Saturday, August 31, 2013

{Mad About Nails} Back to School Nail Art

I've had quite a few people comment on my nails in the past ask what I was using or wish I'd done a close-up so they could see better, etc., etc., and had a realization: Why not do a feature on nail polish? It's not book-related (Unless you're wearing the new HUNGER GAMES-inspired line from China Glaze, but I'm not even going into how wrong that is...), but it's fun. Plus, if I do this feature, I'll be more likely to re-paint my nails this week and less likely to let them chip their way to the bare bones (which would mean that I could see my nails...and if I see them, I want to bite them!).

Welcome back to another edition of Mad About Nails! 


Last year, you may remember that I painted my nails to look like Number 2 pencils for my Back to School nail art. It was one of my earliest nail art attempts. This year, I've been more daring, so I decided to go all out and do a different Back To School design on every nail! (And yes, the No. 2 pencil made a re-appearance!)

Are you ready to see??

Left Hand:

Right Hand:

I think they came out cute!

Here's a video of the materials used
(Or keep reading below!):




I started off with a basecoat of ORLY "Bonder."

Many of the professional nail studios use this as a basecoat when doing nails for their clients.  It's a rubberized coat that helps polish adhere to the nail.
It stinks, but it's great!
It really helps polish adhere to the nail!

I only used top coat on some of my nails. I was losing too much nail detail texture with a top coat. I started off with Revlon's "Quick Dry Top Coat."

Next, I attempted a different top coat that wasn't quick-drying, OPI "Top Coat." This one is from the DS collection, I think. I received it for free at ULTA...it was just what they had. I'm only assuming it's DS because of the cap. ^_^ This also caused my polish to smooth out (which can be GREAT when you make mistakes or want straighter edges! I had a lot of hard edges and curves that I didn't want smoothed out, however).

I decided to nix the top coat!

I also used NYC "Matte Me Crazy" as a top coat on my index finger to take the shine out of my green polish and give it a dull sheen, making it look more like a chalk board!

Sometimes this Matte top coat works well; other times, it doesn't. I'm not overly a fan of how it looks over black, and think it could be more matte. For a beautiful hunter green, however? It looks just like a chalkboard!



For my design:

THUMB: The Notebook Paper

I started with a base coat of OPI's "My Boyfriend Scales Walls" from its The Amazing Spider-Man Collection that came out alongside the movie. You can still find it sometimes, and it's still sold online, too. I like this white because it's not a pure white. It's slightly gray, which gives it less of a "chalky" texture.

MASH Professional 15 piece Nail Art 
Brush Kit Set from Amazon
Currently $10.99 and can be
combined with other items
for free S/H over $25!

For the design, I applied blue stripes in OPI "Can't Find My Czechbook" (from the Spring 2013 Euro-Centrale Collection) using a brush from the MASH Professional 15 piece Nail Art Brush Kit Set (currently $10.99 on Amazon) for more precision.

Using the same brush, I painted a vertical pink line in "Pink Forever" by Sinful Colors.

The red A+ was created using China Glaze "Igniting Love from the Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away Collection, which can still be found in some stores and online.


INDEX FINGER: The Blackboard

I started with a base coat of Zoya "Hunter" from the brand-new Fall 2013 Collection, Cashmeres and Satins. I love so many colors from this collection and can't wait to wear them this fall! This is my debut of "Hunter," and the first time using any color in this collection. It's a beautiful dark green, and super shiny.

You can't have a super shiny blackboard, though, right? I used a top coat of NYC "Matte Me Crazy" to dull the green and give it a nice finish.

For the white ABC letters, I used the "White" It's So Easy Stripe-Rite from Sally's Beauty Supply. Nail art paint for the win!


MIDDLE FINGER: The Number 2 Pencil

The yellow was actually a nail art pen, Art Deco's "Yellow." I bought it at Dollar General, which sells nail art pens in many colors. The yellow was just right for a pencil, though, a little more orange/mustard than my other yellows.

To create pencil ridges on the wood, I mixed together ULTA "Sun-Sational" (yellow) with ULTA "Sun of a Gun" (orange) , going heavier on the yellow than the orange, in order to create an orange-yellow hue that was darker than the base.

I french-tipped the nail using "Pink Forever" by Sinful Colors.

