Tuesday, March 31, 2015

(27) Top Ten "New to the TBR" Books

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

This week's theme: Top Ten Books Recently Added to Your To-Be-Read List!

Okay, so not *all* of these are the most recent, but I wanted to show the ones that actually had covers (SO YOU CAN STARE AT ALL OF THE PRETTIES WITH ME).

1. Signs Point to Yes
I still haven't read her first book, but I WANT THIS COVER ON MY SHELF BECAUSE IT IS SO PRETTY.

2. Emerald Green
I still haven't read this series, but I plan on it once I have this one, and then I can FINALLY binge the books!

3. Emmy & Oliver
Because I love books about friends finding their way back to each other. <3 Also, I thought I had already added it to my list.

4. Revved
This is another one of those I-still-haven't-read-one-of-her-books-yet-but-I-want-this cases.

5. Dreamstrider
DAT COVER, YO! Also it's fantasy, so it went on my list as soon as possible.

6. Silver Skin
I picked up the first book in this series basically by chance because it was a daily deal that I'd never heard of, and I loved it! I can't wait to read this next one!

7. The Girl on the Train
A thriller that I surprisingly hadn't heard of before!

8. Come Back to Me
This is another one I'd never heard of, until I read someone's review. Although she didn't like the book, I read the synopsis and still wanted to give it a try!

9. Wicked White
I haven't read a rock star book in awhile, after becoming burnt-out on them (which is actually possible, believe me), but I love books about finding yourself. :)

10. all the far, far away books!
Okay, I lied above when I said I was doing the ones with covers, because I still wanted to showcase these ones. So I just decided to compile the list into one area. 

*The Weight of Zero by Karen Fortunati
*Bad Blood by Demitria Lunetta
*Beast by Brie Spangler
*Touch Me Not by Stacey Lee
*The Factory Girl by Josanne La Valley
*The Freedom Dress by Suzanne Nelson
*The Bride of Dusk and Glass by Roshani Chokshi

****

Oh, it's good to be doing Top Ten Tuesday again! So, tell me. What books did YOU recently add to your TBR?

Monday, March 30, 2015

Leah Raeder Double Feature: Black Iris and Unteachable

Title: Black Iris
Author: Leah Raeder
Publisher: Atria Books
Release Date: April 28th, 2015!
*eARC kindly provided by Atria via NetGalley*

From Goodreads...
The next dark and sexy romantic suspense novel from the USA Today bestselling author of Unteachable.

It only took one moment of weakness for Laney Keating’s world to fall apart. One stupid gesture for a hopeless crush. Then the rumors began. Slut, they called her. Queer. Psycho. Mentally ill, messed up, so messed up even her own mother decided she wasn't worth sticking around for.

If Laney could erase that whole year, she would. College is her chance to start with a clean slate.

She's not looking for new friends, but they find her: charming, handsome Armin, the only guy patient enough to work through her thorny defenses—and fiery, filterless Blythe, the bad girl and partner in crime who has thorns of her own.

But Laney knows nothing good ever lasts. When a ghost from her past resurfaces—the bully who broke her down completely—she decides it's time to live up to her own legend. And Armin and Blythe are going to help.

Which was the plan all along.

Because the rumors are true. Every single one. And Laney is going to show them just how true.

She's going to show them all.

My Review!
Startlingly honest, unapologetic, and filled with tension of both the delicious and chilling kind, Black Iris was a force to be reckoned with. It pulls no punches and slams you over and over again with the stark reality that not everyone's lives are perfect. That not everyone is perfect. It is raw and dark and full of reckless abandon. But it is a powerful book that is completely needed in a genre that is overdone with straight couples and perfect endings and sunshine-filled relationships. And likable characters.

Let's just get this out of the way first: Laney Keating is an unapologetic bitch. She is cold, calculating, and manipulative. She is a hunter. She is an impenetrable fortress. She is an unreliable narrator. But we know this in chapter one. She says it herself (since the way this is written is Laney telling her story, it's like she's talking right to us). She's not a likable character, but you know what, I loved her. I'm not always a fan of unlikable characters, not because of the things they do or say, but because of the way the author writes them. Leah Raeder managed to make me sympathetic to Laney while also wanting to slap her across the face. She is definitely not your typical MC, and I think that's what I loved most about her. She was so unpredictable, so brash and reckless. So completely unreadable, even though this is in her POV. I told you above that she's an unreliable narrator, and it's true. But, don't go into this thinking there is going to be this big epiphany and that Laney is going to find redemption and forgiveness, because that is not this type of story. She did grow throughout the book, but not in the way one would think. But I thought it was sort of perfect for her character.


Then we have Armin and Blythe. Day and night. Hot and cold. The two of them are almost polar opposites, and their relationships with Laney are the same. The push and pull, the tug-of-war, the manipulation and lies. And oh, the romance. God, I don't even know what to say about it, because you should just go in blind. The directions it takes, the way the three lives intertwine, the way the characters' relationships with each other play out. There is so much going on behind the scenes, so much to all of them that you don't know. They're all complete messes, and they are all fucked up in their own ways. But you can't help sympathizing with them and loving how the author created such complicated romances that showed the fluidity of sexuality and the confusion and fear that comes with it.

