Friday, August 31, 2012

Flash Reviews: The Reality Edition

*Two more flash reviews for you today!    Both of these books feature the element of Reality TV!

Author: Kathryn Williams
Release Date: Out now (Aug. 21, 2012)
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. / MacMillan
Received: Borrowed


Can a spot on a teen reality show really lead to a scholarship at an elite cooking school AND a summer romance?

Sixteen-year-old Sophie Nicolaides was practically raised in the kitchen of her family’s Italian-Greek restaurant, Taverna Ristorante. When her best friend, Alex, tries to convince her to audition for a new reality show, Teen Test Kitchen, Sophie is reluctant. But the prize includes a full scholarship to one of America's finest culinary schools and a summer in Napa, California, not to mention fame.

Once on-set, Sophie immediately finds herself in the thick of the drama—including a secret burn book, cutthroat celebrity judges, and a very cute French chef. Sophie must figure out a way to survive all the heat and still stay true to herself. A terrific YA offering--fresh, fun, and sprinkled with romance.

I wasn't expecting much going into this novel, and so my expectations were on par with my reading experience.  The book has the same strain of cuteness as its adorable cover, though never deep and meaningful.  It's a good light summer read, and clean enough for even tweens to pick up and read.

The novel centers around a girl named Sophie who has grown up in the restaurant business, but wants more for her own career in food services.  Her friend helps her get onto a reality TV show called Teen Test Kitchen, which has the ability to jumpstart her career.  Her family isn't necessarily thrilled with Sophie's decision, but they support her, and it was nice to see such a strong support system in the novel.  The book was more concerned with going through the motions of Sophie's Reality TV experience than it was fleshing out all of the characters, so it was hard to get into everyone's head and truly care about them and their ambitions.  At the same time, it felt like what goes on behind the scenes at a Reality TV show, so the book succeeded on that front.

I loved the inclusion of various recipes with Sophie's scribblings on why she included it.  It really added a personal touch.  Speaking of food...

Be forewarned to have some food on hand when reading this one:  It will make you hungry!


This cover is so stinking cute, and a large part of why I had this one on my radar.  It just reeks of cuteness, don't you think?  I just want to pick this book up and hug it!  I love the food theme and the way the title is written on the apron and the words "A Novel" on the wooden spoon.  So cute!

Author: Kiera Cass
Release Date: Out now (April 24, 2012)
Publisher: HarperTeen
Received: ARC from publisher


For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in the palace and compete for the heart of the gorgeous Prince Maxon.

But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn't want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks.

Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she's made for herself- and realizes that the life she's always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined.

I wanted this book shortly after the publishing deal was announced.  It sounded so intriguing.  Months and months later, the cover released, and I only coveted the book more.  By wanting this book so fiercely and for so long, it was impossible for it to completely live up to my expectations, but the book made a decent start.  I feel as though a lot of the first book is build-up for the rest of the series, so I'm expecting a lot of evolution and character growth in the next novel.

The book centers around a girl named America who is chosen to go on live TV as a candidate to become Prince Maxon's wife.  She dreads being chosen because she's secretly in love with someone else, and decides to sabotage her attempts at winning the ultimate prize.  Once at the competition, however, she realizes there's more going on than what initially meets the eye and is forced to re-evaluate everything she thought she knew.

The concept of choosing a nation's princess on live TV Bachelor-style is interesting, especially when you throw a dystopian regime into the mix.  THE SELECTION is like nothing I've seen before in this aspect.  While it took me a while to get used to the character names, there's actually a reason behind them which makes them much easier to digest.  There's also a bit of a love triangle in the novel, as seems standard these days in YA.  Plus, I totally called the ending.  There were also scenes I didn't see coming, however, so it was a nice mix.  While it was a bit predictable at times, the story picked up enough to compel me; I'll definitely be picking up the next book to see how Kiera Cass opens up her world and brings out her characters.


This cover is so, so pretty--and it knows it!  A lot of the hype for THE SELECTION picked up when everyone saw the gorgeous cover.  I love the coloring; icy blue is a favorite of mine.  I can't wait to see what THE ELITE looks like!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

PAYA Festival 2012 & Giveaway!

Hey everyone!

