Friday, November 20, 2015

Review: The Lies About Truth by Courtney C. Stevens

Title: The Lies About Truth
Author: Courtney C. Stevens
Publication Date: 11.3.2015
Series: N/A
Source:  ARC from publisher

Rating: 4 ½ Stars

Summary (from Goodreads):
Sadie Kingston, is a girl living in the aftermath. A year after surviving a car accident that killed her friend Trent and left her body and face scarred, she can’t move forward. The only person who seems to understand her is Trent’s brother, Max.

As Sadie begins to fall for Max, she's unsure if she is truly healed enough to be with him — even if Max is able to look at her scars and not shy away. But when the truth about the accident and subsequent events comes to light, Sadie has to decide if she can embrace the future or if she'll always be trapped in the past.

Courtney Stevens is an author who is going on my auto-buy list. Her books blow my away with their raw emotion and original characters. THE LIES ABOUT TRUTH is her sophomore book and is absolutely beautiful to read.

It was heartbreaking to see the aftermath of an accident that involved 5 friends where only 4 walked away from it. Stevens does a great job showcasing the emotional upheaval of such a tragedy while offering a glimmer of hope that these characters, told by Sadie's perspective, will be OK at the end.

I love Sadie. She was a tad rambly at time, but it was easy to slide into her head and understand what was driving her. I loved that her parents were so supportive and her relationship with Max.

The only downside was this book could have been 50 pages shorter and wrapped up a little more quickly, but other than that, this is a poignant and tumultuous story of loss, love and redemption.

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Thursday, November 19, 2015

Blog Tour: The Imposter Queen


Name: Raimo

Title: Medicine man
Resides: In the outlands
Characteristics: White hair, scraggly beard, scrawny but surprisingly spry. Likely to insult you.
Magic: Fire and Ice, balanced.
Goal: Wouldn’t you like to know?
Quote: I’d say all of this proves I’m brilliant.

Name: Kauko
Title: Elder, temple physician
Resides: Temple on the rock
Characteristics: Brown eyes, shaven head, strong hands. A patient teacher. 
Magic: Fire and Ice, balanced.
Goal: To maintain the power and lineage of the Valtia
Quote: We never know how magic chooses its wielder. We only know it chooses wisely.

Name: Aleksi
Title: Elder
Resides: Temple on the rock
Characteristics: Brown eyes, shaven head, distinctly soft and round. Adept at sensing magic in a wielder.
Magic: Fire and Ice, balanced.
Goal: To protect the priesthood and its mission
Quote: We have no time. What we do have is an obstinate girl too absorbed in her own feelings and desires to wield the magic we need to survive.

Book Summary:
Publication Date: January 5th, 2015
The elders chose Elli to be queen, but they chose wrong in this beautifully crafted novel in the tradition of Kristin Cashore and Victoria Aveyard.

Sixteen-year-old Elli was a small child when the Elders of Kupari chose her to succeed the Valtia, the queen who wields infinitely powerful ice and fire magic. Since then, Elli has lived in the temple, surrounded by luxury and tutored by priests, as she prepares for the day when the Valtia perishes and the magic finds a new home in her. Elli is destined to be the most powerful Valtia to ever rule.

But when the queen dies defending the kingdom from invading warriors, the magic doesn’t enter Elli. It’s nowhere to be found.

Disgraced, Elli flees to the outlands, the home of banished criminals—some who would love to see the temple burn with all its priests inside. As she finds her footing in this new world, Elli uncovers devastating new information about the Kupari magic, those who wield it, and the prophecy that foretold her destiny. Torn between the love she has for her people and her growing loyalty to the banished, Elli struggles to understand the true role she was meant to play. But as war looms, she must align with the right side—before the kingdom and its magic are completely destroyed.

