Dec 30, 2015

Review: Hearts in Darkness by Laura Kaye

Title: Hearts In Darkness
Author: Laura Kaye
Publication Date: 5.17.2013
Series: Hearts In Darkness #1
Source:  Gifted ebook from the awesome Krista

Rating: 4 ½ Stars

Summary (from Goodreads):
Two strangers…

Makenna James thinks her day can't get any worse, until she finds herself stranded in a pitch-black elevator with a complete stranger. Distracted by a phone call, the pin-striped accountant catches only a glimpse of a dragon tattoo on his hand before the lights go out.

Four hours…

Caden Grayson is amused when a harried redhead dashes into his elevator fumbling her bags and cell phone. His amusement turns to panic when the power fails. Despite his piercings, tats, and vicious scar, he's terrified of the dark and confined spaces. Now, he's trapped in his own worst nightmare.

One pitch-black elevator…

To fight fear, they must reach out and open up. With no preconceived notions based on looks to hold them back, they discover just how much they have in common. In the warming darkness, attraction grows and sparks fly, but will they feel the same when the lights come back on?

Bookish friends are the absolute best, am I right? I was texting with the wonderful Krista at Krista’s Dust Jacket, lamenting about the fact that I was suffering from a massive book hangover. Which lead to talking about what she was reading (Hearts in Light). She was raving about this book and I admitted I had never read HEARTS IN DARKNESS – which is a seriously stupid oversight on my part because I know and adore the author, Laura Kaye. Two seconds later an email flashes that Krista gifted me the book.

Of course I started it and devoured it immediately. This book was totally what I needed, so thanks, Krista (and Laura)!

HEARTS IN DARKNESS is a small-ish book, a smidge longer than your usual novella, but that just makes the fact that in 112 and pages Kaye makes me fall in love with and adore Caden and Makenna all the better. This book takes off with a bang and doesn’t quit.

The entire novel spans one night. Now, I can already hear the internal “insta-love” grousing, but hold on a second. I think it’s crucial to remember that Makenna and Caden spend hours trapped together in total darkness with nothing to do but talk to each other. So tally up all that and what does that time equal? Three or four dinner dates? Twelve phone calls? A thousand texts? There’s a beautiful intimacy in that the way their relationship begins and unfolds is because they have nothing to do but be with one another and learn about one another.

HEARTS IN DARKNESS is a freaking fantastic little powerhouse of a book. It’s a superfast read that you won’t want to quit. Thankfully, Krista just introduced me to this book (as I am now telling you about it) and you only have to wait a few days before the sequel, Hearts in Light, comes out.

In the meantime, HEARTS IN DARKNESS is available for your reading pleasure for less than $1. You're welcome.

Dec 28, 2015

Review: The Deal by Elle Kennedy

Title: The Deal
Author: Elle Kennedy
Publication Date: 2.24.2015
Series: Off-Campus #1
Source:  Purchased ebook

Rating: 5 Stars

Summary (from Goodreads):
She’s about to make a deal with the college bad boy... 

Hannah Wells has finally found someone who turns her on. But while she might be confident in every other area of her life, she’s carting around a full set of baggage when it comes to sex and seduction. If she wants to get her crush’s attention, she’ll have to step out of her comfort zone and make him take notice…even if it means tutoring the annoying, childish, cocky captain of the hockey team in exchange for a pretend date. 

...and it’s going to be oh so good. 

All Garrett Graham has ever wanted is to play professional hockey after graduation, but his plummeting GPA is threatening everything he’s worked so hard for. If helping a sarcastic brunette make another guy jealous will help him secure his position on the team, he’s all for it. But when one unexpected kiss leads to the wildest sex of both their lives, it doesn’t take long for Garrett to realize that pretend isn’t going to cut it. Now he just has to convince Hannah that the man she wants looks a lot like him.

Sweet holy mother of all that is hot and sweet and awesomesauce – how did I live without this book?! I was pulled in by the recommendation of a good friend (Kim from Kimberly Faye Reads) and the fact that this book was only $.99. Hey, I like a deal. Plus, a few other friends had raved about this book, and Elle Kennedy absolutely blew me away with Claimed earlier this year, so why not?