I went to the PAYA Festival this past Saturday, which had more than 30 authors in attendance!  It was so much fun, and there were so many authors I enjoyed meeting.  I also got to hang out all day with some of my favorite local bloggers, Jena from Shortie Says and Vi from Confessions of a Vi3tbabe.  We had so much fun!  I also saw Frankie from Frankie Diane Mallis and The First Novels Club for a bit, but she was in high demand, so we couldn't chat long.

I have photos, but my phone is dead, so I can't upload them and I want to get this post up before work.  It took forever to encode this video!  I'm sure everyone else will be uploading stuff soon if they haven't done so already!

Anyway, I had a fantastic day and met so many amazing authors!  Some of them, I already have autographed copies, but it's nice to say hi again (especially if they have shiny new ARCHIVED swag *cough*), while others were for the first time!

Check out the video to hear all about the fun I had...and to enter to win!

YouTube Link

I really want to share the festivities with all of you!  I picked up SO MUCH swag, and I'd love to give some to you!

If you actually take the time to sit through that crazy video, you deserve a prize, right?

All you have to do is fill out the following form with an answer to the question below after watching the video and you'll be entered to win!  There will be multiple winners.  Good luck!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Cover Designer Interview and Giveaway: DEGREES OF WRONG by Anna Scarlett (aka Anna Banks!)

The DEGREES OF WRONG Blog Tour is being hosted and run by Bringing the Epic.
Stop by to see all of the past tour stops, full of reviews, interviews, giveaways, and more!
DEGREES OF WRONG comes out tomorrow!!!

Anna Scarlett is the pseudonym of YA author Anna Banks when she's writing adult fiction.  DEGREES OF WRONG is Anna's second published novel this year (The first being OF POSEIDON, reviewed here) and also has water-related elements!

She can be found on Twitter as @byannascarlett and @byannabanks!  Keep an eye on Twitter all day tomorrow for a chance to win all kinds of great prizes, including your own copy of DEGREES OF WRONG!
Today's tour stop features an interview with DEGREES OF WRONG cover designer Kanaxa!  Visit Kanaxa's website to see more great designs or check out her author site as Nathalie Gray!

Stop by at the end for a special giveaway!

Kanaxa is the name Nathalie Gray goes by when designing her award-winning covers.  As Nathalie Gray, she has published more than thirty novels of speculative fiction ranging from steampunk to fantasy

An interview with 

One thing that drew me to DEGREES OF WRONG was the gorgeous cover. I love how much detail has gone into everything, even the background. My eye always has something new to look at! How did you come up with the final cover's concept?

I knew I wanted something with the element of water. There was something about the way the author described her story that made me think of water. So this automatically meant cool tones. Blues, greens, grays. I was trying to make the water on the cover a character in itself, instead of just a canvas on which to pin other elements. I am glad it piqued your interest. May it catch many, many readers' interest!

Did you go through multiple ideas before finding this one?

Actually, no. Not for this one. I knew what I wanted right away. Not that it makes actually creating the cover easier, but at least, I knew where I was going.

What other covers have you designed?

I have designed over two hundred covers so far. Time just flies. Some ofmy work appeared on the coming soon pages of Samhain Publishing, RedSage Publishing, iUniverse, individual authors, and magazines, bothonline and in print. Recently, my work was featured in Men FitnessAustralia.

What, to you, make up the elements of a great book cover?

As long as it draws the reader's eye, the cover has done its job. I lament (often) how covers are sometimes used as a CV for the story. It'snot. A cover shouldn't try to display every main character, every element and theme, the setting, the conflict, etc. To me, a cover should:

1) look good, 
2) attract positive attention. 

That's it. Of course,we need to keep the heart of the story intact (you would not want abeach-theme cover on a winter-set story), but nothing more.

What media do you typically use when creating your illustrations?

I use mostly Photoshop for software, and Wacom Intuos3 Tablet Pen, which I call Mr. Funky Fresh. I could not create covers without these two.

I like the way the colors in DEGREES OF WRONG remind me of Anna's YA novel OF POSEIDON. Did you purposely decide to keep the books in the same color family?

