Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Blog Tour: Creeps by Darren Hynes - Guest Post

Today I have the pleasure of having Darren Hynes, author of Creeps, on the blog to talk about the process of writing this particular book. Be sure to keep reading to also find out more about the book and the book writing process.

About the book:
Fifteen-year-old Wayne Pumphrey wishes he were courageous enough to actually send the heartfelt letters he writes to friends and family. He also wishes his father would drive on the right side of the street, his mother would stop packing her suitcase to leave, and his sister would stop listening to Nickelback. But most of all, he wishes that Pete "The Meat" would let him walk to school in peace. After all, how many times can one person eat yellow snow?

Then one morning, while facing Pete and his posse, Wayne is rescued by Marjorie, the girl with a dead father and a mother who might s well be. Together, the two of them escape Pete's relentless bullying by rehearsing for the school play, and an unlikely friendship is formed. As they grow ever closer to one another, they begin to dream of escape from their small town and resricted lives. But Pete now has plans for both of them--and after a moment of sudden violence, nothing will ever be the same again for Wayne, Majorie, or Pete himself.

Creeps from start to finish – what process did you go through while writing this book?

- I started writing Creeps in 2008. At the time, the story had nothing to do with bullying. It was more a coming of age novel: a boy from a dysfunctional family who tries to make sense of his life against the backdrop of a cold northern town. I wrote and wrote and had several hundred pages completed until the realization struck that I didn’t have much of a story. Something was missing and I had no idea what. Later in that same year I spent a month at The Banff Writing Studio where I’d hoped to find a reason for continuing with Creeps instead of it putting aside. After the month was over I put the manuscript away in frustration and went back to work on a novel that I’d previously tried to get published but hadn’t been successful. I spent a year revising, Flight and sent it out and it was finally accepted for publication and released in 2010. Not long after, I was talking to my fifteen-year-old nephew via Facebook and he told me about a girl who’d pretended to like him and when he’d admitted to liking her back, she posted how gross he was and how she would never date someone like him. I was devastated, angry, disappointed in the human race. The story stayed with me for weeks and weeks and then one morning I felt compelled to take out my abandoned Creeps manuscript. As I was looking it over I had a thought: what if, Wayne, my main character, was a victim of bullying? And what if the story was more about how he copes and finds a way to move forward, and how he comes to love and accept himself for who he is? For the first time since I’d started writing the novel I felt like I had a hook, a reason for writing it.

- The new draft of Creeps became a sort of homage to my nephew, but, later, it became a story for anyone who’s every felt alone or different. I was quite inspired by Radiohead’s song: Creep throughout the writing of the novel. The lyrics really spoke to me and I found a way to sneak the song’s message into the narrative of my novel. The song became a sort of anthem for my two main protagonists.

- It wasn’t easy to write the bullying scenes, and I struggled with how far to go. Although the story focused on a fifteen-year-old, I had no idea I was writing a Young Adult novel. I was just writing what I felt I needed to write. My biggest challenge, I think, was finding humour in the story. Not to make it too maudlin. That’s why Wayne, although terribly bullied, tries to rise above it – find hope and optimism and not dwell too much on his situation. That tack will not please everyone, but it was the direction I felt I needed to follow.

- Once the story kicked in, and I became more familiar with the characters, the writing of the novel came quickly. I was living in Hamilton at the time and I would often write on the bus to Toronto. I spent a lot of money on coffee and lattes because I lived in cafes, which is where some of my best writing gets done. I generally wrote in the early mornings – my peak time creatively. I got to know some people in the course of writing the novel that were victims of bullying and they were kind enough to share their stories with me. I soaked up documentaries and books on the subject and combed the papers and the Internet for stories like the one I was trying to write. And, while not a victim myself, I was certainly witness to episodes of bullying when I myself was in high school. I remember one small boy who’d had his glasses broken by a punch in the face and it was winter and even now I can still see how cold the boy’s hands were and how his nose was running and how defeated he looked. Those images stay with you.

- After about a year, I had a draft of Creeps I was fairly happy with. Still, I put it away for a few weeks and then went back at it for some serious revisions, which took another six or seven months. Then I sent out some queries to a few agents and was shocked when Westwood Creative Artists requested the whole manuscript. A little over a month later, Westwood took me on, and a month after that, I had a book contract with Penguin.

- I was lucky enough to work with a wonderful editor at Penguin and we spent close to a year readying the book for publication. In fact, everyone at Penguin was extremely welcoming and helpful and I felt very supported there.
- So, the seeds of Creeps were planted five years ago. A lot of time was spent going in circles and working on other things and trying again and then giving up and then trying again. I’m learning now that that is part of my process. I tend to write a lot of stuff, which ultimately gets thrown out. I have to flail about and pull my hair out before something comes. But once I find that thing, the writing takes on a life of it’s own and it becomes very exciting.