The plot is another point of the story that is hard to talk about without going into too much detail. The only reason this is receiving 4.5 stars from me is because of the time changes. It jumps from past to present and back again without really taking a breather. I was confused a lot, and it was hard for me to infuse myself into one chapter before I was pulled into another time period. But it never really took away any enjoyment, because I was more focused on the characters' relationships with each other than the plot. And that was probably a bad choice to make, as nothing in this book is what it seems. I found myself constantly surprised, in good and bad ways. And I loved how it ended.

The writing is seriously gorgeous, and it flows so nicely. This book is also layered, from the characters, main and secondary, to their pasts, and to the way everything plays out. It all had a hand in creating a story told in the perspective of an unreliable narrator who is clearly so much more than that.

RATING:
4.5 Paw Prints!


******

Title: Unteachable
Author: Leah Raeder
Publisher: Atria Books
Release Date: March 24th, 2014
*eARC kindly provided by Atria via NetGalley*

From Goodreads...
Maise O’Malley just turned eighteen, but she’s felt like a grown-up her entire life. The summer before senior year, she has plans: get into a great film school, convince her mom to go into rehab, and absolutely do not, under any circumstances, screw up her own future.

But life has a way of throwing her plans into free-fall.

When Maise meets Evan at a carnival one night, their chemistry is immediate, intense, and short-lived. Which is exactly how she likes it: no strings. But afterward, she can’t get Evan out of her head. He’s taught her that a hookup can be something more. It can be an unexpected connection with someone who truly understands her. Someone who sees beyond her bravado to the scared but strong girl inside.

That someone turns out to be her new film class teacher, Mr. Evan Wilke.

Maise and Evan resolve to keep their hands off each other, but the attraction is too much to bear. Together, they’re real and genuine; apart, they’re just actors playing their parts for everyone else. And their masks are slipping. People start to notice. Rumors fly. When the truth comes to light in a shocking way, they may learn they were just playing parts for each other, too.

Smart, sexy, and provocative, Unteachable is about what happens when a love story goes off-script.

My Review!
*Spoilers. Fair warning.

So, a little confession: teacher/student relationships creep me out, no matter the ages, circumstances, or how they end. The only reason I read this was because I loved Black Iris, and Leah Raeder's writing is wonderful. I wanted to see how she handled a situation like this one. But I was NOT happy with it at all.

I am so goddamn disappointed with this book. To me, Unteachable was an unrealistic and romanticized student/teacher relationship that ended with no consequences with either of the parties like it should have. Not that it needed to for the story, per se, but when they're together, they're constantly thinking of all the reasons it's wrong and how they need to be careful. And so, there should have been this element of danger and forbiddenness, but there wasn't. They basically spent like 10% of the book actually in the school fooling around and the other 90% everywhere else. There was always this sense of foreboding, that they'd get caught and the consequences would be grave. But nothing happened to them. NOTHING. There was a bit of blackmail from another student that resulted in a little drama that actually flows into Black Iris. But it wasn't this huge big ginormous deal because it was pointless. There was never any real threat.

Oh, maybe I should talk about the characters. Well, I couldn't connect with Maise at all. At many points, I did feel for her and what she was going through. She was more mature for her age, felt like a thirty year old stuck in a teenager's body. She'd had to take care of herself since she was a little girl because her mother is a prostitute and a drug addict, and her father skipped out on them when she was a kid (hence the issues with boys). She had no parent figures, no guidance, no love or support. She was lonely, razor-edged, and closed off. And of course it would take this ONE guy to heal her. A guy she shouldn't have or even want.

I'm not gonna lie, I had liked Evan in the beginning. But he was cagey. He was very evasive about his past and his life and why he had taken the teaching job at her high school. We don't find out much about his past, and all we see is this good guy who takes care of Maise and only wants what's best for her. But he was honestly creepy, and it wasn't just because of the age difference. And it's all the more apparent when we find out what happened before he came to this high school. It just upped the ick factor tenfold, and I cannot in good conscience not see how the author didn't use that to make Maise open up her eyes about this guy. Why was it just brushed over? Why did it not make her want to run in the opposite direction? Why, why, why? I got no answers, which really pissed me off.

I could have gotten behind this romance, if I had actually felt a connection between the two main characters. If I'd had this sense that they were soulmates who shared a profoundly deep bond. But I just didn't believe it with them. This felt extremely insta-lovey, and all they did was basically have sex. They did talk too, but we never actually got to hear any of those conversations unless they pertained to Maise's life. Not to mention the ick factor of this. Sure, Maise is 18, which technically makes it legal (and that is a really nice excuse, is it not). But Evan is THIRTY-TWO! I'm sorry, but I just can't get behind this relationship. Not just because of the age factor, which is a strong reason, but because I believed that they weren't good for each other. Evan was sort of creepy, and he wouldn't share his past with her. And Maise might have been more mature for her age, but he was still taking advantage of her vulnerability. He was emotionally and mentally more stable than she was, even if he had a fucked up past like her. (But he really didn't because it wasn't a factor in his nonexistent character development, and there was basically no sense in bringing up his "hard" life experiences at all). And she might have been having sex already, but that didn't mean she was ready for a guy this mature and at such a different life stage than her.

