Wednesday, April 29, 2015

{Excerpt/Giveaway} COLD BURN OF MAGIC by Jennifer Estep

I'm really excited to be on tour with Jennifer Estep to promote her new novel COLD BURN OF MAGIC! I've been excited ever since hearing that the author had a new series coming out. I didn't really care what it was, either... I immediately knew I wanted it! I have both her YA series Mythos Academy and her adult series Elemental Assassin.

COLD BURN OF MAGIC came out yesterday, so run to your bookstore (or e-reader) and check out Estep's latest series! Keep reading for more info and to get your greedy paws on a nice, fat excerpt!

Cold Burn of Magic (Black Blade #1)
by Jennifer Estep
Publisher: K-Teen
Release Date: April 28th 2015
Genre: Young Adult, Urban Fantasy, Paranormal


There Be Monsters Here. . .

It's not as great as you'd think, living in a tourist town that's known as "the most magical place in America." Same boring high school, just twice as many monsters under the bridges and rival Families killing each other for power. 

I try to keep out of it. I've got my mom's bloodiron sword and my slightly illegal home in the basement of the municipal library. And a couple of Talents I try to keep quiet, including very light fingers and a way with a lock pick. 

But then some nasty characters bring their Family feud into my friend's pawn shop, and I have to make a call--get involved, or watch a cute guy die because I didn't. I guess I made the wrong choice, because now I'm stuck putting everything on the line for Devon Sinclair. My mom was murdered because of the Families, and it looks like I'm going to end up just like her. . .

