Yearly Archives:: 2017

Beautiful Storm by Barbara Freethy | DNF Book Thoughts

May 23, 2017 Adult Fiction, Book Review 2 DNF

Beautiful Storm by Barbara Freethy | DNF Book ThoughtsBeautiful Storm by Barbara Freethy
Series: Lightning Strikes #1
Published by Hyde Street Press on October 1, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Contemporary Romance, Mystery, Romance, Romantic Suspense, Suspense
Pages: 321
Format: eBook
Source: Bought from Amazon
Amazon Add to Goodreads
DNF Stars
When her father's plane mysteriously disappeared in the middle of an electrical storm, Alicia Monroe became obsessed with lightning. Now a news photographer in Miami, Alicia covers local stories by day and chases storms at night. In a flash of lightning, she sees what appears to be a murder, but when she gets to the scene, there is no body, only a military tag belonging to Liliana Valdez, a woman who has been missing for over a year. While the police use the tag to jumpstart their stalled investigation, Alicia sets off on her own to find the missing woman. Her search takes her into the heart of Miami's Cuban-American community where she meets the attractive but brooding Michael Cordero, who has his own demons to vanquish. Soon Alicia and Michael are not just trying to save Liliana's life but also their own, as someone will do anything to protect a dark secret…

So… There are TONS of Barbara Freethy books out there and I’ve always been intrigued. Many of the story lines sound good, and I’ve collected her titles as I’ve seen them show up for free on Amazon. I had a hankering for a little romantic suspense and was eager to finally see if Freethy is an author for me. And… nope. She’s not.

The mysticism of the lightning was just a bit too over the top for me. The lightning calls Alicia to it because it wants to show her something? No… And I did not like the relationship between the two main characters. Plus, how dumb is Alicia? Michael is a person of interest in this case. He’s a suspect with a troubled past and a reputation. She has known him for a few hours and all of a sudden wants to shove herself into his life and his family to try and find his missing friend. She FLIES with him to Texas and stays in an ADJOINING ROOM after knowing him for like 12 hours. WHAT. She also has no problems at all voicing her opinions to his family and his friend’s family about things she has no right knowing about, much less has the ability to know about. She’s been a part of this case for a few HOURS and does not know anyone involved. They have been grieving and searching for MONTHS and have known the missing person and the people involved for lifetimes. So all because Alicia found a military ID in a park, she knows everything about the case? There was also some major instalove/lust going on that I was not on board with.

The dialogue was cringeworthy. Almost everything anyone said to anyone included their name. It kind of went like this:

“Alicia, aren’t you happy we know each other?”
“Yes, Michael, I am.”
“Mother, are you happy that Michael and I know each other?”
“Yes, Alicia, I am.”
“Oh, Alicia, I am so glad that your mother is happy we know each other.”
“I am too, Michael.”

Like… I went through and started counting the number of names used in the dialogue on each page and it was just awful! That’s not how people talk to one another, and I felt like the author legitimately thought that we were too dumb to follow the dialogue on our own so she used all the names to try and make sure we knew who was talking to whom.

The mystery itself was very boring and slow and I started skimming because I was mildly curious about what happened. But by about 60% my curiosity has been killed and I threw in the towel.

So basically, this was a complete and total flop. It was horrible. Maybe now I know why Freethy books are in abundance and I can almost always find one for free or very cheap… At least now I know.


The Dreaded Blogging Slump | A Call for Advice/Commiserating

May 5, 2017 Discussion, Personal 10

 

Hello!! Remember me!? I’m the person who you think fell off the Internet. I’m here! I’m just having trouble finding my blogging mojo at the moment. I’m reading, but I’m months behind on writing reviews. I’m staying on top of the Debut Author Challenge, but not as much as I’d like. What’s happening to me!?

We all know I’ve been in grad school the last 3.5 years, so the blog took a back seat in my life. But I graduated in December! But then I went to Hawaii and California for a month. But I’ve been home!! I’ve been reading!! What’s going on? I still love reading and blogging, so that’s not the issue. I’m not going anywhere, so it’s not like I’m phasing myself out.

What do I do?? Has this happened to you? Any tips for getting a handle on the reviews I still need to write? How do I make blogging a priority again? Every time I think of sitting down to write a review I go to Netflix or play Two Dots on my phone because I’m great at adulting and being responsible. I used to be so ON IT. Anyone else feeling this way? I need some help. Or a blogging intervention.

Throw your thoughts at me, and while you’re at it tell me what you’ve been up to!


The Debut Dish: Erin Beaty, Heather Maclean, & Kelly Garrett (+ Giveaways)

April 30, 2017 Author Interview, Debut Author Challenge, Debut Dish, Giveaway 8

The Debut Dish, a bi-monthly 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 issue of The Debut Dish features Erin Beaty (The Traitor’s Kiss), Heather Maclean (Toward a Secret Sky), and Kelly Garrett (The Last to Die).


The Traitor’s Kiss by Erin Beaty
May 9, 2017 from Imprint
Add to Goodreads | Author Website

An obstinate girl who will not be married.
A soldier desperate to prove himself.
A kingdom on the brink of war.

With a sharp tongue and an unruly temper, Sage Fowler is not what they’d call a lady―which is perfectly fine with her. Deemed unfit for marriage, Sage is apprenticed to a matchmaker and tasked with wrangling other young ladies to be married off for political alliances. She spies on the girls―and on the soldiers escorting them.