You nearly gave me a heart attack! I had no idea these two authors were one and the same. After taking a look just now at POSEIDON, I have to say, I hope the author likes water-themed covers! :-)

How did you get your start in design? What have your influences been?

Self-taught, self-started. I approached my publisher at the time (RedSage) and asked if I could try to do my own covers, because I had always had an affinity for art and wanted to see if I could. I wanted to start with my own because I never would have subjected any other author to my abominations. But after a bit, I was confident enough that I wouldn't shame anyone, and subsequently offered my services to other publishers. To this day, I design art for various clients and look forward to more.

Should anyone be interested, my contact information can be found at under the page Contact.

Thank you so much, Kanaxa!  I think the cover for DEGREES OF WRONG is gorgeous, and loved the insight into the way you work!
O F F I C I A L   I N F O:

Author: Anna Scarlett
Release Date: Out August 28, 2012
Publisher: Samhain Publishing, Ltd.


This time, the straight-and-narrow path could be the road to ruin.

Dr. Elyse Morgan’s mission: find the cure to the HTN4 virus. The compensation, courtesy of the United Nations: a lab stocked with hi-tech goodies, limitless resources and enough chocolate to make her rear look like a cellulite farm. Bonus: she gets to live.

Rescued (kidnapped) and secreted (imprisoned) on an undersea warship, Elyse adjusts to her assumed identity as a cadet with the finesse of a toeless ballerina. Her sulfuric temper and blatant insubordination capture the unwanted attention of the ship’s captain, the gorgeous, infuriating, engaged Nicoli Marek.

Elyse would rather perform her own autopsy than become the other woman, but Nicoli—who’s as full of himself as he is of secrets—regards his impending marriage as a mere political transaction. And Elyse as fair game.

As Elyse’s suspicions about the UN’s true agenda mount along with her attraction to the relentless, chronically shirtless captain, she must choose between the murky path to everything she’s ever wanted, or the squeaky-clean path of self-sacrifice—which could mean taking the secrets of the virus with her to the grave.

Warning: Features a strong, chocolate-loving heroine who takes no prisoners on the way to saving the world from an epidemic and winning a captain’s heart.


Anna is being kind enough to give away an e-book copy of DEGREES OF WRONG and some fun swag featuring bookmarks and chocolate!

You know you want to win this stuff!

Enter below and you might be a winner!  Don't forget to check out the other tour stops for more chances to win!

And stop by tomorrow's Twitter Launch Party for even MORE chances to win!!!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Week in Review: The Breathless Edition

T h e  B a r g a i n  E d i t i o n !

I bought two books at a bargain price from Amazon and snagged two free e-books, so it's a bargain of a week for me!


*CURSED by Jennifer L. Armentrout

[link to my GoodReads account so you can see my blurb feed as I read]

*DEFIANCE by C.J. Redwine {Erhm...must buy upon Tuesday's release...good book!}
*MAY B. by Caroline Starr Rose

*FROSTFIRE by Zoë Marriott

*Cover Art REVEALED: PERCEPTION by Lee Strauss
*Mythological Mondays: The Mythology in DAUGHTER OF THE FLAMES by Zoë Marriott
*Top Ten Favorite Books I've Read During The Lifespan Of My Blog

Physical Arcs / Finished Copies:

*Penguin's Breathless Reads Box Set featuring:
ORIGIN by Jessica Khoury, THE INNOCENTS by Lili Peloquin, VENOM by Fiona Paul, BLACK CITY by Elizabeth Richards, and FALLING KINGDOMS by Morgan Rhodes
{Out Sept. ~ Dec. 2012}
{I had heard of all but one of these and was especially coveting FALLING KINGDOMS! Thank you to Penguin for sending this gorgeous purple box of awesome to my place of work! :)}

*THE DIVINERS by Libba Bray
{Out Sept. 18, 2012}
{I've been on the fence about this one because it doesn't sound like my normal fare, but I've enjoyed Bray's work in the past.  Then again, I've also had one DNF in her catalog of titles, so we'll see where this one takes me!  Thanks to Little, Brown for letting me pick this one up at work!}