by Jennifer Estep

I neared the edge of the roof and put on an extra burst of speed, preparing myself to leap onto the one of the next house over. Lucky for me, the brownstones in this part of town were grouped closely together, with flat, square roofs, many of which featured gardens or even aviaries. This particular roof boasted both, and the roses fluttered as I raced past them, a few petals swirling up into the humid air, while the doves mournfully coo-coo-cooed about how I’d disturbed their sleep.
It was only a short gap between the rooftops, maybe three feet, and I easily cleared it, my feet churning through the air before my sneakers scraped against solid stone again.
I staggered forward a few steps, my coat flapping around my legs. While I worked to regain my previous speed, I glanced over my shoulder. Even though it was after ten at night, and rain clouds cloaked the sky, I could see the three guards chasing me as clearly as if it were noon, thanks to my Talent for sight. They looked like normal humans, and I couldn’t tell if they were boring old mortals or more interesting magicks like me.
The guards didn’t seem to have any Talents, any obvious magic. Otherwise, lightning bolts, ice shards, or even balls of fire would have been streaking through the air after me. Part of me sort of wished that the guards were throwing magic at me. It would have made my escape easier.
Because I had another, rather unusual Talent of my own.
But it wasn’t meant to be, and the men jumped onto the roof behind me as I leaped onto the next one over—the last on this block.
I raced over to the far side of the roof. This brownstone butted up against a street, which meant that the next building over was several hundred feet away, much too far to me to jump. And since this was a private home, there wasn’t even a fire escape to climb down, just a rickety metal drainpipe loosely bolted onto the side of the brownstone.
But I already knew that from when I’d cased the neighborhood earlier this evening. In fact, it was the reason I’d run toward this building.
So I dipped my hands into my pockets, sorting through the items there—the necklace box, the other loot I’d swiped, my phone, several quarters, half of a dark chocolate candy bar that I’d been eating earlier while I was watching the accountant’s house. Finally, my fingers closed over two pieces of soft, supple metal, and I yanked out a pair of dull, silver, mesh gloves, which I pulled onto my hands.
The guards easily made the leap. Well, really, for them, it was more like a hop, given how long their legs were. I turned to face them. The guards grinned and slowed down when they realized that I’d run out of rooftops.
One of the guards stepped forward. His green eyes glittered like a tree troll’s in the semidarkness, and his black hair was cropped so close to his head that it looked like he was wearing a shadow for a skull cap.
“Give us the necklace, and we’ll let you live,” he growled. “Otherwise …”
He swung his sword in a vicious arc, right at my shoulder level.
“Off with my head?” I murmured. “How cliché.”
He shrugged.
My hand dropped to my waist and the sword that was belted there. I considered sliding the weapon free of its black leather scabbard, raising it into an attack position, and charging forward, but I decided not to. No way was I going to the extra trouble of fighting three guards, not for the pittance that Mo was paying me.
“Come on,” he rumbled. “I don’t like carving up little girls, but I’ve done it before.”
I didn’t think he was being overly insulting with the little girl crack, since he looked to be at least fifty.
So I sighed and slumped my shoulders, as though I were beaten. Then I reached into my coat pocket, drew out the black velvet box, and held it up where the leader could see it. His eyes weren’t as good as mine—few people’s were—but he recognized it.
“This necklace?”
He nodded, stepped forward, and held out his hand.
I grinned and tucked the box back into my pocket. “On second thought, I think I’ll hang onto it. Later, fellas.”
I hopped onto the ledge of the roof, took hold of the drainpipe, and stepped off into the night air.
The wet metal slid through my fingers like greased lightning. It would have laid the flesh of my palms open all the way to the bone, if I hadn’t been wearing my gloves. The wind whipped through my black hair, pulling pieces of it free from my ponytail, and I let out a small, happy laugh at the sheer, thrilling rush of plummeting toward the earth. At the last moment, I gripped the drainpipe much tighter, until the screech-screech-screech of metal rang in my ears. But the motion slowed my descent and even caused a bit of smoke to waft up from my gloves.
Five seconds later, my sneakers touched the sidewalk. I let go of the drainpipe, stepped back, and looked up.
The guards were hanging over the side of the roof, staring at me with gaping mouths. One of them lurched toward the drainpipe, as if to follow me, but in his rush, he ended up ripping the top part of the metal completely away from the side of the brownstone. The rest of the drainpipe broke away from the wall and clattered to the ground, causing a few rusty sparks to shoot through the air. Looked like he was a magick after all, one with a Talent for strength. Chagrined, that guard turned to face the leader and held out the length of pipe.
The leader slapped him upside the head with the hilt of his sword. The second guard dropped out of sight, probably knocked unconscious by the hard blow. Apparently, the leader had a Talent for strength as well. The third guard eyed the sidewalk, like he was thinking about leaping over the ledge, but the roof was more than sixty feet up from the pavement. There was no way he could survive that high of a fall, not unless he had some sort of healing Talent. Even then, it would be a big risk to take and not worth the pain of the broken bones. The guard knew it too and backed away from the ledge, which was exactly what I’d been counting on.
When he realized that they weren’t going to catch me, the leader screamed out his rage and brandished his sword in the air, but that was all he could do.
I gave him a mock salute, then slid my hands into my coat pockets and strolled down the sidewalk, whistling a soft, cheery tune.
Nothing that I hadn’t done before.

Follow the Cold Burn of Magic by Jennifer Estep Blog Tour and don't miss anything! Click on the banner to see the tour schedule.

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Jennifer Estep is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, prowling the streets of her imagination in search of her next fantasy idea.

Jennifer writes the Elemental Assassin adult urban fantasy series for Pocket. Books in the series are SPIDER'S BITE, WEB OF LIES, VENOM, TANGLED THREADS, SPIDER'S REVENGE, BY A THREAD, and WIDOW'S WEB. THREAD OF DEATH, an e-novella, is also available. 


DEADLY STING, the eighth book, is set to be released on March 26, 2013.

Jennifer also writes the Mythos Academy young adult urban fantasy series for Kensington. 

Books in the series are TOUCH OF FROST, KISS OF FROST, and DARK FROST. CRIMSON FROST, the fourth book, is set to be released on Dec. 24, 2012.

FIRST FROST, a prequel e-story to the series, is available as a download. HALLOWEEN FROST, an e-short story, is available in the ENTANGLED e-anthology.

