Monday, March 24, 2014

Countdown: April 2014 (4)

With Spring being right around the corner, we're so close to being able to say goodbye to this cold weather and hello to fresh blooms, and sunny skies, right? At least that's what I keep telling myself, knowing full well, that we're likely to see more rain than sun next month, but I'm trying to stay optimistic. And with all these amazing new releases that will hit the shelves next month, it's getting easier each and every time I add one to my countdown list. Are there any titles that you're extra excited about? Here are a few of the ones I'm looking forward to in April.
Countdown Pick #1:  Learning Not to Drown by Anna Shinoda (04/01/2014)
There is a pecking order to every family. Seventeen-year old Clare is the overprotected baby; Peter is the typical, rebellious middle child; and Luke is the-can't-do wrong favorite. To their mother, they are a normal, happy family. And then there are the roles we give ourselves. Clare: the ambitious striver; Peter: the angry ticking time bomb; and Luke: a drug addicted, convicted felon who has been in and out of jail for as long as Clare can remember. To Clare, they are a family on the verge of disaster. Clare has long refused to believe her brother is truly bad...he dotes her, doesn't he? But as Clare starts piecing together the truth about her brother's stints in jail, it starts changing the way she thinks about him. It has also changes the way the community views the family. The only thing it hasn't changed is the way their mother feels about Luke. Each time she welcomes him home with open arms and brushes off his crimes as "wrong place and wrong time," Clare can feel a little piece of her happy home life being taken away. And when her mother does the unthinkable--takes Clare's hard-earned college savings to post bail for Luke's latest transgression--Clare has to decide if sticking up for herself and her future means selfishly turning her back on family...or if it's the only way to keep herself from drowning along with them.

Debut novelist Anna Shinoda's raw, gritty, powerful novel cuts right to the bone and brings to life the skeletons the lurk in the closet.
Make sure to add this to your list if you haven't already for the 2014 Debut Author Challenge.  I think this one sounds like it has the potential to make all her readers reflect on their own families and their own lives.
Countdown Pick #2:  Ask Me by Kimberly Pauley (04/08/2014)
Ask Aria Morse anything, and she must answer with the truth. Yet she rarely understands the cryptic words she‘s compelled to utter. Blessed—or cursed—with the power of an Oracle who cannot decipher her own predictions, she does her best to avoid anyone and everyone.

But Aria can no longer hide when Jade, one of the few girls at school who ever showed her any kindness, disappears. Any time Aria overhears a question about Jade, she inadvertently reveals something new, a clue or hint as to why Jade vanished. But like stray pieces from different puzzles, her words never present a clear picture.

Then there’s Alex, damaged and dangerous, but the first person other than Jade to stand up for her. And Will, who offers a bond that seems impossible for a girl who’s always been alone. Both were involved with Jade. Aria may be the only one who can find out what happened, but the closer she gets to solving the crime, the more she becomes a target. Not everyone wants the truth to come out.
I didn't even have to finish the first paragraph to know this was a book that I'd be adding to my countdown list immediately!  It's so intriguing and mysterious, and I'm already feeling like I'm on the edge of my seat.  I can't wait to pick this one up next month!

The Next Great Fantasy Epic is here! For fans of Ranger's Apprentice and the Chronicles of Narnia.

Everyone in Moorvale believes the legend: The brave knight Tristan and the famed wizard Vithric, in an epic battle decades ago, had defeated the evil Nethergrim and his minions. To this day, songs are sung and festivals held in the heroes' honor. Yet now something dark has crept over the village. First animals disappear, their only remains a pile of bones licked clean. Then something worse: children disappear. The whispers begin quietly yet soon turn into a shout: The Nethergrim has returned!

Edmund’s brother is one of the missing, and Edmund knows he must do something to save his life. But what? Though a student of magic, he struggles to cast even the simplest spell. Still, he and his friends swallow their fear and set out to battle an ancient evil whose powers none of them can imagine. They will need to come together--and work apart--in ways that will test every ounce of resolve.

In a story reminiscent of the Ranger’s Apprentice epic and the Chronicles of Narnia, Matthew Jobin weaves reality, magic, and adventure into the next great fantasy phenomenon.

I think it's a pretty bold statement to compare any new release to the likes of the Chronicles of Narnia, but no one would be happier than me to see a new series come out that can hold a candle to such an amazing classic!
Countdown Pick #4:  Rebel Belle (Untitled, #1) by Rachel Hawkins (04/08/2014)

Harper Price, peerless Southern belle, was born ready for a Homecoming tiara. But after a strange run-in at the dance imbues her with incredible abilities, Harper's destiny takes a turn for the seriously weird. She becomes a Paladin, one of an ancient line of guardians with agility, super strength and lethal fighting instincts.