- I hope people find something in Creeps that speaks to them. I certainly learned a lot from writing it – namely that there should be room for everyone.

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Monday, July 29, 2013

Blog Tour - Earthbound by Aprilynne Pike

Title: Earthbound (Earthbound #1)
Author: Aprilynne Pike
Publisher: Razorbill
Release Date: July 30, 2013
Source: ARC from Publisher
Buy the Book: Amazon / Book Depository
Tavia Michaels is the sole survivor of the plane crash that killed her parents. When she starts to see strange visions of a boy she's never spoken with in real life, she begins to suspect that there's much about her past that she isn't being told. 

Tavie immediately searches for answers, desperate to determine why she feels so drawn to a boy she hardly knows. But when Tavia discovers that the aunt and uncle who took her in after her parents' death may have actually been responsible for the plant crash that killed them--and that she may have been the true intended victim--she flees for the safety of Camden, Maine, where the boy she sees in her visions instructs her to go.

Now, Tavia is on the run with no one to trust. No one, that is, except for her best friend and longtime crush, Benson.

Tavia feels torn between the boy who mysteriously comes to her at night and the boy who has been by her side every step of the way. But what Tavia doesn't know is that the world is literally falling apart and that to save it she will have to unite with the boy in her visions. Only problem? To do so would mean rejecting Benson's love. And that's the one thing Tavia Michaels swore she'd never do.

So this is the part where I admit that until I read Earthbound, I hadn't read anything by Aprilynne Pike. And now that I've read one of her books, I realise that I may have been missing out. Though Earthbound wasn't exactly what I thought it was going to be, I found myself enjoying the book more and more as I read it. 

There is nothing Tavia wants more than to move on from the plane crash that killed her parents and left her a mess. Almost a year later, she is only starting to have a handle on her life again. And just when she thinks she finally has everything under control, weird things start happening around her. A strange boy only she can see starts appearing and she can suddenly make objects out of thin air. As things start unravelling, Tavia discovers that everything she has known since the crash has been a lie, and so she goes on the run with the one person she thinks can trust. But even then, everything may not be quite as it seems.

Here's the thing about Earthbound, despite having read the synopsis and having a vague idea of what the book was going to be about, it still ended up being something completely different. Right from the start, I was dragged into the story. Aprilynne Pike wrote a great opening, capturing my attention and leaving me with the need to know exactly what was happening in Tavia's life. But as much as the story captured my attention at first, part of the way through, I found myself struggling to stay in the story and the world that Aprilynne Pike created. It just seemed like events were moving but there were moments where I wasn't entirely sure why they were moving the way they were. Even though the more I read those gaps ended up getting filled, it was still a little hard to keep up at times. But even then, that didn't stop me in still being interested in the story. The mystery that was there throughout is what really captured my attention. I wanted to know what was going on with the three groups that had been talked about throughout the story. I wanted to know how it all fit together and who was actually supposed to be trusted and who wasn't. And eventually, I think I sort of found out. But based on the way things turned out throughout the book, I could still be completely wrong. 

I'm not entirely sure how I feel about Tavia, both as a character and as a narrator. As a narrator, it felt like she sometimes forgot to explain, or at least allude to, how she got to certain conclusions. And that may have been why I felt like there were certain gaps in the story. Beyond her responsibilities as a narrator, I'm still not quite sure how I feel about Tavia. She definitely had a lot dumped on her plate and I don't know how I would have reacted if I had found myself in her position. I admit that what bothered me the most about Tavia is how she kept going back and forth between Benson and Quinn. Even though that eventually all got explained, it still made it difficult for me to appreciate Tavia. And the other characters, I'm also not entirely sure how I felt about them. I thought I had Benson figured out and I actually really liked him, but then that didn't exactly work out the way I had thought it would. And then with Quinn, well he was sort of what I expected him to be, but at the same time he was also a lot more complicated than just that. All that to say that I'm hoping that I'll be able to figure the characters out in future books. 

Overall, Aprilynne Pike's Earthbound was an entertaining read even if I did have some issues with the book as I was reading. The concept was definitely interesting and I'm hoping that some aspects of it will be explored some more in future books.

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Sunday, July 28, 2013

Blog Tour - SYLO by D.J. MacHale + Giveaway

Title: SYLO (The SYLO Chronicles #1)
Author: D.J. MacHale
Publisher: Razorbill
Release Date: July 2, 2013
Source: ARC from Publisher
Buy the Book: Amazon / B&N / Book Depository
Does Tucker Pierce have what it takes to be a hero when the U.S. military quarantines his island?

