Thursday, October 2, 2014

Review: Winterspell by Claire Legrand

Title: Winterspell
Author: Claire Legrand
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: 9.30.2014
Pages: 464
Genre: Young Adult, Retelling
Series: Winterspell #1
Source: ARC from publisher

Rating: 5 Stars

Summary (from Goodreads):
The clock chimes midnight, a curse breaks, and a girl meets a prince . . . but what follows is not all sweetness and sugarplums.

New York City, 1899. Clara Stole, the mayor's ever-proper daughter, leads a double life. Since her mother's murder, she has secretly trained in self-defense with the mysterious Drosselmeyer.

Then, on Christmas Eve, disaster strikes.

Her home is destroyed, her father abducted--by beings distinctly 
nothuman. To find him, Clara journeys to the war-ravaged land of Cane. Her only companion is the dethroned prince Nicholas, bound by a wicked curse. If they're to survive, Clara has no choice but to trust him, but his haunted eyes burn with secrets--and a need she can't define. With the dangerous, seductive faery queen Anise hunting them, Clara soon realizes she won't leave Cane unscathed--if she leaves at all.

Inspired by 
The Nutcracker, Winterspell is a dark, timeless fairy tale about love and war, longing and loneliness, and a girl who must learn to live without fear.

I can't say I really remember the story of The Nutcracker. I have a vague memory of a few details, but this seems like a grown up, darker version of innocent childhood story.

To me this kind of has a Victorian steampunk quality to it. I love that sort of thing, with all the machines and building of things.  Yet, once you get to Cane it becomes more of a London slum mixed with high tech that contrasted to the people and places around them. I loved how that technology was view as bad and invasive and only a product of a mad and quite evil "queen".

Faeries. Oh how lovely, or horrible, they can be. They are slightly more malignant in this tale, with what seems like due cause but not quite to this extent. They have found a way to bind their magic with that of machines. They become cyborg like to better channel their powers and rule of this human land.

Clara goes on such an adventure that it makes your head spin. Literally. Through out the beginning of this book, I advise to read slow. In parts it is very detailed and kind of gets confusing, almost like you can't get a mental picture of what's going on.

Clara is one of those characters you can't help but admire. Her strong will and determination just have you routing for her and her quest to inadvertently find herself while trying to get her father back and save two worlds.

I loved how this story seemed innocent like a child's story but quickly gets a tad....gruesome maybe? Claire did an amazing job reinventing this story. I love almost anything that has faeries and this did it for me. It was exciting and suspenseful while a little heartbreaking but full of adventure and leaves you with an ending that is hopeful of more.

Buy WinterspellNow!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Follow Me Through This Takeover with Danielle Ellison

We interrupt this normally scheduled Banana-rambling for some fun shenanigans with Danielle Ellison, my friend and author of the upcoming book, FOLLOW ME THROUGH DARKNESS. So, without any further adieu, take it away, Danielle!

In exactly 21 days FOLLOW ME THROUGH DARKNESS releases.  This is a big deal for me, because this book has been such a huge part of my adult life. To celebrate my release, I am taking over fantastic book blogs twice a week to sharing stories and goodies!  I'm really honored that Hannah let me start with hers! 

Since this is the beginning of the takeover, I want to share my beginning with Neely (my MC) & FOLLOW ME THROUGH DARKNESS. Let me set the stage. 

In August 2010, and I lived in the Boston-area and worked as nanny and barista in the Borders cafe. At that time, I had written one book. It was my first attempt; I was almost done with revisions, and I would later learn that you are never "done" with revisions that easily. That book now lives in a closet, but I learned so much from writing number one. This is where all writers start: with a learning book.

Anyway I was working in the cafĂ©, and I was unloading the shipment that came in. I remember that I was off at three and the shipment came at 2:45. Right in the middle of a rush. I was in the back putting the food away because it was frozen, and I was frantic because I knew that my coworker was out there by herself. And I wanted to go home.  I looked up at the clock, and I heard this voice in my head that said "There's never enough time. It signals the end of everything." 