Just when life can't get any more disastrously crazy, Harper finds out who she's charged to protect: David Stark, school reporter, subject of a mysterious prophecy and possibly Harper's least favorite person. But things get complicated when Harper starts falling for him--and discovers that David's own fate could very well be to destroy Earth.

With snappy banter, cotillion dresses, non-stop action and a touch of magic, this new young adult series from bestseller Rachel Hawkins is going to make y'all beg for more.

Rachel Hawkins hasn't let me down yet, and from the sounds of it, this book will not be any different.  I can't wait to see how she'll weave cotillions and daggers together!
Countdown Pick #5:  Toxic Heart (Mystic City, #2) by Theo Lawrence (04/08/2014)

A city in flames. A trust betrayed. A perfect love destroyed.

Has Aria lost Hunter, her one true love?

Ever since rebellion broke out in Mystic City, pitting the ruling elite against the magic-wielding mystics, Aria has barely seen her boyfriend. Not surprising, since Hunter is the leader of the mystic uprising, and he'll do whatever it takes to win freedom for his people—even if that means using Aria.

But Aria is no one's pawn. She believes she can bring the two warring sides together, save the city, and win back the Hunter she fell in love with.

Before she can play peacemaker, though, Aria will need to find the missing heart of a dead mystic. The heart gives untold powers to whoever possesses it, but finding it means seeking out a fierce enemy whose deepest desire is for Aria to be gone—forever.

It's finally here!  Well almost, but what's another week or so right?  I feel like I've been waiting on this sequel forever, but after enjoying the series opener so much, I'm sure it'll have been worth the wait.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

In My Mailbox (130)

This is a meme that I first heard about from Kristi over at The Story Siren and immediately wanted to jump on board. I'm always picking up new books, because I never tire of reading, but the other thing I like about this meme is that it gives everyone an opportunity to check out what other book fanatics, bloggers, etc... got for themselves. I've gotten great recommendations from this meme and hope that keeps up in the future.

Here's what I got, what did you guys get this week?
For Review:
Aspen by Rebekah Crane (Thanks to in This Together Media)
One quiet night in Boulder, Colorado, Aspen Yellow-Sunrise Taylor made a mistake.

In the next instant, her life changed forever.

Aspen doesn't want to remember the devastating car accident that killed Katelyn Ryan, a sleek-haired popular soccer player. But forgetting is hard-- because Katelyn may have died -- but she didn't leave. Her ghost is following Aspen around, and heading into senior year, it's kind of a problem. Especially when Katelyn's gorgeous former boyfriend Ben appears to be the only person at school with a clue as to how Aspen feels.

Popularity, college, Homecoming Court, hot guys - none of these things ever mattered to Aspen. She's been busy trying to rein in her giant mass of blonde curls, keep her stoner mother Ninny away from Toaster, her mom's awful bongo drumming boyfriend, and prevent her best friends Kim and Cass from killing - or kissing - one another. But with Ben sitting next to her in Physics looking all too gorgeous, Katelyn's spirit dogging her steps, and her obsessive snow-globe collecting therapist begging her to remember all the things she wants to forget, Aspen is thrust into a vivid, challenging world she can't control … and doesn't want to.

A darkly funny, emotionally gripping story of opening up, letting go, and moving on, ASPEN is about the best-worst accident of your life ... and what comes next.

The Adventures of Jillian Spectre by Nic Tatano (Thanks to UK Harper Impulse)

Welcome to the Mystic Quarter...

Jillian Spectre knows what happens after you die.

Because the seventeen-year-old mystic seer can see the future of her clients even after they've passed on. And that's not even her coolest power...

She can be in two places at once. Problem is, her heart can only be in one.

Supernatural abilities aside, she's a typical high school senior torn between two guys. But that gets put on the back burner when she discovers the father she had long assumed was dead is actually alive, with unique powers of his own. He's a technopath, with the ability to interface his mind with technology. And he's got a plan to take down society.

Unless Jillian can stop him.

THE ADVENTURES OF JILLIAN SPECTRE is the story of a very special girl who learns that the power of love is more important than supernatural powers.

City of Lost Souls (The Mortal Instruments, #5) by Cassandra Clare

The New York Times bestselling Mortal Instruments continues—and so do the thrills and danger for Jace, Clary, and Simon.