Buy Links:
Barnes & Noble | Amazon | Book Depository | IndieBound | Goodreads

Author Bio:
Twitter | Facebook | Tumblr | Goodreads
Sarah Fine is the author of Of Metal and Wishes, Of Dreams and Rust, The Imposter Queen, and The Guards of the Shadowlands series. She was born on the West Coast, raised in the Midwest, and is now firmly entrenched on the East Coast, where she lives with her husband and two children. When she’s not writing, she’s working as a child psychologist. Visit her at

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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Review: Dangerous Lies by Becca Fitzpatrick

Title: Dangerous Lies
Author: Becca Fitzpatrick
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: 11.10.2015
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Thriller, Romance
Series: N/A
Source:  ARC from publisher

Rating: 3 Stars

Summary (from Goodreads):
A teen is forced to make a fresh start after witnessing a violent crime—but love and danger find her anyway in this novel from Becca Fitzpatrick, theNew York Times bestselling author of the Hush, Hush saga.

Stella Gordon is not her real name. Thunder Basin, Nebraska, is not her real home. This is not her real life.

After witnessing a lethal crime, Stella Gordon is sent to the middle of nowhere for her own safety before she testifies against the man she saw kill her mother’s drug dealer.

But Stella was about to start her senior year with the boyfriend she loves. How can she be pulled away from the only life she knows and expected to start a new one in Nebraska? Stella chafes at her protection and is rude to everyone she meets. She’s not planning on staying long, so why be friendly? Then she meets Chet Falconer and it becomes harder to keep her guard up, even as her guilt about having to lie to him grows.

As Stella starts to feel safer, the real threat to her life increases—because her enemies are actually closer than she thinks…


I feel like I spend the majority of time reading Becca Fitzpatrick's books and wanting to love them instead of actually loving them. But I must admit, DANGEROUS LIES is probably my favorite book she's written. Even if I nearly DNF'd because of 1 sentence.

Stella took awhile for me to get used to - she's a bit abrasive and happy to blame everyone for her problems in life. She's a bitch - she just is. While she does grow as a character throughout the book, it's that initial first 1/3 of the book that took a some muscling through. And then, when I thought she turned a corner, she thought one scathing remark (about if the pregnant teen mom ever wished her baby would die) that nearly set me off.

OK, it did set me off.

And I almost DNF'd the book. I put it down for several days but ultimately went back to it. I finished it and while I fell in love with Chet, all the over dramatic, soap-opera worthy plot twists mostly made me roll my eyes.

Fitzpatrick seems like a sweet, genuine author. But I'm starting to think her books just aren't for me.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Blog Tour: Design the Life You Love by Ayse Birsel

I'm a planner. An organizer. A compulsive, neurotic person who loves to map out the daily details of life in a physical way. So when I was approached about DESIGN THE LIFE YOU LOVE, I was all over that because it's a planner + adult coloring book + journal.

Take a look at a sample of the work in here:

DTLYL is geared toward helping you manage your life or a certain aspect of your life (like, blogging?).

A joyful, inspirational guide to building the life you've always dreamed of, using the principles and creative process of an award-winning product designer.
Life, just like a design problem, is full of constraints-time, money, age, location, and circumstances. You can’t have everything, so you have to be creative to make what you want and what you need co-exist. Design the Life You Love is a joyful, inspirational guide to building the life you’ve always wanted, using the principles and creative process of an award-winning product designer. Through four steps that reveal hidden skills and wisdom, 
anyone can design a life they love!

LINKS: Goodreads | Amazon | Facebook

Giveaway: 2 Finished Copies of DESIGN THE LIFE YOU LOVE (US Only)

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Adult Coloring Book: I Love My Hair by Andrea Pippins

So, here's a little secret: I never stopped coloring. I started when I was about two years old. Admittedly back then I wasn't very good. My coloring was more abstract than anything; a mash of colors bleeding together. I viewed lines of the page as guidelines but not rules - I embraced my inner Picasso and defied convention by coloring however I saw fit.

Yes, I was a rather artistic at age 2. 

There's always been something soothing and comforting about holding something in your hand that brings a piece of paper to life - be it a pen, a crayon, a colored pencil or a marker. 

What I love about I LOVE MY HAIR is that it allows me to be creative while offering me some relaxation and stress relief during my most chaotic days. The drawings are amazingly detailed and fun. 