From that moment I was hooked.

When I clocked out I sat in the back room writing as more words came to my head. I wrote on napkins and paper towels and scrap pieces of the paper that were sitting around in the break room. That single line soon became a paragraph and later became what pages. My coworker Marianna came in to the room, and asked what I was doing. She was a writer as well, screenwriter, and I told her it was a story idea then I said, "Let me to read it to you." Her reaction to that scene I read and the questions she asked about it solidified my desire to figure out what the heck the story was about and write it. 

I would spend the next two years writing and rewriting that book before my friend came into the picture. A friend who said a simple sentence that completely change the structure of whole book for me -- and then I would spend more time rewriting it again. And again. The book would go through two titles and eight complete rewrites before it sold -- and then it would go through copious amounts of revisions before it was deemed finished. 

There would be a lot of disappointment along the way. A lot of doubt along the way. A lot of rejection. A lot of, "I love it! The writing is great! But…" from agents. A lot of watching other people get the thing that I dreamed of. But then one day, it would be my day. It would be Neely's day to share her story. 

That happens in 21 days. 

Why am I telling you all this? 

Because every book has a story behind the story. Every person who gets where they want to be goes through a journey. 

I'm sure there are people reading this who feel some of the things I said above -- it's part of the process, part of getting to the goal you want, whatever it is.  Even though I started "trying" to write a book for real in 2009, there's a whole journey to get to that point. I won't recap all of that, but I do want to talk about my journey with FOLLOW ME THROUGH DARKNESS and Neely and countdown the days until you get to experience her journey. 

This whole post was my first experience with her. It was the beginning, at least for me, of realizing why I wanted to write books, how hard and rewarding it could be, and what a story could mean to its author, to its readers, and hopefully to you in 21 days. 

This is the beginning to a story that ends in a celebration! 

To join in the celebration, please do one (or all) of these things:


PreOrder A Copy: Amazon | B&N | Your Local Indie | One More Page

Giveaway: Leave a comment here with your email or twitter handle to be entered to win an ARC of STITCHING SNOW by R.C. Lewis.  US only -- and it ends on October 2 at 11:59 PM EST

*tweet about the book (& check out giveaways and other posts) at #followmeSHP 

The truth won't always set you free.

Less than a year ago, Neely Ambrose’s biggest worry was having the freedom to follow a path that wasn't chosen for her.

Less than a year ago, she believed she could trust the Elders who said they had everyone’s best interest at heart and who said they were keeping them safe from the outside.

Sixty days ago, she discovered what they had planned for everyone she loved—and that all of it centered around her.
Now she’s on the run through a dangerous wasteland full of killing machines, secret organizations, and people who want to sell her back to the Elders for their own safety. The whole world outside the Compound is living proof that everything in Neely’s life was a lie manufactured by the Elders, which may even include the boy she loves.

All Neely wants is the truth, but each new piece of it drives her further from what she thought she knew. With only forty days until everyone she loves falls under the Elders’ mind control, Neely must decipher who to trust, what questions to ask, and how to get one step ahead of the Elders, who will do anything to keep their secrets buried.

About Danielle Ellison:
Danielle Ellison spent of her childhood reading instead of learning math. It's probably the reason she can't divide without a calculator and has spent her life seeking the next adventure. It's also probably the reason she's had so many different zip codes and jobs.

When she’s not writing, Danielle is usually drinking coffee, fighting her nomadic urges, watching too much TV, or dreaming of the day when she can be British. Danielle is also the author of SALT and STORM, a series about a snarky witch without magic. She has settled in Northern Virginia, for now, but you can always find her on twitter @DanielleEWrites. 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Review: Stay With Me by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Title: Stay With Me
Author: Jennifer L. Armentrout
Publisher: Willam Morrow
Publication Date: 9.23.2014
Pages: 448
Genre: New Adult, Romance, Contemporary
Series: Wait For You #3
Source: Purchased finished copy

Rating: 4 Stars

Summary (from Goodreads):
At 21, Calla hasn’t done a lot of things. She’s never been kissed, never seen the ocean, never gone to an amusement park. But growing up, she witnessed some things no child ever should. She still carries the physical and emotional scars of living with a strung-out mother, Mona—secrets she keeps from everyone, including her close circle of college friends.

