Friday, February 5, 2016

{Giveaway/Cover Reveal/Excerpt} THERE ONCE WERE STARS by Melanie McFarlane

 Today Melanie McFarlane and Month9Books are revealing the cover and first chapter for THERE ONCE WERE STARS, which releases April 26, 2016! Check out the gorgeous cover and enter to be one of the first readers to receive a eGalley!!

A quick note from the author:

I have anticipated this moment for months—the moment I would be able to share my cover with all of you! When I first laid eyes on the cover for THERE ONCE WERE STARS I was immediately drawn to the stars and how they are escaping their glass prison. 

In my novel, the main character, Natalia Greyes, is also locked in a glass prison: her home, Dome 1618. During Nat’s childhood the stars became more visible in the sky, after being blocked by darkness for decades after the Cleansing Wars. Like the stars, Nat is a symbol of change as she transforms from a na├»ve youth into a strong teen, who searches for her place in her tiny world of Dome 1618, and dreams of escaping to the outside one day. 

But my favorite detail of all is the grass and how cool and inviting it is in contrast to the hard sheen of the glass jar. It can be seen as a symbol of how mankind can never capture or truly duplicate the beauty of nature, or the wonder of life itself.

Don’t forget to check out my trailer on YouTube: 

On to the reveal! 



Author: Melanie McFarlane
Pub. Date: April 26, 2016
Publisher: Month9Books
Format: Paperback & eBook
Find it:  Goodreads

Peace. Love. Order. Dome. That’s the motto that the Order has given the residents of Dome 1618 to live by. Natalia Greyes is a resident of Dome 1618, a covered city protected from the deadly radiation that has poisoned the world outside for four generations. Nat never questioned the Order, until one day she sees a stranger on the outside of the dome. Now Nat wants answers. Is there life outside the dome and if so, what has the Order been hiding from everyone?