As the girls’ military escort senses a political uprising, Sage is recruited by a handsome soldier to infiltrate the enemy ranks. The more she discovers as a spy, the less certain she becomes about whom to trust―and Sage becomes caught in a dangerous balancing act that will determine the fate of her kingdom.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Jane Austen with espionage.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
I love them all, even the ones I cried about (either from angst from what was happening in the scene or because I was struggling to get it right), but the one that pops in my mind is when Sage goes to apologize to the matchmaker. I had an end result from the conversation in mind, but the way it ended up getting there was not what I expected. It became much richer and made the matchmaker a complex and likable character.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I was in our family room with a movie on in the background – North and South, I think – ironing a whole bunch a shirts for a wedding when I found out I was going to an acquisitions board. When I got the news of an official offer, I was at my in-laws’ house, getting ready for the wedding’s rehearsal dinner – interestingly the very same room I was in when I got my future agent’s request for the full manuscript.

What’s your favorite junk food?
Chocolate covered pretzels. I hardly ever eat them, though, because if I do I eat them ALL.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
A packet of stick-on bindis I got from Shaila Patel.

Extra Important Information:
Erin will be on the FierceReads tour May 9th-16th and also at the RT convention May 6th, so stop by to say hi if she’s near you!

Click here for details about Erin’s pre-order giveaway!

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Toward a Secret Sky by Heather Maclean
April 4, 2017 from Blink
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Shortly after 17-year-old Maren Hamilton is orphaned and sent to live with grandparents she’s never met in Scotland, she receives an encrypted journal from her dead mother that makes her and everyone around her a target. It confirms that her parents were employed by a secret, international organization that’s now intent on recruiting her. As Maren works to unravel the clues left behind by her mother, a murderous madness sweeps through the local population, terrorizing her small town. Maren must decide if she’ll continue her parents’ fight or stay behind to save her friends.

With the help of Gavin, an otherworldly mercenary she’s not supposed to fall in love with, and Graham, a charming aristocrat who is entranced with her, Maren races against the clock and around the country from palatial estates with twisted labyrinths to famous cathedrals with booby-trapped subterranean crypts to stay ahead of the enemy and find a cure. Along the way, she discovers the great truth of love: that laying down your life for another isn’t as hard as watching them sacrifice everything for you.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Scotland, secret society, adventure, romance.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
When Gavin, the hero, is forbidden from entering Campbell Hall and must watch his love, Maren, enter on her own. His powerlessness makes him crazy, and he starts bashing his head against the trees. I love extreme physical fits of passion!

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
Driving carpool. My three kids go to three different schools, so I’m pretty much always driving carpool.

What’s your favorite junk food?
Snickers Bites. They should come with an addiction warning.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
My husband’s sgian-dubh (“SKEE-in due”), a traditional Highland knife he wears in his kilt hose.

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The Last to Die by Kelly Garrett
April 4, 2017 from Poisoned Pen Press
Add to Goodreads | Author Website

Sixteen-year-old Harper Jacobs and her bored friends make a pact to engage in a series of not-quite illegal break-ins. They steal from each other’s homes, sharing their keys and alarm codes. But they don’t take anything that can’t be replaced by some retail therapy, so it’s okay. It’s thrilling. It’s bad. And for Harper, it’s payback for something she can’t put into words-something to help her deal with her alcoholic mother, her delusional father, and to forget the lies she told that got her druggie brother arrested. It’s not like Daniel wasn’t rehab bound anyway.

So everything is okay-until the bold but aggravating Alex, looking to up the ante, suggests they break into the home of a classmate. It’s crossing a line, but Harper no longer cares. She’s proud of it. Until one of the group turns up dead, and Harper comes face-to-face with the moral dilemma that will make or break her-and, if she makes the wrong choice, will get her killed.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Bling Ring meets Heathers.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
The final scene of the novel is one of my absolute favorites. I can’t say much with spoiling the book, so this will be a bit vague, but Harper, the anti-hero protagonist, has come a long way and grown a lot.

I also had a blast writing the opening scene. The opening line is one of the best sentences that I’ve ever written.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I was finishing up a three-mile-run and looked at my phone to check the time, and saw the email with publishing offer. So I had dual a endorphins and happy glow thing going on.

What’s your favorite junk food?
Thai Peanut Butter Cups from Alma Chocolate. Coconut milk, Thai chiles, ginger, lime, and red volcanic sea salt, and peanut butter all combine to form a slightly spicy treat.

Sometimes I buy salted peanut butter cups from Alma instead of the Thai version, and they’re also amazing. They’re not very sweet but they’re oh so addictive.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
My coaster with a photo of a bacon on it is a bit odd, but it’s useful. My Alice In Wonderland pillow that’s shaped like an open book is quirky, and isn’t particularly useful on a desk so I should really find a better home for it.

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The Crown’s Fate by Evelyn Skye | Book Review

April 17, 2017 Book Review, Young Adult 3

The Crown’s Fate by Evelyn Skye | Book ReviewThe Crown's Fate by Evelyn Skye
Series: The Crown's Game #2
Also in this series: The Crown's Game
Published by Balzer + Bray on May 16, 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Fantasy & Magic
Pages: 400
Format: eARC
Source: From the publisher through Edelweiss
Amazon Add to Goodreads
1 Stars
Russia is on the brink of great change. Pasha’s coronation approaches, and Vika is now the Imperial Enchanter, but the role she once coveted may be more difficult—and dangerous—than she ever expected.