I never, ever expected to find a new favorite book of all time. My experience reading THE DEAL was much like when I read Wait for You by J. Lynn – I was mesmerized and hooked and in love from the start with these enigmatic, charismatic and wholly relatable characters. Throw in some steamy times (and a book full of hot hockey players) and I was sold.

Hannah is a character you love from the beginning. She’s witty and smart but soft and earnest, and (in true NA fashion) a little bit broken. She hasn’t had the easiest life, but she’s working hard and determined to make it. Enter bad boy Garrett who rocks her world on its axis. The chemistry between these two is nothing less than gasoline and a bonfire. It’s explosive and so much fun to watch.

This is one of those books you just love. I want to read it all over again writing this review. THE DEAL is the gateway into the Off-Campus series (the other 2 I devoured within 2 days of reading THE DEAL). Trust me when I say that this is one series you cannot miss.

And did I mention it’s still available for less than $1? Get it NOW:

Dec 16, 2015

Anatomy of a Blog Tour

A month or so ago, I sent out an email to my tour hosts because I had been getting a few questions about the criteria I used for picking blog tour hosts. In the wake of the Harper Summer 2016 Tour selections, I got even more. Instead of sending out another email, I figured I would just post this here (mostly the same, with a few updates and some GIFs for fun) so anyone could see it any time.

Here we go:

As I've started doing more tours, I've been getting more and more questions from bloggers about what it is that I'm looking for in a tour host. Some of you have applied for every single tour I've put together and haven't been picked yet. Some of you have voiced to me that you're upset or frustrated by that.

I get it. I do. I've been there. As a matter of fact, that was partially why I started doing my own tours - if I couldn't get picked for one, I'd do it myself. 

Let me tell you a bit why I started doing my own tours:

In the beginning....

It started where it always starts - with the love of a book. And the realization that I wanted to promote said book. But it was a book that I knew would be easily overlooked when it hit the market and was pitted against other big name books and authors. So I rounded up some blogger buddies and convinced them to help me. 

It sort of ballooned from there; I had publicist friends asking me if I could assemble some bloggers for a tour to help them out. I happily obliged. I like organizing things - anything. I'm weird that way. But after a couple of months, I decided to stop just harassing my friends on my email list and open it up, and this Irish Banana Tours began. Imagine my shock when hundreds of people signed up within a week.

But one thing I always remembered was wanting to do tours when I had just started blogging but because I was new (and without much in the ways of stats or followers or a dowry to speak of), I was often overlooked. And frustrated. A lot.

One thing I try to do when organizing a tour is keep that in mind - I make a cognizant effort to try and include smaller, lesser known blogs in every tour. To give people a chance to promote a great book, regardless of their clout or status. Don't get me wrong - I also need a few "heavy hitters" in there to make sure the tour is publicized and social media'd (totes made that into a verb *nods*), but I want smaller bloggers to have a chance to get in on the book love and maybe get a few followers. This is why I specifically say on the form that stats are not needed when signing up. 

But know I do click the link and see what kind of blog you have and blogger you are. I look to see how frequently you post. The kind of content you provide. 

This was also a lot of the driving force behind the Harper Collins catalog tours - not only did I see a chance to make sure all of their many books got some coverage, but I also wanted smaller blogs to have a chance to expand their following.

So ... Why am I not being picked?

Remember a few paragraphs ago when I mentioned hundreds signed up the first week? That number is steadily growing. I often have to fill a tour with 10 stops and pick from 100 people who signed up for it. The Harper Winter 2016 Tour? Over 250 people signed up in the first day. The Harper Summer Tour boasted those same numbers and steadily kept growing.

Also, I sometimes have to factor in blogs and bloggers publishers and authors suggest I include on the tours. I try to accommodate these requests because I like to keep the authors and publishers happy. 