Exclusive Excerpt
Chapter One
I stretch my arms across my bed, running my fingers along the same sheets I’ve had since I was a child. The stiffness was beaten out of them long ago, but they still carry the memory of my mother carefully stitching the first tear back together when I was seven. The tiny x’s remind me of her long fingers, moving the needle back and forth with the same care as when she worked with samples in her laboratory.
I trace the row stitches, squeezing my eyes shut as I make a wish; it is my eighteenth birthday, after all. But when I open them, the same scene shows from my bedroom window that always does—the grid of our dome. Nothing changes. It doesn’t matter how many birthday wishes are made; I always wake up trapped inside the dome. The grid of thick glass and steel arcs far above our apartment, stretching to where the great Axis, a tower of government offices, meets the peak of our home—Dome 1618.
I crawl out of bed and let my gaze trail down the Axis to the rooftops of the other apartment buildings, row upon row of housing for blue-collar workers. Closer to the Axis are townhouses of the business owners, hidden from the rest of us, but that’s not where I long to be. My eyes drift to the base of the dome, far away from my window where the Outer Forest lies, my only saving grace. It’s forbidden to hike among the trees, but sometimes rules need to be broken.
“Natalia!” Grandmother’s piercing voice comes from the other side of my bedroom door. “Get up. You’re wasting the day away.”
The clock on my dresser reads eight o’clock in the morning. Seriously? It’s been nine years since I moved in with my grandparents, and saying Grandmother and I have differing opinions barely touches the surface. Her rules are sometimes worse than those of the Order, who police the dome. With any luck, I’ll be assigned my own apartment soon and can finally restart my life, again.
I run my brush through my long brown hair, although by the time I go outside it will look unruly once again. It’s my curse; I have thick hair like my mother, with waves that look more like oddly-placed kinks, unlike the smooth-flowing locks worn by some of the other girls at my school. But I won’t have to go back to the Learning Institute again. Today I’m an adult.
My jeans are on the floor where I left them last night, and I manage to find a clean T-shirt in my drawer. Both have the same tiny stitches as my sheets, covering up the wear and tear over the years, but I sewed these back together myself. Grandmother is firm on the fact that if I don’t take care of what I have, I don’t get a replacement. There’s no point in arguing when her opinions are as deep as the wrinkles on her face, and honestly, it’s hard to tell which she has more of. Before I leave my room, I grab my mother’s notebook. It’s filled with her sketches and work notes on different projects she was involved in. But my favorites are the tiny notes, squeezed in the margins, excerpt of her personal thoughts, hopes, and dreams. The biggest of these was to move her family outside the dome.
“I know you were out last night,” Grandmother says, eyeing me suspiciously between the milk and dry toast as I slip into my seat at the table.
“Must we have this conversation every morning?” Grandfather speaks up.
“You know the ramifications!” Grandmother shrills, and he shrinks in his chair. “Do you want to let her stroll around at night past curfew? One day she won’t come home, and then we will be questioned.” Grandmother redirects her attention to me. “What are you doing out there that’s important enough to risk everything? Haven’t I warned you? If the Order catches you, you will wish you had listened to me.”
“That’s my problem.” I fold my arms across my chest. She always makes me back down with her words. If I’m going to be an adult, I need to learn how to take a stand.
“If your parents could only see you now,” she says unsympathetically. “They would wonder how they got a daughter so determined to get herself detained. You know what they do with little girls who don’t follow the rules.”
“Yes,” I say through gritted teeth. She’s given these lectures many times. Girls who don’t follow the rules are sent back to the Learning Institute for retraining, where they come out all prim and proper, ready to take their place as functional citizens of the dome. I’m not going back there; I know how to stay under the radar.
“Come on, now.” Grandfather finally steps in. “It’s Nat’s birthday.”
“Yes.” Her tone softens. “You’re eighteen now. Hurry and eat; we got you a little something.”
I gobble down the toast, stale as it is, but fresh food is not something that our dome has had in a long time. Since the accident that caused my parents’ death, the Order stopped all excursions for scientific research, completely cutting off the outside world. Prior to this, there were plenty of rations from the farms due to uncontaminated seeds the expedition teams found, along with new plant life for supplementing the crops. But those stockpiles have slowly depleted.
When I finish breakfast, I look at my grandparents in anticipation. Grandfather’s face is beaming, and though Grandmother looks like she is trying to be serious, I can see a small sparkle in her eyes as she hands me a tiny green box with a little purple bow. The bow is smooth, made from fabric nicer than anything I own. I gently untie it, and put the silky strand safely in my pocket, before opening the box to see what is inside.
A silver, heart-shaped locket sits on top of fine tissue paper, so delicate I don’t dare touch it in case it rips. An image of two hands holding a smaller heart is engraved into the center of the locket. This is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen—I’ve never owned jewelry of my own. My hands are shaking so bad I almost drop the box.
“Careful!” Grandmother’s voice snaps me from my awe. She grabs the box from me, and it takes all my inner strength to let it go.
She removes the necklace from the box and opens the locket, holding it out to me. Inside, is a photo of my parents on their wedding day. Photos are luxuries. I only own one other— a photo of me with my parents when I turned three—and it stays safe on my nightstand. But this locket—I can take it with me anywhere. I hold up my hair, allowing Grandmother to secure it around my neck, then grasp the tiny keepsake in my hand. I will cherish it forever.
“I’m going to show this to Jak and Xara,” I say, leaving the table.
“Don’t forget, you have to report to work today.” Grandmother reminds me.
“But it’s Saturday.” I groan.
“You’re eighteen now,” she says, her eyes vacant of the compassion they held only seconds ago. “Your time to contribute to the dome begins today. Plus, any experience is good to have if you want to be a scientist one day, like your parents.”
“I don’t see how cleaning toilets at the Axis will do me any good in the future,” I complain. “And I never said I want to be a scientist.”
“You’ll find where you’re meant to be.” Grandfather smiles. “Understanding everything from the bottom-up will help you make a better decision about what you want to do to make your contribution.”
I sigh as I lace up my sneakers, now feeling the pressure of the future. I have no idea what I want to do today, let alone the rest of my life. But it definitely does not involve cleaning up after those in the Axis. I wave good-bye as I leave the apartment, but only Grandfather waves back. My number one fan; he always tries to keep the peace between Grandmother and I. But no matter how close we are, I still have to lie about where I’m really going. No one can know about my secret place.
Outside, I stretch my arms up toward the top of the dome. The sun shines through the dust covered glass of the dome, with sections of blue sky showing here and there. I sneak around the back of our apartment building, and begin my stealthy weave through alleyways. I have hours before my first shift starts at the Axis. Hours to spend somewhere the Order can’t find me.
When I reach the Outer Forest, I sneak in a break in the fence and move between the trunks of trees, inhaling the last of the old world. The rich combination of musk and earth fills my lungs as I run as fast as I can from the fence. Running is one of the few things that make me feel free. When I reach my destination, I’m out of breath, but exactly where I belong—a hidden clearing at the edge of the dome.
I crawl inside a hollowed-out tree I’ve claimed as my own. How did the Order miss this lone tree, dying amidst the perfection of the Outer Forest? It should have been torn down long ago, to make room for larger, healthier, oxygen bearing trees. Decay doesn’t coincide with the Order’s pursuit for perfection and efficiency, but it’s ideal for me: hidden, empty, and alone. I accept this tree’s imperfections and it offers me solace.
I clutch my locket again, this time removing it from my neck so I can look inside. A twinge of pain prickles my throat as my parents’ faces stare back at me. They look so happy and in love. I remember that about them. The in love part. I haven’t thought about people in love for so long.
I lean back, holding the locket against my chest, intent on enjoying the morning sun. Unfortunately, the heat of the sun doesn’t penetrate the cold glass of the dome, but something about that glowing orb in those blue skies makes me feel better. Mom wrote in her notebook about the first time she felt the sun on her skin: warm and, bright, as if it gave her a new life with its rays, just like it did to the world, after the Cleansing Wars. I close my eyes, imagining myself bathed in sunlight, and finally give in to the peace of the forest.
I wake up, feeling something sharp poking my side. I can’t believe I drifted off. My hand shoots behind me, to find the source of the pain. My mother’s notebook is jutting awkwardly from my back pocket. I stand up to tuck it back in, and my gaze slips above a line of bushes growing wildly along the base of the dome. At the same time, something flashes above them, and my breath catches in my throat. My reflection stares back at me from the glass, revealing my locket shining in the sunlight. Relax, Dacie, it’s only you. A nervous laugh escapes my throat, as I finish putting the notebook away.
Another light flashes, but this time it’s in the distance, on the other side of the glass. I lean forward, focusing on the light, and see a shadow move on the other side. My entire body goes rigid, and my heart beat thunders in my ears. No one could be out there—unless—could it be an Infected? No, that’s impossible. They were all killed by the Cleansing War—everything was. If the nukes didn’t kill them, the nuclear fallout afterward would have.
Something moves again—closer this time. A gasp escapes my lips, as a shudder rips through my body. That’s when I see it—the faint outline of a person standing in the open. He’s camouflaged by a layer of dust, blending him into the barren landscape that surrounds the dome. The figure’s shadow stretches across the ground, reaching toward me.
I rub my eyes, as if something in them could be making me see the figure, but when I open them I’m startled to see the figure again, only now there are two. One stays farther back, toward the rockier land, silhouetted against the foothills in the distance. The other stands a short distance from the dome. My heart skips a beat—they’re both human, and they’re both staring in my direction.