Pasha is grappling with his own problems—his legitimacy is in doubt, the girl he loves loathes him, and he believes his best friend is dead. When a challenger to the throne emerges—and with the magic in Russia growing rapidly—Pasha must do whatever it takes to keep his position and protect his kingdom.

For Nikolai, the ending of the Crown’s Game stung deeply. Although he just managed to escape death, Nikolai remains alone, a shadow hidden in a not-quite-real world of his own creation. But when he’s given a second chance at life—tied to a dark price—Nikolai must decide just how far he’s willing to go to return to the world.

With revolution on the rise, dangerous new magic rearing up, and a tsardom up for the taking, Vika, Nikolai, and Pasha must fight—or face the destruction of not only their world but also themselves.

Here I sit, broken-hearted after taking a month to read this book. Guys, I loved The Crown’s Game. LOVED it. I was so excited for this sequel and ended up having to talk myself out of DNFing an infinite number of times because I so wanted to get back there to that place of love for this world and these characters. Sadly, it didn’t happen and I’m left so disappointed that I don’t even have much to say.

I felt like I was in a different world with this book. It was dark, depressing, and to be honest… boring. I found myself skimming at multiple points due to a complete lack of interest. The Crown’s Game was magical and whimsical and light and full of color and excitement. All of these things that I loved so much were gone in The Crown’s Fate. Nikolai’s character was unrecognizable in a bad way. He went in a very heartbreaking direction that I did not get over even after all loose ends were quickly tied up into a convenient little bow at the end (seriously, that ending was a huge disappointment after everything we’ve been through). Pasha and Vika both seemed weaker than they used to, and never really did or said anything important. There was very little going on in the story, and I felt like what did happen just continued to repeat itself because there was nothing else to say. What little magic there was was just not good for me. And I did not like seeing the characters I once loved being evil and plotting against each other. The book was too long for the story, and I ended up just going through the motions by the end. Let me just say: some horrible stuff happens that any normal person would not be ok with as quickly as these characters were ok with it.

So yeah, that’s all I have to say. The only thing good I can take away from this is that there were a few glimmers of the world I loved. Evelyn’s writing is also still lovely, but I was just not happy with where the story went. I’m so SO sad, as I was highly anticipating this sequel. I will forever recommend The Crown’s Game, but will that suggest people treat it as a standalone.


The Debut Dish: Sonia Belasco, Andrew DeYoung, Jessika Fleck, & Joanne O’Sullivan (+ Giveaways)

April 9, 2017 Author Interview, Debut Author Challenge, Debut Dish, Giveaway 4

The Debut Dish, a bi-monthly 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 issue of The Debut Dish features Sonia Belasco (Speak of Me as I Am), Andrew DeYoung (The Exo Project), Jessika Fleck (The Castaways), and Joanne O’Sullivan (Between Two Skies).


Speak of Me as I Am by Sonia Belasco
April 4, 2017 from Philomel Books
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A moving story of grief, honesty, and the healing power of art—the ties that bind us together, even when those we love are gone.

Melanie and Damon are both living in the shadow of loss. For Melanie, it’s the loss of her larger-than-life artist mother, taken by cancer well before her time. For Damon, it’s the loss of his best friend, Carlos, who took his own life.

As they struggle to fill the empty spaces their loved ones left behind, fate conspires to bring them together. Damon takes pictures with Carlos’s camera to try to understand his choices, and Melanie begins painting as a way of feeling closer to her mother. But when the two join their school’s production ofOthello, the play they both hoped would be a distraction becomes a test of who they truly are, both together and on their own. And more than anything else, they discover that it just might be possible to live their lives without completely letting go of their sadness.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Love, death and Shakespeare.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
I really like the scene in my book where one of the protagonists, Damon, confronts a memory of his friend Carlos outside of the U.S. Capitol. Carlos is so vivid to Damon, even though he’s dead, and in that moment Damon realizes how much he didn’t know about his best friend, even though he thought he knew everything.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
When I got the news from Penguin, I was actually at my parents’ house in DC. It was awesome because I got to tell them in person, and I hadn’t had the chance to share any of my other publishing news that way.

What’s your favorite junk food?
Chocolate. Chocolate is definitely my vice.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
I have a photograph of my grandfather with President Johnson. My grandfather worked in the White House under Johnson, and I keep it there as a kind of reminder of the importance of the hustle. My grandfather believed in hard work, whatever it was you were doing. In my less motivated moments, that photo helps me push through.

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The Exo Project by Andrew DeYoung
April 4, 2017 from Boyds Mills Press
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This fast-paced, sharply written multiple-perspective YA science-fiction debut opens on a future Earth ravaged by solar radiation. Desperate for money to save his sick mother, seventeen-year-old Matthew agrees to participate in the Exo Project, a government plan to save the human race by flying across the galaxy in search of a habitable planet for resettlement. He thinks he’s been given a death sentence: 100 years in cryostasis, followed by a quick death on some barren world. But then he lands on Gle’ah, discovering the strange, beautiful creatures who live there, including Kiva, the captivating teenage girl who leads her planet’s matriarchal society. Kiva views Matthew as a threat and for good reason—if he tells Earth that he’s found a suitable planet, it will mean the end of her people’s way of life. But then Kiva and Matthew discover an emotional connection they never expected—and as they begin to delve into the secrets of Matthew’s mission and the dark truth behind the seeming paradise of Gle’ah, the choices they make will have consequences for both of their worlds.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Boy meets alien. Worlds collide.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
This is hard! I think I’d pick the scene where Kiva, the girl who leads a matriarchal society on another planet, tells Matthew, the human boy who’s come to her world in search of a replacement for Earth, her people’s creation myth. I love it because I got to try my hand at creating a new mythology for a fictional alien race, and also because of a bit of dialogue that happens after Kiva’s done telling the myth.