Fourteen-year-old Tucker Pierce prefers to fly under the radar. He's used to navigating around summer tourists in his hometown on idyllic Pemberwick Island, Maine. He's content to sit on the sidelines as a backup player on the high school football team. And though his friend Quinn tells him to "go for it," he's too chicken to ask Tori Sleeper on a date. There's always tomorrow, he figures. Then Pemberwick Island is invaded by a mysterious branch of the U.S. military called SYLO. And sitting on the sidelines is no longer an option for Tucker, because tomorrow may never come. 

It's up to Tucker, Quinn, and Tori to uncover the truth about the singing aircraft that appears only at night--and the stranger named Feit who's pushing a red crystal he calls the Ruby that brings unique powers to all who take it. Tucker and his friends must rescue not just Pemberwick Island, but the fate of the world--and all before tomorrow is too late.

#1 New York Times bestselling author D.J. MacHalebrings his brilliant plotting and breathless pacing to SYLO, the first in this ultimate end-of-the-world adventure trilogy.
I'm always interested in a good adventure story, one where it's not always clear who are the good guys and who are the bad guys. And with D.J. MacHale's SYLO, that's exactly what I got. Granted, it took me a while to get into the story, but once I did, I found myself getting wrapped up in the action and attempting to puzzle out what was happening right alongside the characters.

Tucker Pierce was happy with his relaxed island life, trying to stay under the radar and just living his life. But when the star of the football team collapses in the middle of a game, making it so Tucker has to step up, everything changes. And when the navy shows up on the island, cutting them off from the mainland, everything starts to feel wrong. Tucker and his friends can't help but think that they aren't being told the whole story. And now it's up to them to figure out what is happening on Pemberwick Island…hopefully without getting hurt, or worse, in the process.

I'm not sure exactly how to describe SYLO. Don't get me wrong, I really enjoyed the story, but it's kind of hard to put into words exactly how I felt about it. Going in, I was expecting a story filled with action and mystery as Tucker and his friends try to figure out what's happening on Pemberwick Island. And while that is what I got, I got it at a slightly slower pace than I thought it would be. But that might also be due to the fact that I was reading the book in small increments. Once I was able to sit down and read more of the book, I found myself getting dragged in, trying to puzzle out exactly what was happening on that island, especially exactly who was good and who was bad. And I still don't know exactly who is bad and who is good even after having read the whole book. There was just so much going on that every time I was starting to figure out who was the enemy, then something new would happen and I was back to square one. And now that I'm done, it's making me want to read the sequel to see if some of my suspicions are correct or not.

It was nice to read a book from a boy's perspective for a change. The only difficulty I had was that I was reading this book from the perspective of a 14 year old boy. For most of the book, I could enjoy reading everything from Tucker's perspective, he was always right in the thick of the action and I enjoyed the fact that he knew as little about what was going on as I did. But there were also times when I found it a little hard to relate to him as the narrator. Though I will say this, it was refreshing to read a story where the focus was on the mystery and the action. As a result, it felt like the story ended up being more about the plot than about the characters. But some of the characters still surprised me in the way they acted and changed as the story went forward. Hopefully I'll be able to see more of them in future books.

Overall, D.J. MacHale's SYLO was a highly enjoyable and action-packed read. If you are looking for something a little different that will take you on a adventurous ride, then you might want to check out SYLO.

About the author:
D.J. MacHale is a writer, director, executive producer and creator of several popular television series and movies. As an author, his ten-volume book series: PENDRAGON - JOURNAL OF AN ADVENTURE THROUGH TIME AND SPACE became a New York Times #1 bestseller.

He was raised in Greenwich, CT and graduated from Greenwich High School. While win school, he has several jobs including collecting eggs at a poultry farm, engraving trophies and washing dishes in a steakhouse…in between playing football and running track. D.J. attended New York University where he received a BFA in film production.

His filmmaking career began in New York where he worked as a freelance writer/director making corporate videos and television commercials. He also taught photography and film production.

D.J. broke into the entertainment business by writing several ABC AFTERSCHOOL SPECIALS. As a co-creator of the popular Nickelodeon series: ARE YOU AFRAID OF THE DARK?, he produced all 91 episodes over 8 years. D.J. also wrote and directed the movie TOWER OF TERROR for ABC's WONDERFUL WORLD OF DISNEY which starred Kirsten Dunst and Steve Guttenberg. The Showtime series CHRIS CROSS was co-created, written and produced by D.J. It received the CableAce award for Best Youth Series.

