Wednesday, July 31, 2013

{Spotlight & Excerpt} HELLHOUND TWISTED by Karen Swart

Check out all the other blogs on the tour for 
reviews, interviews, guest posts, and more!

The Kasadya series reminds me in some ways of both Jennifer Armentrout's Covenant series (Which begins with HALF-BLOOD) and Rachel Hawkins' Hex Hall series (Which begins with HEX HALL).

In some ways, Kasadya is the *opposite* of all the angel books out there, because it explores Fallen Angels and demons rather than the more-popular holy angels in the genre right now. Kasadya is a hellhound, a guardian sent to prevent the spread of sin...even though she herself is made of it.

Slightly different twist, no?

HELLHOUND TWISTED is the second of four books in the Kasadya series. The first book, HELLHOUND AWAKENED, is available now.
The third book, HELLHOUND BORN, is scheduled to come out tomorrow, August 1st, and the final book, HELLHOUND DEFINED, is scheduled to release in early 2014.

O F F I C I A L   I N F O:

Author: Karen Swart
Release Date: Out Feb. 15, 2013
Publisher: Karen Swart


She fought against all odds and became the warrior she was meant to be … or so she thought. In a world where the rules have changed, can she embrace her destiny and become the hellhound she was meant to be? 

Kasadya is back in Exsilium and finds her world a little different. Her half-breed fallen friends join her, and they are ordered to complete their apprentice training in order to obtain the right to be guardians. She must learn that her own fate cannot be denied and that others are set to follow. But most of all, she must learn that to trust is the greatest battle of all. 

The tables are turned and Kasadya is put to the test. Will she be able to prevent her own death, or that of a friend? Or will her actions call forth the destruction of Earth and Exsilium?

 For a Phoenix to rise, it must first die. —Chax De Luca

An Excerpt from 
by Karen Swart

“Do you serve because you want to gain access to Heaven? Or do you serve because you want to, because it is in your heart to?” I challenged them, and silence greeted me. The few eyes that had shown aggression now looked to the earth, shamed at the conclusion of my challenge. They serve themselves, for their own cause. They are not here because their hearts tell them that this is the right thing to do.

“These humans are out there every day, fighting to eliminate the demons, and they do this because they want to. They do this because it was their free willed choice to do it. You speak about honour and love, yet all of you are only doing this for yourselves!” I was pissed off, talk about hypocrites!
“Just breathe through it,” Chax tried once more. But my breathing wasn’t slowing down and my normal vision was almost non-existent. What a final moment. Here in the cold with my Custos, no final glory, no grand exit, just us in a deserted place. Suddenly a pain shot through my wing and I screamed in agony. Confused, I looked at the wing, and then at Chax and froze. He just broke my wing, the pain rippling up to my back and into my spine. Shocked and suddenly afraid I looked at him, “Now breathe,” he instructed and I did.

I lay there, pinned beneath him, and started to try and control my breathing. He was watching me intently, his eyes boring into mine. “That’s it,” he said after a few minutes. “Take back control, this is how you will fight it, this is how you will live longer.” I felt heat on my left cheek and then felt it become ice cold, stopping just below my jaw. The same was happening on my other cheek. Tears, I felt my tears. Angry that I would be so weak in front of the one person I wanted to prove myself to, I pushed him off me and got up in super speed. Walking away from him, I wiped the now frozen tears off my face.
“Oh wait, I didn’t tell you about this part. So he was looking at the waterfall, then he stepped on to the top and looked down to try and see me. The next thing he slipped and fell in, and I do believe he was cursing in Russian.” I looked at Kali and we started laughing all over again. But clearly Max didn’t approve.

“I did not slip, you shot me with a light bomb and then I fell into the water,” he rectified the facts.

Nanini turned around on her butt and looked at him. “Yeah, can you prove it, Godzilla?” she taunted him.
Karen lives in a small town in the Northern Cape Province, South Africa. She shares her live with her husband, two sons and daughter. If she isn't reading she is writing. Her preferred genres are Paranormal and Urban fantasy. Karen specializes in payroll and HRIS systems analysis and development. At the age of 21 Karen's professional success reached it highest platform, an outstanding achievement at such a young age.
Visit Karen on her website, blog, Tumblr

Monday, July 29, 2013

{Cover/Synopsis Reveal} DEATHSWORN by Leah Cypess

Another author I love and shamelessly cyber-stalk on Twitter has a new book coming out for me to love!