Matthew asks, “Is it true? Did it really happen like that?”

And Kiva answers, “It’s a story. It doesn’t have to be true to be true.”

I love that line.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I was in a birthing class with my wife, who was expecting at the time. (Our daughter is now a year and a half old.) We were learning about something or other—breathing techniques? The stages of labor? I was having a little trouble concentrating, because I knew that we’d gotten some interest on the book and my publisher was chatting with the publishing company that had expressed interest. Then my phone buzzed and I glanced at the screen to see it was an email from my agent. During a break in the middle of the class I furtively checked my email to discover that it was now a done deal—I was going to be published!

What’s your favorite junk food?
In Minnesota we have these things made by a local candy company called Nut Goodies which are a layer of maple-flavored cream covered in chocolate and peanuts. My temptation to buy one basically every time I go to the grocery store is strong.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
A big wooden ampersand. I honestly don’t know where it came from. I share a desk with my wife, who’s a designer and a super-crafty person who’s always making something or other, so it’s probably a leftover from one of her projects.

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The Castaways by Jessika Fleck
April 3, 2017 from Entangled Teen
Add to Goodreads | Author Website

“A page-turning fantastical mystery with heartfelt characters.” -Julie Cross, New York Times bestselling author of Tempest

The Castaway Carnival: fun, mysterious, dangerous.

Renowned for its infamous corn maze…and the kids who go missing in it.

When Olive runs into the maze, she wakes up on an isolated and undetectable island where a decades-long war between two factions of rival teens is in full swing.

Trapped, Olive must slowly attempt to win each of her new comrades’ hearts as Will—their mysterious, stoically quiet, and handsome leader—steals hers.

Olive is only sure about one thing: her troop consists of the good guys, and she’ll do whatever it takes to help them win the war and get back home.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Cornmaze. Stranded. Family. War. Be.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
Oh man, this is a tough one. So many options! Without giving any spoilers, one of my faves is definitely when Olive arrives on the island. She’s taken in by one group of kids and ends up pretending to be knocked out. Eyes closed, she tries to figure out what’s going on, who’s who, what sort of shelter she’s in, if these people are kind or not, etc… Being in Olive’s point-of-view, I had to explain everything minus her visual cues. Also, this is the first scene the reader meets anyone from the island and there are four characters, other than Olive, in one room. It was a great challenge and so fun to write.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
At home. I was about to make lunch for my kids and my (now) editor emailed me with the news. Her first line said, “Are you sitting down?” (I was) I read it, whispered, “Holy crap”, stood up, walked in a few circles, sat back down, reread it, and then responded.

What’s your favorite junk food?
French fries. In ketchup. Covered in cheese. Slathered in mustard. Dipped in ice cream. All. Day. Long.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
A wooden plague doctor-esque skeleton. If you push your thumb under the stand, it bends and moves. I love odd.

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Between Two Skies by Joanne O’Sullivan
April 25, 2017 from Candlewick
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Hurricane Katrina sets a teenage girl adrift. But a new life — and the promise of love — emerges in this rich, highly readable debut.

Bayou Perdu, a tiny fishing town way, way down in Louisiana, is home to sixteen-year-old Evangeline Riley. She has her best friends, Kendra and Danielle; her wise, beloved Mamere; and back-to-back titles in the under-sixteen fishing rodeo. But, dearest to her heart, she has the peace that only comes when she takes her skiff out to where there is nothing but sky and air and water and wings. It’s a small life, but it is Evangeline’s. And then the storm comes, and everything changes. Amid the chaos and pain and destruction comes Tru — a fellow refugee, a budding bluesman, a balm for Evangeline’s aching heart. Told in a strong, steady voice, with a keen sense of place and a vivid cast of characters, here is a novel that asks compelling questions about class and politics, exile and belonging, and the pain of being cast out of your home. But above all, this remarkable debut tells a gently woven love story, difficult to put down, impossible to forget.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Love, loss, longing and hope.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
It’s the penultimate scene of the book, when after a very sad event, fate intervenes to bring my main character exactly what she needs and wants. I like it because it has that bitter-sweet feeling that often accompanies some of the most important things that happen in life!

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
On my couch with my then 13-year-old daughter. But only for a second because then I got up and started jumping around and pacing! : )

What’s your favorite junk food?
Nutella.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
A pair of glasses that my dog chewed up. First, it’s odd that he chewed up glasses- what is appealing about that for him? Second, it’s odd that I kept them. They are undeniably beyond repair! But they were my favorite frames and somehow I can’t let go!

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Debut Author Challenge 2017: April-June Review Link-Up

April 1, 2017 Debut Author Challenge 0

Welcome to the second quarterly link-up of the year! I’m so impressed with all the reviews you guys have posted since January 1st! Did you forget to link up? No worries! Link your reviews up here! I’m trusting you to only link up each review once. :) What has been your favorite debut so far?