What price is too high to pay, even for love? When Jace and Clary meet again, Clary is horrified to discover that the demon Lilith’s magic has bound her beloved Jace together with her evil brother Sebastian, and that Jace has become a servant of evil. The Clave is out to destroy Sebastian, but there is no way to harm one boy without destroying the other. As Alec, Magnus, Simon, and Isabelle wheedle and bargain with Seelies, demons, and the merciless Iron Sisters to try to save Jace, Clary plays a dangerous game of her own. The price of losing is not just her own life, but Jace’s soul. She’s willing to do anything for Jace, but can she still trust him? Or is he truly lost?

Love. Blood. Betrayal. Revenge. Darkness threatens to claim the Shadowhunters in the harrowing fifth book of the Mortal Instruments series.

Cold Fury (Cold Fury, #1) by T.M. Goeglein (Thanks to Putnam Juvenile)

Jason Bourne meets The Sopranos in this breathtaking adventure

Sara Jane Rispoli is a normal sixteen-year-old coping with school and a budding romance--until her parents and brother are kidnapped and she discovers her family is deeply embedded in the Chicago Outfit (aka the mob).

Now on the run from a masked assassin, rogue cops and her turncoat uncle, Sara Jane is chased and attacked at every turn, fighting back with cold fury as she searches for her family. It's a quest that takes her through concealed doors and forgotten speakeasies--a city hiding in plain sight. Though armed with a .45 and 96K in cash, an old tattered notebook might be her best defense--hidden in its pages the secret to "ultimate power." It's why she's being pursued, why her family was taken, and could be the key to saving all of their lives.

Action packed, with fresh, cinematic writing, Cold Fury is a riveting and imaginative adventure readers will devour.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Guest Post: Author Rebecca Serle

Growing up in privileged, Manhattan social circles, Caggie’s life should be perfect, and it almost was until the day that her younger sister drowned when Caggie was supposed to be watching her. Stricken by grief, Caggie pulls away from her friends and family, only to have everyone misinterpret a crucial moment when she supposedly saves a fellow classmate from suicide. Now she’s famous for something she didn’t do and everyone lauds her as a hero. But inside she still blames herself for the death of her sister and continues to pull away from everything in her life, best friend and perfect boyfriend included. Then Caggie meets Astor, the new boy at school, about whom rumours are swirling and known facts are few. In Astor she finds someone who just might understand her pain, because he has an inner pain of his own. But the more Caggie pulls away from her former life to be with Astor, the more she realises that his pain might be darker, and deeper, than anything she’s ever felt. His pain might be enough to end his life…and Caggie’s as well.

New York City!  "The concrete jungle where dreams are made of," according to Alicia Keys and Jay-Z.  In many ways, writing The Edge of Falling was like writing a love letter to this city - one that I love more than words could ever say and one that I admired from afar for so long.  I watched Gossip Girl and Sex and the City with a vicarious, emerald envy.  Eventually I found my way to New York, but it wasn't for another five years that I felt ready to tell a story here.  Then The Edge of Falling was born.

New York has an inner life that breathes.  When you live here, your relationship with New York is very much like your relationships with real people.  The city is a place of serendipity: the subway arriving at just the right time so that you get to Starbucks to see the cute guy you've been eyeing for the third straight day in a row; the dollar you find beneath your shoe just when you need a bit of kindness to brighten your day; the essence of possibility and change you feel when you know you are brushing shoulders with the likes of so many people, just like you, who have dreams and hopes all their own.

But like other relationships, New York isn't perfect.  The city can be callous and shallow: it rains when you're wearing suede shoes.  It shuts you out when you want to be let in: you miss the subway on the morning of an important meeting.  Compromising is difficult: the seasons are felt in extremes and it's either too hot or too cold.  One minute you can go from feeling like you are WINNING New think that New York has spat you out like a peanut shell at a Yankee Game.  Strike three.

In The Edge of Falling, the city comes alive to reflect Caggie's inner feelings, and her challenged relationship with herself.  Caggie is complex, like New York - and also like this always-changing city, she is full of possibility.  The Edge of Falling is her journey to discover that.

Many thanks to The Bookshelf Sophisticate for hosting me today!  If you're looking for a uniquely New York story, make sure to check out The Edge of Falling, and follow me on Twitter.
About the Author:
Rebecca Serle is the author of When You Were Mine and is an obsessive lover of all things pop culture. She blogs about The Vampire Diaries for New York magazine’s Vulture and can be found on Twitter: @RebeccaASerle. She, like Caggie, lives in Manhattan—just far from the Upper East Side.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Countdown: April 2014 (3)

With Spring being right around the corner, we're so close to being able to say goodbye to this cold weather and hello to fresh blooms, and sunny skies, right? At least that's what I keep telling myself, knowing full well, that we're likely to see more rain than sun next month, but I'm trying to stay optimistic. And with all these amazing new releases that will hit the shelves next month, it's getting easier each and every time I add one to my countdown list. Are there any titles that you're extra excited about? Here are a few of the ones I'm looking forward to in April.
Countdown Pick #1:  Dangerous by Shannon Hale (04/01/2014)

Maisie Danger Brown just wanted to get away from home for a bit, see something new. She never intended to fall in love. And she never imagined stumbling into a frightening plot that kills her friends and just might kill her, too. A plot that is already changing life on Earth as we know it. There's no going back. She is the only thing standing between danger and annihilation.