I've been a fan of Leah Cypess since first reading her debut novel MISTWOOD back when The Enchanted Inkpot was on LiveJournal.

I've since read NIGHTSPELL and reviewed it here, as well as featured a guest post with Leah during last year's Fairy Tale Fortnight!

I was really excited earlier this month when her  novella BURIED ABOVE GROUND, set in the world of NIGHTSPELL, released, though it came out during Splash and I haven't had time to r&r yet. ;_;

And now?

Recently, Leah Cypess announced that she'd sold a new series, the first book of which will be called DEATHSWORN. Plus there are assassins, and I've read--and want to read--some great assassin novels atm, so I've been coveting this forever. The time is finally approaching where it will be in my greedy little hands!

I don't know how long ago this was "officially" revealed, but surfing around on Goodreads today, I noticed something!

We now have a synopsis.
We now have a shiny cover.

Want to see?  Keep reading!

What are your thoughts about the covers? 

I am intrigued and want to know more! I love the way the cover is "framed," giving us two intriguing images to stare at.

Where to look first?

At the elaborate etching work or all that's going on in the background?
That place looks creepy, mysterious, and oh-so-intriguing.

I want to know more already and would totally blind-look at this title based on cover alone in the store. How about you?

O F F I C I A L   I N F O:

Author: Leah Cypess
Release Date: March 4, 2014
Publisher: Greenwillow Books / HarperCollins


When Ileni lost her magic, she lost everything: her place in society, her purpose in life, and the man she had expected to spend her life with. So when the Elders sent her to be magic tutor to a secret sect of assassins, she went willingly, even though the last two tutors had died under mysterious circumstances. 

But beneath the assassins’ caves, Ileni will discover a new place and a new purpose… and a new and dangerous love. She will struggle to keep her lost magic a secret while teaching it to her deadly students, and to find out what happened to the two tutors who preceded her. But what she discovers will change not only her future, but the future of her people, the assassins… and possibly the entire world.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

{Review} THE CROWN OF EMBERS by Rae Carson

Check out my reviews of 
(I don't know what ever happened to my review of THE CROWN OF EMBERS, which I could swear I wrote.  
I guess you have one of those on the way, too!)

Look for my review of the amazing finale, THE BITTER KINGDOM, in August! You won't be disappointed by this series!!

Like Rae Carson's novellas?
coming out THIS TUESDAY!

The best thing about it?
This is Hector's story!!!!

O P E N I N G   L I N E:

MY ENTOURAGE OF GUARDS STRUGGLES TO KEEP PACE as I fly down the corridors of my palace. Servants in starched frocks and shined shoes line the way, bowing like dominoes as I pass. From far away comes a low thrum, filtering even through walls of stone and mortar, steady as falling water, hollow as distant thunder. It's the crowd outside, chanting my name.

(pg. 1, US hardcover edition)

There are no words for how much I love Rae Carson and the world she's shared with us. Every one of her novels gets better and better. I wasn't super "in love" with THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS when I read it for the first time, but when I re-read it and then read THE CROWN OF EMBERS for the first time, I appreciated it and loved the first book so much more. I was also enamored with the new book. This year, I re-read both THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS and THE CROWN OF EMBERS so that I could read THE BITTER KINGDOM for the first time (You'll have to wait a couple more weeks for my review, though, sorry! I'm waiting until closer to the book's release!). Carson continues to repeat herself. Each book is better than the last. Nothing ever feels boring or unworthy. THE CROWN OF EMBERS is a perfect middle book, never feeling like filler to bridge two books and make a trilogy, but part of the series in and of itself. Even the novellas that take place in this world are meaningful and worth shelling out $2.99 a pop for!

There is definitely a big spoiler from the end of THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS in this summary, so if you haven't read the first book yet, please check out this review instead!