The silver metal strip went over the pink and yellow, creating a texture and third-dimension. I used a nail art pen from Art Deco, "Silver." I bought this at my local Dollar General. I also mixed Art Deco "Silver" with It's So Easy Stripe Rite "Black" from Sally's Beauty Supply for a darker gray that became a stripey texture on top of the silver strip itself, giving the silver the nuance of ridging.

Ironically? I used both Art Deco nail art pens when making my Back to School with Number 2 Nail Art Design last year, too! (Although my nails are much longer now! Whoot!)


RING FINGER: The Apple Atop a Book

My base coat is OPI's "Steady As She Rose" from the Pirates of the Caribbean  On Stranger Tides Collection. I'm not sure whether or not it's still available online. This is my favorite color when doing nude nails or french tips. It's not quite nude, but a beautiful, eye-catching dusty-rose!

MASH Marbleizing Dotting
Tool Pen Set from Amazon
$3.99 plus Free S/H!

For the design, I used a couple of my MASH Marbleizing Dotting Tool Pen Set pens from Amazon and nail art pens to achieve the look.

The red is, again, China Glaze "Igniting Love from the Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away Collection, the white is again "White" by It's So Easy Stripe Rite, and for the first time in the design, I used the nail art polish "Bright Green" by Art Deco, found at my local Dollar General.

I did the apple first, creating the red, fleshy apple skin, then adding a green leaf, and, once dry, topping it off with a white shine mark. For the book, I started with the white pages, then outlined the dust jacket.


PINKY: The Converse Sneaker

I started with a red base, using China Glaze "Igniting Love from the Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away Collection. Then I french-tipped the nail using OPI's "My Boyfriend Scales Walls" from its The Amazing Spider-Man Collection. Once everything had dried a bit, I added white dots for the shoelace eyelets using a dotting tool and "My Boyfriend Scales Walls." I did a black dot on top of that using It's So Easy Stripe Rite "Black." I also used this polish to make a thin black tip on top of my french tip to create the outline of a shoe sole. The white laces were made using It's So Easy Stripe Rite "White."

There are all kinds of online tutorials for making Converse Sneakers. I've seen it pop up before so many times...and finally decided to do it for this look!



I think everything came out really well. I'm rather pleased with this design!
I'm sad that it won't last too long, however, what with the lack of top coat and the application of matte topper. Boo!

Good luck going back to school or sending off your kids! 



 Is anyone else obsessed with nail polish? What are you wearing right now? Link me a photo; I want to see! ^_^

Friday, August 30, 2013

{Review/Excerpt} RELIC by Renee Collins


B O O K   T R A I L E R:



O P E N I N G   H O O K:

   WE WERE HOME ALONE THE NIGHT that Haydenville burned. Mama and Papa had gone to a political meeting and left me in charge. I was sixteen, old enough to keep an eye on my younger brother and sister. Or so my folks figured. They had no way of knowing how I would be tested.

(pg. 9, US e-book edition)




R E V I E W:

RELIC is unlike any fantasy novel I've read before. For one thing, it takes place in the Wild West. I've never read any fantasy novel from this time period before. The use of relics composed of the bones of extinct fantastic beasts is also innovative and new, at least to me. The book is just the right length, too. I prefer my fantasy novels longer, because I lose something when they're too short. Characters, setting, world-building...something is always underdeveloped. RELIC clocks in at 400 pages, but it reads so fast that I could easily believe I read half that in the time it took me to devour this book. When it came to the end, I wanted more. Despite a full-circle ending, there's enough room for a sequel should Renee Collins choose to write one, and I already want it if she does!

Collins chooses to throw readers straight into the action from page one. Maggie has been left at home in charge of her two younger siblings while her parents went to a political meeting. The only problem? They never come home. Maggie sees fire on the horizon and riders with torches heading her way. She rounds up her brother and sister, and together they flee to their safe place. Even that is no longer safe, though, and right when they're about to be devoured by fire, a young Apache warrior,Yahn, swoops in to save the day. Maggie loses so much that fateful night, but is determined to live and survive. She goes to Burning Mesa, a local town, looking for work in a relic refinery, only to be propositioned by a shady man looking for a new girl for The Desert Rose, his seedy saloon. She refuses to degrade herself in such a place, and manages to get a job on the wait staff instead. Her visit at the relic refinery doesn't go unnoticed, however, and more eyes are watching her than she can imagine. Maggie has a way with relics, a way that people will go to great lengths to control. She finds herself in a dangerous game of survival as towns continue to burn and the truth behind her abilities begins to come out.