So, are you as excited for spring as I am? I am excited for more daylight and flowers and sunshine! I’m also excited for more debuts! Which upcoming releases are you eager to read soon? I’m really excited to read Seeking Mansfield by Kate Watson, The Traitor’s Kiss by Erin Beaty, and Romancing the Throne by Nadine Jolie Courtney.

 

Some things to remember:

– This is the review link-up for all debut reviews you write in April, May, and June. This does not mean that the books you review have to be published during these three months. You can read and review any debut, any month of the year.

– In order to get credit for your review, you must have read the book in 2017. If you read an ARC of a 2017 debut in 2016, it does not count. (I don’t want people with access to ARCs to have an advantage over those who don’t.)

– 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 Debut Author Challenge tab at the top of my blog.

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



Beastia Author Zoe Cruz | Beauty & the Beast Interview Series

March 31, 2017 Author Interview 0

Remember A Week of Beauty and Beast, a special blog event hosted by Bonnie at A Backwards Story and me? We it was the perfect time to host an event devoted to one of our favorite fairy tales, seeing as how Disney’s live action Beauty and the Beast came out in theaters this month! Woohoo! We shared our love of this tale as old as time with you, and hope you enjoyed! But here were are again with a tiny revival because Zoe Cruz wanted to participate in the interview series! Make sure you enter to win a Beauty and the Beast themed book of your choice, which ends tonight!


Today Bonnie and I are hosting an interview with Zoe Cruz, author of Beastia. Zoe talked a bit about her book here on That Artsy Reader Girl a week and a half ago, so head over to that guest post if you’d like more information!

Author Interview – Zoe Cruz

What are a few of the ways in which your retelling differs from the original tale?
It actually differs a lot. I wanted it to be something on it’s own, deconstruct the retelling and rebuild it. The first thing is that Beauty is the Beast and vice versa. Secondly, it’s set in Chicago and is a contemporary novel. No magic is involved, but at it’s a heart it’s a Beauty and the Beast tale.

If you could be a household object, what would you be?
I think a lamp or a candlestick would be my choice. Something about lighting dark places seems intriguing to me. I’m also more awake at night and that’s the perfect time to use a candle.

If you were taken by the Beast, what’s one comfort item from home that you’d want?
There are some books that I’m very partial to that say home to me. If I had to pick one of those books it would be The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley.

What song would you want to dance to with the Beast?
“Ever More” by Josh Groban would be at the top of my list.

If you looked in a magical mirror that would show you your heart’s desire, what would you see?
Is it the Mirror of Erised? But…seriously, my heart desire would probably be finding a way to live in Spain forever. I kind of love it there. It has European castles and Arabic palaces straight out of a fairy tale.

Read the rest of the interview here!

Beastia by Zoe Cruz
March 14, 2017 from Createspace
Add to Goodreads | Author Website

The meanest of the mean girls, Rebekah Austin rules her Chicago school with sharp outfits and an even sharper tongue. She has a way of making even the most beautiful and brilliant girls in her class feel like dirt. But underneath the queen-bee façade is someone who feels ugly, repulsive…beastly.

When Rebekah falls prey to a madman, the bully becomes the bullied. Scarred and tormented, she abandons her previous life and adopts a new identity, but her ghastly appearance haunts her everywhere she goes. Only with the help of determined friends can she move past her horrifying experience—and maybe even let herself be loved.

And if the madman returns to finish what he started, will she be ready, or will she give up hope?


About Zoe Cruz

I love traveling, writing, reading, and binge watching my favorite shows on Netflix.

I’m a geek too. Anything from classic Tortallan and Hobbit lore to a DS9 Trekkie and a Browncoat. I love any good sci-fi and fantasy book, show or movie.

I’ve lived in Spain for almost four years, so adapting back to U.S. life for now.


The Debut Dish: Sara Biren, Whitney Taylor, Jessica Strawser, Danielle Mages Amato, & Michael Miller (+ Giveaways)

March 26, 2017 Author Interview, Debut Author Challenge, Debut Dish, Giveaway 5

The Debut Dish, a bi-monthly 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 issue of The Debut Dish features Sara Biren (The Last Thing You Said), Whitney Taylor (Definitions of Indefinable Things), Jessica Strawser (Almost Missed You), Danielle Mages Amato (The Hidden Memory of Objects), and Michael Miller (Shadow Run).


The Last Things You Said by Sara Biren
April 4, 2017 from Amulet Books
Add to Goodreads | Author Website

Last summer, Lucy’s and Ben’s lives changed in an instant. One moment, they were shyly flirting on a lake raft, finally about to admit their feelings to each other after years of yearning. In the next, Trixie—Lucy’s best friend and Ben’s sister—was gone, her heart giving out during a routine swim. And just like that, the idyllic world they knew turned upside down, and the would-be couple drifted apart, swallowed up by their grief. Now it’s a year later in their small lake town, and as the anniversary of Trixie’s death looms, Lucy and Ben’s undeniable connection pulls them back together. They can’t change what happened the day they lost Trixie, but the summer might finally bring them closer to healing—and to each other.

Describe your book in five words or less.
First love, loss, grief, forgiveness.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
My favorite scene takes place at Ben’s cousin’s wedding. The wedding itself was inspired by my niece Maria’s wedding in July of 2011, the month I started writing the book. There’s so much tension and longing between the two main characters, and an unexpected slow dance, followed by harsh words and more heartbreak.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
At my kitchen table, about to make dinner for my kids.