For fans of Johanna Basford’s Secret Garden and Enchanted Forest comes a hip, gorgeous doodle coloring book about all things hair. Unlike other adult coloring books, which depict nature scenes and cityscapes, this title celebrates strong, confident women with a passion for style, design, and fashion.
Revel in the mesmerizing patterns and intricate details of Andrea Pippins’s delicate pen-and-ink illustrations, ready for you to color, complete, and embellish. Lose yourself in page after page of bold hairstyles and accessories, from rows of braids, to Mohawks, to sweeping updos, to cascades of ribbons and beads. Be transported to another world as you ink in Medusa’s slithering coiffure, Cleopatra’s elaborate headdress, and Marie Antoinette’s towering bouffant.
Perfect for experienced color-inners and newcomers alike. Coloring enthusiasts of all ages will love this empowering and stylish book. So go ahead—let your hair down, grab some pens or pencils, and add some color to your life.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Blog Tour, Review & Giveaway: HELLO? by Liza Wiemer

I am so beyond excited to be launching the HELLO? blog tour. HELLO? is a beautiful YA debut from one of my dearest friends, Liza Wiemer.

Title: Hello?
Author: Liza Wiemer
Publisher: Spencer Hill Contemporary
Publication Date: 10.15.2015
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Series: N/A

Rating: 5 Stars

Summary (from Goodreads):
Late one night, in a moment of deep grief, Tricia places a call to her deceased grandmother’s old phone number. She expects the disconnect notice, but is thrown when another teen— also up late and coping with his own frustrations—answers. It’s Emerson, and though they're perfect strangers, Tricia senses an unexplainable, deeper connection between them. 

When his phone rings, Emerson expects it to be his sometimes-overbearing girlfriend Angie, but instead ends up transfixed by Tricia’s tenderness and heartache. The two make a pact, thus setting the events of HELLO? in motion.

HELLO? is the story of five small town Wisconsin teens: Tricia, who has lost her family and is trying to find her way; her over-protective boyfriend Brian, a potter; the perfectionist Emerson; his girlfriend, the insecure and unpredictable Angie; and her tough best friend Brenda, an aspiring actress and screenwriter.

Told from all five viewpoints: narration (Tricia), narration (Emerson), free verse poetry (Angie), screenplay format (Brenda), narration and drawings (Brian), HELLO? offers a textured account of five lives and weaves together the stories of these teens into a compelling narrative of serendipity and a whole that is much greater than the sum of its parts.

From the very first page, Liza Wiemer draws the reader into HELLO? with her beautiful and sophisticated way of storytelling. Some authors have to try or build up to establishing a teenager voice, but Wiemer does it on page one and for 5 different teens in 5 different ways. It's rare that you can tell from the very beginning how special a book is - but HELLO? nails it.

Reminiscent of the Academy Award winning movie Crash, HELLO? is told in the perspective of 5 teens who lives wind up intersecting and tangling together in a way that can only be described as jaw-droppingly brilliant. 

I know what you're saying - Hannah, aren't you a little biased because she's your friend?

No. Not at all. I will sadly admit that I probably wouldn't have picked up this book if Liza hadn't been my friend and I would have been missing out on an incredible book. 

HELLO? is a special book because of the unique way it is told. From prose to verse to screen play format to visual art, Wiemer excels at each medium, layering the story in a way that makes it unique, captivating, and timeless.

Don't miss this book.

About Liza Wiemer:
I am the author of two non-fiction adult books, short stories, and newspaper and magazine articles. A pre-school to high school educator now writing YA fiction full time, which I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE! And I'm a diehard Green Bay Packers fan.

For my author posts on writing and my upcoming YA novel HELLO?:
Unique "job" experiences: I spent a summer selling popcorn in a Koepsell's popcorn wagon while listening to awesome music on the Summerfest grounds in Milwaukee. I also know my way around a fender and a quarter panel and under the hood of a car. I spent a few years driving to accident scenes, scrapyards, hospitals, auto repair shops as a claims adjuster for an insurance company. 