I love the use of relics in Collins' debut novel. Relics are created from the bones of deceased mystical creatures such as dragons, unicorns, mermaids, vampires, etc. Different shards give unique properties and abilities to their human users, and are often contained in pieces of jewelry. They are hard to come by and extremely expensive. Relic bones can also be liquified or turned into powder. There's a even a scene where it is mentioned that champagne has been shipped from France paced with yeti relic ice. There's a beautiful scene about halfway through the book where Maggie is dusted in sky magic, or fairy relic powder, which enables her and other guests to float in the air for a stunning, imaginative relic waltz. Only the very rich can afford to be so impractical and laissez-faire with relics. How can I better describe relics and what they can do, since they're such a foreign concept?

Here's a quick excerpt of one of Maggie's first brushes with relics and their nature:



         “It’s fitting that we be exposed to all the types of magic that exist in our world. There must be balance, as there always has been.” Moon John pulled a small globe-like device from the ground and set it on the table. A dark metal orb, about the size of a fist, hung suspended between the ends of an inverted metal arc. The surface was punctured with what looked like hundreds of tiny holes, and I could just make out the glint of something glittering inside.
         “Tell me, Maggie. You are sixteen?”
         “That’s right,” I said, still staring at the odd globe.
         “Then you were born in the year of the unicorn. How fitting.”
         “What do you mean?”
         He drew a thin orange vial from his pocket. “I will show you,” he said, and he tipped the liquid into his mouth.
         Closing his eyes, he pointed to the three lanterns hanging in the vault. The flames were snuffed out, leaving us in utter darkness. I tensed, but just as quickly, he set his hand on the globe, and it was illuminated. Pinpricks of light burst out, filling the room with infinite glowing specks.
         “The stars,” Moon John said.
         I exhaled with awe, turning slowly to take in the twinkling sight. It was as if Moon John had snatched the night sky and set it right there in the vault.
         He stepped over to one cluster of light specks and traced his finger along a constellation.
         "This is Zang Tu, the unicorn. The first bringer of earth magic. Those born under her sign are often gifted with earth relics."
         Maybe it was my imagination, but if I looked hard enough, I could see the majestic white creature galloping across the sky, her horn gleaming like a spike of light. It was thrilling to learn the old legends of Moon John’s people. I didn’t know if they were true or just ancient stories passed down through generations, but it didn’t matter much. I relished every morsel. I’d have given anything to hear such stories as a girl. But with Mama so opposed to relics, all discussions remained limited to absolute necessity.
         "Here is Lóng, the dragon," Moon John went on, sliding his finger along the glittering clusters of light. "Here, the sign of the mermaid. And here, Fenghuang, the great bird, bringer of sky magic.”
         “They’re beautiful,” I said softly.
         “Indeed. In many ways, the stars are relics unto themselves. They teach us our history, our present, and our future, if we only care to learn.”
         I wanted him to go on, but he set his hand back on the globe, and the stars vanished. With a snap, the lanterns relit. I blinked the brightness from my eyes, still seeing the constellations behind my closed lids.
         “I suppose I should test you, as Castilla wishes,” Moon John said. “Though I think your birth in the year of the unicorn explains everything.”
         “You should test me. Just to make sure.”
         Moon John gave me a wry smile. “As you wish.” He motioned to the relics. “Shall we begin with the dragon bone?” My fingers itched to snap the piece up, but I controlled myself. “Go on, Maggie,” Moon John said. “See if you can produce a small flame here on this table.” I plucked the smooth piece of opaque amber, about the size and shape of a walnut, into my palm. Instantly, a current of warmth spread up my arm and into my core. The heat flickered out across my chest, swarming like ornery bees. The sensation made my breath catch in my throat, and I staggered back a little.
         “Fire relics have an agitating effect on the nerves,” Moon John said. “The feeling will subside.”
         “I’ve never used one before,” I said, holding up the bright piece with trembling hands.
         Moon John motioned to the table. “Try. Most can create at least a spark their first time.”
         I curled my fingers around the relic. That darn antsy feeling made it hard to focus, but as I did, a faint growl, like a whispered roar, pierced the dull hum. The sound sent chills up my neck. I squeezed my eyes shut.
         And the next thing I knew, an exploding burst filled the room. I ripped my eyes open in time to see a flash of orange light— flames spraying across the little table. In an instant, every inch of it was ablaze.
pgs. 201~203, US e-book edition

