic Fiction, Romance
Pages: 389
Format: ARC
Source: Christmas Present
Amazon Add to Goodreads
3 Stars
Before: Reena Montero has loved Sawyer LeGrande for as long as she can remember: as natural as breathing, as endless as time. But he's never seemed to notice that Reena even exists until one day, impossibly, he does. Reena and Sawyer fall in messy, complicated love. But then Sawyer disappears from their humid Florida town without a word, leaving a devastated-and pregnant-Reena behind.

After: Almost three years have passed, and there's a new love in Reena's life: her daughter, Hannah. Reena's gotten used to being without Sawyer, and she's finally getting the hang of this strange, unexpected life. But just as swiftly and suddenly as he disappeared, Sawyer turns up again. Reena doesn't want anything to do with him, though she'd be lying if she said Sawyer's being back wasn't stirring something in her. After everything that's happened, can Reena really let herself love Sawyer LeGrande again?

I was really not expecting to like a book whose focus was on teen pregnancy, so I was pretty surprised by how much I enjoyed How to Love! Katie Cotugno did a great job realistically portraying the situation and aftermath of teen pregnancy,  not to mention she threw in lot of other plot elements that made the story more dynamic and interesting to read. I liked her decision to tell the story from two perspectives: before Sawyer and after Sawyer. We learn all about his and Reena’s tumultuous relationship, and how Reena handled raising a baby alone after Sawyer disappeared from her life.

I had a super hard time liking Sawyer, which is probably why this book did not receive a higher rating from me. He was an absolutely horrible person to Reena during their relationship, and then he just disappeared. It helps that he left without knowing Reena was pregnant, but he could have stepped up more when he found out he had a child. As the years passed he improved his life some, but he just never convinced me that he was a good person.

Reena is a very likeable character, and I think this was because of the maturity she quickly developed when she became a teenage single mom. I love her relationship with her daughter, how she has grown and changed because of this daughter, and how she is level-headed enough to know she made mistakes in the past too.

The writing is also done very well, and was probably the main reason I enjoyed the story. I liked the way Katie Cotugno portrayed the feelings and emotions of the characters, and I enjoyed her account of the encounters that went down between Reena and her family, as well as Reena and Sawyer. While the book did not blow me away like it did some of my blogging friends, I did appreciate such an honest and realistic portrayal of such a sensitive subject not usually tackled in YA literature. I think that many people will be able to relate to Reena’s situation, or at least realize they have felt some of the same feelings in their own familial and romantic relationships. I have a feeling Katie Cotugno is going to quickly become a big name on the young adult scene.


Debut Author Challenge 2014 – September Review Link-Up

September 1, 2014 Debut Author Challenge 6

FallDAC2014WOW. Can you believe it’s September already? This year is seriously flying by. For those you who started school in August, I hope things are going well for you and that you’re not missing summer too much! Luckily we’ve got books to help us escape our busy lives. Hopefully there are some debuts you’ve got your eye on!

As you can see, we have a new DAC button for fall. Feel free to grab it and replace it with the summery one you’ve been using for the last few months. I’ll have a winter one for you in December!

August was another awesome month for reviews! I’m so happy to see that many of you are continuing to read all these awesome debuts, and I know the authors appreciate your support as well. :) Congratulations to Sarah at Confessions of A Bookaholic, who won August’s challenge with her review of Rites of Passage!

Here’s to a wonderful September! Happy reading!

Some things to remember:

– It’s never too late to join the fun! If you’d like to join or make sure you’re signed up, there is a sign-up list and list of participants located in the DAC 2014 Info tab at the top of my blog.

– Make sure to follow me at @debutauthorc for all the Debut Author Challenge news, including flash giveaways, Debut Dish post highlights, and information on our favorite authors!

– If you enter your review link on my blog, it will show up on Shannon’s as well. There is no need to enter your reviews twice.

– I’m here if you have any questions at all, so don’t hesitate to shoot me a message via Twitter or comment or homing pigeon.