Links: Website | Twitter | Blog

Tour Schedule:
Week 1:

Week 2:

Week 3:

$25 Amazon Gift Card (Int) and 3 annotated copies of HELLO?

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Sunday, November 8, 2015

Blog Tour: Breath to Breath by Craig Lew

Welcome to the beginning of the BREATH TO BREATH Tour! Welcome Craig Lew to the blog as her talks about his writing process:

I develop my stories similar to the development process of a movie studio. My process has five major phases:

1)      Concept/Pitch
2)      Story Beats
3)      Character Reports
4)      Chapter Cards
5)      Write

If you start with a great concept, even a poorly written manuscript can be salvaged with strong editing. If you start with a weak concept, even a well-written manuscript will be found lacking. To ensure I have a great concept, I start with my pitch rather than creating one after I’ve finished a manuscript.

I spend a lot of time working out, then reworking the “tweet” version of my story. Yes, 120 characters, no spaces. I then expand this version to less than 90 words for pitch-ability.

The pitch or logline is the essence of the story. It’s THE concept. It answers the question “What am I trying to write?”

After I’ve worked out the story concept, I create a beat sheet. My beat sheet consists of the 15 major turning points of the story.

If the concept is the story’s soul, then the beat sheet is the story’s skeleton. Each beat is connected by change in the hero’s fortune, a cliff hanger, or a decision.

The beat sheet gives the story its structure. I gravitate to a standard three-act movie structure. It doesn’t mean I can’t go off on a tangent or experiment. It does mean I have a map of how to get back to my story if I get lost.

Breath to Breath is inspired by a true story, so there was a lot of research performed before the story development process began. My biggest obstacle was figuring out how to bring the horrific events suffered by young William forward in the timeline to occur when William was 17. The second obstacle was pulling the adult William’s wisdom and insight backward in time and in an appropriate way for a teen, and then shaping it to where he was just beginning to understand.

Once I’m satisfied with the structure, I define the characters.

Characters should have “7 Dwarves of Separation.” What I mean is that each character should be recognizable and different from each other on the page. Even if you took away their names, they would be recognizable by their voice, personality, quirks and motivations.

I generally define the hero first, then place characters around the hero that show off the heros spirit. Some have opposing beliefs, while other characters are overzealous in their similar beliefs. The heros choice to follow or oppose others gives the hero three dimensions.

The process is like modern dating. I create character reports akin to an eHarmony profile. The difference is, Im not concerned with how attractive they look. Im concerned with their character traits. The most important traits are their biggest dreams, their worst nightmares, their super powers and their flaws.

With Breath to Breath, the hero is based on a real person, so honoring him while allowing the fictional events to shape his character was a challenge. I spent a lot of time becoming friends with William before delving into the research phase. Building trust takes time, losing it takes only one misdirected sentence.

So at this point, I know what Im trying to write, I know the major turning points of the story and I know my characters very intimately. This next phase is where I fill in the details. 

I take 3 by 5 cards and lay them out into chapters. Screenwriters might call these scene cards. This exercise allows me to view my story in its entirety. I see where each character enters, where they exit and how they shape the hero’s journey. Each card can represent three scenes or, if Im writing in verse, one poem. The cards help me create subtle set ups that lead to long pay offs. I recommend numbering your cards, perchance you receive an uninvited guest. 

Once I have reviewed my chapter cards, made adjustments to characters, tested the story structure and compared these results with my original pitch, then I write.

I write until blue smoke rises from my keyboard and blood drips from my eyes. Every morning I wake up and mediate on the story, on the next scene, on the hero. I write at least ten pages a day but with Breath to Breath I discovered I could write seventy-five pages at one sitting but zero pages the next day. The issues in Breath to Breath were and are so dark, I had to give myself time to recover.

My writing isnt an intellectual exercise, its an emotional journey. I live my characters, I dream their decisions and I exalt in their victories and cry at their failures. If writing your story doesnt move you, then reading your story wont move your audience.

I often write a ninety-page screenplay and novelize from that. Its not a shooting script. Its for my eyes only. A shooting script should have cut aways and multiple Points of View creating the visuals that drive the story forward.