I've never seen a spin quite like this in fantasy before, where relics work in this fashion. I'm also a big fan of the unique setting. Who would think to weld fantasy to the Wild West? It took me a while to figure out the setting since I'd forgotten much of the book's summary going into it, and I like going into books blind. The book had a very "old" feel to it, but mentioned US cities, so I wasn't sure what time period we were in until I encountered saloons and cowboys and sheriffs. I loved the way all these historical components welded together and created a unique story. There was also a bit of a Spanish flavor mixed in, which reminds me of Rae Carson's stellar Girl of Fire and Thorns Trilogy, of which the final book, THE BITTER KINGDOM, actually shares a book birthday with RELIC this week. There's also the inclusion of the Apache, or the Natives, and what could have quickly become a racist inclusion was handled well and delicately in a way that gives character to this intriguing group. I hope to see a lot more of the Apache in the future, especially if those scenes include the intriguing Yahn! Yahn is a prospective romantic possibility for Maggie, as is the cowboy Landon. Romance doesn't play a huge role in RELIC, since the focus is on fantasy and the relics, which is a nice change of pace from other YA books out there that lose the fantasy in favor of the romance. Maggie has a good head on her shoulders, and I'm glad to see that she doesn't take boys lightly. It will be interesting to watch her grow up and evolve should Collins write more novels!

C O V E R   D E S I G N:

The colors are bright and eye-catching, which makes me happy, because too many YA covers are dark and depressing. I love that these gorgeous colors make up a gorgeous sky. I'm glad the girl is in silhouette, and if she's holding what I think she is, this is actually a scene from the book, which always makes me happy!

I'm a big fan of the title treatment and the intricate design--and not because one of the images is a mermaid! (Although that gets this cover bonus points!) I like that the title is surrounded, not by intricate swirls as is the rage du jour, but fantastical creatures, since they play such an intrinsic role in RELIC.  They are relics, and they deserve to surround their namesake!

O F F I C I A L   I N F O:

Title: RELIC
Author: Amy Butler Greenfield
Release Date: Aug. 27, 2013
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Received: For Review
SUMMARY:

After a raging fire consumes her town and kills her parents, Maggie Davis is on her own to protect her younger sister and survive best she can in the Colorado town of Burning Mesa. In Maggie’s world, the bones of long-extinct magical creatures such as dragons and sirens are mined and traded for their residual magical elements, and harnessing these relics’ powers allows the user to wield fire, turn invisible, or heal even the worst of injuries. 

Working in a local saloon, Maggie befriends the spirited showgirl Adelaide and falls for the roguish cowboy Landon. But when she proves to have a particular skill at harnessing the relics’ powers, Maggie is whisked away to the glamorous hacienda of Álvar Castilla, the wealthy young relic baron who runs Burning Mesa. Though his intentions aren’t always clear, Álvar trains Maggie in the world of relic magic. But when the mysterious fires reappear in their neighboring towns, Maggie must discover who is channeling relic magic for evil before it’s too late. 

RELIC is a thrilling adventure set in a wholly unique world, and a spell-binding story of love, trust, and the power of good.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

{A Twist in the Tail Giveaway/Excerpt} FABLE by Chanda Hahn

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!

&

 

Present:

The FABLE Book Blast!


Do you like fairy tales?

Hopefully, you've been checking out Chanda Hahn's series  
An Unfortunate Fairy Tale.


If not, what are you waiting for? 
THE FIRST BOOK, UNENCHANTED, IS FREE!!!!

Here's the scoop if you've never heard of the series before:



Mina Grime is unlucky, unpopular and uncoordinated, that is until she saves her crush's life on a field trip, changing her High School status from loser to hero overnight. But with her newfound fame brings misfortune as an old family curse come to light. For Mina is descended from the Brothers Grimm and has inherited all of their unfinished fairy tale business. Which includes trying to outwit a powerful Story from making her its next fairytale victim.
To break the fairy tale curse on her family and stop these deadly events, Mina must finish the tales until the very Grimm end.

-Summary from An Unfortunate Fairy Tale, Book 1, ENCHANTED

 
For those of you who HAVE, you're in luck! A third book, FABLE, came out this past Tuesday!

...You can even enter to WIN YOUR OWN COPY *and* a $25 Amazon gift card!

I actually just finished reading this one and look forward to sharing my review with you during my official blog tour stop on August 26th!