Elisa is only seventeen years old, but she has more weight on her shoulders than most girls her age. When she was sixteen, she was married off to a king from a neighboring kingdom, then kidnapped and forced to endure life in the desert. She returned to uncover an enemy's deceit and became a widow. She's now sole heir to a kingdom she never wanted. To top it all off, she bears a Godstone in her belly, complete with powers that others will--and have--killed for. Her life is constantly in peril, and in THE CROWN OF EMBERS, readers see the lengths Invierne will go to in order to succeed. Elisa must once again journey into the unknown in order to save her kingdom and loved ones. This time, she has people she genuinely cares about, and she fears for their safety due to the danger constantly surrounding her. She no longer knows who to trust, or who genuinely wants what's best for her country and who is trying to manipulate her for their own greed. She must find a new husband, but isn't willing to become a political pawn in her own kingdom. When Elisa learns about the mystical zafira thanks to an Invierno in hiding named Storm, she must embark on another dangerous adventure, and this time, the price is even higher than it was the first time around.

There are no words for the feelings that come when reading any of Carson's books. There's breath-taking adventure, wrenching heartache, and the overwhelming strength of one brave girl. Carson is a master at character development, creating both major and minor characters that readers will feel strongly about and come to love. Elisa goes from a weak, somewhat boring girl to a strong female heroine over the course of the series. Some readers didn't care for her in THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS. I encourage those readers to try again. Elisa will surprise you. She's absolutely amazing. There was also a hint of attraction between Elisa and a certain male character that is easily overlooked in the first book due to another romantic entanglement, but upon my second re-read, I saw it instantly, and was excited when the chemistry between these characters became more apparent in the second book. At the same time, love is a concept Elisa doesn't wish to embrace, because she's already experienced too much death in the seventeen years she's been alive. I can understand her wariness all too well. Again, Carson's way with writing excels here.

I will warn you that the cliffhanger is devastating this time around, but the final book is out in less than a month, so if you're just starting the series now, you'll be just in time for the powerful finale!

This is seriously one of my all-time favorite fantasy series, and I already am coveting the launch of Carson's Goldscryer Saga, which doesn't even begin until 2014 and will take another three years to get through! But I want everything and anything that Rae Carson writes. She can't write fast enough for me, and I already know I'm going to inhale THE KING'S GUARD when it debuts on Tuesday. It's already pre-ordered on my nook!

C O V E R   D E S I G N:

I really like the cover treatment for this series. It's so much better than the initial design because it's more unique and iconic now. If I see a cover, I know it's part of The Fire and Thorns series without even seeing a title! I love the way every cover features a girl in stone, hinting at the power of Elisa and her Godstone, while also remaining mysterious. The background of each book screams fantasy, and these are all books that I have to own in hardcover because they're so shiny and eye-catching!

O F F I C I A L   I N F O:

Author: Rae Carson
Release Date: Sept. 18, 2012
Publisher: Greenwillow Books / HarperCollins
Received: Purchased

In the sequel to the acclaimed THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS, a seventeen-year-old princess turned war queen faces sorcery, adventure, untold power, and romance as she fulfills her epic destiny. 

Elisa is the hero of her country. She led her people to victory against a terrifying enemy, and now she is their queen. But she is only seventeen years old. Her rivals may have simply retreated, choosing stealth over battle. And no one within her court trusts her-except Hector, the commander of the royal guard, and her companions. As the country begins to crumble beneath her and her enemies emerge from the shadows, Elisa will take another journey. With a one-eyed warrior, a loyal friend, an enemy defector, and the man she is falling in love with, Elisa crosses the ocean in search of the perilous, uncharted, and mythical source of the Godstone's power. That is not all she finds. A breathtaking, romantic, and dangerous second volume in the Fire and Thorns trilogy.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

{Interview/Giveaway} OF BEAST AND BEAUTY Author Stacey Jay

Check out the rest of the blogs taking part in
OF BEAST AND BEAUTY's Rockstar Book Tour!

(Albeit a day late...)

Check out today's review for OF BEAST AND BEAUTY!

An interview with 
Stacey Jay

Stacey Jay is a recovering workaholic (or at least working hard at recovering) with two small children, and a passion for playing pretend for a living. She’s been a full time mom-writer since 2005 and can't think of anything she'd rather be doing. Her former careers include theatre performer, professional dancer, poorly paid C-movie actress, bartender, waiter, math tutor, and yoga instructor. 