Jennifer is also the author of the Bigtime paranormal romance series. Books in the superhero-themed series are KARMA GIRL, HOT MAMA, JINX, and NIGHTINGALE. A KARMA GIRL CHRISTMAS, an e-story, is also available.

Excerpts, free short stories, and more information on Jennifer's books can be found at

Monday, April 27, 2015

Introducing Musical Artist Rachel Platten and her empowering anthem "Fight Song!"

Hi bookworms! Today, I'm departing from the books to bring you some new music!

I was at work the other day and had an encounter with one of my regulars, who works with various musical artists. He told me that one of his artists, Rachel Platten, had just been signed and was getting ready to blow up big. He asked me to go online and listen to her song "Fight Song," as well as "1,000 Ships" and "Nothing Ever Happens."

I went home, listened, and...really enjoyed what I heard!

"Fight Song" reminds me of "Brave by Sara Bareilles and "Roar" by Katy Perry. By that, I don't mean that one ripped off the other and has the same backing music. I'm talking about the MESSAGE. All three of these ladies are singing about empowerment, about believing in yourself, about making a change, about standing up to create a difference, about never giving up.

The video also states that "Fight Song" was featured (at some point, I don't know when) an episode of Pretty Little Liars, so maybe you've already heard it. A couple of days after being introduced to the song, I actually heard it in passing on the radio. I have no clue if the song has hit major airwaves across the country or not, tbh. (But again, maybe it has and you already know this song! That's a GOOD thing!) I don't really listen to the radio or follow what's blowing up. I hope she's getting exposure across the nation, because this song has a great message and is catchy enough to be a summer hit.

If you like the song, go ahead and request it from your local radio station or chat it up on social media! I'm certainly going to. ^_^

Take a listen to "Fight Song" by Rachel Platten now!

And just because...!

Have an empowering day by also listening to

"Brave" by Sara Bareilles


"Roar" by Katy Perry!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Alternative Free Fridays + Weekly E-Book Deals

Not interested in the weekly Free Fridays title offered by Barnes and Noble?
I'm usually not, either!

I thought about it and realized just how many free e-books I've found and downloaded onto my nook. I decided to start sharing some freebies with you!

No matter your e-reader, no matter if you get the official weekly book or not,  I hope you enjoy my alternatives!

E-Book Deals of the Week:

(I own a nook, so that's where I look for deals, but these should also be available on Kindle, Kobo, iBooks, etc!)

***Some of Terry Pratchett's Discworld books and Jennifer Esteps Mythos Academy books are on sale, so if you're interested, take a peek at both series!***
THE WARRIOR HEIR by Cinda Williams Chima
THE GOLDEN APPLE by Michelle Diener
CRUEL BEAUTY by Rosamund Hodge
PRINCE OF FOOLS by Mark Lawrence 
ILLUMINATE by Aimee Agresti 
THE FALCONER by Elizabeth May


TALON by Julie Kagawa
I AM THE WEAPON by Allen Zadoff
CINDER by Marissa Meyer

CRESS by Marissa Meyer

RED by Alyxandra Harvey
ROYALLY LOST by Angie Stanton

SNAPSHOT by Angie Stanton 
SEVERED SOULS by Terry Goodkind
AMERICAN GODS by Neil Gaiman

THE WALLED CITY by Ryan Graudin
DIVERGENT by Veronica Roth
ELEANOR AND PARK by Rainbow Rowell
FANGIRL by Rainbow Rowell
CROWN DUEL by Sherwood Smith

This week's Free Book Spotlight:

Author:  Brenda Hiatt

Available FOR FREE from:


This one popped up on my Facebook feed last night because a friend had liked the page. STARSTRUCK seems like a book with potential, so I figured, "Why not, it's free," and downloaded it to give it a try!

This indie book also gets bonus points for having an interesting, well-formed cover!

Here's a brief summary:


Nerdy astronomy geek Marsha, M to her few friends, has never been anybody special. Orphaned as an infant and reluctantly raised by an overly-strict “aunt,” she’s not even sure who she is. 