Today, I'm sharing the book's summary with you, as well as a book blast where you can WIN a $50 gift card to Amazon or PayPal Cash!

Good luck!

O F F I C I A L   I N F O:

Title: FABLE
Author: Chanda Hahn
Release Date: Aug. 27, 2013
Publisher: Chanda Hahn
SUMMARY:

Book 3 in the An Unfortunate Fairy Tale Series.

All that glitters is not gold.

When something precious is stolen from sixteen-year-old Mina Grime, she will do anything in her power to get it back, even if it means traveling to the dangerous Fae plane and battling one of the strongest fairy-tale villains yet.

However, nothing can prepare Mina for the dangerous obstacles she will face in the Fae world, or the choices she must make when love and life are on the line.
~*~

An Excerpt from 
FABLE
by Chanda Hahn


       Mina stopped and parted the long weeping willow’s branches, and  could see the rose resting against Jared’s black boot. Wait…not Jared—Teague.
       Teague reached down to pick up the rose and brought it to his nose to breathe in its scent. His hair was a lighter shade of brown than Jared’s, and his eyes were a deep blue, while Jared’s were a haunting gray. They both had similar angular jaws and drop-dead gorgeous looks. Teague once again was dressed in black, and Mina had a mind to joke about whether he was going to a funeral, but he was, so the words died on her lips before she even spoke them.
       Instead, she glared at him and held out her hand, demanding the rose without saying a word.
       Teague’s eyes widened and looked her over, never once dropping his Cheshire Cat smile. “I only came to pay my respects.”
       “What respect? You don’t respect me or my family.  Otherwise, your kind never would have cursed us.”
       “You’re wrong—it’s always wise to respect your enemies.”
       “Well, I don’t respect you.”
       “You should, Mina. Do you see what happens when you ignore your duty—when you ignore me?” He pointed to Charlie’s grave, and his voice became threatening. “I don’t like to be ignored, and now you have one less distraction in your life, so you can focus more of your time on me.”
       Teague’s words confirmed her worst fears. Her actions had led Teague to strike out against her family and kill her brother. Her stomach dropped, bile rose in her throat, and every inch of her was sick with the guilt his words layered on her. It was her fault, and she knew it. But she couldn’t show him how weak she was, and how much his words had affected her. She had one more person to protect: her mother, and she would not be negligent again.
       “You’re not welcome here. So please leave.” Mina snatched the rose out of Teague’s hand and felt a sting in her palm. She winced in pain but refused to acknowledge it.
       Teague reached for her hand, and Mina let him open up her palm to inspect her wound from the thorn. She was still reeling, and her whole body shook with anger. Teague leaned forward and blew on the small cut in her palm, and it healed itself. She ripped her hand from his grasp and took two steps away from him, almost falling on the ground. She needed to keep better control of herself.
       She needed Jared.
       “How is my dear brother?” he asked, as if reading her mind.
       “Why don’t you ask him yourself?”
       His eyes darkened. “We are not exactly on speaking terms.”
       “It wouldn’t have anything to do with the fact that you keep trying to kill me, would it?”
       “Now, sweet Mina, our fight goes back long before you were born. But you can’t hold it against me that I’m only doing my job. I’m supposed to throw quests your way, and you are supposed to try to stop me. It’s as simple as that. I can’t help it if we have a casualty or so in the process. That’s what makes the stories so good.” He smirked. “That’s what makes them popular. That’s what makes me powerful.” He was so close to her now that he ran the back of his finger across her cheek, and she flinched and smacked it away.
       “I see that you are as disgusting as ever.”
       “I see that you’re getting your fight back. You know, Mina, out of all the Grimms over the years who died at the hands of my fables, you are by far my favorite to toy with. I wonder why that is?” he asked, appearing to ponder the question.
       “Maybe because you picked the wrong girl to mess with.”
       “I don’t think so. I’ve finally found the perfect Grimm. I think you will be the most challenging. Which means your ending, the tale that finishes you off, will make us both famous.”
       Mina’s lip trembled, and she steeled herself to not show fear. She stood her ground and looked Teague right in the eye. “A thousand sweet words can never disguise the rattle of a viper about to strike. I will not drop my guard ever again. And I will end this curse…by doing whatever…or killing whoever…I have to.”
       Teague’s face turned furious, and his lips pressed into an angry thin line.
       “Then be prepared, my dear Mina, for you won’t be able to ignore this next tale. I’ve made sure of that.” He stepped away from her. A crack of thunder rattled the earth and she jumped, turning in surprise. A second later, pouring rain followed, soaking everyone within minutes. Mina turned back toward Teague, but he was gone.
~*~
Pronunciation: Sh-and-uh   H-ah-n
Chanda is the  author of the popular YA Unfortunate Fairy Tale Series which includes UnEnchanted and Fairest.  Both books have topped the ebook charts in 5 countries. She also pens YA epic Fantasy.