From NY Times bestselling author Shannon Hale comes a novel that asks, How far would you go to save the ones you love? And how far would you go to save everyone else?

When Shannon Hale came out with Austenland, she won me over.  As a huge Austen fan, any author who puts their own spin on my favorite author's writing is OK by me.  So while this book doesn't sound anything like her previous works that I enjoyed, I have no doubt that her writing will continue to entertain me and I'm eager to see how this future release plays out.
Countdown Pick #2:  Stolen Songbird (Untitled, #1) by Danielle L. Jensen (04/01/2014)

For those who have loved Seraphina and Graceling comes another truly fabulous fantasy...

Trolls are said to love gold. They are said to live underground and hate humans. They are said to be evil. When Cécile de Troyes is kidnapped and sold to the trolls, she finds out that there is truth in the rumours, but there is also so much more to trolls than she could have imagined.

Cécile has only one thing on her mind after she is brought to Trollus, the city she hadn't even known existed under Forsaken Mountain: escape. But the trolls are inhumanly strong. And fast. She will have to bide her time, wait for the perfect opportunity.

But something strange happens while she's waiting - she begins to fall in love with the handsome, thoughtful troll prince that she has been bonded and married to. She begins to make friends. And she begins to see that she may be the only hope for the half-bloods - part troll/part human creatures who are slaves to the full-blooded trolls. There is a rebellion brewing. And her prince, Tristan, the future king, is its secret leader.

As Cécile becomes involved in the intricate political games of Trollus, she becomes more than a farmer's daughter from Goshawk's Hollow. She becomes a princess, the hope of a people, and a witch.

Fantasy will always be one of my favorite genres, and if this book's description is to be believed, with Kristin Cashore wrapping up her Seven Realms series, I'm excited about the possibility of another series stepping up and filling it's place.
Countdown Pick #3:  Dark Days by Kate Ormand (04/2014)

16-year-old Sia only has 15 days to live.

A New World has been created, a place that is highly selective of its citizens and welcomes only the most extraordinary people. Its creators believe they're putting the world to rights and moving towards a perfect future. They've divided society into sectors, with a metal wall surrounding each one. There’s no way in, no way out. A clock tower ticks down the days until a cyborg army penetrates the sector walls, and when they do, nothing will remain of the sector and its citizens but blood, fire and ash.

Sia and her family are far too ordinary to be chosen, so they're left in their sector to die at the hands of machines. Sia accepts her fate, knowing she can’t escape it. Then she meets Mace, a dangerous and attractive boy, who refuses to give up life without a fight...

DARK DAYS is a YA dystopian action-romance novel with jarring violence and high suspense, and could be described as having the gore and action of THE TERMINATOR, and the thrilling romance of MATCHED.

I'm not too sure about the gore they describe in this one but the romance and action are always a welcome sight.  So I guess only giving it a chance will determine whether or not this book and I are a good match.
Countdown Pick #4:  Dear Killer by Katherine Ewell (04/01/2014)

Rule One—Nothing is right, nothing is wrong.
Rule Two—Be careful.
Rule Three—Fight using your legs whenever possible, because they’re the strongest part of your body. Your arms are the weakest.
Rule Four—Hit to kill. The first blow should be the last, if at all possible.
Rule Five—The letters are the law.

Kit takes her role as London’s notorious “Perfect Killer” seriously. The letters and cash that come to her via a secret mailbox are not a game; choosing who to kill is not an impulse decision. Every letter she receives begins with “Dear Killer,” and every time Kit murders, she leaves a letter with the dead body. Her moral nihilism and thus her murders are a way of life—the only way of life she has ever known.

But when a letter appears in the mailbox that will have the power to topple Kit’s convictions as perfectly as she commits her murders, she must make a decision: follow the only rules she has ever known, or challenge Rule One, and go from there.

Katherine’s Ewell’s Dear Killer is a sinister psychological thriller that explores the thin line between good and evil, and the messiness of that inevitable moment when life contradicts everything you believe.