M’s dream of someday escaping tiny Jewel, Indiana and making her mark in the world seems impossibly distant until hot new quarterback Rigel inexplicably befriends her. As Rigel turns his back on fawning cheerleaders to spend time with M, strange things start to happen: her acne clears up, her eyesight improves to the point she can ditch her thick glasses, and when they touch, sparks fly—literally! 

When M digs for a reason, she discovers deep secrets that will change her formerly humdrum life forever . . . and expose her to perils she never dreamed of. Yes, the middle of nowhere just got a lot more interesting!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

{Review/Vlog} THE QUEEN OF THE TEARLING by Erika Johansen

THE QUEEN OF THE TEARLING was one of the 2014 titles with the most buzz!
It was even optioned to be a movie before it was ever published
(Starring Emma Watson, at that!)

The book just came out in paperback, and the sequel comes out in hardcover on June 9th, which is a little over a month away!

To celebrate, I've done a brand-new design vlog taking a look at the paperback edition of this book:

(I also figured out how to make a new video intro. Do you like this style better???)

YouTube Link

(Which cover/design do YOU like better???
I'm curious!!!)

I'm also re-posting my review of the first book.

Stop back in June for my thoughts on THE INVASION OF THE TEARLING!!!

O P E N I N G   H O O K:

    KELSEA GLYNN SAT VERY STILL, watching the troop approach her homestead. The men rode as a military company, with outliers on the corners, all dressed in the grey of the Tearling royal guard. The riders' cloaks swayed as they rode, revealing their costly weapons: swords and short knives, all of them of Mortmesne steel. One man even had a mace; Kelsea could see its spiked head protruding from his saddle. The sullen way they guided their horses toward the cottage made things very clear: they didn't want to be here.
(Page 1, US hardcover edition)

What's different about THE QUEEN OF THE TEARLING is that Kelsea Glynn has always known her destiny. She's not a hidden princess plucked from her ordinary existence as a peasant and thrust into royalty. Instead, she's studied and built the role up in her mind. She's made her mother into something she's not. When her mother dies, Kelsea must put all of her studies to use and repair the broken kingdom she's inherited before it's destroyed by war. There's so much more to being the Queen of the Tearling than Kelsea ever thought possible, both good and bad, and only her actions will decide if she lives or dies, and if her country will rise or fall. 

THE QUEEN OF THE TEARLING is one of those books. You will love it or you will hate it. I've heard a lot of mixed things about this one already! I think the reason for the conflicting viewpoints it the way this has been super-marketed. "The next big thing since Game of Thrones and The Hunger Games!" I thought the book was a good start to an immersive new series that I'm interested in continuing. Do I think it's the best book in the entire world? No. But it has so much potential! Is it like the two series referenced? I can see similarities, but it's really its own story. There's so much happening in the first book that it does move slowly at times, but there are other parts that flash past. There's a lot of world-building at play, and I'm looking forward to seeing the story open up and become epic and sprawling in future books. This is one where you'll have to read it and make up your own mind. Don't rely on anyone's review!

One thing I really loved was the way readers were introduced to Tearling history at the start of each chapter. I don't always read the anecdotes that begin a chapter; in this book, I relished seeing each and every one because they enhanced the novel. My other favorite element was a character, the Fetch. His scenes were absolutely my favorite ones, and there's so much more to him than we're seeing right now. I'm looking forward to seeing more and more of him in future books. He absolutely captivated me, and I can see why he blindsided Kelsea right away as well. We didn't see him all that much in the first book, but I can already tell he'll play a big part in the series, and I'm already building theories! I'm glad readers were able to follow his POV a bit, and that the book wasn't 100% from Kelsea's POV. We even saw things through the eyes of villains such as the Red Queen.

Another interesting element that made THE QUEEN OF THE TEARLING stand out was the way it read like old-school fantasy, but took place far in the future. I would have believed you if you told me this took place centuries ago...until current literature was referred to as being really old, and modern science such as recessive genes were discussed. Then I realized just how much changed and was lost after the Crossing that changed the world. It took a while to wrap my head around the notion and pulled me out of the book a little at first, but then I thought about it and really appreciated the way a world can come so full-circle. Everyone says that history repeats itself. Here is proof! The world is much darker and more disturbing, which is where, I think, some of The Hunger Games comparisons come into play (but no spoilers!).