*THE SWEETEST SPELL by Suzanne Selfors
{It's no secret that I love fairy tales.  I've had my eye on this one, which is a new version of The Ugly Duckling.  It also reminds me of the fable The Goose and the Golden Egg (or maybe even the tale of Rumpelstiltskin  because there's a cow whose cream can be churned into chocolate!}

{I'm hoping this one will help me with character drive for the contemporary WIP I've been working on...and putting down...and picking up again...}

*THE WRITER'S DIGEST GUIDE TO SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY by Orson Scott Card, the editors of Writer's Digest, and various other authors
{I've always thought this was mostly for sci-fi, but it sounds like it leans heavily fantasy, so I hope this can help with the world building I'm going through right now for my fantasy idea!}



{Zoë Marriott recommended this one as a source when writing DAUGHTER OF THE FLAMES, so of course I think it's a viable writing tool as an aspiring fantasy author!  This one is a dictionary of all the stuff found in fantasy novels, designed to inspire your own world.}

*I also purchased a peacock portable notepad and a peacock notebook.  They're really pretty!

 FREE e-books:
*COLD KISS by Amy Garvey
{I forgot to add this one in the video! This was free on both nook and Kindle this week!}

What did you get in your mailbox this week?

Friday, August 24, 2012

{Review} FROSTFIRE by Zoë Marriott

O P E N I N G   H O O K:
Before that I had thought I was normal. Even though the other children taunted me sometimes, calling me "Fatherless", "Nameless", their words didn't touch me, because they were not true. I had a father. He was the great hunter who had fallen to the fangs of the Demon Wolf before I was born. Everyone knew his name. I was proud to be the daughter of Garin Aeskaar.
I did not know then – no one knew – that he had left me much more than his name and his legend when he died.
(Page 11, UK paperback first edition)
Check out a Sneak Preview!

Earlier this week, I reviewed DAUGHTER OF THE FLAMES, a book that precedes FROSTFIRE in the world of Ruan.  However, you don't need to read the books in any particular order.  It's perfectly fine to read FROSTFIRE first.  While some characters are mentioned, the two books don't rely on one another in order to make sense.  In this sense, the two books remind me of companion novels MISTWOOD and NIGHTSPELL by Leah Cypess, where the books are linked in small ways, but independent of one another.  A more popular example would be to compare the companion novels GRACELING and FIRE by Kristin Cashore, except there's not a major character sharing the two books the way there is in this example, so it's not a perfect match.  Zoë Marriott has also written the amazing, nuanced SHADOWS ON THE MOON, which is both a fairy tale and original fantasy at the same time, as well as fairy tale retelling THE SWAN KINGDOM. The Ruan books her first original fantasy novels not reliant on retellings.

Like with all of my other recent brushes with a Zoë Marriott novel, I am once again at a loss when trying to convey how wonderful her writing is to the uninitiated.  If you're a fan of intricate fantasy, you must pick up a novel by her at once.  At first, I wasn't sure what to think when I read the synopsis for FROSTFIRE.  It mentioned wolves in a way that made me fear Marriott was taking a paranormal turn and was going to be springing werewolves at us.  That's not the case at all, so I'm glad I blind-bought this one.  Marriott is quickly becoming one of my favorite YA fantasy writers, and I'm sad I have nothing new left by her to read.

In my eyes, FROSTFIRE might be Marriott's most complex novel yet in terms of character development.  While I'll warn you that there is a love triangle at play, Marriott handles it in a better way than most YA writers.  Oftentimes I groan and roll my eyes when there's a triangle because it's become such a cliche.  Plus, the author always leans toward one guy over the other and you know the outcome early on.  Not so with Marriott.  She builds relationships between all of the characters in unexpected ways, and I wound up loving all of the characters.  I would be hard-pressed to choose what I expected at the novel's end because I kept changing my mind.  Interestingly, Marriott herself has said that she didn't always know the outcome of this one.  Marriott also builds on the unique mythology she infused into the world of Ruan during DAUGHTER OF THE FLAMES, as well as continues creating new lore, an element that never ceases to amaze me when I pick up a new Marriott novel.  I also like the way she deals with the repercussions of what Ruan went through in her previous novel, showing the way progress is made, fought for, and won over time.  Marriott refuses to hide from hard situations and brings all kinds of gritty real-life elements to her novels.  Characters don't have it easy and must struggle like the rest of us, and this makes them all the more endearing.

