Friday, December 20, 2013

Guest Post: Stuart R West

Aine, thanks for having me on your blog to blather on about the Tex, the Witch Boy series. It’s a trilogy of YA, paranormal, thriller, mystery, comedic romance books. More importantly, the books tackle tough topical issues teens face daily. I want teens to know they’re not alone in their trauma, let them know there’s hope and better things on the horizon.

Tex is an ordinary teen. Awkward in his own skin. Bullied, unsure of his future, no idea what he’s doing. Worse, he’s inherited his late mother’s witchcraft powers, definitely not his choice. He’s aided by his mother’s mentor, a blue-haired, old woman. She’s fast with a head-slap, faster with her cigarette lighter. The girl he likes, Olivia, is a warrior. She takes down the high school’s scariest bully with a fire extinguisher. Then there’s Elspeth, the mysterious punker girl who’s introduced in Tex and the Gangs of Suburbia. I can’t tell you about her because she’s shrouded in mystery and then I might have to kill you. You’ll have to read the books. Really. It’s for your own safety.

Tex and the God Squad, the third and final book in the Tex series, wraps everything up. It’s about teen suicide, gay issues, religion (although, it’s not a religious book), and, of course, bad cooking from Tex’s father’s girlfriend. Ghastly. Possibly the scariest part of the trilogy. I mean, honestly, wait ‘til you hear about her recipes. Talk about horror.

Now, I must admit, I’ve already come under fire about the controversial nature of Tex and the God Squad. The bad guys—the ”Clarendon Baptist Church”—are a thinly veiled portrait of the, sadly, very real Westboro Baptist Church. I can’t make up heinous villains like this. Wish my writing skills were that good. But they’re very real. And very despicable.

Living in Kansas, I feel I must apologize for the WBC as they’re an unfortunate byproduct of my state. Sorry, sorry, sorry. But I’m doing my part. Read the book and see how Tex takes these idiots down.

Tex and the God Squad (third book)
Tex and the Gangs of Suburbia (second book)
Tex, the Witch Boy (first book)
Tex, the Witch Boy Book Trailer:

Friday, December 6, 2013

Book Review: Star Cursed

Cahill Witch Chronicles...

With the Brotherhood persecuting witches like never before, a divided Sisterhood desperately needs Cate to come into her Prophesied powers. And after Cate's friend Sachi is arrested for using magic, a war-thirsty Sister offers to help her find answers—if Cate is willing to endanger everyone she loves.

Cate doesn't want to be a weapon, and she doesn't want to involve her friends and Finn in the Sisterhood's schemes. But when Maura and Tess join the Sisterhood, Maura makes it clear that she'll do whatever it takes to lead the witches to victory. Even if it means sacrifices. Even if it means overthrowing Cate. Even if it means all-out war.

In the highly anticipated sequel to Born Wicked, the Cahill Witch Chronicles continue Cate, Maura and Tess's quest to find love, protect family, and explore their magic against all odds in an alternate history of New England.

I loved Jessica Spotswood's Born Wicked so much that I bought Star Cursed the day it came out and devoured it!

Oh my gods! It was so good. I didn't believe there was any way for this book to be better than the first. But I was wrong. I laughed. I cried. I screamed and yelled and cursed one particular character.

I need the final book, Sisters' Fate now. But I'm forced to wait until August 13. Eight more months!!! It's gonna be torture waiting. Trust me, you want to read this series. Star Cursed is definitely one if the best books I've read this year.

If you're like me, and eagerly awaiting the next book, be sure to check out Jessica Spotwood's website for fun extras, and be sure to drop her a note on how amazing you think her books are.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Book Review: The Lucy Variations

Lucy Beck-Moreau once had a promising future as a concert pianist. The right people knew her name, her performances were booked months in advance, and her future seemed certain.

That was all before she turned fourteen.

Now, at sixteen, it's over. A death, and a betrayal, led her to walk away. That leaves her talented ten-year-old brother, Gus, to shoulder the full weight of the Beck-Moreau family expectations. Then Gus gets a new piano teacher who is young, kind, and interested in helping Lucy rekindle her love of piano -- on her own terms. But when you're used to performing for sold-out audiences and world-famous critics, can you ever learn to play just for yourself?