(Note: This is not code for you to go begging pubs and authors to contact me to have you added to a tour - part of my joy is clicking through links and finding new bloggers to add to tours. If I'm constantly told who to add to a tour, I don't get to click and pick. Which means I'm not happy. YOU DON'T WANT ME NOT HAPPY.)

Please don't get discouraged. Please keep trying. 

Flexibility on post types and dates is also a huge deal. If you can only post a review on one date, it's harder for me to work with that. The more open you are, the happier my heart is. The same is true with the catalog tours. If you only want to promote 1 book on 1 day, that makes it harder. 

But there's this ONE tour I GOTTA be on!

Then tell me that. As much as I love the "I love you"s in the comment sections, what I thrive on is people who are passionate about a book. If there is a specific reason you desperately want to be on a tour (you can relate to the MC, you've been waiting years for this book, you've read all this author's work including the scraps they've thrown out in the trash - actually, don't use that as a reason. Imma need you all to keep your Kathleen Hale in check.), then tell me. When I see that someone has a personal connection to a book, I try everything to get them on that tour.

However, in the case of the catalog tours, a lot of you had a lot of awesome reasons for why you wanted to promote a certain book or author. For instance, THIS SAVAGE SONG and Victoria Schwab was one almost everyone wanted. At least 50 people commented that Victoria is their favorite author ever. Which is awesome and cool, but only 1 person can promote that book.

I also try to make sure each tour host gets a finished copy of the book they promote because I know how much work goes into joining a blog tour. Unfortunately, due to shipping costs and international rights, I can't often get finished copies or physical galleys sent outside the US. 

As always, if you have questions ... You got my number.



It'd be weird if you all had my number. Actually ... a lot of you do. 

Huh. Well, lemme know if you want that, too. We can text the night away. But really, I don't mind questions at all. 

In the end,

At the end of the day, I do this because it's fun for me. I don't pull in a steady paycheck that covers my bills to do this. I enjoy organizing these tours and working with publicists and bloggers, often in my free time or lunch break at the job that does pay the bills. I'm also pretty new at this and fumbling my way through it. 

I'm just a girl, standing here, in love with a book and wanting to promote it. 

Dec 15, 2015

Review: Frozen Tides by Morgan Rhodes

Title: Frozen Tides
Author: Morgan Rhodes
Publication Date: 12.15.2015
Series: Falling Kingdoms #4
Source:  Finished copy from publisher

Rating: 4 ½ Stars

Summary (from Goodreads):
Rebels, royals, and monsters wage war over the Mytican throne in the shocking fourth book of the Falling Kingdoms series, from New York Times bestselling author Morgan Rhodes.

CLEO: Reeling after a bloody showdown in Limeros ending with Amara’s abduction of the water crystal, and a vacancy in the Mytican throne, Princess Cleo must cast aside her feelings and look toward her kingdom with the eyes of a Queen.

MAGNUS: With the kingdom in chaos, Princess Lucia still missing and quite possibly in danger, and a shocking realization about Cleo, the steely prince is once again torn between love and duty, leaving him wondering whether he’s strong enough to rule his people.

LUCIA: The young sorcercess has had her vengeance after the cruel death of her first and only love. Heartbroken and unable to trust anyone, she allies with the awoken Fire god, who also seeks revenge.

JONAS: After escaping death by the skin of his teeth, the defeated rebel—along with a mysterious stranger–leader reunites with Princess Cleo, only to find himself a mere pawn in a dangerous hunt for the elusive Kindred.

KING GAIUS: Abandoned by Melenia and betrayed by his own children, Gaius flees Mytica and sails to Kraeshia, where he attempts to ally with the famously brutal emperor across the Silver Sea.

I swear, this series just gets better and better with every book. The fact that it’s book 4 and I’m still heavily invested (you guys know I have an issue reading series’), is a testament to the awesomeness that is Falling Kingdoms and Morgan Rhodes.