The worst part, though, was the ending! All throughout the story, I was convinced it was going to end with them going their separate ways. That they'd say goodbye and look back on this as a lesson they were taught or whatever. Not to mention, like I said above, Evan was portrayed as this guy who put Maise's needs above his own, a selfless man who only wants what's best for her. And every single page leading up the end, he kept pushing her away and saying that she needed to leave and go live her own life and follow her dreams. That he wanted her to do that because she was so young and with so much ahead of her. So that basically meant nothing since he showed up in the plane seat next to her, in this really cheesy ending to a book that didn't seem to have a point to it. Also, the whole Casablanca thing was setting us up for that goodbye-never-to-see-each-other-again ending, but apparently that didn't mean anything.

The secondary relationships were all surface, and everything with them ended too perfectly. That was another unrealistic point of this book. Unteachable was basically about Maise and her addiction to a guy who is forbidden, and the amount of sex that they have and the fact that they get to have their happily ever after without any consequences. I went into this with an open mind and I am sorely disappointed that it didn't handle the teacher/student relationship well at all.

RATING:
2 Paw Prints!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Review of Becoming Rain

Title: Becoming Rain (Burying Water, #2)
Author: K.A. Tucker
Publisher: Atria Books
Release Date: March 3rd, 2015!
*eARC kindly provided by Atria via NetGalley*

From Goodreads...
Luke Boone doesn't know exactly what his uncle Rust is involved in but he wants in on it-the cars, the money, the women. And it looks like he's finally getting his wish. When Rust hands him the managerial keys to the garage, they come with a second set—one that opens up the door to tons of cash and opportunity. Though it's not exactly legal, Luke's never been one to worry about that sort of thing. Especially when it puts him behind the wheel of a Porsche 911 and onto the radar of gorgeous socialite named Rain.

Clara Bertelli is at the top of her game—at only twenty-six years old, she's one of the most successful undercover officers in the Washington D.C. major crime unit, and she's just been handed a case that could catapult her career and expose one of the west coast's most notorious car theft rings. But, in order to do it, she'll need to go deep undercover as Rain Martines. Her target? The twenty-four-year old nephew of a key player who appears ready to follow in his uncle's footsteps.

As Clara drifts deeper into the luxurious lifestyle of Rain, and further into the arms of her very attractive and charming target, the lines between right and wrong start to blur, making her wonder if she'll be able to leave it all behind. Or if she'll even want to.


My Review!
*Slight spoilers if you haven't read Burying Water.

I will basically forever read K.A. Tucker's books. I don't care what it's about, I will read it! I loved the first book in this series, Burying Water, so much. I was a little wary of Luke Boone as a character, but I couldn't wait to read this one. And even though I didn't love it as much as the first, I still really enjoyed it!

Luke Boone, pretty rich boy with an arrogant countenance, is more than he seems. He's actually a genuinely good guy. He has an adorable relationship with his bulldog, he kept Jesse and Water a secret, and he has a weakness for damsels in distresses. He's just caught up in his uncle's business, and I can totally understand why. It's a glamorous lifestyle, and his uncle Rust has taken care of him since he was a little boy so he feels protected and all he wants is the guy's approval. But as he slides deeper into Rust's illegitimate business, he starts to spiral. He starts to wonder if this is what he really wants, thoughts that just confirm that Luke has a moral compass. He is a flawed character; he's not perfect. But he had such wonderful growth throughout the story, and I loved his journey to finding redemption and a life that he can call honorable.


Clara "Rain" Bertelli is an undercover cop who is on the fast-track to becoming FBI. And this is her ticket in. Seduce Luke Boone, infiltrate his uncle's network, and bring them down. All without crossing the line (the sex line). Forget losing her heart to a guy she starts to realize is more than he seems. Clara was a tough girl, one who prided herself on her work and her skills. That is all called into question when she starts to fall for the man she's watching. Clara has to fight her feelings and still do her job, and that's where the lines start to cross and everything is called into question. I thought she handled it the best she could, and I adored her.


This book is the epitome of the saying, "there is more to someone than meets the eye." The two main characters are both hiding behind masks, and it takes each other to look past them and find the person underneath. With each other, there is no "faking it" and putting on a facade. I loved the slow development of their relationship, even knowing that Clara was playing him. What was between them was more honest than what came out of their mouths. The romance was developed wonderfully and very steamy!


There were many, many secondary characters! But all of them were very developed, and so were their relationships with Clara and Boone. I loved the cameos with Water and Jesse. I adore them so much. I also really liked how the "villains" were richly developed. Rust, and a few others who show up that would be spoilerific if I said anything. None of the characters in this book are perfect, and I loved that questions of morality played a part in everything. It made everyone seem more real.

The plot was definitely a romantic suspense one, as it had strong elements of the "mystery" and the romance. I loved that it was balanced and that the relationship was developed around it all. I'd say the weak point was everything leading up to the ending. It felt very rushed, and I thought it all ended too perfectly. But I adored the epilogue, and one part of it has me extremely excited for Chasing River because I have a feeling I know who is going to be the star role in that book and I can't wait!