About Melanie: 
Whether it’s uncovering the corruption of the future, or traveling to other worlds to save the universe, Melanie McFarlane jumps in with both hands on her keyboard. Thought she can be found obsessing over zombies and orcs from time to time, Melanie has focused her powers on her two upcoming YA novels: THERE ONCE WERE STARS and SUMMONER RISING.

Giveaway Details:

1 winner will receive the FIRST eGalley of THERE ONCE WERE STARS. International.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Also, Melanie is giving away swag.
Enter that giveaway, too!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Live in/near Philly? Check out these 8 February/March Author Signings!!! (If not, you can have some of these authors personalize your books ANYWAY!)

Hey everyone!

Do you live in or near Philadelphia? Driving distance?

There are SO MANY big book signings coming up soon!!

Next week ALONE has an explosive amount of authors. 

Mark your calendars now!!!

(More signings will come, I'm sure, especially for March! 
 Keep up-to-date with a great Area Event Calendar put together by Vi from VI3TBABE!)

If you live NOWHERE near Philly or any of the areas where Marissa Meyer, Victoria Aveyard, Sophie Jordan, Susan Dennard, or Sarah J. Maas will be, visit Damaris from Good Choice Reading to attend a Virtual Signing. If you pay for a book, Damaris will get the books personalized and shipped out to you!!! She does an amazing job and her books come packaged really nicely!!!

Monday, Feb. 8th, 6 pm:

A Lunar Ball!!! 