THE QUEEN OF THE TEARLING is being marketed as an adult fantasy with YA crossover appeal. I can see the appeal, since Kelsea is 17 years old and stepping into a new role in life, which is the type of coming of age story that the YA genre loves most. At the same time, there are a lot of dark issues, adult scenes, and brutality in the book's pages, so I would only recommend this one to older teens mature enough to handle the issues introduced. I was definitely intrigued by this new series and can't wait to see with author Erika Johansen takes us next as she continues fleshing out her world and deepening her characters.

Content Ratings: highlight between ( ) for details

Romance: PG15+ ( sexual situations )
Language: PG13+ ( I don't remember b/c I read this so long ago, but I'm pretty sure it had language )
Violence: PG15+ ( fighting, death )
Other: --
C O V E R   D E S I G N:

This book has a lot of great design in person. It's got the look of a fantasy and the bling that makes you sit up and take notice! 

And it has deckle edging. Be still my heart!!!

Here's a video peeking at this gorgeous book up close and personal:

O F F I C I A   I N F O:

Author: Erika Johansen
Release Date: July 8, 2014
Publisher: Harper Collins
Received: For Review

On her nineteenth birthday, Princess Kelsea Raleigh Glynn, raised in exile, sets out on a perilous journey back to the castle of her birth to ascend her rightful throne. Plain and serious, a girl who loves books and learning, Kelsea bears little resemblance to her mother, the vain and frivolous Queen Elyssa. But though she may be inexperienced and sheltered, Kelsea is not defenseless: Around her neck hangs the Tearling sapphire, a jewel of immense magical power; and accompanying her is the Queen’s Guard, a cadre of brave knights led by the enigmatic and dedicated Lazarus. Kelsea will need them all to survive a cabal of enemies who will use every weapon—from crimson-caped assassins to the darkest blood magic—to prevent her from wearing the crown.

Despite her royal blood, Kelsea feels like nothing so much as an insecure girl, a child called upon to lead a people and a kingdom about which she knows almost nothing. But what she discovers in the capital will change everything, confronting her with horrors she never imagined. An act of singular daring will throw Kelsea’s kingdom into tumult, unleashing the vengeance of the tyrannical ruler of neighboring Mortmesne: the Red Queen, a sorceress possessed of the darkest magic. Now Kelsea will begin to discover whom among the servants, aristocracy, and her own guard she can trust.

But the quest to save her kingdom and meet her destiny has only just begun—a wondrous journey of self-discovery and a trial by fire that will make her a legend…if she can survive.

THE QUEEN OF THE TEARLING introduces readers to a world as fully imagined and terrifying as that of THE HUNGER GAMES, with characters as vivid and intriguing as those of THE GAME OF THRONES, and a wholly original heroine. Combining thrilling action and twisting plot turns, it is a magnificent debut from the talented Erika Johansen.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

{Review/Excerpt/Giveaway} THE TRUTH ABOUT US by Janet Gurtler

I've previously reviewed two other novels
by Janet Gurtler,
How I Lost You

Janet has also stopped by ABS during Girls in Sports week with an awesome guest post,
"Playing Like a Girl!"

O P E N I N G   L I N E:

    I HAVE FIFTEEN MINUTES to get home. It's a twenty-five-minute walk. 
    I'm so dead.
(pg 9, US e-ARC edition)

Sometimes, you meet a character and you just want to smack him or her upside the head. Especially when the character goes through little character growth throughout the novel. When a character grows and blossoms and becomes lovable, however, you want to embrace those character flaws and really root for him or her. Luckily, in THE TRUTH ABOUT US by Janet Gurtler, Jess falls into the second camp and becomes very personable as the novel progresses despite her flawed introduction.