D.J. co-created and produced the Discovery Kids/NBC television series FLIGHT 29 DOWN. He wrote every episode and directed several. His work on FLIGHT 29 DOWN earned him the Writers Guild of America award for "Outstanding Children's Script" and a Directors Guild of America nomination.

Other notable writing credits include the ABC AFTERSCHOOL SPECIAL titled SEASONAL DIFFERENCES; the pilot of rate long-running PBS/CBS series GHOSTWRITER; and the HBO series ENCYCLOPEDIA BROWN, BOY DETECTIVE for which he received a CableAce nomination for writing.

In print, D.J. has co-written the book THE TALE OF HTE NIGHTLY NEIGHBORS, based on his own telly and penned the poetic adaptation of the classic Norwegian folk tale EAST OF THE SUN AND WEST OF THE MOON. His most current work is the spooky MORPHEUS ROAD trilogy; and a whimsical picture book THE MONSTER PRINCESS.

D.J. lives in Southern California with his wife Evangeline and daughter Keaton. They are avid backpackers, scuba divers and skiers. Rounding out the household are two elderly goldfish and a Kitten, Kaboodle.


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Friday, July 19, 2013

The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay

Title: The Sea of Tranquility
Author: Katja Millay
Publisher: Atria Books
Release Date: June 4, 2013
Source: ARC from Publisher
Buy the Book: Amazon / Book Depository
I live in a world without magic or miracles. A place where there are no clairvoyants or shapeshifters, no angels or superhuman boys to save you. A place where people die and music disintegrates and things suck. I am pressed so hard against the earth by the weight of reality that some days I wonder how I am still able to life my feet to walk.

Former piano prodigy Nastya Kashnikov wants two things: to get through high school without anyone learning about her past and to make the boy who took everything from her--her identity, her spirit, her will to live--pay.

Josh Bennett's story is no secret: every person he loves has been taken from his life until, at seventeen years old, there is no one left. Now all he wants is to be left alone and people allow it because when your name is synonymous with death, everyone tends to give you your space.

Everyone except Nastya, the mysterious new girl at school who starts showing up and won't go away until she's insinuated herself into every aspect of his life. But the more he gets to know her, the more of an enigma she becomes. As their relationship intensifies and the unanswered questions begin to pile up, he starts to wonder if he will ever lean the secrets she's been hiding--or if he even wants to.

The Sea of Tranquility is a rich, intense, and brilliantly imagined story about a lonely boy, an emotionally fragile girl, and the miracle of second chances.

Katja Millay's The Sea of Tranquility had been on my radar for quite some time before I was offered a copy for review. And after all the amazing things I had heard about the book, I was a little apprehensive when I first started reading. But it didn't take long before I found myself unable to turn the pages fast enough and getting dragged into the story.

At her new school, Nastya doesn't want anyone to know about what happened to her in the past, much less who she really is. And her solution? Dressing so provocatively that no one will dare approach her. And if they do, they'll be quick to realize that she doesn't speak. People stay away from Josh Bennett for a completely different story. Everyone knows that every person he has ever loved has been taken away from his life. The only person who doesn't seem able to stay away from him is Nastya, even when she finds out what has happened to Josh's family. And as much as he tries to stay away from everyone to prevent getting hurt, Josh can't seem to resist Nastya's pull. But Nastya has a secret she isn't ready to share with anyone. Except not being able to share her secret may be what hurts Nastya the most.

Anyone who knows me knows I love myself a good contemporary story, and I will love it even more if the characters in that story are damaged. So basically, The Sea of Tranquility of the perfect story for me…though it did take me a while to clue in to that. Because here's the thing, Katja Millay wrote a beautiful story that deserves your whole attention. But when I first started reading The Sea of Tranquility, I had so many other things going on that I could only read a few pages at a time. This resulted in me getting a little frustrated because I just couldn't seem to get in the story. But when it finally clicked? I just couldn't turn the pages fast enough. All I needed was some time where I could actually sit down and read more than 3 pages. And from that point on I just got sucked into the story. I wanted to know if Nastya would open to Josh, if she was going to come clean about what happened to her. And I wanted to know if Josh would finally let someone in after everything he's lost in the past. But more than that, it was also a great love story. Who knew that there could be something so romantic about two people walking down the lumber aisle at Home Depot? But beyond the romantic virtues of Home Depot, what made this story so fantastic and what made me fall in love with it were Josh and Nastya.