Event details are still coming, so stalk the 
Time to air out your favorite dress!!  

Ummmm, and there will be a chance to win one of THE FIRST advance copies of HEARTLESS!!!!!!!

Saturday, Feb. 13th, 1 pm:

Epic Reads is coming! *flail*
The #1 Teen Fantasy of last year on everyone's list from GoodReads to B&N was 
THE RED QUEEN by Victoria Aveyard, and she's coming to town to promote the sequel!!

There's also been a lot of hype surrounding Sophie Jordan's new series!

Saturday, Feb 13th, 6 pm:

Galentine's Day!

Bring your favorite gal-pal for an epic event featuring two IRL best friends and New York Times Best Selling Authors Sarah J. Maas and Susan Dennard! 

Not only that, but the event is celebrating best friends EVERYWHERE. Damaris from Good Choice Reading is hosting a giveaway, where if you tell your Best Friend Story, you could win a $25 gift card and a basket of goodies! Here are the details!

Details about the event are on the Bensalem Barnes and Noble's Facebook page.

Saturday, Feb. 15th, 5:30 pm:

Launch Party!!!!!

Middle Grade Author Lauren Magaziner (THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN WITCHES) is coming out with a BRAND-NEW book called PILFER ACADEMY, about a school so bad, it's criminal! There will be all kinds of fun things going on at her launch party!!

Details about the event are on the Bensalem Barnes and Noble's Facebook page

Saturday, Feb. 20th, 4 pm:

Big Nate is BACK and illustrator Lincoln Peirce is in town.
Fans of the best selling Wimpy Kid series also love adventuring with Big Nate and will be so excited to meet the author!

Saturday, Feb. 20th, 4 pm:

How often do you have a best selling fantasy author in town!? Brandon Sanderson has won all sorts of praise and awards for his adult fantasy novels, which are considered to be some of the best in the genre.

Now, he's writing for teens, and in town to celebrate the release of the third book in the Reckoners series!!! 

Wednesday, March 9th, 7 pm:

New York Teen Author Festival ROAD TRIP!!!!

The authors coming to PA will be David Levithan, Andrea Cremer, A.R. Kahler, Goldy Moldavsky and Tommy Wallach.

What an awesome group!!!!

Great preview of what's to come during the NYTAF, especially if you can't get to NYC or the Books of Wonder Mega-Signing on Sunday!

Sunday, March 13th, 1-4 pm:

NYC Teen Author Festival No-Foolin' Mega-Signing!

Books of Wonder always does an epic book signing at their store at the end of the NYTAF, and it's always so much fun! They go in groups from hour to hour, so you line up to see who you want, then hang out with other book friends you make! It's always such a good time!!!

SEVENTY-ONE Authors are currently signed up to be in attendance!!!!

Details will be forthcoming on Books of Wonder's webpage.
A list of the attending authors is currently available through the NYTAF webpage, but may change!

***There will also be several signings in NYC throughout the NYTAF, so check the full event calendar for authors who may not be at the Mega-Signing such as Libba Bray!!!***

Thursday, January 28, 2016

{Giveaway/Spotlight} NOBODY'S GODDESS by Amy McNulty and CROWN OF ICE by Vicki L. Weavil

Love fairy tales and mythology?
Fans of mermaids, dragons, unicorns, and other mythical creatures?
Enjoy when a beloved classic tale is retold?
A Twist in the Tail Thursdays features all this and more!


 Two for Thursday!

Welcome to this week’s Two for Thursday! #T4T
presented by Month9books/Tantrum Books!

Today, we will be showcasing two titles that will tickle your fancy,
and we’ll share what readers have to say about these titles!

You just might find your next read!

I merged this into today's A Twist in the Tail feature because 
#mythology and #fairytales

Don't you love and want to win both!?

This week, #T4T presents to you:

Author: Amy McNulty
Pub. Date: April 21, 2015
Publisher: Month9Books, LLC.
Pages: 274
Formats: Paperback, eBook
Find it: Goodreads| Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | TBD

In a village of masked men, magic compels each man to love only one woman and to follow the commands of his “goddess” without question. A woman may reject the only man who will love her if she pleases, but she will be alone forever. And a man must stay masked until his goddess returns his love—and if she can’t or won’t, he remains masked forever.