But the safe cocoon Calla has carefully built is shattered when she discovers her mom has stolen her college money and run up a huge credit card debt in her name. Now, Calla has to go back to the small town she thought she'd left behind and clean up her mom’s mess again. Of course, when she arrives at her mother’s bar, Mona is nowhere to be found. Instead, six feet of hotness named Jackson James is pouring drinks and keeping the place humming.

Sexy and intense, Jax is in Calla’s business from the moment they meet, giving her a job and helping her search for Mona. And the way he looks at her makes it clear he wants to get horizontal . . . and maybe something more. Before Calla can let him get close, though, she’s got to deal with the pain of the past—and some very bad guys out to mess her up if she doesn’t give them her mom.

Well, she did it again.

No, not Britney. Jennifer. As in Armentrout. As in Holy Sweet Baby Tortoises On A Leash here we go again, gang. Because ... Whoa.

Can I just have a minute to recognize the awesomeness that is my boy, Jax? Talk about hot alpha male with all sorts of protective instincts (and did I mention military background?). He is 6 feet 3 inches of tall, dark, and yummy in a pretty book boyfriend binding.

Try saying that 10 times fast.

Watching him pull Calla out of her shell - oh, yeah, there's another character in this book besides Jax - was so adorably sweet and hot. Calla is, in a lot of ways, a very sheltered girl. She might've lived on the block, but she hasn't walked around it very much. Despite her rocky upbringing, she's trying her best but is seriously naive. At times frustratingly so, but then there's Jax. And Jax is awesome.

Have I mentioned I might have a thing for Jax?

Right. The book.

This book has so much going for it - thrills, danger, comedy (hello, Katie!), love, smexy times, and every single possible thing I've left out. This is a book anyone and everyone can and will enjoy.

Armentrout is easily one of the most versatile authors of her generation. Her ability to seamlessly transition between genres and series has understandably lent her a rabid fanbase (including me) that will happily, willingly, gleefully devour every single word she writes.
Buy: Amazon

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Review: Poisoned Apples by Christine Heppermann

Title: Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty
Author: Christine Heppermann
Publisher: Greenwillow
Publication Date: 9.23.2014
Pages: 128
Genre: Young Adult, Fairy Tale, Poetry
Series: N/A
Source: ARC from ALA

Rating: 5 Stars

Summary (from Goodreads):
Every little girl goes through her princess phase, whether she wants to be Snow White or Cinderella, Belle or Ariel. But then we grow up. And life is not a fairy tale.

Christine Heppermann's collection of fifty poems puts the ideals of fairy tales right beside the life of the modern teenage girl. With piercing truths reminiscent of Laurie Halse Anderson and Ellen Hopkins, this is a powerful and provocative book for every young woman. E. Lockhart, author of We Were Liars, calls it "a bloody poetic attack on the beauty myth that's caustic, funny, and heartbreaking."

Cruelties come not just from wicked stepmothers, but also from ourselves. There are expectations, pressures, judgment, and criticism. Self-doubt and self-confidence. But there are also friends, and sisters, and a whole hell of a lot of power there for the taking. In fifty poems, Christine Heppermann confronts society head on. Using fairy tale characters and tropes, Poisoned Apples explores how girls are taught to think about themselves, their bodies, and their friends. The poems range from contemporary retellings to first-person accounts set within the original tales, and from deadly funny to deadly serious. Complemented throughout with black-and-white photographs from up-and-coming artists, this is a stunning and sophisticated book to be treasured, shared, and paged through again and again.