Breath to Breath was written in first person and only through Williams eyes. In the novel we are allowed to experience not only what he sees, but what he feels, smells and tastes. We can read his innermost thoughts. In a movie we can only watch or listen.
I have lots of help in my daily writing process. Tina, my partner in life, makes me double espressos throughout the morning, which help kick my mind into drive. Incense helps clean the air and clear my senses. Smittens, my cat, helps keep time with her tail, I call it her fuzzy metronome.  I must admit that yoga is also very helpful to fight any writer’s block you might encounter.

I hope you find something of value in my process. I wish you great success in your writer’s journey.

“To hear the poetry of your heart, you must silence your mind.” – Craig Lew

Uprooted from his home and sent to live with his estranged father, seventeen-year-old William's world is feeling tenuous at best. When he's unexpectedly dragged into a situation in which he has no choice but to help an abused four-year-old boy, William’s world is rocked to the core as he discovers the truth behind the mysterious young boy’s stories of extreme sexual abuse. He and this boy are connected in ways William can't even imagine and as horrible memories begin flood his consciousness, William’s rage drives him to steal a neighbor's guns, convinced he must kill those responsible for causing a boy so much pain and betrayal. How William finds the love and compassion he needs to make the right choices is the heart and pulse of this riveting verse novel. Inspired by a true story, BREATH TO BREATH explores what hurt and healing really mean: to survive you hold your breath, but to live you must exhale.

About Craig Lew:
Craig Lew’s storytelling career began even before he had learned to write. As a child, he used his father’s tape recorder to capture tales about strange planets and scary creatures. His favorite story openings at that time were, “Once upon a junk yard heap …” or “It was a dark and stormy night.”
A movie producer, director, award winning author, illustrator, and screenwriter, Craig still favors a Hitchcockian thriller over a broad teen comedy. Regardless of the genre, he believes the best stories involve a hero who is either seeking love or giving love. At heart he’s a big, mushy romantic.
Craig spends his days with his fiancé in a house on a hill with the corgi land seals Yobo and Zeekie, a three-footed Boston Terrier named Moogie, and Smittens, the kitten with the marshmallow mittens.
I strive to spread good karma. Artistically, I enjoy pushing the envelope because I believe this makes more room in the middle. I believe the keys to success are dreaming big, working hard, and being nice.
LINKS: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Tumblr

Tour Schedule:

2 Finished Copies of BREATH TO BREATH
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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Early Review: The Borden Murders by Sarah Miller

Title: The Borden Murders: Lizzie Borden and the Trial of the Century
Author: Sarah Miller
Publication Date: 01.12.2016
Series: N/A
Source:  ARC from publisher

Rating: 4 Stars

Summary (from Goodreads):
Here’s middle-grade nonfiction that reads like a thriller. With murder, court battles, and sensational newspaper headlines, the story of Lizzie Borden is compulsively readable and perfect for the Common Core.

Lizzie Borden took an axe, gave her mother forty whacks. When she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty-one.

In a compelling, linear narrative, Miller takes readers along as she investigates a brutal crime: the August 4, 1892, murders of wealthy and prominent Andrew and Abby Borden. The accused? Mild-mannered and highly respected Lizzie Borden, daughter of Andrew and stepdaughter of Abby. Most of what is known about Lizzie’s arrest and subsequent trial (and acquittal) comes from sensationalized newspaper reports; as Miller sorts fact from fiction, and as a legal battle gets under way, a gripping portrait of a woman and a town emerges. 

Oh, Lizzy. Lizzy, Lizzy, Lizzy. Such a troubled girl you are.

If you’re not familiar with the Lizzy Borden story (trial, history, scandal, whatever you want to call it) and want a disturbingly fun, fast read, then go grab THE BORDEN MURDERS. The story of Lizzy Borden sounds like fiction—a young woman hacks her parents to death with an axe? Especially in a time where murders were a rarity and most often perpetrated by men.

Lizzy Borden became a household name and her legend lives on in this book. It’s eerily fascinating to read it and Sarah Miller approaches the subject in such a factual but captivating way. You would think this book wouldn’t be geared towards Middle Grade readers, but it’s historical account of one of the most disturbing murders in US History is what makes it a great read for them.