In her very limited spare time, Stacey enjoys cooking elaborate dinners and eating them very slowly, dressing up in costumes with her sons, and drinking wine with her husband. She loves to hear from readers and personally answers every single email she receives.

Visit Stacey's website and blog, or send her a message on Twitter and Facebook!

***The second half of today's interview includes 
questions first seen in an interview on 
A Backwards Story March 30, 2013.***

I was surprised to find a sci-fi slant revolving around the characters' descendants stepping forth onto a new planet that would ultimately force everyone to evolve over time. How did you come up with this backstory and flesh it all out, ultimately creating the history of the sheltered Smooth Skins and the banished Monstrous?

From the beginning, I knew I wanted the story to take place on another planet, a small planet where first and third world characters would be forced into close contact with one another. I was also working under the assumption that there is no escape from the problems humanity creates for itself. So, basically: Even if humans were to get a chance to start fresh on another world, playing by new rules, we would just screw things up all over again. I personally think the only chance for a better future is for idealistic, big-hearted people to instigate major changes in the way humanity does business. The alien world helped me to underline that aspect of the story.

Are you able to tell us a little about your upcoming 2014 fairy tale mash-up yet now that OF BEAST AND BEAUTY is out?

I’m not supposed to say much, but I can give a hint: It’s a “Grimm” meets Game of Thrones adventure quest story with a delicious hero and one of the best romances I’ve ever written. It’s a little lighter in tone than OF BEAST AND BEAUTY and has a bit more humor. (I think my readers who have been jones-ing for more Megan Berry stories will enjoy this one.)

What was the easiest scene to write in OF BEAST AND BEAUTY? The hardest?

The easiest—The prologue. It came to me all at once. I woke up dreaming the first line and ran downstairs to my office to type it all out. 

The hardest—The scene when Gem finally returns to his people in the desert. I don’t want to give away spoilers, so I’ll just say that that one ripped my heart out. Many tears were shed during the writing (and even the editing).
First, you retold Romeo and Juliet, now it's BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, and then you're onto another retelling next year! What is it that draws you to write retellings, especially ones in such dark, unique ways?

My inspiration was different for each story—the Romeo and Juliet reimagining sprung from a long-standing hatred of Romeo. OF BEAST AND BEAUTY was inspired by weaknesses I perceived in one of my favorite fairy tales (why didn’t Beauty HATE the Beast longer after he took her prisoner, for example), and my 2014 book idea was triggered by wanting to take a passive fairy tale female’s daughter in a completely different direction. As far as why I’m drawn to retellings in general, I think I enjoy playing with our cultural mythology, giving stories a more humanist, feminist slant than many had in the past.
Were there any elements you wanted to include in OF BEAST AND BEAUTY that were cut out or unable to be worked in that you can share with us?

No. Which is weird! I usually have so many “lost scenes.” But this time my editors and I were really on the same page. There were no major rewrites or elements cut from the story. I’m hoping that’s a good thing… I suppose my readers will let me know!

Beauty and the Beast has always been one of my all-time favorite fairy tales. What inspired you to write a retelling of this tale?

I've always loved Beauty and the Beast, too--unconditional love, a mysterious castle with a gigantic library, what's not to love about that?--but I had my problems with the story, as well. First off, I had never read a version of the story that addressed the rage I personally would feel if I was imprisoned by a bully who had locked up my father for trespassing/stealing his roses/some mild offense that varies from story to story. 

So I wanted to write a reboot that dealt with the intensity of "Beauty's" anger, as well as addressed the inequality of falling in love with someone who is holding you prisoner. But I'd had my fill of "powerless girl falls for powerful boy" stories, so I flipped the script and made my female the "Beast" who is in a position of power and my "Beauty" a boy. And then I basically poked at the notion of what makes one a beauty or a beast until I had a story I was really excited to tell. 

It's still a Beauty and the Beast retelling--readers, especially close readers, will recognize the peasant woman who curses the beast and other key moments from the traditional Beauty and the Beast story--but there are surprises as well. I really hope my readers enjoy it. I'm proud of this story and that's not something I say lightly.

It intrigues me that Princess Isra is blind. I want to read this even more! Was it harder to write about a disabled character? What was your inspiration?