Jess is privileged, and she knows it. She's always been a good girl, but with her new friends, she's more reckless and doing things she never would have before. After getting caught by a friend's mother, Jess is GROUNDED. Not just grounded, but she now has to spend her entire summer helping out at a local soup kitchen. What starts off as a mundane and boring summer quickly becomes a summer that Jess will never forget. She meets people at the soup kitchen that enhance and change her life for the better, and even falls in love despite the odds set against a rich girl and a poor boy.

I really like the way Janet Gurtler developed Jess and forced her to see the world through new eyes. It felt very real and down-to-earth. Jess began to change even as the world she came from remained the same. She started to figure out who she was and what she wanted in life. There's a strong emotional core running through the novel, which delves into the relationships we make in life. Not just romantic attachments, but attachments with bosses and friends and the elderly. Expectations are turned upside down and blossom into something new. There is, of course, romance, too. Flynn is from the wrong side of the tracks and frowned upon by Jess' friends and family, but there is so much depth to him that it's hard to stay away. She knows he's down on his luck, that if circumstance was different, Flynn and his family wouldn't be where they are today. The way Gurtler resolves everyone's issues is unexpected, but it works, and reminds me of why I like her novels so much!

by Janet Gurtler

My face burns.
“What are you doing here?” he asks.
Wilf frowns and then looks at me. “What’s up with you kids these days? In my time, we treated nice--looking young ladies with respect,” he says to Flynn gruffly. “Flynn, this is Jess. She volunteers here.”
I say a silent thank--you to him for calling me nice--looking and glance back at Flynn.
“Since when?” he asks.
“Since now. How about, ‘hello, nice to meet you’?” Wilf says to prompt both of us. “Is that so hard?”
“We’ve already met,” Flynn says.
My cheeks stay on fire as he climbs down the ladder.
“The shelf is fixed,” he says to Wilf. “Slumming?” he adds to me as he jumps to the floor. He folds up the ladder and then leans it against a counter lined with plants.
The little boy stares back and forth.
I try to think of something light and witty to save the moment, but my mind is blank. Instead, I panic. “What’d you do to get stuck working at this place?” I say, channeling my inner Nance.
“What’d I do?” He stares at me and then his lips turn up. “I didn’t have the right daddy, I guess. I’m here to have lunch. With my little brother. I’m not a volunteer.”
My stomach drops. Fail. Epic fail.


Content Ratings: highlight between ( ) for details

Romance: PG13 ( kissing; innuendo )
Language: PG13 ( language such as "beey-otch" and "slutty;" one f-bomb )
Violence: --
Other:  ( underage drinking, underage smoking; flashing on video chat )
C O V E R   D E S I G N:

This cover doesn't reach out and scream, "Read me!" but it's also very contemporary. I tend to overlook contemporary covers. ^^;;; 

I do like the way the word TRUTH is a different color from the rest of the title, and the way the author's name doesn't mimic that color--or even any color in the title! Instead, it's white like the blurring at the top of the cover, like the white in the cracks of the bricks, like the white in both t-shirts. It makes it stand out.
O F F I C I A L   I N F O:

Author: Janet Gurtler
Release Date: April 7, 2015
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Received: For Review

A powerful and gripping contemporary YA from the author of I'm Not Her that's "Just right for fans of Sarah Dessen and Jodi Picoult."-Booklist

The truth is that Jess knows she screwed up.
She's made mistakes, betrayed her best friend, and now she's paying for it. Her dad is making her spend the whole summer volunteering at the local soup kitchen.

The truth is she wishes she was the care-free party-girl everyone thinks she is.
She pretends it's all fine. That her "perfect" family is fine. But it's not. And no one notices the lie...until she meets Flynn. He's the only one who really sees her. The only one who listens.

The truth is that Jess is falling apart – and no one seems to care.
But Flynn is the definition of "the wrong side of the tracks." When Jess's parents look at him they only see the differences-not how much they need each other. They don't get that the person who shouldn't fit in your world... might just be the one to make you feel like you belong.  


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