Although not my favorite of the series, Becoming Rain was such a good book! With imperfect characters, morality issues, and a story-line of pretending to be someone you're not, it was full of great banter, a sizzling romance, and people who have a lot of secrets. :)


RATING:
4 Paw Prints!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Get Rec'd: Vampire Academy


So hey, I started a new feature for the blog! I wanted something where I could have someone rec' me a book that I would read and review on here. And I wanted to see if they picked a winner or a loser. At first, I wanted this to be a monthly recommendation from the same person. But after a conversation on Twitter, I realized I wanted to keep it open for others to be able to rec' me books, too. Why, you ask? Well, sometimes I can be really head-strong about not reading a book. And sometimes I'm wary of hyped up ones. So I wanted a feature that would basically be someone forcing me to read a book. Sounds awesome for YOU, right? Ha. Anyway, so that's the origin of this new feature, Get Rec'ed. And the "reviews" are going to be set up differently because this is supposed to be fun and not critical. :)

I've actually had the idea for awhile, but I've just been so lazy about starting it. Just ask Cassie (The Magical Adventures of Cassie the Weird), the first person to give me a recommendation for this feature. IN JANUARY. Yeah, that's right. I was supposed to have read this book in January, but I kept pushing it back and pushing it back. Until finally, I was like: hey, I should probably read this. And while I was contemplating it, a slew of people started yelling OMGing ARE YOU SERIOUS HOLLYing tweeting at me about why I hadn't read this book yet. (jk love you all thanks for pushing me to read it). So this not only goes out to Cassie, but to Kaitlin (Reading is My Treasure), Rachel (A Perfection Called Books), and Racquel (The Book Barbies) too. You guys picked a winner. :) And I sneakily added this one into my schedule and kept it out of my updates so y'all wouldn't know. Hehe. 

Oh yeah, you're probably wondering what book I read. It was this preciousssss.
*Minor spoilery. Maybe?

Okay, first of all, how dare you guys let me go this long without reading it? I never realized how much I needed this book in my life. It was honestly so much fun, and the characters are badass and awesome and I just have so much love for this book. Why? Let me tell you.

A SEXUALLY CONFIDENT FEMALE MC

I cannot stress to you how much I need more confident main characters, especially women. I had been wary of reading this book, but when Racquel mentioned that Rose Hathaway was one of these characters, I was all: OMG NEED TO READ THIS BOOK ASAP. You see, we'd juuuust been talking about how there aren't enough sexually confident females in books (especially YA), least of all MCs. So when she told me that, I was immediately sold on the story. And let me tell you, Rose Hathaway did not disappoint! She was a confident smartass who wasn't perfect by any means and who put others' needs above her own more than she should have sometimes. She was unapologetic and fiercely protective. She was reckless and witty but she never appeared unlikable to me. I loved her from the beginning. She's not perfect; hell, she sucks at training and she's never given the easy way out. She didn't always make the best decisions, and she wasn't a nice person sometimes. But you know what? She was real. She wasn't a cookie-cutter character who never had to work hard or make tough decisions. She was more mature than I thought she'd be, and she knew who she was and she made no apologies for that. Gimme more MCs like Rose, please!

A FRIENDSHIP WITH DEEP, SELFLESS LOVE AND RESPECT

Rose has a best friend named Lissa. But Lissa is so much more than that to her. They have a bond, a profoundly deep psychic connection that shares more than they'd probably like with each other. Rose is Lissa's guardian. Well, unofficial one. And because of their bond, Rose feels fiercely protective of her friend, and vice versa. These ladies are the truth definition of friendship. Their love and respect for each other is something you don't find nearly often enough in YA, imo. Even when they're fighting, they put the others' needs before their own. And because of their connection, they're basically all up in each other's business all the time, so there are no secrets between them. And the way that they cared for each other, how protective and selfless they were, made me absolutely adore their friendship. They are basically sisters who have no one else that understands them as well as each other.

A PLOT NOT CENTERED AROUND ROMANCE

Where in the world of YA can you find books that don't focus on the romance? Not often! I mean, I would have liked a *bit* more development on the romantic side, but I wasn't unhappy with it. There are, what, six books in this series? I can definitely stand a slow-burning development. Also, there are two of them going on, so neither gets more focus than the other. And it's funny that I was kind of swooning over the secondary one more, but well, it's only book one. We'll see what happens in Frostbite. ;)

A DRAMA LAMA THAT HAS A PURPOSE

Don't you hate those books with unnecessary drama just to create angst and make the main characters look better than the rest? There is a lot of drama in this book, and normally that would make me cringe and just annoy the ever-living shit out of me. But it never felt unnecessary or ridiculous. It was high school. I can't expect everyone to love each other and sing kumbaya at a campfire (and yeah I kind of feel like a hypocrite, because I've given books less stars for high school drama before). But all of this actually served a purpose. It wasn't just there. It was important to the story-line, but it was also important to the characters' developments. It fit what was going on and how some things played out. Did I like it? Not always. Did it bother me enough to make me want to stop reading? Absolutely not.

A MYSTERY THAT IS SUBTLE BUT STILL PAGE-TURNING INDUCING

I was completely intrigued by this story-line from the beginning. I was hooked. I think that was mostly due to Rose's character, but once animals started dying (the first one was a fox and I may have died a little DON'T TOUCH ME I'M FINE) and Lissa become a girl who is definitely more than she appears (I am so not trying to be ridiculously vague here, but I want to keep this spoiler-free and besides, the peeps who have read this will know what I'm talking about), I wanted to keep reading to find out what was happening! I had my suspicions, but I could never confirm them and also the plot wasn't focused on it so sometimes I didn't even remember that there was something else going on besides learning about this world and watching the characters go to school and train for their futures (and hey, run-on sentence). Anyway, when everything finally came together, it was pretty action-packed. Not as much as I thought it'd be, but I liked it!