It was difficult to write a blind character, especially in the early drafts. I really had to slow down and put myself in her body and imagine what it was like to experience a world that is not disability-friendly without being able to see. But that's why I decided to make Isra blind. In order to "see" her society clearly later in the story, she needs to have been kept ignorant by a combination of her disability, her family, and her society. But her blindness turns out to be a gift that allows her to diagnose illness in her culture in a way a person firmly entrenched and accepted by that culture wouldn't be able to, so it was necessary and worth the hours of tweaking descriptions to make sure they were in keeping with a unsighted person's perception of their world.

Someone gives you a key ring and says you can open any door you want, save one. Then they leave you alone with all those keys and doors. What do you do?

Oh man, so hard! It depends on the person who gave me the keys. If it's someone I trust or a nice stranger, then I don't open the door that's off limits. But if it's someone who arouses my suspicion/oppositional defiant disorder, then I totally go Pandora and open the forbidden door.
Most overrated fairy tale?

Cinderella. She's saved from her life of hard labor because she's pretty and has a small foot. Blah.

Check out the rest of the interview from March for a fun version of This or That? and Would You Rather...? Fairy Tale Style!

Stacey, thank you so much for stopping back for another visit with us! I always love having you hear and am looking forward to hearing more secrets about this new "mystery" novel!

O F F I C I A   I N F O:

Author: Stacey Jay
Release Date: July 23, 2013
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers / Random House

In the beginning was the darkness, and in the darkness was a girl, and in the girl was a secret... 

In the domed city of Yuan, the blind Princess Isra, a Smooth Skin, is raised to be a human sacrifice whose death will ensure her city’s vitality. In the desert outside Yuan, Gem, a mutant beast, fights to save his people, the Monstrous, from starvation. Neither dreams that together, they could return balance to both their worlds. 

Isra wants to help the city’s Banished people, second-class citizens despised for possessing Monstrous traits. But after she enlists the aid of her prisoner, Gem, who has been captured while trying to steal Yuan’s enchanted roses, she begins to care for him, and to question everything she has been brought up to believe. 

As secrets are revealed and Isra’s sight, which vanished during her childhood, returned, Isra will have to choose between duty to her people and the beast she has come to love.


Ready to check out OF BEAST AND BEAUTY?

You have a chance to win a beautiful hardcover copy!
There will be ten winners chosen, so you have TEN chances to win!!!

Enter now!
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{Review Redux/Giveaway} OF BEAST AND BEAUTY by Stacey Jay

Check out the rest of the blogs taking part in
OF BEAST AND BEAUTY's Rockstar Book Tour!

(Albeit a day late...)

Check out today's fabulous interview with author Stacey Jay!

O P E N I N G   H O O K:
IN THE BEGINNING was the darkness, and in the darkness was a girl, and in the girl was a secret.  The secret was as old as the cracked cobblestone streets of Yuan, as peculiar as the roses that bloom eternally within the domed city's walls, as poisonous as forgotten history and the stories told in its place. 

By the time the girl was born, the secret was all but lost.  The stories had become scripture, and only the very brave--or very mad--dared to doubt them.  The girl was raised on the stories, and never questioned their truth, until the day her mother took her walking beyond the city walls 

In the wilds outside, a voice as fathomless as the ocean spoke to her of a time before the domed cities, before wholes became halves and bargains were made in blood.  It told of a terrible choice and even more terrible consequences.  It begged her to listen, to live...
(Page 10, US e-ARC edition;
changes may occur before the final version releases)

This review first appeared at 
A Backwards Story on 
March 30, 2013.

I've been looking forward to OF BEAST AND BEAUTY since before it was ever even listed on GoodReads.  I heard author Stacey Jay talking about it on Twitter and made a habit of checking Goodreads every so often until the book appeared and became real.  I honestly wasn't sure what to expect from the book before picking it up.  Beauty and the Beast is one of my favorite fairy tales, so there's a lot to live up to.  Plus, pretty as the cover was, I wasn't enamored with JULIET IMMORTAL.  But I was anxious to give Jay another try, and I'm glad I did.  When I first began reading OF BEAST AND BEAUTY, it moved slowly and I wasn't sure I would get into it, but by the end, I was completely hooked and I'm so glad I stuck with it.