Josh and Nastya are both broken in so many ways. Josh has lost everyone who's ever mattered to him. His mother and sister died when he was young, quickly followed by his father and ultimately his grandparents, leaving him completely alone. So to protect himself, Josh cuts himself off from everyone…except Drew, but I'll get to that in a moment. But while reading, I couldn't help but root for Josh. I wanted nothing more than for him to finally be happy and not have that happiness taken away from him like it had been so many times in the past. And I absolutely loved seeing him work through everything, come to terms with the past and realize that he deserved so much more than he gave himself credit for. And Nastya was the same way. She was so harsh with herself, thinking that she didn't deserve to have anyone care about her, much less love her. But like Josh, she deserved so much more than she gave herself credit for. And seeing the two of them together, helping each other and ultimately help the other realize exactly who they are and what they are worthy of so much. And as much as I loved Josh and Nastya, Drew is the one who truly stole the show. I didn't make much of Drew at first, if anything he even annoyed me. But the more I got to know Drew the more I realized he was so much more than he let on. Any time he came Nastya's defence, my heart melted just a little. Because as it turned out, Drew was probably one of the most caring people in the book, willing to do just about anything for the people he cared about…even if wouldn't actually admit that to the world.

In case it wasn't clear from the gushing, I loved Katja Millay's The Sea of Tranquility. It was the kind of story that broke my heart so many times, but even when my heart was broken, I couldn't help but hope for the best. And the best happened. All that to say that if you are in the mood for an amazing love story, The Sea of Tranquility is the book for you.

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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Trailer Reveal: Frigid by J. Lynn

Today I have the pleasure of being part of the trailer reveal for J. Lynn's newest book, Frigid. If you haven't heard of the book before, be sure to check out the trailer and description below. 

Friendly piece of advice: you may want to watch the trailer someplace where someone can't walk behind and look over your shoulder...Frigid is new adult after all.

So without further ado, I give you the trailer for Frigid!

About the book:
For twenty-one-year-old Sydney, being in love with Kyler isn't anything new. They'd been best friends ever since he pushed her down on the playground and she made him eat a mud pie. Somewhere over the years, she fell for him and fell hard. The big problem with that? Kyler puts the "man" in man-whore. He's never stayed with a girl longer than a few nights, and with it being their last year in college, Syd doesn't want to rio their friendship by declaring her love.

Kyler has always put Syd on a pedestal that was too high for him to reach. To him, she's perfect and she's everything. But the feel ins he has for her, he's always hidden away or focused on any other female. After all, Kyler will always be the poor boy from the wrong side of the tracks, and Syd will always be the one girl he can never have.

But when they're stranded together at a posh ski resort due to a massive Nor'easter, there's nothing stopping their red-hot feel ins for each other from coming to the surface. Can their friendship survive the attraction? Better yet, can they survive at all? Because as the snow falls, someone is stalking them, and this ski trip may be a life-changer in more ways than one.

Buy the Book: Amazon / Barnes & Noble

About the author:
#1 NEW YORK TIMES and USA TODAY Bestselling author Jennifer lives in Martinsburg, West Virginia. All the rumors you've heard about her state aren't true. When she's not hard at work writing, she spends her time reading, working out, watching really bad zombie movies, pretending to write, and hanging out with her husband and Jack Russell Loki. Her dreams of becoming an author started in algebra class, where she spent most of her time writing short stories…which explains her dismal grades in math. Jennifer writes young adult paranormal, science fiction, fantasy, and contemporary romance. She is published with Spencer Hill Press, Entangled Teen and Brazen, Disney-Hyperion and Harlequin Teen. She also writes adult and New Adult romance under the name J. Lynn. She is published by Entangled Brazen and HarperCollins.

Be sure to also check out Jennifer's blog for a pretty sweet Frigid-themed giveaway!

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Saturday, July 13, 2013

Blog Tour: Belladonna by Fiona Paul - Guest Post

Today I have the immense pleasure of hosting author Fiona Paul as part of her Canadian blog tour for Belladonna. I absolutely loved Venom so I couldn't be more excited to be a part of this tour. Be sure to keep reading for your chance to see an exerpted scene from main character Cass's journey from Venice to Florence and to find out more about the book and the author.