One of the things that continues to impress me about Marriott's writing is her way with words and phrases.  For example:
"It's as if people -- normal people -- are made of silver. Shiny to start with, but tarnished by time, by ill-treatment. Luca... Luca is gold. Nothing in the world could ever make him shine less brightly." 
(page 296, UK paperback first edition)
"You're like a landslide when you get started, you know. First the tiny stones, then the pebbles & rocks, then the boulders, raining down on you until you're squashed flat & all you can do is give up."
(page 285, UK paperback first edition)
She has phrases like this throughout her novels, unique ways of describing things that make sense in unexpected ways.  Her descriptions her spot-on, too, and great at bringing my imagination to life.  I still remember certain elements she brought to SHADOWS ON THE MOON in this way.

I also like the way Marriott opens each book with a remark on what inspired her to write that particular novel.  It gives me insight into her process and makes the book feel closer and more tangible.  She goes even further on the book's web page, sharing all kinds of dirty little secrets.  For example, did you know that she originally planned for the main character to be a hero, not a heroine, and that the two love interests would therefore be female instead of male?  What a difference a gender change makes!  I loved reading all of these tidbits and wish more authors shared such "behind the scenes" goodies with us.

While the book won't officially release in the US until Candlewick brings it Stateside in 2013, Book Depository offers the paperback at a great deal (with free international shipping!), so if you're like me, you don't have to wait!  If you're a fan of fantasy or a great story, I highly recommend checking out the talented Zoë Marriott.
C O V E R   D E S I G N:

I don't know about you, but looking at this cover makes me feel cold.  The whites and blues used are spot-n, and I like the way they even make their way into the girl's face, from her blue hair, to her half-bluelips, to her alabaster skin.  Even her eyes have a dark-gray tint up-close, though from far away, they look almost tawny/amber and unnatural.  What an illusion!

The frosty fire continues down the page, and I like the way it's layered over Marriott's name, creating texture and depth.

I also like the shiny foil used for the book's title.  It's an eye-popping red and reminds me of the cover of Marriott's other novel occurring in Ruan, DAUGHTER OF THE FLAMES.  It's bold and eye-catching.
O F F I C I A L   I N F O:

Author: Zoë Marriott
Release Date: Out July 5, 2012
Publisher: Walker Books
Received: Purchased

Frost is cursed - possessed by a wolf demon that brings death everywhere she goes. Desperate to find a cure, she flees her home, only to be captured by the Ruan Hill Guard. Trapped until she can prove she is not an enemy, Frost grows increasingly close to the Guard’s charismatic leader Luca and his second in command, the tortured Arian. Torn between two very different men, Frost fears that she may not be able to protect either of them ... from herself.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

{Review} DAUGHTER OF THE FLAMES by Zoë Marriott

O P E N I N G   H O O K:
THE SCREAMING WOKE SURYA.  Her eyes flicked open and she was out of bed, flinging back the furs and reaching for her robes, before her mind had even registered the noise.  She had become used to the sound of screaming that winter, and her body knew what it had to do.
(Page 7, UK paperback 2012 edition)
Check out a Sneak Preview!

I love a good fantasy, and as my tastes have grown more particular, the genre pleases me less and less.  It's rare to come across an author whose world feels so alive time and again, yet Zoë Marriott has managed to engage me three times now, with DAUGHTER OF THE FLAME, its recently-released companion novel FROSTFIRE (reviewed here), and last year's stand-alone SHADOWS ON THE MOON (reviewed here).  All of her future titles sound amazing as well, and I'm so eager to have more to look forward to from this amazing talent.

Part of why I love Marriott's books so much likely comes from the fact that we seem to share many common interests.  Her books all have an Asian-flare running through them, she creates her own unique mythology, she threads fairy tales into some of her novels, and, above all, her books are all full of fantasy and wonder.  What's not to love?  She knows all of my weaknesses, further endearing her works to my heart.