FROZEN TIDES picks up shortly where Gathering Darkness left off. Without giving away too much of the plot from past books, FROZEN TIDES seriously ups the ante. I loved traveling beyond the shores of Mytica to Kraesha with Amara. Amara completely caught me off guard. Her intelligence and ruthlessness absolutely stunned me in the best ways possible and she is truly set up as a force to be reckoned with in FROZEN TIDES. I can’t wait to see her in the next book!

I have loved watching the evolution of Magnus, Jonas, and Cleo. These three are my absolutely faves (OK, Magnus is #1), and their growth from book 1 to book 4 is incredible. They’ve learned and adapted and persevered and refused to give up.

Fans of Falling Kingdoms are going to be hopelessly entranced by FROZEN TIDES. Rhodes once again bests herself in the storytelling game, weaving a masterful tale of secrets, deceit and love. 

Dec 14, 2015

Chapter 1 Reveal: RIDERS by Veronica Rossi

I am so freaking excited to share with you Chapter 1 of RIDERS by Veronica Rossi. This book is one of my top 2016 books to be read. If the rest of the book is anything like chapter 1, then I'm going to love it!

By: Veronica Rossi
Published by: Tor Teen
To Be Released on: February 16th, 2016
Series: Riders #1
Add it to Goodreads

For eighteen-year-old Gideon Blake, nothing but death can keep him from achieving his goal of becoming a U.S. Army Ranger. As it turns out, it does.

Recovering from the accident that most definitely killed him, Gideon finds himself with strange new powers and a bizarre cuff he can't remove. His death has brought to life his real destiny. He has become War, one of the legendary four horsemen of the apocalypse.

Over the coming weeks, he and the other horsemen--Conquest, Famine, and Death--are brought together by a beautiful but frustratingly secretive girl to help save humanity from an ancient evil on the emergence.

They fail.

Now--bound, bloodied, and drugged--Gideon is interrogated by the authorities about his role in a battle that has become an international incident. If he stands any chance of saving his friends and the girl he's fallen for--not to mention all of humankind--he needs to convince the skeptical government officials the world is in imminent danger.

But will anyone believe him?

Chapter   1

When I open my eyes, all I see is darkness.
Cant move . . . cant speak . . . cant think through this jaw-grinding headache. I hold still, waiting for some clar- ity on where I am or how long I’ve been out, but nothing comes. What I know for sure: I’m tied to a chair, gagged, and my head is covered with a hood that reeks of sweat and vomit.
Not what I expected from a rescue.
My neck creaks like a rusty hinge as I straighten, and the darkness comes loose and starts to spin. It spins and spins and my stomach throws in the towel, and its spinning, too. Hot spit floods into my mouth. I know whats coming next, so I pull deep breaths, in and out, until the urge passes and I’m okay again. Just sitting here sweating bullets in this chair and this hood.
I cant believe this. They drugged me. Gave me some kind of sedative, because I am way too calm right now. Probably painkillers, too. I cant feel my shoulder and that cut was deep. My deltoid looked like raw steak. Even I should still feel a gash that bad.
Nice. Well done, US government. The whole world is going to hell, pretty much. I’m one of the few people who can help— and this is what they do?
I turn my focus to listening. Every so often I hear feet shuf- fling or a throat clearing. I pay attention to the sounds, trying to figure out how many men are guarding me. Two is my guess.
A radiator clicks on behind me and keeps clicking, like someones tapping a wrench against metal. Heat builds on my back like sunshine. Strange in all this darkness. After a few minutes it shuts off and the quiet stretches out. My back is