Fiona: Happy Saturday! Today I'm starting with an exclusive excerpted scene taken from Cass's journey from Venice to Florence:

    They had broken down near a crossroads, but both streets were completely bare of traffic. Open meadows stretched around ten, with tree-covered hills off in the distance.
    Marco cursed. "And only an hour outside of Florence."
    The driver knelt beside the fallen axle. "We can't move on until the damage is repaired."
    Just then, Cass heard a howl from the trees. She turned toward the noise and saw a pack of wild dogs across the field—four of them in total, slinking around the periphery of the tall grass.
    "Marco," she said, her throat tightening. "Dogs."
    Marco turned. "They won't bother us, Signorina Cassandra," he said. "We're too many. Dogs are cowards."
    The largest dog lowered its haunches to the ground, and the others followed its lead. But Cass couldn't shake the feeling they were watching her.
    She stared back, not wanting to appear afraid, until the rhythmic drumming of hoofbeats drew her attention. A carriage was approaching from the direction of Florence. She watched the cloud of dust draw near, realizing it wasn't a carriage after all. It was an old wooden cart pulled by a short, squat horse. Two men in leather doublets were perched on the back of the cart, their boots dangling almost to the ground. Another man straddled the horse. When he spotted the disabled carriage, he slowed the horse to a walk and pulled up near the side of the road. Cass headed toward them to see if they could offer assistance. Too late, she realized what the cart was carrying.
    She stopped right in the middle of the road, hugging her arms around her waist. The scene brought her back to the night she had discovered Falco's secret. But these men weren't robbing graces. Apparently, they were going to dig them.
    The two men in leather doublets jumped off the back of the cart with their shovels and traipsed across the field. One of them pounded a wooden cross into the ground while the other began to dig. The third hovered close to the cart, glancing occasionally at the linen-wrapped bodies, as though he thought they might walk away.
    Cass wondered why they would be taken so far outside of the city to be buried. Curiosity outweighed her fear, and she started across the road again. Madalena followed her.
    "Be careful." The man—the driver—positioned himself between the girls and the cart.
    Cass glanced down at his hands. He wore a plain silver band around his thumb. "Are they…infected?" A ripple of fear moved through her. Luca's own father had contracted the plague from one of his servants. He had died in less than a week. 
    "Oh, they are infected all right," the man said. "With the Devil's own affliction."
    Cass struggled to understand his thick Florentine accent, but she was pretty sure she had heard him right. She leaned back from the bundle. With one hand, the man delicately parted the burial shrouds around the first body's face. The dead girl looked like her, with freckled skin and auburn hair.
    And she and a brick jammed into her mouth.
    "They are vampires," he said grimly.

Fiona: I picked this passage to highlight for four reasons:
1. It is creepy and awesome!
2. Seeding is important. Everything from the dogs to the girl with the brick in her mouth will become important again later, and it's more believable to readers if they see these things woven into the narrative, not just inserted for the first time where the plot demands them.
3. When it comes to travel, less is more. Editor's notes: Unless something relevant happens on the trip—as is the case here—best not to subject readers to endless descriptions of carriages, boats, seas, roads, mountains, hotels, etc. (Who, me?) Actually she said it nicer than that, but the meaning was clear :)
4. Never discount any random factoid you come across while researching, especially if you are writing a trilogy. A Paper Lantern intern discovered this cool article while putting together some information about Renaissance Venice: 
"Probably not useful," she said, "but interesting." This article became the basis for major plot point in Belladonna and that intern went on to become an editor and then leave to do even greater things. (She's currently a superhero). Thanks, B!

About the book:
Cassandra Caravello is trying to forget Falco, the wild artist who ran off with her heart, as she grows closer to her strong, steady fiancé, Luca. But Luca seems to have his own secrets. When he's arrested by soldiers in the middle of the night, Cass's life is once again thrown into chaos. She must save Luca, and that means finding the Book of the Eternal Rose--the only evidence that will prove he's innocent.

So begins her journey to Florence, a city haunted by whispers of vampirism, secret soirées and clandestine meetings of the Order of the Eternal Rose. And home to Falco, who is working for the Oder's eerily stunning leader, the Belladonna herself.

Can Cass trust her heart to lead her to the truth this time?

Nothing is as it seems in this seductive thriller, where the truth may be the deadliest poison of all.

About the author:
Fiona Paul is a writer and registered nurse from St. Louis, MO.

If you missed it yesterday, be sure to check Read My Breath Away for a deleted and annotated scene from Belladonna. And if you want more, be sure to check out Book Nerd Canada on Monday for a special interview! 

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Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Blog Tour: This Is W.A.R. - Guest Post

As part of the blog tour for their new novel This Is W.A.R., I have the pleasure of having writing duo Lisa and Laura Roecker here on the blog. Be sure to keep reading to find out why they write, more about the book, and your chance to win a copy!

Why we write

Growing up in the Roecker, girl-dominated house, there was never a lack of girl power encouragement. Our dad told us we could do anything we wanted to do and be anyone we wanted to be. He'd practice hand shakes--firm, eye-contact, confidence. Our mom didn't have a whole lot of patience for post-breakup snivelling. Buck up was the general theme. You don't need anyone.