National Book Award finalist Sara Zarr takes readers inside the exclusive world of privileged San Francisco families, top junior music competitions, and intense mentorships. The Lucy Variations is a story of one girl's struggle to reclaim her love of music and herself. It's about finding joy again, even when things don't go according to plan. Because life isn't a performance, and everyone deserves the chance to make a few mistakes along the way.

I was counting down the days until The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr hit the shelves. I'd read and loved her previous four books, so I had high expectations for this one. And she did not disappoint.

Lucy comes from a well-off family. She and her brother play the piano. And I don't mean just a few times a week, with lessons one day, and a year-end recital. It's almost their entire lives. But Lucy quits and tries to take control of her life. Her grandfather is a music lover, and her mother grew up playing. So the pressure Lucy and Gus face to not only play, but play perfectly, is high. The book picks up after some time has passed since Lucy quit, and she's considering maybe, possibly playing again.

As with the last several releases by Sara Zarr, I went into it without knowing what it was about. I find that to be a lot of fun. I didn't know what to expect except a girl named Lucy and a piano in there somewhere. Her writing is fantastic, and her story-telling really sucked me in. The Lucy Variations was very different from her previous releases. I think this is due to her growth as a writer, considering this is her fifth YA contemporary published.

Lucy's book is not my favorite of Zarr's, but it was definitely an enjoyable read. (All of her books are worth picking up. It's some of the best contemporary YA out there, in my opinion.) Beware, it will make you cry. But it will also make you laugh. I have a love/hate relationship with Lucy. Sometimes I felt like I really understood her, and sometimes I wanted to smack her. But, for me, that's the perfect kind of book. Pick it up. You won't be disappointed.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Book Review: Far Far Away

It says quite a lot about Jeremy Johnson Johnson that the strangest thing about him isn't even the fact his mother and father both had the same last name. Jeremy once admitted he's able to hear voices, and the townspeople of Never Better have treated him like an outsider since. After his mother left, his father became a recluse, and it's been up to Jeremy to support the family. But it hasn't been up to Jeremy alone. The truth is, Jeremy can hear voices. Or, specificially, one voice: the voice of the ghost of Jacob Grimm, one half of the infamous writing duo, The Brothers Grimm. Jacob watches over Jeremy, protecting him from an unknown dark evil whispered about in the space between this world and the next. But when the provocative local girl Ginger Boultinghouse takes an interest in Jeremy (and his unique abilities), a grim chain of events is put into motion. And as anyone familiar with the Grimm Brothers know, not all fairy tales have happy endings. . .

Far Far Away by Tom McNeal caught my eye when I read that it included Jacob Grimm. Or, rather, his ghost. I'm a huge lover of faery tales.

I had a bit of trouble getting into this one. The ghost of Jacob Grimm narrates the story while the two main characters are Jeremy Johnson Johnson and Ginger Boultinghouse. It was confusing at first as it reads like a 3rd person narrative, but it's not. It's first person, but our narrator spends most of the time observing and little time interacting. Then when he says "I" I had to think about who was speaking. Unfortunately, it took me a third of the book to get used to this.

It also took me about a third of the book to start caring about Jeremy and Ginger. The start was slow, but once it picked up, I didn't want to put it down. The main characters were a lot fun, and I really enjoyed their relationship. The interactions with those around town were interesting and diverse. And the twist when the villain is revealed was surprising.

Far Far Away was really interesting. I've used that term a few times, but it really fits. And it was a very enjoyable read. I'm sad that it appears to be a standalone. I learned some new words in German and Swedish and some interesting facts about two of my favorite fairy tale collectors. I recommend this book to anyone looking for something different. It is certainly unique among YA books that have hit shelves recently.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Author Interview: Sarah Dessen

I was so honored when I was asked to interview Sarah Dessen at her recent event in DC. I’ve met her before, and she is such a sweetheart, so I was very excited to get this one-on-one time. Sarah’s answers are paraphrased, not direct quotes unless it’s within quotes.

Aine: What was the inspiration for your latest novel, The Moon and More?

Sarah: I was at my favorite spot in North Carolina, Emerald Isle. I had finished What Happened to Goodbye and had no idea what to write next. A hot shirtless guy, who was rather chatty, spoke with me. He was from Emerald Isle and told me all about growing up there. A lot of my books are set in Colby, which is based on Emerald Isle, but I had never written about anyone from there. After speaking with him, I thought “There’s my book.”

Aine: If I recall correctly, it was announced under a different title. Why the name change?