A FUN BEGINNING TO A LONG-ASS SERIES

Like I said, this book was just so much fun! And I did NOT expect it to be as deep as it was, especially regarding the characters. I honestly went into this book expecting it be filled with the high school cliches and cookie-cutter characters, but it wasn't. There is so much more to them than you know. And obviously since this is a series, there is room for more development with them and their relationships of the romantic variety (at least I hope so, because I'm not entirely convinced of Rose and Dmitri--sorry everyone, must be the teacher/student vibe, it weirds me out a little). And I know that there is definitely more stuff to learn about with this paranormal world.

As you can tell, I really, really, really enjoyed this book! It wasn't the strongest beginning to the series, but I have to say, I can't wait for more! More of these characters, more of this world, and more of these relationships. :)


***

As you can see, Cassie (and everyone else) picked a winner! And hey, wanna make me read a book? I have Goodreads shelves you can choose from (because I am on a book-buying ban right now so it'd have to be either something I own or one I can get from the library). But these may or may not have been updated recently...
*Physical
*ARCs
*Kindle
*Library
Just leave me a comment with the name of it! BUT YOU WILL NEVER KNOW WHEN I'M READING IT! *cue evil laugh*

Thursday, March 26, 2015

March Madness: The Sweet 17 Recap (+Giveaway)

Well, that's it! My event is over. Not gonna lie, I'm kinda sad about it. But I also can't wait to get back to my regular scheduled programming. Aka new features and reviews! Also hopefully some discussions if I actually finish writing them. Heh. Anyway, this blog event has just been the coolest thing ever and so much fun! I honestly never expected it to get as big as it did, and I'm so overwhelmed with the positive responses I received! It's why I am doing something very special, something that I didn't plan on doing until a few days ago.

So I wasn't going to do a giveaway. I quite honestly didn't know if I could afford to do one. I'm going to NY in May, so everything is being put toward that. But I wanted to do something special to celebrate this. And I wanted to do a sort of author appreciation giveaway, because I am so thankful! So incredibly thankful that all 17 authors took the time out of their busy schedules, deadlines, personal lives, etc. to write a post or answer my questions. Paula Stokes, for example, had 18 guest posts to write for March, and she STILL wanted to do participate. Other authors had so much going on as well, but they still took the time to celebrate my birthday with me. Not to mention, quite a few of them are FAVORITES of mine and I was incredibly happy that I got to interact with them and that they joined the madness. Everyone made this the best possible event ever, and I'm so glad I got to do this! <3


Here is a recap!
*Charisma by Jeanne Ryan: author interview + physical ARC giveaway! (US)
*Death Marked by Leah Cypess: spotlight + signed hardcover giveaway! (US)
*Infandous by Elana K. Arnold: author interview.
*The Crimson Gate by Whitney A. Miller: top ten reasons to read horror books + ebook giveaway of The Violet Hour! (INT)
*The Wrong Side of Right by Jenn Marie Thorne: author interview.
*The Infinite by Lori M. Lee: character interview with Kai! (it was my first ever character interview, so I hope y'all liked it).
*The Storyspinner by Becky Wallace: the great 8 of villains!
*Liars, Inc. by Paula Stokes: author interview + swag pack giveaway! (INT)
*My Best Everything by Sarah Tomp: 18th birthday party planning post. :)
*Breaking Sky by Cori McCarthy: author interview.
*Duplicity by N.K. Traver: top 10 favorite debuts moments so far.
*The Thorn and the Sinking Stone by C.J. Dushinski: author interview!
*The Orphan Queen by Jodi Meadows: the one reason to read fantasy!
*What Waits in the Woods by Kieran Scott: a really fun author interview + signed copy of the book giveaway! (US/CAN)
*Positively Beautiful by Wendy Mills: a guest post on why she writes for teens + audiobook giveaway. (INT)
*Captive by Brighton Walsh: mini author interview!
*Black Dove, White Raven by Elizabeth Wein: top ten places in history she'd like to visit + signed finished copy giveaway! (INT)

****

Okay, so this giveaway is going to be different from what I usually do, because there IS a mandatory entry that is not a freebie. You might hate me for it, but I think all of these authors deserve more attention. So, the mandatory entry is that you HAVE to comment on the post of the book that you want to win! And make it meaningful, yeah? I know that most people like easy entries with giveaways (as do I a lot of the time), but because this is an author appreciation giveaway, I thought it would be nice to show them more support. Also, you can earn more entries if you comment on more than one of the March Madness posts (as an extra incentive, which you can do daily)!