As long as they don’t use Lizzy as a role model, that is.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Baby Banana Books #2

I am so, so excited to start this brand new feature on my blog where I will give you (the parents) quick reviews of children's picture books and board books. I love picture books - from the illustrations to the lessons to the smiles they put on faces. Here's hoping you and the children around you find some new favorites, too.

How to Behave At A Dog Show

by  (Goodreads Author)
Filled with cute illustrations, HOW TO BEHAVE AT A DOG SHOW is a books adults and children will both love. Julia and Charles try to enter their dog Rexie into a local dog show with disastrous and hilarious results. In the end, if you can't beat 'em, make your own competition and do it your way.

Bizzy Bear: Zookeeper

by  (Illustrations)
Publisher: Schwarz & Wade
Format: Finished copy from publisher
BIZZY BEAR ZOOKEEPER is a fun, interactive board book that you and your toddler will love exploring together. Rich with illustrations there is something to touch and move on every page which will fascinate young readers. Little ones will love helping Bizzy Bear out at the zoo.

Beep Beep, Go to Sleep

by  (Illustrator)
BEEP BEEP GO TO SLEEP is a sweet story of a little boy putting his robots to bed ... But they won't seem to stay in bed. (sound familiar parents?) Over the course of the book, the robots cause a little chaos and mischief until finally their boy gets them settled and they all go to sleep. Perhaps having a child who fights sleep might benefit from putting a few toys of their own through the bedtime process.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Review: What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler

Title: What We Saw
Author: Aaron Hartzler
Publication Date: 9.22.2015
Series: N/A
Source:  Finished copy from publisher
Rating: 5 Stars

Summary (from Goodreads):
Kate Weston can piece together most of the bash at John Doone’s house: shots with Stacey Stallard, Ben Cody taking her keys and getting her home early—the feeling that maybe he’s becoming more than just the guy she’s known since they were kids.

But when a picture of Stacey passed out over Deacon Mills’s shoulder appears online the next morning, Kate suspects she doesn’t have all the details. When Stacey levels charges against four of Kate’s classmates, the whole town erupts into controversy. Facts that can’t be ignored begin to surface, and every answer Kate finds leads back to the same question: Where was Ben when a terrible crime was committed?

This story—inspired by real events—from debut novelist Aaron Hartzler takes an unflinching look at silence as a form of complicity. It’s a book about the high stakes of speaking up, and the razor thin line between guilt and innocence that so often gets blurred, one hundred and forty characters at a time.

I’m still at a loss for how to review this book. Short of the massive amounts of twitter and email fangirling I’ve done about it, putting into words why this book is so special is agonizingly hard. WHAT WE SAW is not an easy book. This book gutted me in a way I can only ever remember one other book doing in my 3 decades of living and reading.

WHAT WE SAW is a book ripped from the headlines. You know the story. I know the story. But reading it this way, in Kate’s perspective versus seeing the 30 second news clips as you’re changing from a day at work/school is much different. You can’t shrug off the behavior as “boys will be boys” and it makes you question things.

What would you do? Would you do the right thing? How do you know what the right thing is?

Aaron Hartzler has a quiet grace throughout this book that is mesmerizing. Often with “issue books”, the voice of the author bleeds into the characters, almost directing (often time unintentionally) the readers’ thoughts to make specific conclusions. Hartzler doesn’t do this. He gently and tactfully presents the facts the way one would peel the layers of an onion.

And yes, each layer will make your eyes sting and your gut clench harder than the next.

This book is hard to get through. I had to walk away multiple times. It’s been 2 weeks and I’m in tears writing this review, remembering the way character’s betrayed me and feeling the impact of that. WHAT WE SAW will linger with you for a long time after you read it, and it should.

Hartzler will challenge you to think. He will leave you wondering “what if” until the wee hours of the morning. But this is one of those books where you have to feel that and remember that while books are fun and great and exciting, they can also be humbling and educational and warnings.

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