Sarah: The Moon and More was my original title. But we were worried that people would think that with the word “moon” in the title, readers would think it was a sequel to Keeping the Moon even though that was published a long time ago. So it was announced under The Best After Ever, but it was a bit confusing as “after” and “ever” were often switched. The next title had the word “summer” in it, and we were worried that it would not stay on bookshelves once summer passed. So, we went back to my original title, The Moon and More.

Aine: I know you have a young daughter. Has she inspired anything in your books?

Sarah: Absolutely. It made me focus more on the mother/daughter relationship. It made me want to flesh out the teen characters’ mothers. I understand the mother’s more. There will likely be more children in the new novels.

Aine: Which character do you have the most in common with? Which would’ve been your BFF in high school.

Sarah: Halley from Someone Like You is the most like you. In high school, I often trailed after my friends, being more of a follower. Remy from This Lullaby and Emaline from The Moon and More would’ve been my best friends. They’re also the two characters I’m the least like.

Aine: What can you tell me about what you’re working on now?

Sarah: I don’t talk about what I’m working on, but there is something I’m writing. It’s secret.

Aine: Do you have any critique partners?

Sarah: No. I’m very secretive about my work. My agent reads it once a very polished draft is done. And then my editor. My husband, family, and friends, don’t even read it until it’s in ARC form.

Aine: What books would you recommend to your fans that are comparable to your work?

Sarah: John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, Jenny Hahn’s Summer series, and anything by Sara Zarr.

Aine: What’s on your tbr pile?

Sarah: The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan and The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer. I just finished Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight which is like Gone Girl for teens.

Aine: I’ve heard your books referred to as YA light? Is that intentional?

Sarah: I think it’s just the way I write. I don’t write anything too dark or shocking. If I did, it probably wouldn’t feel genuine.

Aine: All of your books are written in first person. Is there a reason for that?

Sarah: It’s easier. I’ve always written in first person. It allows me to explore her in more depth. It gives the readers more insight. I tried writing The Moon and More in present tense, but I had to go back and change that.

Aine: This is your eleventh books. Is putting it out into the world just as exciting and/or nerve-wracking as the first one?

Sarah: It’s more so. There are more readers picking it up. Every release is scarier.

Aine: How do you feel about the new covers? Do you like them more than the old ones?

Sarah: I like all of my covers. I like the change. A fresh look is always good as it might draw in more readers. I think it makes them more timeless.

I asked twitter what questions they would like me to ask. Here is what I got from those.

Aine/Maggie: When your daughter is old enough, which if your books would you give her to read first?

Sarah: That Summer. It’s my first book, and I would want her to read them in the order they were written to see my evolution as an author.

Aine/Sandy: Have you considered writing a male protagonist?

Sarah: I get asked this all the time… not really. I don’t know what guys are thinking. I’d be worried he would be too much like the girls.

Aine/Maggie: How has your writing changed since becoming a mom?

Sarah: I’m more focused. I had to be. I’m also more relaxed and less obsessive about what I’m about to write or have just written. I’ve become more efficient, and I feel so much more sympathy for the mothers in my books.

Thank you so much to Sarah Dessen for the interview and Penguin for this opportunity.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Book Review: Loki's Wolves

In Viking times, Norse myths predicted the end of the world, an event called Ragnarök, that only the gods can stop. When this apocalypse happens, the gods must battle the monsters--wolves the size of the sun, serpents that span the seabeds, all bent on destroying the world.

The gods died a long time ago.

Matt Thorsen knows every Norse myth, saga, and god as if it was family history--because it is family history. Most people in the modern-day town of Blackwell, South Dakota, in fact, are direct descendants of either Thor or Loki, including Matt's classmates Fen and Laurie Brekke.

However, knowing the legends and completely believing them are two different things. When the rune readers reveal that Ragnarok is coming and kids--led by Matt--will stand in for the gods in the final battle, he can hardly believe it. Matt, Laurie, and Fen's lives will never be the same as they race to put together an unstoppable team to prevent the end of the world.

When I heard that Kelley Armstrong and Melissa Marr were co-writing a novel, I didn't even care what the novel was about. They've long been my favorite authors, so I knew whatever they came up with would be brilliant. And... I was right! Loki's Wolves is the first book in their middle grade series, The Blackwell Pages. It follows Matt (a descendant of Thor) and Fen and Laurie (descendants of Loki) as they try to save the world.