Little known fact? I love poetry. Better known fact? I don’t like books written entirely in verse.

But that’s exactly why POISONED APPLES worked for me – it is a book of poetry, not a singular story told all in verse. In this book, Christine Heppermann brilliantly and bitingly delivers knock-out combinations of words that haunt and freeze the reader.

Poetry is a beautiful art form, and Heppermann is a master. I’ve always been a fan of fairy tales, but suddenly this is the adult version of a fairy tale. It’s not all ball gowns and magic and happily ever after. Poisoned Apples is what happens every day – where the line between fantasy and stark reality is blurred together.

The verse in this book is dramatically enhanced by black and white photos that look pretty from far away, but upon further examination are disturbing and dark. It lends a gritty realism to the poems, bringing them to life in a way that enhances ever single word.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Baltimore Book Festival 2014

As a lot of you may know, I have been working some hellish hours at work lately (a necessary evil for now), so my posting and tweeting has been sporadic at best. What is keeping me going is knowing that the Baltimore Book Festival is right around the corner.


Baltimore Book Festival is an annual event but this year it has switched locations and will now be in the Inner Harbor. I am so psyched for this change in venues!

The BBF is a 3 day event from Sept. 26-28, 2014 (Fri-Sun). It brings in a ton of amazing authors like:

Jennifer L. Armentrout
Wendy Higgins
Cora Carmack
Laura Kaye
Lea Nolan
Diana Peterfreund
Marissa Meyer
Em Garner
M.D. Waters
Kami Garcia
Cheryl Klam 

And those are just the ones I can remember off the top of my head! Also, the amazing Maryland Romance Writers have asked several bloggers (including me!) to be on another blogger panel. I will be joined by my amazing fellow YADC bloggers Jen from Jenuine Cupcakes, Andye from Reading Teen, and Steph from Cuddlebuggery in addition to Jillian from Read-Love-Blog and Kim from SOS Aloha Blog

Make sure you swing by our panel (5 pm on Saturday) because there will be some massive giveaways. We've snagged donations from Harlequin Teen, Harper Teen, Bloomsbury, Fierce Reads, Simon Teen, Spencer Hill Press, Tor Teen, Atria, Berkley/NAL, William Morrow/Avon, Scholastic, Disney-Hyperion, and Little Brown! Seriously, there will be some amazing giveaways during our panel and throughout the festival. If that's enough to convince you, I hear a certain blogger always comes with cupcakes to share.

And they might be worthy of inciting a drug-fueled dance montage with police presence. 

See? If you were at last year's festival, you'd totally know what I meant. 

So, will I see you there?

Check out the website for the full schedule:

Friday, September 19, 2014

ARC Essentials: HarperTeen

Since I started ARC Essentials a few months ago, this has been, by far, the most requested publisher to get an interview with. So, here it is. I had a chance to talk with Stephanie and Booki, two amazing publicists at HarperCollins about ARCs and their work with bloggers.

1. What should I include when asking for a review copy (Page view stats? Follower count? All social media accounts)? First and foremost, we absolutely love hearing why you’re so excited about this particular book! Chances are, we are too and we can geek out about it together. Aside from that, it’s great to see a link to your blog and social media pages at the bottom of the email, as well as your most recent stats if you have them handy. That way, we can get a sense for your personal reading taste and blogging style!

2. How long should I be blogging before I ask for a review copy?
We don’t have an experience requirement for bloggers. If you love the sound of a book, it never hurts to ask us for a copy!

3. Who should I contact about receiving review copies?
We have a digital publicist who serves as the main point of contact for bloggers and will be able to help with any galley requests. We also offer many titles on Edelweiss, so you can request digital review copies there as well.  

4. Should I email an author about obtaining a review copy and have them forward my request onto their publicist? Also, if I want to interview an author or ask them to write a guest post for my blog, is it best to contact the author directly? It’s better to contact our digital publicist directly with any review copy requests. Same goes for interviews and guest posts. Authors get a LOT of emails every day, and we want to make sure you don’t slip through the cracks!