just starting to cool when a door whines open. Footsteps come toward me and stop. Then a chair scrapes across the floor.
Its game time. Answer time.
Take off his hood, says a female voice.
Theres a tug, then a rush of cool air against my face, and my eyes slam shut against the brightness. I’m not expecting it when the gag goes next, tearing out a few layers of my tongue with it.
Take your time, says the woman.
Like I have a choice. For a few seconds, all I can do is try to get some moisture back in my mouth. I pull against my arm restraints, riding out the urge to rub my stinging eyes. It takes forever for the figure in front of me to come into focus.
A woman—in her forties, I think—sits behind a small wooden desk. She has olive skin and dark hair, eyes as black and shiny as wine bottles. Her navy-blue suit looks expensive and she has a PhD kind of vibe, like she knows everything about something. And wrote a book about it. A civilian. I’d bet anything.
“Hello, Gideon. I’m Natalie Cordero, she says. “I’m going to be asking you some questions.
She folds her hands in front of her and pauses, letting me know shes in control, that she talks to guys like me every day, but I know for a fact thats impossible. No one else in the world is like me. No one.
A whiff of her perfume reaches mea floral-citrus-musk- meatlovers combo thats strong, a scent bullhorn, but better than the stench from the hood.
Two men stand behind her. The guy wearing a Texas Rang- ers baseball cap is massive, the size of the door hes guarding. The other guys more compact, has a dark complexion and wrestler ear. He rests a hand on the Beretta in his belt hol- ster and gives me a look like, Just give me an excuse to use this.

Both have full beards, wind-chapped faces, and are dressed in jeans, hiking boots, and Patagonia jackets, but they’re spe- cial ops. Delta or SEALs. You dont get that kind of stance, relaxed but totally alert, without earning it.
I recognize them. They were part of the unit that busted me out of Norway today. Or yesterday . . . or whenever that happened.
Natalie Cordero assesses my shirt and cargos, the dried blood, the burnt patches, the crusted mud, the top layer of fine ash. I’ve looked better, I’ll admit. Then I follow her eyes to my shoulder. Through a tear in my shirt I see that my captors— who are supposed to be my allies—put a compression bandage on my cut. That was cool of them.
Water?” Cordero asks.
It takes a couple of tries but I manage to scrape out some words in reply. Yes. Yes, please.
The bigger guard in the Rangers cap brings over a plastic bottle with a flexible straw. His face is ruddy and square, brick- ish. Graying beard, blue eyes. Hes the guy who knocked me out in Jotunheimen. But I didnt really give him an option. I lost it when Daryn stayed behind. I didnt expect her to do that. Never saw it coming and totally lost it. That cant hap- pen again. I cant lose control of this situation, so I focus on getting my bearings as I suck down water, replenishing my dehydrated body.
I’m in a small room with pine walls and floorboards. Even the trim is pine, so. Either I was eaten by a tree or I’m in a cabin. Theres a window to my left with checkered blue cur- tains. No light or sounds bleed through, so either its night- time or the windows been blacked out. I’m going to go with both. The only illumination in the room comes from an iron lamp in the corner with no shade, just a bare bulb thats either a trillion watts or my eyes are extra sensitive from the drugs.
A cool draft seeps through the two-inch gap beneath the

door. Its not easy smelling anything beyond Corderos perfume but I catch stale carpet smell and woodsmoke. As prison cells go, its pretty cozy.
“I should’ve asked before, Cordero says when my water break is over, “would you prefer that I call you Gideon or Mr. Blake?”
I was right. Shes not military or she’d have called me “Pri- vate Blake.
I swallow again, my throat feeling better. “Ma’am, I’d pre- fer you untied me and told me where I am.” I instantly want to punch myself for the ma’am thing. Shes detaining me. Screw manners.
She doesnt answer, so I try another question. Are we still in Norway?” Nothing again. I look to the guys at the door. Are we back in the States?”
I cant give you that information at this time, Gideon, Cordero says, deciding for herself what to call me. I’m eigh- teen, probably half her age, so I can see why she didnt go with “Mr. Blake.
“Why cant I know where I am? Why all this? I nod to my- self. “I’m not going to run. I called you guys, remember? For help? How about cutting me free?”
“When I’m done questioning you, you’ll be released. “Released? Its so messed up, I have to laugh. I havent
done anything wrong.
“No? She leans forward, her gaze narrowing. You in- flicted millions of dollars of damage on Jotunheimen National Park. You dont think thats wrong? American taxpayers are paying for that damage. The American public paid to bail you and your friends out of that mess. You’re lucky the me- dia hasnt caught on yet. You almost caused an international incident. You do realize that? Until I know exactly what you were doing in Norway and why you chose to destroy acres of