Seventeen-year-old Noll isn't in the mood to celebrate. Her childhood friends have paired off and her closest companion, Jurij, found his goddess in Noll’s own sister. Desperate to find a way to break this ancient spell, Noll instead discovers why no man has ever chosen her.

Thus begins a dangerous game between the choice of woman versus the magic of man. And the stakes are no less than freedom and happiness, life and death—and neither is willing to lose.


“There are many terrestrial qualities to this 16th-century village, such as mountains, meadows, forests, and lakes. But there are also hints of magic throughout . . . the story is fun and engaging, featuring a female protagonist who will resonate with young teens.”  —School Library Journal

"Wow. I appreciate this fantasy for what it is: detailed, unique, and just all round amazing. It's the kind of novel that keeps you guessing, and just when you think you've got the twist, something happens to throw you off course.."~ Melanie McFarlane author of the upcoming THERE ONCE WERE STARS & SUMMONER RISING.


"It was something so unique and different that I found myself really enthralled with the story. To the point that I almost had to blink myself out of a daze when I finished. "~ Jamie, Blogger @ Queen of The Bookshelves

"I would definitely recommend Nobody's Goddess to anybody looking for a great fantasy book with a plot that's unlike anything I've read before. The characters and the world are all done incredibly well, and Amy's talent with making words jump right off the page to tell the story is just fantastic. "~Ashley, Blogger @ The AP Book Club

"This book is different from any fantasy book I've read before in its concept. It treads the path less traveled, and manages to make a great story that readers can enjoy and love."~Bri, Blogger @ Books And Ashes

Amy McNulty is a freelance writer and editor from Wisconsin with an honors degree in English. She was first published in a national scholarly journal (The Concord Review) while in high school and currently spends her days alternatively writing on business and marketing topics and primarily crafting stories with dastardly villains and antiheroes set in fantastical medieval settings.
Connect with the Author:  Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

Publication date: September 9, 2014
Publisher: Month9Books, LLC.
Author: Vicki L. Weavil
ISBN: 978-1939765390
Find it: GoodreadsAmazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo |TBD | iBooks

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

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

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

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

Praise for CROWN OF ICE:

“A re-imagining of The Snow Queen, moving and well written.” Sandra Waugh, Author of The Guardians of Tarnec Series.

“I admire the depiction of a young woman staying true to herself and not letting the pressures of love or expectations effect her choice. Thyra becomes an example that would do any woman proud.” Michelle Hauck, Author of Grudging.

“Weavil conducts a careful balancing act between loyalty to the original story and exploring new frontiers; I think she succeeds in this task, and fans of fairytale re-tellings will enjoy this one.” The Australia Times


"CROWN OF ICE offers so much more than just the tale of The Snow Queen with a change of perspective. A solid YA adventure with teenagers who learn so much about themselves, and each other. Even the expected happily ever after offers believable surprises that underscore the maturity and independence they each have gained.."~ Julia, Blogger @ All Things Urban Fantasy

“I was enchanted by this book from the opening paragraphs. The story is told from Thyra's point of view, making it very personal and conversational in tone. By using this method, the reader gets to know Thyra on a deeper level than normal.”~ Stephanie, Blogger @ A Dream Within A Dream

“CROWN OF ICE is such a fascinating fantasy, with love adventure and enjoyable characters. I recommend for all fans of fantasy!!” ~ Tonyalee, Blogger @ LilyBloomBooks

“This book was fantastic, and so different from anything that I have ever read. I loved every single page of this book, and I very much look forward to whatever comes next from this amazing author!.”~ Jaime, Blogger @ The Best Books Ever

Vicki Lemp Weavil was raised in a farming community in Virginia, where her life was shaped by a wonderful family, the culture of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and an obsession with reading. Since obtaining her undergraduate degree in Theatre from the University of Virginia, she’s gone on to acquire two masters degrees, living in places as diverse as New York City and rural North Carolina. She’s currently the library director for a performing an visual arts university.  Vicki loves good writing in any genre, and has been known to read seven books in as many days. She enjoys travel, gardening, and the arts. Vicki lives in North Carolina with her husband, son, and some very spoiled cats.


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

How Do You Follow Your Favorite Blogs? What Works Best...and What Fails the Most?

There are so many ways to follow blogs nowadays.

What are your favorite ways to keep up?