What’s your favorite junk food?
White Cheddar Cheez-It Grooves.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
The Minnesota Motor Vehicle Registration Card for my very first car, a 1987 red 4-door Pontiac Sunbird, which I sold in August of 1998.


Definitions of Indefinable Things by Whitney Taylor
April 4, 2017 from HMH Books for Young Readers
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This heartbreaking, humorous novel is about three teens whose lives intersect in ways they never expected.

Reggie Mason is all too familiar with “the Three Stages of Depression.” She believes she’s unlocked the secret to keeping herself safe: Nobody can hurt you if you never let them in.

Reggie encounters an unexpected challenge to her misanthropy: a Twizzler-chomping, indie film-making narcissist named Snake. Snake’s presence, while reassuring, is not exactly stable—especially since his ex-girlfriend is seven months pregnant. As Reggie falls for Snake, she must decide whether it’s time to rewrite the rules that have defined her.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Depression. Fear. Friendship. Love. Hope.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
There’s an awkward scene in which the MC, Reggie, gets stuck taking her arch-frenemy and crush’s baby mama, Carla, to a birthing class. It was one of my favorite scenes to write because it’s a refreshing break from the heaviness of the book, and starts to sew the seeds that eventually blossom into an unlikely and satisfying female friendship.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
Honestly? This may be TMI….but I was on the toilet. (My agent called me a few minutes after she said she would, and I couldn’t hold my pee any longer! Sue me!)

What’s your favorite junk food?
Good ol’ fashioned potato chips. Salty. Greasy. Will probably clog my arteries and kill me one day. Just my speed.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
A package of tissues that I refuse to blow my nose in because they’re cute.


Almost Missed You by Jessica Strawser
March 28, 2017 from St. Martin’s Press
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Violet and Finn were “meant to be,” said everyone, always. They ended up together by the hands of fate aligning things just so. Three years into their marriage, they have a wonderful little boy, and as the three of them embark on their first vacation as a family, Violet can’t help thinking that she can’t believe her luck. Life is good.

So no one is more surprised than she when Finn leaves her at the beach—just packs up the hotel room and disappears. And takes their son with him. Violet is suddenly in her own worst nightmare, and faced with the knowledge that the man she’s shared her life with, she never really knew at all.

Caitlin and Finn have been best friends since way back when, but when Finn shows up on Caitlin’s doorstep with the son he’s wanted for kidnapping, demands that she hide them from the authorities, and threatens to reveal a secret that could destroy her own family if she doesn’t, Caitlin faces an impossible choice.

Told through alternating viewpoints of Violet, Finn and Caitlin,Almost Missed You is a powerful story of a mother’s love, a husband’s betrayal, connections that maybe should have been missed, secrets that perhaps shouldn’t have been kept, and spaces between what’s meant to be and what might have been.

Describe your book in five words or less.
“Perfect” couple questions fate’s role.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
Because the story is not told chronologically, it’s virtually impossible to describe any of my favorites without inadvertently including a spoiler–which is lucky for me, because it lets me off the hook of having to decide which one is my top pick! (I’m awful at choosing favorites.)

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I’d taken the day off work to chaperone my 4-year-old’s pre-K pumpkin patch field trip, and saw that I’d missed the call while corralling the kids under cover when it started to rain on the farm. I didn’t have good enough cell phone reception to call my agent back until I was well into my drive home–the suspense was killing me!

What’s your favorite junk food?
Ice cream (preferably with some sort of chocolate and peanut butter ripples involved) with pretzels sprinkled on top.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
I’m at my daytime desk at the Writer’s Digest office right now, so here, it’s a tie between an origami elephant (sent in a holiday card from one of our contributors) and a 16″ lifelike Mark Twain doll (which, believe it or not, came with my house, left for me by the previous owners after they learned I was an editor and writer).

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The Hidden Memory of Objects by Danielle Mages Amato
March 21, 2017 from Balzer + Bray
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Megan Brown’s brother, Tyler, is dead, but the cops are killing him all over again. They say he died of a drug overdose, potentially suicide—something Megan cannot accept. Determined to figure out what happened in the months before Tyler’s death, Megan turns to the things he left behind. After all, she understands the stories objects can tell—at fifteen, she is a gifted collage artist with a flair for creating found-object pieces. However, she now realizes that her artistic talent has developed into something more: she can see memories attached to some of Tyler’s belongings—and those memories reveal a brother she never knew.

Enlisting the help of an artifact detective who shares her ability and specializes in murderabilia—objects tainted by violence or the deaths of their owners—Megan finds herself drawn into a world of painful personal and national memories. Along with a trusted classmate and her brother’s charming friend, she chases down the troubling truth about Tyler across Washington, DC, while reclaiming her own stifled identity with a vengeance.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Mystery, History, Murderabilia, Grief, Adventure

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
I might have a favorite character rather than a favorite scene, because I pretty much love every scene that Eric Bowling (my book BFF) is in. He was a joy to write, because he’s just so wholehearted and curious and quirky and unafraid. Which made it a pleasure to unleash him anytime he appears.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I was at the DENTIST, of all places, waiting in the lobby to have my teeth cleaned. When my phone rang and I saw it was my agent, I stepped outside to take the call. Screaming and jumping up and down followed. Of course, I had overlooked the fact that I was standing in front of a big picture window, so everyone inside the dentist’s office could see me. When I came back in, they all demanded to know what had happened. That is how a room full of random strangers knew I was going to be a published author before my own family did. All the strangers clapped — they were probably the happiest group of people in a dentist’s office ever. Then I had my teeth cleaned.