pristine parkland, you arent leaving this room. I mean that, Gideon. You might as well get comfortable.
You think this is about damaged land? About money?” “If I thought that was all this was, you wouldnt be here.
I’m not sitting here and playing this game. You really want to know what this is about? I’ll tell you. Pure evil is out there. We’re in trouble—and I dont mean American tax- payers. I mean humanity. I mean everyone. And you’re look- ing at one of the only people who can do anything about it. So what do you say you untie me?”
“Not happening, Gideon, she says, disregarding everything I just said. And before you become belligerent again, let me tell you. Losing your temper wont help anything.
This is a huge waste of time. I need to get out of here. Find the guys. Get the key back. “Wheres Colonel Nellis?” I trust my commanding officer. I want to talk to him, not a stranger. “This incident has gone above the jurisdiction of the US
Army, she says.
“Who are you with? The Defense Department? CIA?” “Let me spell this out for you. I ask questions, you answer
them. Thats how this works.
There actually wasnt any spelling in that, but whatever. I’m done with this. Time to bring the wrath.
I reach for my anger, for my sword, for Riot.
I get nothing. I’m powerless. The drugs have neutralized everything. I’m completely zeroed.
It makes no sense, none, so I start yelling. Shes making a huge mistake. I’m one of the good guys. She has no idea who shes talking to. Everything I say sounds scripted and insane but its true. Its the truth.
Cordero checks her watch. “Seems its about that time again. She looks over her shoulder at the guy with the Beretta. “Get him under control.

Beretta slides a small black pouch from a cargo pocket. He pulls on latex gloves and takes out a hypodermic needle as I keep yelling and thrashing against the bindings, getting abso- lutely nowhere.
The bigger guy, Texas, comes around my chair and puts me in a rear chokehold. “Relax, he says. “Relax.
Which is the last thing I’m going to do, but then stars flicker against the pine walls and the room dims, then I dim. I’m not yelling anymore, I’m passing out.
Beretta sticks the needle into my forearm and depresses the plunger. A slow burn spreads through me. My face goes numb. My muscles relax. I relax.
I dont want to relax, but I relax.
Texas releases me and I suck in air. Gulp it down. Oxygen is the best damn thing ever created.
Beretta shines a penlight into my eyes.
Bright  light. Doesnt feel good. Close eyes.
I’m vaguely aware that I reacted too slowly. Reactions shouldnt happen in steps. Unless its only one step. A single, self-contained step.
Yeah . . . that seems right.
“The kids cooked, Beretta says as he peels off the gloves. He and Texas step back, posting up by the door again.
Keeping my head up becomes my new goal. Its not easy. Reminds me of balancing a basketball on my finger. While try- ing to process information through it. Except my head isnt actually a basketball, it just feels like one.
Yep. The kids cooked.
Cordero unfolds her hands. She drums her fingers on the table, watching me. “Ready to talk now?”
You have no idea how big this is . . . whats happening. You have no idea who I am.

It takes me a second to realize that the words hanging in the room are mine.
Not good.
Corderos fingers stop drumming. “Why dont you tell me?” I come so close to blurting it out, blurting everything out, I almost feel like I did it. Somethings not right. A prison break is happening in my mind. All my thoughts want out. My story wants out. Images of the past few weeks crash around in my head demanding freedom. Holding them backs a full-body ef- fort. I’m tied to a chair but my hearts doing a triathlon. My face goes hot and the back of my throat starts to burn. What
the hell did they just give me?
Cordero waits. “Okay, Gideon. We’ll try again in half an hour. She pauses at the door. I can do this all day. Can you?”
After she leaves, I let my head fall forward where it wants to be.
Breathe, Blake. Breathe.
I could’ve handled that better. But was I supposed to tell a stranger whats going on? Who I am? What I am?
No way. Cordero would’ve panicked. She’d have lost her mind. But the words are still on my tongue. They’re right there.
I’m War, I want to say.
I am War.