If you've been following me through the standard Follow button I've had up until now using Google Friend Connect, you might not be actively following me soon, since Google is taking away the ability to follow using GFC via anything except...well, a Google account. Twitter, Facebook, etc? Off the table. So if you follow ANYBODY using Blogger, you'll have to find a different way this month.

I've never put together a Subscribe Via Newsletter option because I know I hate having all that clutter up my inbox, and figure most of you do as well.

I like seeing all the blog headlines in one place at one time. I liked it when the Blogger Reader List came up when I logged into my blog. But it capped out at a certain number and wouldn't let you delete older inactive blogs. And it didn't load all the time. I needed a better option.

Personally, I found and use Feedly.

Feedly probably makes it harder for bloggers to track their numbers, but it's SO easy to use. I can make FOLDERS to throw blogs into. I have a folder for agent blogs, for author blogs, for book blogs, for nail polish blogs, etc.

If I'm looking for information about the new OPI Collection I just saw in an ad and haven't had time to keep up with the blogging world, I can go to my Nail Blogger Folder and see the headlines, then find who is swatching the new OPI Collection so I can see what colors I want to buy. Etc.

When you load up Feedly and enter the blog you want to follow, it will tell you how many other people follow through Feedly. I'm sure there are a lot of other blog feed sites similar to Feedly. Going forward, I think it will be very hard for bloggers to know their accurate follower stats because there are SO MANY ways to follow. I think that's also reflected in the fact that on Twitter, I have double the followers I do with my visible list of GFC followers.

If you're a blogger, how do you figure out your numbers when people ask? Or do you just not worry about it? I usually list my GFC AND my Twitter.

Is there a better widget to use on Blogger for Subscribers? Do you give subscribers options other than GFC that work?

I'd love to get a discussion going with some choices that will help Bloggers moving forward with this latest decision from Google!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

{Review} FROZEN by Melissa de la Cruz and Michael Johnston

B O O K   T R A I L E R:

This series seriously has some of the best book trailers I've ever seen, don't you agree?
I love that Soman Chainani has a hand in it! (Details!)

O P E N I N G   H O O K:

  THEY WERE COMING FOR HER. SHE could hear their heavy footsteps echoing in the concrete hallway. In a way, the sound was a relief. For days upon days she had been left in the room, alone, in total silence, with little food and water, the weight of solitude becoming ever more oppressive, the silence a heaviness that she could not shake, punishment for refusing to do as she was told, punishment for being what she was.
  She had forgotten how many days, how many months, she had been left here, alone with only her thoughts for company.
  But not quite alone.
  I warned you about waiting, rumbled the voice in her head. The voice that she heard in her dreams, whose words echoed like thunder, thunder and ash, smoke and flame. When it spoke, she saw a beast through the inferno, carrying her aloft on black wings through dark skies as it rained fire upon its enemies. The fire that raged within her. The fire that destroyed and consumed. The fire that would destroy and consume her if she let it.
  Her destiny. A destiny of rage and ruin.
(page 1, US Hardcover edition)

"The world was irretrievably broken, filled with refuse, from Garbage Country to the poisoned oceans, and the rest was an uninhabitable frozen nether land; what kind of place was this to grow up in? What kind of world had they been born into?"


Do you like atmospheric reads? I do! I've been waiting two years to begin reading the Heart of Dread series by Melissa de la Cruz and Michael Johnston. I was never home when it was snowing, or I was in the middle of something, or I was on a blog tour deadline or....SOMETHING. There was always SOMETHING. I've been a fan of atmospheric reads ever since accidentally reading THE NEAR WITCH by Victoria Schwab on an extremely windy day, and it added to my experience. When I was snowed in this past weekend during Winter Storm Jonas, Heart of Dread was my series of choice. I finished FROZEN with in a day, and am currently a good chunk of the way into the sequel, STOLEN. I'm excited that the final book in the trilogy, GOLDEN, comes out in April, so I don't have long to wait for a conclusion!