5. Do you expect me to review books I never requested, such as an ARC or finished copy I was sent but never asked for? No! We love seeing coverage for our books, but you should never feel obligated to read something you’re not interested in. Take a quick look and if it’s not for you, don’t worry about it.

6. When is the best time to post a review?
Typically, within 1-2 weeks of the on-sale date. It’s best if reviews are posted as close as possible to the date the book is released so that your readers can get excited and go get ahold of the book right away!

7. Where can I send in review links?
Reviews can be sent to the same digital publicity contact that handles galley requests. If at all possible, we prefer to receive reviews and requests in separate emails. That way, we can easily keep everything organized!

8. Do you want to see all reviews I’ve done—positive and negative? We do! We want to hear all of your thoughts, no matter which way they lean. It’s also very helpful if you include a rating or impression of your review within the email next to your review link.

9. Am I more likely to get approved if I request an eARC of a book instead of a physical copy? Not necessarily, but we do have a limited supply of physical copies, so those always tend to go faster.

10. When is the best time to request a book or be asked to be put on a list to receive a review copy? The best time to request is 4-5 months in advance of the on-sale date. Of course, whether we’ll be able to send you one depends on supply, but we’ll try our absolute best!

11. Do you have a catalog available that lists all your upcoming books?
We don’t have a physical catalogue, but you can find our digital catalogue on Edelweiss here ( where you can see all of our exciting new titles!

12. Anything else you would like to add that you think bloggers should/need to know?
We absolutely love book bloggers! Building a strong reading community with you all is one of the best parts about our job and we really do appreciate the work you put into promoting our books. Your enthusiasm and passion is incredible and we look forward to continuing to work with you!

*Because the digital publicist job changes hands occasionally, they did not include the current email address for their digital publicist. Comment below if you would like her email address*


Stephanie and Booki are letting me host an EpicReads themed giveaway to go along with this post. Here's the thing ... it's a mystery. They will ship you a package of HarperTeen titles - might be ARCs, might be finished copies, could be a little of both. 
*Winner must be over 13 & have a US/Canada mailing address*

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Blog Tour & Review: The Vault of Dreamers by Caragh O'Brien

Title: Vault of Dreamers
Author: Caragh O’Brien
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Publication Date: 9.16.2014
Pages: 420
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Series: Vault of Dreamers #1
Source: ARC from publisher

Rating: 4 Stars

Summary (from Goodreads):
From the author of the Birthmarked trilogy comes a fast-paced, psychologically thrilling novel about what happens when your dreams are not your own.
The Forge School is the most prestigious arts school in the country. The secret to its success:  every moment of the students' lives is televised as part of the insanely popular Forge Show, and the students' schedule includes twelve hours of induced sleep meant to enhance creativity. But when first year student Rosie Sinclair skips her sleeping pill, she discovers there is something off about Forge. In fact, she suspects that there are sinister things going on deep below the reaches of the cameras in the school. What's worse is, she starts to notice that the edges of her consciousness do not feel quite right. And soon, she unearths the ghastly secret that the Forge School is hiding—and what it truly means to dream there.

A secret school with seriously gifted teens and an underlying cause/mystery? Um, yes, please. Sign me up to be all over that. Caragh O’Brien had a brilliant mind and I was so excited to start this story. We hit a few rough spots, but for the most part, I enjoyed this.

Rosie is a tough character to nail down. Sometimes I really liked her. Other times she irritated me with her inability to make rational decisions. But I guess that’s O’Brien making her a normal teenager, huh? Her romance with Linus amused and entertained me.

VAULT OF DREAMERS seems to be a very polarizing book – people are loving or hating it. There is no real middle ground. Here’s the thing, yes, I figured out the plot twist early on and there was no real HOLY SHIZZ moment, but I was OK with that. O’Brien writes in a fun, enchanting way that I was able to enjoy. It’s worth checking out.
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