I cannot wait to see what types of revelations are in store for Kit and her wild life of crime.  I don't think readers will find anything close to resembling the sounds of this future release, and I'm looking forward to a nice change of pace and maybe some anxiety inducing scenes filled with suspense.
Countdown Pick #5:  Gilded Ashes by Rosamund Hodge (04/01/2014)

A romantic and fantastical reimagining of the classic Cinderella tale, Gilded Ashes is a novella by Rosamund Hodge set in the same world as the author's debut novel, Sundered.

Orphan Maia doesn't see the point of love when it only brings pain: Her dying mother made a bargain with the evil, all-powerful ruler of their world that anyone who hurt her beloved daughter would be punished; her new stepmother went mad with grief when Maia's father died; and her stepsisters are desperate for their mother's approval, yet she always spurns them. And though her family has turned her into a despised servant, Maia must always pretend to be happy, or else they'll all be struck dead by the curse.

Anax, heir to the Duke of Sardis, doesn't believe in love either—not since he discovered that his childhood sweetheart was only using him for his noble title. What's the point of pretending to fall in love with a girl just so she'll pretend to fall in love with him back? But when his father invites all the suitable girls in the kingdom to a masked ball, Anax must finally give in and select a wife.

As fate would have it, the preparations for the masquerade bring him Maia, who was asked by her eldest stepsister to deliver letters to Anax. Despite a prickly first encounter, he is charmed and intrigued by this mysterious girl who doesn't believe in love. Anax can't help wishing to see her again—and when he does, he can't help falling in love with her. Against her will, Maia starts to fall in love with him too. But how can she be with him when every moment his life is in danger from her mother's deadly bargain?

What girl doesn't love the story of Cinderella?  I've seen the movie, read a few stories that gave the age old tale a new spin and even saw the Broadway rendition last year.  So I think next month when this title comes out will be perfect timing for my next Cinderella fix!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

In My Mailbox (129)

This is a meme that I first heard about from Kristi over at The Story Siren and immediately wanted to jump on board. I'm always picking up new books, because I never tire of reading, but the other thing I like about this meme is that it gives everyone an opportunity to check out what other book fanatics, bloggers, etc... got for themselves. I've gotten great recommendations from this meme and hope that keeps up in the future.

Here's what I got, what did you guys get this week?

For Review:
Turned at dark A Bonus Shadow Falls Short Story

 Independent and strong-willed Della Tsang did not believe in ghosts, until she sees her dead cousin in a dark alley. She did not believe in vampires, until she turns into one.

Should she follow her vampire cousin’s lead and walk away from everything she knows, or join Shadow Falls, a camp for special teens.

Family Magic (The Hayle Coven Novels, #1) by Patti Larsen

Sixteen-year-old Sydlynn Hayle is the daughter of a powerful witch and a demon lord of the seventh plane. The trouble is, she just wants to be ordinary.

Syd struggles to survive the minefield of her new high school while being torn between her attraction to football hero Brad Peters and the darkly mysterious Quaid Moromond. When her coven comes under attack, Syd is forced to face the fact only her power can save her family’s magic.

Embers & Ash (Cold Fury, #3) by T.M. Goeglein (Thanks to Penguin)

Sara Jane Rispoli is on the wrong side of the Russian mob, but closer to finding her family than ever. And she's willing to do whatever it takes to finally end this terrible journey even if the price is her own life.

The very cold fury that has seen her through the worst of her troubles is now killing her; she knows the cure, but she can't sacrifice the deadly electricity until she's rescued her family. But when she finally does rescue them, it's not the happy reunion she pictured. And the torment doesn't stop there, not even when she finally discovers Ultimate Power. Only destroying the Outfit completely can end this terrible nightmare.

Old enemies return to seek vengeance, double-crosses abound, and even more mysteries are uncovered as we rocket toward an end no one saw coming.

Wings (Black City, #3) by Elizabeth Richards (Thanks to Penguin)

Following the cliffhanger ending of Phoenix, Natalie finds herself separated from Ash and unexpectedly reunited with her parents, including the father she thought was dead. But she can only think of Ash. She hasn't heard a word of him since she and Elijah were brought to the underground headquarters of the Sentry Rebellion. But she vows to find him.

Ash, meanwhile is back in Black City; it's the perfect place to hide from the Sentry government. But not for long. He won't give up on Natalie or bringing an end to the terrible reign of Purian Rose.

A pulse-racing end to an exciting series.

Torn Away by Jennifer Brown (Thanks to Little Brown Books)

Born and raised in the Midwest, Jersey Cameron knows all about tornadoes. Or so she thinks. When her town is devastated by a twister, Jersey survives -- but loses her mother, her young sister, and her home. As she struggles to overcome her grief, she's sent to live with her only surviving relatives: first her biological father, then her estranged grandparents.