Also guys, the giveaways above are still open! I extended the date for many of them, and the others will be ending at the same time as this one. :)

****

And, as always, there are rules!
*Open INTERNATIONALLY, so long as the book that you want is available on TBD!
*If the winner is US, the book will be shipped from Amazon instead.
*Also take note that a few of these books are only available in EBOOK format! If that is the case, it will be from Amazon Kindle (I think this only applies to The Thorn and the Sinking Stone anyway).
*Make you sure you read the entry directions CAREFULLY! Cheating will disqualify you, and so will not entering the correct information.
*You must be 15 years or older to enter.
*Winner will be notified via email and must respond within 72 hours!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

March Madness: Black Dove, White Raven by Elizabeth Wein

I'm not going to lie, Elizabeth Wein was one of the authors I emailed that I was hoping against all hope would want to participate! She is one of my favorites, and although I've only read Code Name Verity, I know I'm going to love the rest of her books. So I'm incredibly thankful for blogging and the opportunity it has given me to be able to interact with an author I admire. Not only is Elizabeth one of the sweetest people, but she also had a lot going on and STILL wanted to participate because she is just that amazing. So please give a warm welcome to Elizabeth as she tells us the top ten places in history she'd love to visit! And check below for an international giveaway for her newest book. :)

MEET THE BOOK!

Top Ten Places in History You'd Like to Go
“The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.” This resonant quotation is the first sentence of L.P. Hartley’s 1953 novel The Go-Between, which opens with the viewpoint character looking back on his youth. I’ve always felt that I would find a trip to the past a bit like being in a foreign country – a place where familiar foods tasted slightly different, familiar languages were spoken with slightly strange accents and expressions, and where you didn’t quite know how to behave in familiar situations. You think you know all about driving a car, but how in the world do you use a choke or a crank start? It would be just as strange and nerve-racking as driving on the wrong side of the road for the first time.

But I love travelling, and I think I’d like to travel across distances counted in years as much as I like to travel across distances counted in miles. So here are a few places that would be must-sees on my historical itinerary. I’m not going to rank them: they’re simply in the order I thought of them.

• South Dakota in the 1880s, as the railways were being built. This is usually my number one answer to the question, “What historical era would you like to visit?” I’m well aware of the evils of Manifest Destiny, but I can’t help longing to see the American prairies before their native flora, fauna, and peoples were trampled and dispersed, and to watch the first trains steam through.

• Britain – specifically Scotland -  in World War II. I’d like to experience my World War II fascination first hand, with the added benefit of seeing the town I live in when it was still a thriving farmland auction center and bustling port.

• 1920s Paris. I went on a binge of re-reading F Scott Fitzgerald’s novels last year, along with Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast, and in the spirit of nostalgia I would love to experience a little of that wonderful mix of literary creativity and the Jazz Age. I think I’d have to be a younger person than I am now to fully appreciate the cocktails. 

• 1920s Pennsylvania. (Do you sense a theme?) Many of the places in history that I’d like to see are places that I’m familiar with in the present. I’d like to see the small town and the Pennsylvania countryside where I grew up, but during the time when my grandmother was growing up there. I’d like to have known those places when horses still pulled sleighs in winter, before the strip malls swallowed up the corn fields. I’d like to drive across Pennsylvania on the Lincoln Highway when it was nearly a new route, when the main highways went right through the center of town, before the interstates…

• Roman Britain. The Romans had central heating and running water in Britain 1800 years ago, and it took us about 1500 years to get these modern conveniences back after the Romans left… The books of Rosemary Sutcliff, particularly Eagle of the Ninth, were my introduction to this time and place. My first book, The Winter Prince, is based on Arthurian legend and is set in Britain about a hundred years after the Romans left, but I’d like to visit a little earlier than that, so I could take advantage of their extensively maintained road network and fantastic public baths.

• Pennsylvania in about 1500. Going back in time a little further in Pennsylvania, where I grew up, I’d like to see the northeast of North America before it was deforested. I’d like to see the Susquehanna River when it was a main thoroughfare for the people who lived in and managed that forest. I’d like to see pre-colonial Eastern White Pine trees. They reportedly grew to heights of 230 feet (70 meters) and reached diameters of eight feet across. In about a hundred and fifty years, we managed to chop down 99 percent of native Eastern White Pine forest in North America. WOW, WE’RE NINJA. They were gone by the time my grandmother was born in 1916.

• Aksum. This African civilization thrived between about 100 and 940 AD. The kingdom was centered in what is now modern Ethiopia and Eritrea. My second book, A Coalition of Lions, and the three books that followed it, are all set in Aksum in the middle of the 6th century AD. This kingdom had its own complex coinage and written alphabet, traded extensively throughout Africa and the Middle East, and was referred to as one of four great world civilizations at the time. It was my interest in Aksum that inspired me to write my latest novel, Black Dove, White Raven, which is set in Ethiopia in 1935. The capital of the kingdom, the city of Aksum, still exists, and is the holy city of Ethiopia, which became Christian in about 325 AD. I’ve visited the present city but would love to see it in its heyday in the 6th century, preferably before the Justinianic Plague… 

• Venice some time during the 13th century, when it was the most prosperous city in all of Europe. Quite frankly, I’d visit Venice any time. But it would be cool to see it in its independent heyday.

• China during the 1946-1949 Civil War. Maybe I could be a war correspondent there if you promise me I will get out alive? My mother was fascinated with this period and with Maoist Communism, and as a very small girl one of my first heroines was Liu Hulan (I had a picture book about her), who was executed as a spy at the age of 14. I don’t think I ever quite got over Liu Hulan’s heroism. I have a less romantic view of all these events now than I did when was a pre-teen, and I’d be interested in observing, for myself, the reality of this massive people’s revolution.