She was born in Seattle, Washington, raised in Nebraska, has lived in MN, IL and currently lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and twin children. She's a former children's librarian and children's pastor. Currently she spends her free time penning new novels and a daytime taxi driver for her kids.
Visit Chanda on her website and follow her on Facebook and Twitter!
  
****Giveaway*****

Enter to win $25 Amazon Gift Card and a paperback copy of FABLE!

Through 9/6/13.

Enter now!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

{Cover Reveal} THROUGH GLASS by Rebecca Ethington


We are so excited to be able to bring to you the cover reveal for Rebecca Ethington’s THROUGH GLASS which releases in less than a month on September 20th, 2013.

Both the book’s cover and description are awesome and more than a little bit chilling and we cannot wait for its release.

If you’d like to know more about the author, Rebecca Ethington, be sure to check out her website, or any of the other places she hangs out online.

And if you can’t wait until September 20th for the release of THROUGH GLASS, the first book in her Imdalind series, KISS OF FIRE, is now available in eBook format for free at AMAZON, BARNES & NOBLE and for the KOBO.

We love the cover, but what do you think?


COMING SEPTEMBER 20TH, 2013

About THROUGH GLASS

Everyone remembers the day the sky went black. They remember the screams as the blackness ate those who were out in the open, those who surrounded themselves by light, and those who made noise.

Everyone remembers the voice from the sky, the way food disappeared.

Everyone remembers the day the sky went black, and the sun was wiped from the sky.

At least that’s what I hope. I hope that there is an ‘everyone’ that will remember.

I hope that I am not alone.

Because I remember.

I remember, because it was the day I became alone.

It was the day the house went silent, and the birds stopped singing. It was the day when everyone disappeared, everyone except the boy, the only person I have seen in two years.

The boy I talk to through the glass.


***


About Rebecca Ethington

Rebecca Ethington has been telling stories since she was small. First, with writing crude scripts, and then on stage with years of theatrical performances. The Imdalind Series is her first stint into the world of literary writing.

Rebecca is a mother to two, and wife to her best friend of 14 years. She was born and raised in the mountains of Salt Lake City, and hasn’t found the desire to leave yet. Her days are spent writing, running, and enjoying life with her amazing family.


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

{Review/Giveaway} THE MIDNIGHT MASQUERADE by Marcia Lynn McClure


Visit the rest of the tour for more great reviews, interviews,
and more!

O P E N I N G   L I N E:

She was tired—oh so very, very tired. Never—not in all her life—had Evony Elorietta known such thoroughgoing fatigue. As she trudged out of the dark woods still veiled in the shadows of early sunrise, out across the expanse of cold, dew-drenched grass and onto the main road of the village, Evony wondered how she would ever endure a day that was only just beginning. Every bone in her body ached—every muscle throbbed in misery, every inch of her flesh begged for respite. Yet there would be none—at least not until she had finished her stitching—finished the near thirteen hours of sewing she now faced under the ever observant, incessantly critical eye of seamstress Agnes Teche. 

After such a long, chilled, and sleepless night spent in watching—peering through the darkness and into the rooms of the inn in the woods, until her eyes were too dry to watch any longer—after listening to the shallow, often vile conversations, until her ears hurt from the foul ferment of it—Evony dreaded sewing for Mrs. Teche more than ever before. The woman was a banshee of an employer. And yet, she was grateful Mrs. Teche had had the keen eye to recognize Evony’s superior skills with needle and thread—for how else would Evony have managed to feed Mikol and Tressa—to shelter them—to keep them hidden?
(pg. 2, US ebook edition)

The fairy tale lover in me rejoiced to see a new take on one of my all-time favorite tales, The Twelve Dancing Princesses. It's been done before, yes--and done well at that. ENTWINED by Heather Dixon and PRINCESS OF THE MIDNIGHT BALL by Jessica Day George immediately come to mind. Both are more literal interpretations of the tale. MIDNIGHT MASQUERADE, however reminds of me more of THE PRINCESS CURSE by Merrie Haskell. The main character is an outsider looking in, not one of the twelve cursed princesses. It is also completely its own tale. The heroine, Evony, is entwined in the lives of the princesses in a mysterious way that adds a fresh spin to the classic tale.