In an unfamiliar place, Jersey faces a reality she's never considered before -- one in which her mother wasn't perfect, and neither were her grandparents, but they all loved her just the same. Together, they create a new definition of family. And that's something no tornado can touch.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Guest Post: Author Jen McConnel

Nothing is more terrifying than the witch who wields red magic.

There comes a time in every witch's life when she must choose her path. Darlena's friends have already chosen, so why is it so hard for her to make up her mind? Now, Darlena is out of time. Under pressure from Hecate, the Queen of all witches, Darlena makes a rash decision to choose Red magic, a path no witch in her right mind would dare take. As a Red witch, she will be responsible for chaos and mayhem, drawing her deep into darkness. Will the power of Red magic prove too much for Darlena, or will she learn to control it before it's too late?

Why Witches?
With the launch of Daughter of Chaos in just a few weeks, I’ve been fielding a lot of questions about my inspiration and writing choices, so I thought I’d tell you a little bit about why I chose to write a paranormal story, and why witches, in particular.

I’m an avid reader, and I’ve always loved reading paranormal stories, but I think my love of magic runs deeper than that. Some of my favorite tales from childhood are myths and fairy tales, where magic is very real, and the lines between good and evil are sometimes blurred. In part, I blame the musical Into the Woods for this obsession; when I first watched that in sixth grade, I became fascinated with the idea of twisting these familiar stories to either redeem the villains or make the heroes look a little less heroic, and that has stuck with me in my writing.

Then, there’s my general obsession with witches in pop culture. Earlier this year, I did a roundup ofmy favorite film and T.V. witches, and I realized I left one out. Probably the first witch I remember cheering for is Eglantine Price from Disney’s Bedknobs and Broomsticks. I loved the idea of a woman teaching herself magic in the hopes of making a positive change in the midst of World War II, and I also loved the fact that no one in the film initially believed in magic except for her, but that didn’t stop her. (Plus, Eglantine is played by the amazing Angela Lansbury, and the cat has the strangest name ever, so what’s not to love?). I can’t tell you how many times I tried the substitutiary locomotionspell on my own belongings growing up.
Writing paranormal is also a blast. I’ve written contemporary stories, too, and I find them harder to write; with paranormal, it’s easy to blow something up or introduce a new element of magic when the story is backed into a corner, and that’s something I take advantage of when I’m drafting.
Ultimately, though, my love of paranormal comes back to my love of magic. Whether it’s the big, flashy magic Darlena experiences in Daughter, or the quiet magic of sunshine slicing through a prism, I think we all need a little more magic in our lives.

About the Author:
Jen McConnel first began writing poetry as a child. A Michigander by birth, she now lives and writes in the beautiful state of North Carolina. A graduate of Western Michigan University, she also holds a MS in Library Science from Clarion University of Pennsylvania.  When she isn't crafting worlds of fiction, she teaches college writing composition and yoga. Once upon a time, she was a middle school teacher, a librarian, and a bookseller, but those are stories for another time.  Visit  to learn more.
Want to buy a copy of Jen's Daughter of Chaos?  Click on any of these links to get your own copy so you can start reading ASAP!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Guest Post: Author Jenna Black

Resistance is the second installment in acclaimed author Jenna Black’s YA SF romance series.

Nate Hayes is a Replica.

The real Nate was viciously murdered, but thanks to Paxco’s groundbreaking human replication technology, a duplicate was created that holds all of the personality and the memories of the original. Or...almost all. Nate’s backup didn't extend to the days preceding his murder, leaving him searching for answers about who would kill him, and why. Now, after weeks spent attempting to solve his own murder with the help of his best friend and betrothed, Nadia Lake, Nate has found the answers he was seeking...and he doesn’t like what he’s discovered.

The original Nate was killed because he knew a secret that could change everything. Thanks to Nadia’s quick thinking, the two of them hold the cards now—or think they do.

Unfortunately, neither of them fully understands just how deep the conspiracy runs.