So when we set out to write THIS IS WAR, we knew we wanted to integrate these themes into the story. When we were teenagers, our identities were constantly shifting and growing and changing. At times, it was so easy to lose ourselves in boys or popular people or powerful people. It was so hard to be strong. The WAR girls are faced with the same struggle, but in the wake of Willa's death, their battle is so much more urgent. Our hope is that girls can learn to stand up for what they believe in, to wage their own war when they need to. It might not be easy, but it's almost always worth it. Even if the outcome isn't exactly what you plan for.

About the book:
This is not a story of forgiveness…

The mystery of their best friend's murder drives four girls to destroy the Gregory family.

Everyone at Hawthorne Lake Country Club saw Will Ames-Rowan climb into a boat with James Gregory, the Club's heir apparent.

And everyone at Hawthorne Lake Country Club watched him return. Alone.

They all know he killed her. But none of them will say a word. The Gregory family is very, very good at making problems go away.

Enter the W.A.R.--the war to avenge Willa Ames-Rowan. Four girls. Four very different motives for justice and revenge, and only one rule: destroy the Gregory family at any cost.

About the authors:
Lisa and Laura Roecker are sisters-turned-writing partners with a passion for good books, pop culture, and Bravo programming. Not necessarily in that order. A prepubescent obsession with Lois Duncan and their mother's insistence that they read Men Are Just Desserts inspired This is WAR. The sisters live in Cleveland, Ohio, in separate residences. Their husbands wouldn't agree to a duple. Cyberstalking is always encouraged at lisa-laura.blogspot.com and @landlroecker on Twitter.


Does This is WAR sound like something you want to read? If it does, be sure to check out the giveaway below for your chance to win a copy of the book. Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below to enter. US & Canada ONLY.

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Thursday, July 4, 2013

When You Were Here by Daisy Whitney

Title: When You Were Here
Author: Daisy Whitney
Publisher: Little, Brown
Release Date: June 4, 2013
Source: ARC from Publisher
Buy the Book: Amazon / Book Depository
Filled with humor, raw emotion, a strong voice, and a brilliant dog named Sandy Koufax, When You Were Here explores the two most powerful forces known to man--death and love. Daisy Whitney brings her characters to life with a deft touch and resonating authenticity.

Danny's mother lost her five-year battle with cancer three weeks before his graduation--the one day that she was hanging on to see.

Now Danny is left alone, with only his memories, his dog, and his heart-breaking ex-girlfriend for company. He doesn't know how to figure out what to do with her estate, what to say for his Valedictorian speech, let alone how to live or be happy anymore.

When he gets a letter from his mom's property manager in Tokyo, where she had been going for treatment, it shows a side of his mother he never knew. So, with no other sense of direction, Danny travels to Tokyo to connect with his mother's memory and make sense of her final months, which seemed filled with more joy than Danny ever knew. There, among the cherry blossoms, temples, and crowds, and with the help of an almost-but-definitely-not Harajuku girl, he begins to see how it may not have been ancient magic or mystical treatment that kept his mother going. Perhaps, the secret of how to live lies in how she died. 

I simply loved Daisy Whitney's first two books and couldn't wait to read When You Were Here. Before reading it, I had heard nothing but amazing things about the book which made me a little apprehensive. But I really shouldn't have worried because Daisy Whitney couldn't' have disappointed me with this book even if she tried. 

For the last five years of his life, Danny has been helping his mom fight cancer, helping her hold on so that she could see him graduate from high school. But just weeks before the big event, his mother loses her fight. Now Danny isn't exactly sure how he is supposed to go on now. Being happy was something Danny's mom was the expert on, not him. And with Holland coming back into his life after breaking his heart a year earlier, Danny is at a loss. So when the opportunity to go to Tokyo comes up, Danny decides that if he can't find happiness at home, maybe he can find it on the other side of the world. 

As I've mentioned, I absolutely loved Daisy Whitney's first two books, The Mockingbirds and The Rivals, so I was very excited at the prospect of reading her new book. And When You Were Here completely blew me away. This story was both heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. I can't say that I related to losing a parent, but the way it was written, I felt the pain associated with that event any time Danny thought about his loss. But despite the sadness this brought to the story, there was a certain feeling of happiness flowing underneath it all until that feeling overpowered the sadness altogether. Because, ultimately, this story felt like it was more about how to find that happiness again when you don't think it's possible to do so. And I loved seeing that aspect of the story, whether it was Danny learning how to be happy despite being alone, or finding happiness and love again when you thought you never would. There was just something so incredibly touching about this story, to the point that I often found myself tearing up, and even smiling through my tears. And Daisy Whitney's writing has this addicting quality, making it so I just can't stop reading once I start. 