FROZEN is set in a chilly future where life as we know it has been destroyed and re-built as the RSA (Remaining States of America). There is nothing but snow and ice. Deserts and warmth are things of imagination. Genuine salt, natural water, and real meat cost a fortune. Nat lives in New Vegas, hiding from the government that captured her due to her dangerous abilities. Ever since the world changed, creatures such as humans with strange marks and mystical abilities--like Nat. Creatures such as sylth, smallmen, drau, thrillers...dangerous, deadly, beautiful, mythical creatures. There is a rumor that a place exists called the Blue, and that if you find this nirvana, you'll find green lands, warm days, and fresh water. Nat finds a stone containing a map to the Blue and hires a runner named Wes to sneak her out of the borders and across the sea. Wes, on the other hand, knows that Nat has the map and that if he can steal it and sell it to the highest bidder, he'll be set for life and his team will never go hungry again. Both Nat and Wes go into their deal planning to double-cross and manipulate one another, but find that they'll need to work together if they want to survive the dangerous journey lying ahead of them.

I've never read Melissa de la Cruz's well-known series Blue Bloods or Witches of East End, but I have read her historical fantasy THE RING AND THE CROWN and her Disney Descendants runaway middle-grade bestseller ISLE OF THE LOST. So far, the Heart of Dread series is my favorite read by her. I love the fast pace, the action, the romance, the intrigue, the FANTASY. I can't tell you how this series correlates to her other books, but I went into this with no expectations and  it was enjoyable to me! I really liked the dark future that the series is building, as well as the hint to change. I like the grittiness and the feeling that nowhere is safe. I liked discovering the fantasy creatures that have been given life with the world as we currently know it ending. Melissa de la Cruz takes the sometimes overdone post apocalyptic world sub-genre and twists it in new ways that always feel interesting. The series does take a while to get going, but once it does, it's hard to put down, and I immediately wanted to dive into the sequel and see what was up with our characters! I'm also excited to see what new mythology she'll bring into the series!

Content Ratings: highlight between ( ) for details

Romance: PG ( kissing )
Language:  PG13 ( There's a little bit of sexual discussion, such as the fact that couples can apply for day-long marriage passes if they want to go to a hotel together as opposed to a full-on marriage; there are a few innuendo asides from various supporting characters, but nothing avert. At one point, Nat and Wes do sleep in the same small bed on their ship, but nothing happens )
Violence: PG13 ( Non-graphic, but there are a lot of fight scenes, as well as a war scene. There is also a torture scene with slave traders. )
Other: PG ( Slave traders patrol the waters looking for people escaping to return them home or sell them to the market as food or workers )
C O V E R   D E S I G N: 

I really like the current paperback  cover!

The original hardcover cover looked like:

The new one is so much more fantasy oriented, don't you think?

The new covers are also REALLY shiny.

Look at the original hardcover side-by-side with the hardcover:

See how my camera is catching the shimmering light off of the sequel, STOLEN, while the first book, FROZEN, has more of a matte look?

I do like that they kept the cool circling dragon logo on both books. 

With the original cover, that was really the only hint at fantasy you got. I might have overlooked this on the shelves!

The new covers, however, are awesome and zing you with some adrenaline! DRAGONS. There are DRAGONS on the cover.

Doesn't it make you want to know more!?

I love how bright and shiny the new covers are, and how the new cover on book one is  a blue that still emulates a cold environment meant to give you goosebumps!
O F F I C I A   I N F O:

Author: Melissa de la Cruz and Michael Johnston
Release Date: September 17, 2013
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers  / Penguin
Received: For Review

From New York Times bestselling author Melissa de la Cruz and Michael Johnston comes this remarkable first book in a spellbinding new series about the dawn of a new kind of magic.

Welcome to New Vegas, a city once covered in bling, now blanketed in ice. Like much of the destroyed planet, the place knows only one temperature—freezing. But some things never change. The diamond in the ice desert is still a 24-hour hedonistic playground and nothing keeps the crowds away from the casino floors, never mind the rumors about sinister sorcery in its shadows.

At the heart of this city is Natasha Kestal, a young blackjack dealer looking for a way out. Like many, she's heard of a mythical land simply called “the Blue.” They say it’s a paradise, where the sun still shines and the waters are turquoise. More importantly, it’s a place where Nat won’t be persecuted, even if her darkest secret comes to light.

But passage to the Blue is treacherous, if not impossible, and her only shot is to bet on a ragtag crew of mercenaries led by a cocky runner named Ryan Wesson to take her there. Danger and deceit await on every corner, even as Nat and Wes find themselves inexorably drawn to each other. But can true love survive the lies? Fiery hearts collide in this fantastic tale of the evil men do and the awesome power within us all.