• 1960s New York City. Wait, I DID experience New York in the 1960s! But I was three years old when we left. I’d like to go back to East Harlem, where my parents lived from 1963 to 1968, as an adult. I’d like to be able to appreciate the Civil Rights Movement as my parents experienced it, to campaign for Robert Kennedy and rally for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., to have access to Lewis Michaux’s African National Memorial Bookstore, to understand what was going on and help to make it happen.

Oh wait – I can still do that. 

I hope these glimpses into the past inspire some of you to find out more. Where would you like to go?


I would like to go to ALL THE PLACES! No, but seriously, I love history and there are so many places I'd love to time travel back to. Most especially the Civil War era and Victorian London. Also Ancient Rome, Greece, and Egypt. I mean, the list could go on, so I'll stop there. :P

*****

And thanks to Elizabeth's generosity, I have a giveaway for y'all! One lucky winner will receive a finished copy of Black Dove, White Raven. And guess what? This is international! :)

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

March Madness: Captive by Brighton Walsh

Yay, I'm SO excited about this March Madness post! Today I have the lovely Brighton Walsh on the blog giving me an elevator pitch, sharing the inspiration behind the story, and talking about her newest book and its characters. This woman is one of my favorite authors, and I cannot wait for ya'll to read to read Captive! :)

MEET THE BOOK!

Hi Brighton! Welcome to The Fox’s Hideaway! I’m so glad you could stop by.

Me too! Thanks for inviting me!


Describe Captive in a single tweet.

Fair warning: I am the worst at these. Normally when someone asks me my elevator pitch, I stare blankly while opening and closing my mouth with no sounds coming out. 

A sheltered college student is kidnapped and held captive by an intense and secretive man. While in seclusion, they begin to fall in love.


(Sorry not sorry I made you do that? :P) Where did the idea for this story come from?
My editor at St. Martin’s Press actually approached me with it after reading Caged in Winter. I had the hook (basically the tweet above), and a brief idea of each character (though those both changed drastically from the initial suggestions), and that was it. I needed to create the plot and fill in the characters. She gave me a pencil outline; I had to make it a painting.


Are you worried how people will react to the kidnapping story-line and the romance between captor/captive? (Side-note: I know it might make people wary of reading it, but I hope they do. I loved how it wasn’t a typical captor/captive story, and I think people will really enjoy that).

Thank you for that! I’ve been really happy with the early reviews that have expressed the same sentiment. I was worried at first, definitely. Truth circle: I was nervous that I wouldn’t be able to write this, because dark romance isn’t my thing. But, while this is darker than anything I’ve ever written, I wouldn’t call this a dark romance. When I was about 75% through writing it, I freaked out, because I couldn’t see why Maddie would fall in love with Ghost, and if I couldn’t believe it, how could the readers? But after a talk with my agent and a few tweaks to Ghost’s character, I was able to get on board with everything. I think I was able to do a kidnapping story in a way that’s realistic and also allows for redemption for Ghost.


What do you hope people take away from this book?

It’s never too late to start over and live the life you want to live.


And of course, we have to talk about the characters. What are three qualities that Madison possesses? Ghost?

Madison: loyal, trusting, resilient
Ghost: assertive, skeptical, protective


Most important: Will we ever learn Ghost’s real name?

Ghost’s real name is in the book, yes. I’ve actually been happy that most of the reviewers have kept this out of their reviews (thank you!), because I do think it’s a poignant part in the book, and I think it packs a bigger punch when you don’t know what it is beforehand.

There’s actually something that involves his real and his street name in the book, and I’m waiting for the first person to mention it to me. (I wrote this earlier, and then I had three bloggers mention it to me and I was SO HAPPY! It’s a tiny detail, but it’s an important detail. I’m so glad people are noticing it.)


Thank you so much for stopping by my blog and answering my questions, Brighton! :)

Thanks for having me!

*****

Guys, tomorrow is my LAST March Madness post! And, not gonna lie, I'm a little sad about it! So we'll have our last author stopping by tomorrow (and you'll want to check out this post and giveaway), and then on Thursday will be a wrap-up of the event and maybe a little surprise. ;)

Monday, March 23, 2015

March Madness: Positively Beautiful by Wendy Mills

Today's March Madness is a wonderful post from Wendy Mills about why she writes for teenagers. :)

MEET THE BOOK!

Why I Write for Teens
I wrote Positively Beautiful as a young adult book because that was the way I needed to tell this story. But as I wrote it, and gobbled up young adult books like a starving person at a Golden Corral buffet, I began to realize this was the genre for me. I’ve thought a lot about what is so appealing about teen fiction to me, and this is what I’ve come up with.   

1. The pure, raw emotion. This one is a bigee for me. Just like actors love to play “meaty” characters, an author loves to write about characters with a lot of emotion, who feel everything in a nerves-on-the-outside-of-their skin kind of way. Teens feel a lot. 

2. Books that make an impact. I know that there are adult books that readers connect with in a big way, but in my experience this happens less and less often as I get older. It takes a lot more to wow me than it used to. However, I do remember the books I read when I was young, and how passionate I felt about some of them, how I read them over and over again, and how those books made me want to be something, do something. These are the type of books I want to write.

3. Navigating the gray areas. When we are little, things are good or bad, right or wrong. But as we get older, we began to understand that our choices are not often starkly black and white. Teens are beginning to learn how to navigate in this gray area where the best decisions are not so obvious. They are learning that the choices can be hard, but that they still have to make the best ones they can. This makes for delicious conflicts.  