I'll admit that I wasn't entirely sure how I felt about Danny when I first started reading When You Were Here. He had some self-destructive tendencies and though I could understand why he was the way he was, I expected more of him. But the more I read, the more he grew on me. He gradually turned himself around and I loved seeing that transformation in him. I loved seeing Danny realize that he could do this on his own, that he could be happy and in love again despite all the pain and loss from the past. And I that had a lot to do with Kana. In a way, Kana stole the show for me. While I was reading, she just jumped off the page. The descriptions of Kana were to rich and detailed that I could easily picture her while I was reading. But beyond just being extremely real, she was just so alive and she transferred some of that to Danny. Their friendship was what friendships should be. Danny's relationship with Holland, I wasn't quite as sure about. But the more I read and the more I understood their history, I could see that Danny and Holland were supposed to be together. 

It shouldn't come as a surprise, but Daisy Whitney's When You Were Here did not disappoint. This story was at times heartbreaking, but it was also heartwarming, making me believe that happiness and love are two of the most important emotions. Don't stop yourself from reading When You Were Here because it deals with the loss of a parent, because it is about so much more than that. Plus it has an awesome dog.

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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Shadow of the Mark Blog Tour - Guest Post

Today I have the pleasure of taking part in the blog tour for Leigh Fallon's second book, Shadow of the Mark. As part of the blog tour, I have the honor of having author Leigh Fallon here on the blog to discuss the importance of setting in a story. And be sure to keep reading for your chance to enter a giveaway.

The importance of setting - why set your story where (and possibly when) you do.

For me, the setting of a story is as important as the story itself. I like my setting to be a character in my book. It has meaning, presence, and a bearing on the plot.

In the Carrier series, Ireland plays a role.  It is central to the story, where the lore began, it holds the magic deep in its core. The remnants of Danu’s great power still emanates from the echoed soils of old. It’s a living breathing, feeling thing. It takes no sides. It simply is.

The different character traits of the setting were imperative for tone and mood. Ireland’s weather is brooding. The cloud and rain are always present like a somber drape cloaking the rich and ancient landscape. But when the sun breaks through, the light brings warmth, hope, and sets off more shades of green than you can possibly imagine. It’s an amazing sight.  Then the wind that that constantly whips and the coastline, gouges out a rugged coastline, and sculpts the most unusual landscape is a constant reminder of the power of nature and how we are at its mercy.  Ireland is timeless. We humans are merely blips on its timeline, our impact on it, minimal.

Ireland’s scenery, weather, and history, created not only a beautiful backdrop, but also a complex and multilayered entity that would weave through each characters everyday life and eventually, become part of them.

I always use careful consideration when choosing a setting for a story. It can impact every aspect of a manuscript. It is not just a landscape in which to set a story, it is a platform providing emotion, conflict, mood, tone, conflict, and intrigue. Pick the right one and you can create a vivid world that people will connect with and immerse themselves in.

About the book:
Their love could destroy them all.

Through the ages, Marked Ones have harnessed the powers of the four elements: Water, Fire, Earth, and Air. Much about the elements is shrouded in mystery, but one thing is certain: A relationship between two Marked Ones has the potential to cause widespread devastation.

Megan and Adam—Air and Water—are determined to defy the risks.

But the power that swirls inside Megan is growing in twisted ways. And the closer she is to Adam, the closer Megan comes to unleashing a dark force that could spell destruction for the entire Marked line.

About the author:
Leigh Fallon was born in South Africa, raised in Dublin, Ireland and moved to Cork in her 20's. While living in beautiful Kinsale, her novel, The Carrier of the Mark was conceived. She promptly abandoned her 'riveting' career in corporate treasury and discovered Inkpop, a website for budding writers of teen fiction. Within weeks her manuscript hit the coveted top five spot and was reviewed by an editor at HarperCollins. A few emails and some hysterical screaming later, she signed her first deal. Leigh and her family now share their time between Ireland and the US.


Does Shadow of the Mark sound like something you want to read? Be sure to enter the giveaway below using the Rafflecopter form  for your chance to win one of three great prizes.

1st place: a signed copy of Shadow of the Mark and a boat load of goodies, including a silver bookmark. USA ONLY (see picture below)

2nd place: a $10 Book Depository gift card and some signed swag. INTERNATIONAL

3rd place: signed swag. INTERNATIONAL

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