What’s your favorite junk food?
Anything that combines mint and chocolate. In any form. Anywhere. Thin mints, peppermint patties, peppermint bark. MUST CONSUME.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
I have two young children, so there is never a shortage of odd things on my desk (and in my purse). Right now there’s a handful of feathers, some plastic doll hair, and assorted mini bouncy balls. But the oddest thing *I* keep on my desk is probably a set of Abe Lincoln salt and pepper shakers. Keeping it honest! :-)


Shadow Run by Michael Miller and AdriAnne Strickland
March 21, 2017 from Delacorte Press
Add to Goodreads | Michael Miller’s Website

Firefly meets Dune in this action-packed sci-fi adventure about a close-knit, found family of a crew navigating a galaxy of political intrigue and resource-driven power games.

Nev has just joined the crew of the starship Kaitan Heritage as the cargo loader. His captain, Qole, is the youngest-ever person to command her own ship, but she brooks no argument from her crew of orphans, fugitives, and con men. Nev can’t resist her, even if her ship is an antique.

As for Nev, he’s a prince, in hiding on the ship. He believes Qole holds the key to changing galactic civilization, and when her cooperation proves difficult to obtain, Nev resolves to get her to his home planet by any means necessary.

But before they know it, a rival royal family is after Qole too, and they’re more interested in stealing her abilities than in keeping her alive.

Nev’s mission to manipulate Qole becomes one to save her, and to survive, she’ll have to trust her would-be kidnapper. He may be royalty, but Qole is discovering a deep reservoir of power–and stars have mercy on whoever tries to hurt her ship or her crew.

Note from Jana: Debut author Michael Miller is the one answering these questions.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Firefly meets Dune!

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
My absolute favorite scene in the book is when Qole, our seventeen year old starship captain, finds herself very out of her element on a world very different from her own. My co-author actually wrote it, but it’s by turns funny, touching, insightful, and tense. An all around excellent bit of writing.

If you mean that I actually wrote, my absolute favorite scene would be riddle with spoilers. There is a scene earlier in the book where we visit the home planet of Basra, the genderfluid trader on board the Kaitan. It was a chance to introduce a number of characters that feature only briefly, but actually have tremendous back stories. I love that sort of stuff.

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
Wow, good question! I vividly remember where I was when I first talked to our agent, because I was in the middle of an on-site with a client and had to duck into an empty conference room. But when the deal was actually closed with Delacorte? Again, at work, but it didn’t feel real until later… so the moment didn’t sink in until clashing beer glasses with my co-author to celebrate.

What’s your favorite junk food?
I love all chips, chips are truly one of the great leaps that humanity has made, but in the pantheon of chips, one chip rules supreme: The Dorito.

Nacho Cheese, specifically.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
My desk is typically my lap, as I’m footloose and fancy free with this laptop of mine. So I can’t answer! At least not in any way that wouldn’t be somewhat surrealist.

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The Debut Dish: Katie Bayerl | Blog Tour (+ Giveaway)

March 21, 2017 Blog Tour, Debut Author Challenge, Debut Dish, Giveaway 5

The Debut Dish: Katie Bayerl | Blog Tour (+ Giveaway)

The Debut Dish, a bi-monthly 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?

Today’s special edition of The Debut Dish is brought to you by Penguin and their blog tour for Katie Bayerl’s A Psalm for Lost Girls.


A Psalm for Lost Girls by Katie Bayerl
March 14, 2017 from G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Add to Goodreads | Author Website

Tess da Costa is a saint — a hand-to-god, miracle-producing saint. At least that’s what the people in her hometown of New Avon, Massachusetts, seem to believe. And when Tess suddenly and tragically passes away, her small city begins feverishly petitioning the Pope to make Tess’s sainthood official. Tess’s mother is ecstatic over the fervor, while her sister Callie, the one who knew Tess best, is disgusted – overcome with the feeling that her sister is being stolen from her all over again.

The fervor for Tess’s sainthood only grows when Ana Langone, a local girl who’s been missing for six months, is found alive at the foot of one of Tess’s shrines. It’s the final straw for Callie.

With the help of Tess’s secret boyfriend Danny, Callie’s determined to prove that Tess was something far more important than a saint; she was her sister, her best friend and a girl in love with a boy. But Callie’s investigation uncovers much more than she bargained for: a hidden diary, old family secrets, and even the disturbing truth behind Ana’s kidnapping.

Describe your book in five words or less.
Sainthood is hella complicated.

Tell us about your favorite scene in your book.
Tough one! I have to go with a flashback, a memory that has stuck with Callie of the night when her sister’s reputation as a saint really began. I won’t give the whole scene away, but Tess hears a mysterious voice that calls her down to the city’s docks before dawn. Callie (ever the loyal sister) goes with Tess to meet the captain of a fishing boat Tess believes is in danger. What happens then is history…

Where were you when you found out you were being published?
I got the heads-up email when I was in my car at the intersection of Columbus Ave and Malcolm X Blvd in Boston (vivid memory! and it was a red light, I swear!)

I was on the Red Line (subway) when the official call came in.

Theme: transportation

What’s your favorite junk food?
Cheese-Its.