The Leap of Faith
I'm not the most trusting person in the world.  Nor am I what you'd call a pillar of self-confidence.  Doubt and I are close personal friends.  Which can make starting any book feel rather like jumping out of an airplane.  Without a parachute.
For me, the second book of a series is almost always the toughest.  When I start writing the first book of a series, it's generally something that's not under contract - which means there's basically no pressure.  If the book doesn't work out, then I can shrug, say "oh well," and try something else.  But that second book...It's under contract.  It's got a deadline.  There are fans waiting for it, and the have expectations.
Some people carefully plot out their series and have the plot arc all set in their minds when they start.  I'm not one of those people.  When I'm writing a first book, my entire focus is on that first book.  I may have a few big-picture ideas for what will come in the future of the series, but I don't let myself think too much about the details.  I can't, because if I start looking at the arc of the whole series, it starts to get overwhelming.  There are too many variables - and too many ways I can find myself getting distracted so I don't actually work on the book that's on my plate right now.
So basically, starting the second book in a series is an invitation to panic.  I may feel good about the previous book, but now I have to do it again, and I have no idea how I'm going to manage it.
What I've learned is that in one way or another, starting a new book - especially the second book in a series - requires a leap of faith.  I have to believe that whatever magic happened in the first book will happen in this one, also.  I have to jump out of that airplane and believe I have that parachute, even if I don't have hard evidence to support that belief.
I've often been disappointed to find that almost nothing about writing seems to get easier with experience, as logic would generally suggest it should.  But in this one area, I think I am finally starting to see an improvement.  The first few times I had to take that leap of faith, it was terrifying, and I had a lot of trouble shouting down the voice in my head that said I couldn't do it.
Fast forward to when I had to start writing Resistance.  I was ruthless with myself when writing Replica, not allowing myself to do any plotting for the other two books in the series.  I had a plan for the major plot development that's revealed at the end of Resistance, and that was it.  But one thing I've learned about myself is that I love telling stories, love spending time with my characters and figuring out what terrible things I can put them through.  I have jumped out of this plane before, and so far I haven't ended up splattered on the pavement.
I won't say writing Resistance was easy.  Nothing about writing is easy.  But instead of facing this new beginning with terror, I faced it with a hint of confidence.  I believe that the story would come to me once I got started, no matter how daunting the project appeared.  And I was right.  I'm very happy with how the book turned out.
I think I've learned a very powerful lesson as a writer, one I'd like to pass on to all the other writers out there who struggle with self-doubt:  trust yourself.  Take that leap of faith and write that daunting story.  I can't promise it was always work out for you, but I can promise it'll work better than letting your own self-doubt get the better of you.
About the Author:
Jenna Black is your typical writer. Which means she's an "experience junkie." She got her BA in physical anthropology and French from Duke University.
Once upon a time, she dreamed she would be the next Jane Goodall, camping in the bush making fabulous discoveries about primate behavior. Then, during her senior year at Duke, she did some actual research in the field and made this shocking discovery: primates spend something like 80% of their time doing such exciting things as sleeping and eating.
Concluding that this discovery was her life's work in the field of primatology, she then moved on to such varied pastimes as grooming dogs and writing technical documentation. Among her other experiences . . .
Ballroom dancing.
Traveling all seven continents. Yes, even Antarctica.
Becoming a Life Master in Bridge.
Singing in a barbershop chorus.
Read the true story of Jenna's first trip out of the country by herself at the age of 16: Jenna's Zaire Adventure. And remember, insanity is a good thing for a writer.
She's also a proud member of the Heart of Carolina Romance Writers, and would love for her readers to support her fellow authors!
Jenna is represented by Miriam Kriss, of the Irene Goodman Literary Agency.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Guest Post: Author Justina Ireland

Zephyr Mourning has never been very good at being a Harpy. She’d rather watch reality TV than learn forty-seven ways to kill a man, and she pretty much sucks at wielding magic. Zephyr was ready for a future pretending to be a normal human instead of a half-god assassin. But all that changes when her sister is murdered—and she uses a forbidden dark power to save herself from the same fate.

Zephyr is on the run from a punishment worse than death when an unexpected reunion with a childhood friend (a surprisingly HOT friend) changes everything. Because it seems like Zephyr might just be the Nyx, a dark goddess made flesh that is prophesied to change the power balance. For hundreds of years the half-gods have lived in fear, and Zephyr is supposed to change that.

But how is she supposed to save everyone when she can’t even save herself?

Justina was kind enough to take the time and stop by to share a spotify playlist with us for Promise of Shadows.  Let me know what you think and thanks again Justina for dropping by!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Countdown: April 2014 (2)

With Spring being right around the corner, we're so close to being able to say goodbye to this cold weather and hello to fresh blooms, and sunny skies, right? At least that's what I keep telling myself, knowing full well, that we're likely to see more rain than sun next month, but I'm trying to stay optimistic. And with all these amazing new releases that will hit the shelves next month, it's getting easier each and every time I add one to my countdown list. Are there any titles that you're extra excited about? Here are a few of the ones I'm looking forward to in April.
 Countdown Pick #1:  Of Breakable Things by A. Lynden Rolland (04/2014)

Alex Ash was born broken. Living with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome is like living on death row, but she is willing to fight for her diseased life as long as it includes the boy next door. Chase has always held the pieces of her together, but when he dies tragically, Alex’s unfavorable fate becomes a blessing in disguise.
In a peculiar world where rooms can absorb emotions and secrets are buried six feet under, Alex discovers she is anything but frail. Even among limitless minds, envious spirits, and soulless banshees, the most difficult aspect of Alex’s afterlife is juggling between Chase and his reckless brother, neither of whom are willing to give up the girl they both love.