The world-building in DAUGHTER OF THE FLAMES was spectacular.  When reading the Acknowledgements at the end of the book, I noticed that Marriott wrote, "Thanks are owed to: Diana Wynne Jones for writing The Tough Guide to Fantasyland because it made me want to find out what went on in fantasy nunneries--before they got ransacked--and how fantasy religions really worked, and got me angry about fantasy colour-coding."  I'm sorry, but if you are a fantastic writer and you take the time to point out a book that helped you in your incredible world-building, as an aspiring fantasy writer, I am going to move heaven and earth to get my hands on a copy of the book that inspired you and add it to my own collection.  The book is a dictionary of fantasy, and I'm looking forward to giving it an in-depth look as time permits.

When opening the book for the first time, readers are greeted with a note for why Marriott wrote DAUGHTER OF THE FLAMES, where she states, "I've always had a sneaking fondness for those classic fantasies about the lost heir returning to reclaim his throne.  But it bothered me that the royal heir was nearly always a golden-haired, blue-eyed boy, who only needed to pick up his sword to get people to follow him.  So I decided to write about a mixed-race lost princess, and see what she would do with her sword...especially if her people weren't sure they wanted to follow her after all."  Last year, I went to the Diversity in YA Tour in NYC at Books of Wonder, where it was mentioned that no one could think of a main character in a fantasy novel where s/he wasn't a person of color. One of the greatest things about Zira is that she's of mixed race.  Not only that, she suffered something catastrophic as a child that marred her.  To me, her imperfections only make her more lovable, because she's so strong.  In this way, she reminds me of Prince Zuko from AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER, who is by far my favorite character in that series.

I also have a fond spot for fantasies about reclaiming the throne, and I loved seeing a girl in this classic storyline.  Zira kicks serious butt.  She's so strong, and willing to do anything to save her people.  Literally anything.  This is one girl who can swallow her pride for the greater good.  She overcomes so much in order to meet her tyrannical uncle in the ultimate showdown for the throne, and it really shows.  Never one to make things easy on her characters, Marriott throws many obstacles in the way on the journey to the end, and deals with common situations in unexpected ways.  There's a scene that seriously alters a character's future in a way that feels very natural, even though other authors would take an easy, magical way out of the predicament.  This just makes me respect Marriott even more.  Marriott even has a way of pulling at your heartstrings when getting into the backstory of her villain.  He isn't just a cookie-cutter bad guy.  He has a story.

I seriously love all of the layers working together to create the story woven through the pages of DAUGHTER OF THE FLAME and don't really know how to properly review it other than to say: If you like high fantasy, you want to read this.  ASAP!  The book has gone out of print in the US, though you may be able to find a used copy.  It's also possible that Candlewick Press will re-release the title when they bring FROSTFIRE State-side in 2013.  The easiest, fastest (and likely cheapest) way to obtain a copy is through  Book Depository (with free shipping!).
C O V E R   D E S I G N:

I love the UK re-design.  The original cover didn't grab me, and since the book never came out in paperback in the US, I was hoping to wait until it did, praying there would be a new cover.  To me, the original felt too...Photoshoppy.  It didn't grab me at all.

I was really excited when FROSTFIRE was announced and Zoë mentioned on her blog that DAUGHTER OF THE FLAMES would have a re-design to match the new book.  

Even better, both books look more like last year's SHADOWS ON THE MOON and Zoë's first book, THE SWAN KINGDOM, was also re-designed to match. I love the cohesiveness to the books!

I love the shimmery title, the deep reds, the way there is a person of color on the cover and that Walker Books didn't whitewash the character.  I love the way the swirls represent flames and cut through the author's name.  Everything stands out and works together in crisp, bold covers.  Great re-design!
O F F I C I A L   I N F O:

Author: Zoë Marriott
Release Date: Out March 3, 2008
Publisher: Walker Books
Received: Purchased

What if your deadliest enemy were the only one who could save you?

Inside an ancient temple in the mountains, fifteen-year-old Zira trains in the martial arts to become a warrior priestess who can defend the faith of the Ruan people. Bearing a scar on her face from the fire that killed her parents, the orphaned Zira is taught to distrust the occupying Sedornes. Terror strikes when the forces of the tyrannical Sedorne king destroy the only home she knows. To survive, Zira must unravel the secrets of her identity, decide her people’s fate — and accept her growing feelings for a man who should be her enemy.