It's really hard to talk about a lot of plot elements without giving out spoilers since so much is reveal throughout the story.  There's also a lot of backstory to take in, which is perhaps why I was overwhelmed early on.  To keep it short, readers will never quite know who is Beauty and who is Beast, and Jay does this on purpose.  In today's interview with Jay, she mentions that she purposely flipped the roles and made Beauty male and Beast female, but as you read, you'll realize that both characters have traits of both roles.  Both Isra and Gem were raised believing that one another's world and ways was wrong, giving the story a Romeo and Juliet-esque starcrossed-lovers edge.  Isra is a Smooth Skin living comfortably in the city of Yuan while Gem's people live outside Yuan in the dying desert and are considered monstrous.

In an interesting twist, Princess Isra has been blind ever since a fire that occurred the night her mother died when she was a small child.  (Her blindness is a true disability, too.  She's learned to live with it and survive within her means, which I really appreciated as a reader.)  She's been locked away in her tower ever since, told that she's ugly and not fit for company.  Not only that, she's grown up knowing that one day, she'll commit the ultimate sacrifice and die for her people in order to secure the city's health and vitality.  Isra hates being locked up and often escapes out her tower at night.  One night, she encounters Gem, who has crept into Yuan to steal the roses said to have magical healing properties in order to save his people from dying.  He's caught and forced into captivity as Isra's prisoner.  Isra and Gem grow and change so much in one another's presence, and while this is a tale of Beauty and the Beast, it's also something wholly original I haven't seen before in the fairy tale genre.  By the end of the novel, I was really rooting for things to work out despite all the devastation that was building.

I was surprised and pleased with how close the core to OF BEAST AND BEAUTY follows the original fairy tale considering the fact that so much has changed and become new again.  And the ending....I can't talk about it without spoiling the book, but it went beyond what I was expecting.  I closed this book not quite ready to pick up something new to read because I was still immersed in Jay's world, and I wouldn't have said that when I first started reading the book.  There are definitely both pros and cons to the story, but ultimately I was engrossed in a satisfying way as I read this one.

OF BEAST AND BEAUTY is definitely darker than most fairy tale retellings out there, and I would recommend it for older teens due to a few mature elements, but if you love Beauty and the Beast, you'll want to snag OF BEAST AND BEAUTY.
C O V E R   D E S I G N:

I don't know if you noticed it or not, but there is a brand-new cover for OF BEAST AND BEAUTY!

It went from:


I like it BETTER now.  I love the addition of the blue and city.  The font for the title/author now adds a sci-fi flavor, which works because the book takes place on a planet that isn't Earth.

This cover actually makes sense.  It's not dark just for the sake of being dark.  It retains the elements of the first cover while making it more fairy tale-like.

The rose really is more dangerous than it appears to be, and it wants blood, Isra's blood...  The model is still wearing the black dress to show a period of mourning, too (though if I recall correctly, the color is actually green in the book, but WE look at black and see mourning so, you know, it works) 

The new cover combines elements perfectly and definitely works for me!
O F F I C I A L   I N F O:

Author: Stacey Jay
Release Date: July 23, 2013
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers / Random House

In the beginning was the darkness, and in the darkness was a girl, and in the girl was a secret... 

In the domed city of Yuan, the blind Princess Isra, a Smooth Skin, is raised to be a human sacrifice whose death will ensure her city’s vitality. In the desert outside Yuan, Gem, a mutant beast, fights to save his people, the Monstrous, from starvation. Neither dreams that together, they could return balance to both their worlds. 

Isra wants to help the city’s Banished people, second-class citizens despised for possessing Monstrous traits. But after she enlists the aid of her prisoner, Gem, who has been captured while trying to steal Yuan’s enchanted roses, she begins to care for him, and to question everything she has been brought up to believe. 

As secrets are revealed and Isra’s sight, which vanished during her childhood, returned, Isra will have to choose between duty to her people and the beast she has come to love.


Ready to check out OF BEAST AND BEAUTY?

You have a chance to win a beautiful hardcover copy!
There will be ten winners chosen, so you have TEN chances to win!!!

Enter now!
a Rafflecopter giveaway