What’s the oddest thing on your desk right now?
A small stuffed flying pig. (I won a writing contest sponsored by the Flying Pig Bookstore a few years ago.)

When Katie Bayerl isn’t penning stories, she coaches teens and nonprofits to tell theirs. She holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts and has taught creative writing in schools and a variety of community settings. Katie has an incurable obsession with saints, bittersweet ballads, and murder. A Psalm for Lost Girls is her first novel.


Two Giveaway Opportunities!

Tour Wide:
Enter for a chance to win one (1) of five (5) copies of A Psalm for Lost Girls by Katie Bayerl (ARV: $17.99 each).

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Enter between 12:00 AM Eastern Time on March 13, 2017 and 12:00 AM on March 27, 2017. Open to residents of the fifty United States and the District of Columbia who are 13 and older. Winners will be selected at random on or about March 29, 2017. Odds of winning depend on number of eligible entries received. Void where prohibited or restricted by law.

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Exclusive to That Artsy Reader Girl:
This giveaway is sponsored by Katie Bayerl, who will be mailing the prize to the winner. Entrants must be 13 years old or older, and must honestly follow the rules for entries. Entrants caught cheating will be eliminated in full from the giveaway. This giveaway is open to residents of the USA and Canada only.

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Zoe Cruz on Flipping the Script on the Traditional Beauty and the Beast | Author Guest Post

March 20, 2017 Guest Post 2

Welcome to my stop along the Beastia blog tour, hosted by Smith Publicity! We’ve all got Beauty and the Beast on the brain right now (I’m going to see it today in theaters!). Plus my A Week of Beauty and the Beast event ended yesterday, so things are all B&B in my neck of the wood it seems.

Beastia author, Zoe Cruz, is here to talk about her Beauty and the Beast retelling. This one is a little different than many other retellings, and I’ll let Zoe tell you why!


Flipping the Script on the Traditional Beauty and the Beast
by Zoe Cruz

Beauty and the Beast has always enchanted me as a reader. I grew up watching the Disney movie, because who hasn’t? Robin McKinely’s retellings really stick out in my mind. Her Rose Daughter and Beauty were some of my favorite books as a kid. She wrote them with such magic and intrigue, changing and adding details or the outcome entirely. I always remember in one of the books, Beauty doesn’t change the Beast. She loves him just as he is.

When I watched Beastly, the movie, several years ago I wasn’t quite satisfied with the modern retelling. I thought it needed something more. The book by Alex Flinn does a much better job providing that, but I wanted something deeper, different. Later, the Lunar Chronicles gave us Scarlet. I know it’s a Red Riding Hood retelling, but what’s cooler than a French girl falling for a genetically modified wolfman from the moon? In the end though, it was the same trope hashed out again.

As a girl from a small town, I’ve watched pretty women settle for guys who weren’t that great looking, so it wasn’t a stretch for me to imagine a girl falling into a relationship with a literal beast.

What was harder for me to imagine was a handsome guy falling for an “ugly” gal in our society and not the pretty-ugly sorts we find in movies. It was a challenge coming up with a contemporary take on a girl being ugly. It seemed easy to make it magical or a temporary curse, but life isn’t always that way.

Sometimes, when we are hurt it becomes internal baggage that we carry or a permanent badge that we wear. Some things don’t just go away. They are permanent. When I think of permanent, I think of scars or burns, but something about tattoos stuck with me, because tattoos are like art. Art can be ugly and beautiful at the same time. That dichotomy tests the boundaries of my perceptions and how biased the standards truly are. When a woman has scarring or a deformity or even a tattoo that we don’t appreciate at first, the more we look at that thing we perceive as ugliness, it can become tragically beautiful, and even just beautiful. Especially as we learn to love the qualities who make them who they are. Rather, those things we once considered bad or ugly only make them more special no matter what it is. Some of the most beautiful people I know have facial markings or unusual features that make them who they are.

That’s what I wanted for Bek, my character in Beastia: a girl with a tragic past that wouldn’t let the world define who she was going to be, because of the way she looked. I wanted her to be able to learn to love herself no matter how she looked on the outside, even if it was permanent. In life, we don’t always get to choose for bad things to disappear. We are the way we were born or something happened to us and we carry that with us. Not everyone is blessed with good looks and what are “good” looks anyway? It’s an unattainable standard and subjective. Every one of us deserves to be loved for who we are and not what we look like, but that journey must start from within.


Beastia by Zoe Cruz
March 14, 2017 from Createspace
Add to Goodreads | Author Website

The meanest of the mean girls, Rebekah Austin rules her Chicago school with sharp outfits and an even sharper tongue. She has a way of making even the most beautiful and brilliant girls in her class feel like dirt. But underneath the queen-bee façade is someone who feels ugly, repulsive…beastly.

When Rebekah falls prey to a madman, the bully becomes the bullied. Scarred and tormented, she abandons her previous life and adopts a new identity, but her ghastly appearance haunts her everywhere she goes. Only with the help of determined friends can she move past her horrifying experience—and maybe even let herself be loved.

And if the madman returns to finish what he started, will she be ready, or will she give up hope?


About Zoe Cruz

I love traveling, writing, reading, and binge watching my favorite shows on Netflix.

I’m a geek too. Anything from classic Tortallan and Hobbit lore to a DS9 Trekkie and a Browncoat. I love any good sci-fi and fantasy book, show or movie.

I’ve lived in Spain for almost four years, so adapting back to U.S. life for now.