So much for resting in peace.

Admittedly the cover image for this title scares me a little, but the promising sound of a love triangle might just help me get past it.  With these types of situations, it's always anyone's guess who gets their happily ever after ending and who doesn't.

In the Forest of the Dead, where the empire’s worst criminals are exiled, twin sisters Moria and Ashyn are charged with a dangerous task. For they are the Keeper and the Seeker, and each year they must quiet the enraged souls of the damned.

Only this year, the souls will not be quieted.

Ambushed and separated by an ancient evil, the sisters’ journey to find each other sends them far from the only home they’ve ever known. Accompanied by a stubborn imperial guard and a dashing condemned thief, the girls cross a once-empty wasteland, now filled with reawakened monsters of legend, as they travel to warn the emperor. But a terrible secret awaits them at court—one that will alter the balance of their world forever.

Armstrong always manages to put out action packed story lines with characters that have me not wanting to say goodbye or see the series end anytime soon.  This new series that will hit shelves next month has a very good chance of joining those same ranks.
Countdown Pick #3:  This Side of Salvation by Jeri Smith-Ready (04/01/2014)

Everyone mourns differently. When his older brother was killed, David got angry. As in, fist-meets-someone-else’s-face furious. But his parents? They got religious. David’s still figuring out his relationship with a higher power, but there’s one thing he does know for sure: The closer he gets to new-girl Bailey, the better, brighter, happier, more he feels.

Then his parents start cutting all their worldly ties in to prepare for the Rush, the divine moment when the faithful will be whisked off to Heaven…and they want David to do the same. David’s torn. There’s a big difference between living in the moment and giving up his best friend, varsity baseball, and Bailey—especially Bailey—in hope of salvation.

But when he comes home late from prom, and late for the Rush, to find that his parents have vanished, David is in more trouble than he ever could have imagined..

My heart is already practically breaking for David just after reading this short synopsis.  I'm not sure what kind of situation his parents have gotten themselves into, and what that will mean for David but I'm anxious to read this future release in order to find out.
Countdown Pick #4:  Burn Out (Untitled, #1) by Kristi Helvig (04/08/2014)

A futuristic blend of Beth Revis's Across the Universe and Lenore Appelhans's Level 2, Burn Out will satisfy the growing desire for science fiction with a thrilling story of survival, intrigue, and adventure.

Most people want to save the world; seventeen-year-old Tora Reynolds just wants to get the hell off of it. One of the last survivors in Earth's final years, Tora yearns to escape the wasteland her planet has become after the sun turns "red giant," but discovers her fellow survivors are even deadlier than the hostile environment.

Holed up in an underground shelter, Tora is alone--her brilliant scientist father murdered, her mother and sister burned to death. She dreams of living on a planet with oceans, plants, and animals. Unfortunately, the oceans dried out ages ago, the only plants are giant cacti with deadly spines, and her pet, Trigger, is a gun--one of the bio-energetic weapons her father created for the government before his conscience kicked in.

When family friend, Markus, arrives with mercenaries to take the weapons by force, Tora's fury turns to fear when government ships descend in an attempt to kill them all. She forges an unlikely alliance with Markus and his rag-tag group of raiders, including a smart but quiet soldier named James. Tora must figure out who she can trust in order to save humanity from the most lethal weapons in existence.

I said it back towards the end of 2013, it just seems like more and more great sounding science fiction books are getting ready to hit the shelves and this one has definitely made my list.
Countdown Pick #5:  Open Road Summer by Emery Lord (04/15/2014)

After breaking up with her bad-news boyfriend, Reagan O’Neill is ready to leave her rebellious ways behind. . . and her best friend, country superstar Lilah Montgomery, is nursing a broken heart of her own. Fortunately, Lilah’s 24-city tour is about to kick off, offering a perfect opportunity for a girls-only summer of break-up ballads and healing hearts. But when Matt Finch joins the tour as its opening act, his boy-next-door charm proves difficult for Reagan to resist, despite her vow to live a drama-free existence. This summer, Reagan and Lilah will navigate the ups and downs of fame and friendship as they come to see that giving your heart to the right person is always a risk worth taking. A fresh new voice in contemporary romance, Emery Lord’s gorgeous writing hits all the right notes.

One of my favorite authors, Elizabeth Eulberg has already given this future release a raving review.  I've always enjoyed her writing and her sense of humor, so ifgem than who am I to disagree?


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