4. High Stakes. In Writing 101 they tell you to write a book with high stakes. And in some ways you can’t go wrong with teen books, because everything is high stakes. What you wear to school can be high stakes, or who you sit with at lunch. They are high stakes because they matter so much to the characters. Everything to teens is so immediate, with a kind of breathless urgency that imbues the most ordinary scene with tension and conflict. If such a mundane thing like the choice of lunch partner is so vital to a teen, imagine what it would feel like to find out you have a mutated gene that gives you upwards of an 80% chance of getting breast cancer in your lifetime.

5. Room for mistakes. Teens make mistakes. We all do, of course, but teens make little mistakes, and big ones, and medium-sized ones, on an almost daily basis. THIS IS THEIR JOB. This is how they learn. Adults can talk themselves blue in the face about the mistakes they made, and what they learned from them (blah, blah, blah), but until a teen feels it for themselves, they will not understand. I’m sure there are people who navigated their teenage years smoothly with a minimum of fuss. This was not my experience. And since I write about things that I know, the teens in my books are allowed to make messy, life-changing mistakes as much and as often as they have to.

6. Open-mindedness. Teens have graduated from the school of “What My Parents Believe Is the Gospel Truth” to “I Can Have My Own Opinions About Things? Reeaally.” They haven’t yet had the experience to form their own opinions about people, and life, and the world, and I enjoy exploring diverse themes and situations with an open-minded audience.

Why, as an adult, do you like to read (or write) teen fiction?


I love to read about teens, because I think they're so misunderstood and there is just something about that age group that makes me love their stories. :)

*****

Thanks so much for stopping by, Wendy! And thanks to her generosity, I have a giveaway for y'all! One winner will receive an audiobook copy of Positively Beautiful. And this is international! :) (Please be sure to read the rules on my policies tab).

Friday, March 20, 2015

March Madness: What Waits in the Woods by Kieran Scott

So I'm really late with this post, but I just did NOT have the energy to write it up last night. Anyway, today's March Madness is featuring the awesome Kieran Scott! I have an interview with her about her latest book and there is also a cool giveaway at the end of the post. :)

MEET THE BOOK!

Hi Kieran! Welcome to The Fox’s Hideaway! I’m so glad you could stop by. For everyone unfamiliar with your newest releases, can you tell us a little bit about What Waits in the Woods?

Thanks for having me! What Waits in the Woods is a classic thriller about four close friends who go in to the woods for a fun camping trip, but then start to fracture when things start to go horribly awry.  Like on an epic scale. Let’s just say there’s a good possibility they won’t all make it out alive.


I’ve noticed many of your books are in different genres. What’s the most fun thing about dabbling in different areas? The hardest?

I mostly in light, funny romances or seriously dark thrillers. There’s no in between with me! The fun thing is getting to explore different personalities and using outside influences to mess with those personalities. Whether it’s meeting your one true love or facing your killer, something fundamental in you changes in that moment. I love figuring out what happens next.


That being said, which one has been your favorite to work on?

I have to say, I enjoy writing thrillers a BIT more than romances, only because I love to shock people. I especially love to shock myself. Which happens more than you’d think.


Back to WWitW: Name each of the main characters’ best assets that would help them survive.

Callie: intelligence. She thinks her book smarts can’t help her, but she ends up adapting and using her analytical ability to get out of trouble.
Jeremy: Science and nature know-how: Jeremy’s the guy who could tell you which plants are safe to eat and how to navigate by the stars. Definitely plusses when you’re lost in the woods.
Lissa: Confidence. Lissa might not always be right, but once she makes a decision, she sticks with it. Sometimes overthinking things can cost you precious time and get you hurt—or worse.
Penelope: Pragmatism. Penelope will weigh all options and treat everyone’s opinions equally—which is one really good way to come to the right decision.


This story sounds like it’ll constantly test the characters. What are some of the things they’ll face in here (if you can say without spoiling anything)?

They do get lost and everyone starts to question whose fault it is, which challenges their relationships. There’s also an evil lurking presence, a lot of paranoia, and hunger. Lots of hunger.


Quick, you’re stranded in the woods ALONE with only a backpack on your shoulders. What do you do first? 

What’s in the backpack? GPS? Cell phone? Can I call for a pizza? :) No, seriously. I would walk downhill because that’s where you will usually find a natural source of water and then I’d follow the water downstream until I found a road or some other sign of civilization. Which would hopefully happen before I starved or froze to death.


Secondly, what would be in the backpack? Let’s say you can only fit six things inside. What are the essentials?

Oh! Ha! Good question. Okay, let’s pretend cell phones don’t exist. My six things would be 1) a water purifier, 2) a water bottle 3) protein-heavy granola 4) a blanket 5) a compass and 6) sunscreen (I’m very pale.) 


And to end it on a fun note, what is your Zodiac sign?

Pisces! I’m a total fish. Which means I’m compassionate and creative, but overly-sensitive and self-pitying. Or so they say. 


Hey, me too! PIECES FTW. Thanks for playing along and answering my questions, Kieran! :)

*****

And thanks to Kieran, I have a giveaway for y'all! She's offering up a signed copy of What Waits in the Woods for one lucky winner! Unfortunately, this is only open to the US or Canada people. Good luck! :)