Evony and her siblings live on their own, albeit in poverty. Evony works for a local seamstress, where she's paid only enough to survive. One day, after handing over the last of her money for breakfast eggs, she's nearly run over by a nobleman and his horse. She later finds out he is Prince Stavos, come to crack the curse and receive a princess' hand in marriage as a reward. Evony helps him to the best of her ability, but can't stop herself from falling for him...even though he can never be hers.

Romantic and lush, McClure introduces readers to a new version of a classic tale in an intriguing way. The book is a fast, easy read that you can fall right into. Readers will truly feel for Evony and her plight, and also come to love Stavos. My only complaint with the novel came when the POV switched to Stavos. I understand that McClure was attempting to keep things mysterious for as long as possible, but it annoyed me that Stavos seemed so flummoxed by things when we saw his narrative, only to have always known the answers later on. I didn't like the mixed nature that came from this. It was my only major annoyance, however, and I genuinely enjoyed the novel and the way the tale was re-spun. In fact, one of my favorite aspects is the way the book doesn't rely on magic. The tale is told in such a way that something like this could certainly have occurred in real life! In this sense, it reminds me of one of my all-time favorite fairy tale retellings, HEART'S BLOOD by Juliet Marillier, which takes all the magic out of Beauty and the Beast to create something grounded and realistic. The fact that McClure also chose this route is exciting and more original in an often-done genre than you might expect!  If you're a fan of fairy tales and/or The Twelve Dancing Princesses, THE MIDNIGHT MASQUERADE is right up your alley!

C O V E R   D E S I G N:

Pretty girl in a dress? Okay with me! Especially since this is a fairy tale...and The Twelve Dancing Princesses, no less! Of course there must be a pretty girl in a dress!

I like the unusual way she was masking her face before removing it for the photo, since the ball is masked and plays right into this image.

I also like seeing all that snow...it adds to the atmosphere. Brr, I wouldn't want to be wearing a pretty dress in that weather and dancing endlessly, would you? 

I would love to see a little more oomph in the typography, which, despite the bright color, fades rather than pops, but it's still legible, so hey!

O F F I C I A L   I N F O:

Title: MIDNIGHT MASQUERADE
Author: Marcia Lynn McClure
Release Date: July 29, 2013
Publisher: Marcia Lynn McClure
Received: For Review
SUMMARY:

Stavos Voronin was not as blind-eyed as many nobles and royals. Evony’s physical gestures—even the simplest movement of her hands—revealed that she had not always been destitute. The same was true of the children—of their polished manners and the boy’s knowledge of horses and tendency to be bold and fearless of strangers. 

Ah yes, Stavos enjoyed a good mystery. After all, interest in the inexplicable circumstances surrounding the royals of Abawyth was the very thing that had lured him to the kingdom—the enigma of Abawyth’s twelve sleepy princesses. And yet now—now his mind was all the more intrigued. Not only was the obscurity of what had caused the profound and baffling torpidity of Abawyth’s princesses laid out before him, but also he found his curiosity intensely piqued over the riddle surrounding the very lovely Evony and her siblings. 

As Stavos strode through the village resting on the outskirts of Abawyth Castle, his mind reeled with possibilities. His musings were drawn back to why he had come to Abawyth at all—to solve the conundrum surrounding the twelve beautiful princesses of Abawyth kingdom—to solve the seemingly impenetrable crux and thereby win the hand of one of Abawyth’s princesses, as his father, King Letholdus of Ethiarien, had commanded.
~*~
marcia
Marcia Lynn McClure’s intoxicating succession of novels, novellas, and e-books, has established her as one of the most favored and engaging authors of true romance. Her unprecedented forte in weaving captivating stories of western, medieval, regency, and contemporary amour void of brusque intimacy has earned her the title “The Queen of Kissing.” Marcia, who was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, has spent her life intrigued with people, history, love, and romance. A wife, mother, grandmother, family historian, poet, and author, Marcia Lynn McClure spins her tales of splendor for the sake of offering respite through the beauty, mirth, and delight of a worthwhile and wonderful story.
Visit Marcia on her website and follow her on Twitter!
  
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