Matt finds out early on that Ragnarök is upon them. The end of the world. And it's up to Matt, a middle schooler, to save everyone. If he can't stop Ragnarök, most everyone on Earth will die and an ice age will be upon them. When he finds out that his family might not want to stop the end of the world, he takes off to find the other descendants of the Norse gods to help him.

I really enjoyed this book. One of the best things about reading a book by Melissa Marr based in folklore or mythology is that I know it was done right. Melissa knows her stuff when it comes to lore, and I appreciate that. I love folklore and mythology, and nothing bugs me more than when it's screwed up.

Both Melissa and Kelley are amazing storytellers, and together they've created a fun, fast-paced book. It might be shelved in Middle Grade, but it can definitely be enjoyed by all ages. Pick this one up. You won't regret it.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Book Review: A Modern Witch

Can you live 28 years without discovering you're a witch? — Lauren is downtown Chicago's youngest elite realtor. She's also a witch. She must be - the fetching spell for Witches' Chat isn't supposed to make mistakes. So says the woman who coded the spell, at least. — The tall, dark, and handsome guy sent to assess her is a witch too (and no, that doesn't end the way you might think). What he finds in Lauren will change lives, mess with a perfectly good career, and require lots of ice cream therapy.

I found A Modern Witch by Debora Geary while playing around on Goodreads. It sounded like something I'd enjoy since I love most things witchy. And then a good friend said she loved the series. So I bought it and read it. It was enjoyable, and I liked the characters. But it was slow. The beginning was confusing, starting with a scene where one of the guys told his sister she should go with the red lingerie. Whut?

There was no build up and no climax. The closest thing to a climax happened about 60 pages from the end, so the last 50 pages felt like filler. Like a short story/novella that would fall between novels one and two. I kept wondering why there were more pages since it seemed like the story was over.

While I enjoyed the characters, they were all happy, all the time. There was no conflict between anyone. While I'm not a fan of lots of arguing and drama, a bit of tension here or there would've been more realistic. Even the one sad scene was almost cheery. And the happy all the time stuff sometimes came off cheesy. It was definitely a fluffy, feel good book.

There were several kids in the novel, but I'm going to focus on Aervyn, since he was a big part of the story. He's a four-year-old. There was nothing about him that was believable as a four-year-old. I get that he's going to be the most powerful witch of his time, but he read more as seven or eight. Another issue I had... He had no rules to follow, no consequences for his behavior. He teleported his almost nine-year-old sister from the shower to the backyard nekkid and mom laughed it off. If he's going to be powerful, he needs to learn boundaries. As someone who has spent a lot of time around small children, he needed to be more believable for me.

There were a lot of weird reactions to things. For example, one of the female characters said one of the guys was making her uncomfortable. His response was, "Usually I like hearing that from a woman." Again, whut? A lot of the issues I had were small, nit-picky things, but these things took me out of the story. And they happened way too often. Also, it's not a good thing when my favorite thing about the book is the cover. Which I LOVE, by the way.

Despite these few complaints, I did enjoy it enough to read book two. But I'm not dying to get to it.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Book Review: Cinder

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . .

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

I picked up Cinder by Marissa Meyer shortly after it hit the shelves. I love faery tales, and faery tale retellings, but Cinderella isn't my favorite. However, when I heard that Cinderella was going to be a cyborg, I knew I had to read it. The cyborg element gave the story a new and unusual twist, that I know hadn't been done before.

Like so many of my books, I let it sit on my shelf for too long. This happens when there are too many unread books to choose when picking out a new one. And like so many, I wish I had picked it up sooner. I absolutely loved it. Chapter One starts with Cinder, a gifted mechanic, sitting at her booth in the market, waiting for a customer to bring by something for her to fix. And while she's waiting, she removes her tiny, rusted foot, excited that her assistant Iko is on her way with a new one. And who shows up, but Prince Kai, asking for Cinder to fix his android. She certainly can't turn him away.

I really enjoyed Cinder and Prince Kai. There was something between them from the beginning. But in New Beijing, cyborgs as seen as "less than." So she hides her true self from him. This book is a good mix of futuristic sci-fi with dystopian elements and faery tale. The society is still working on building itself up, and the Lunar Queen wants nothing but destruction. Prince Kai and Cinder work together to prevent the queen from getting what she wants.

The stepmother and stepsisters from the original Cinderella play a big role in Cinder's life. But other than the characters, and the ball at the palace, there isn't much pulled from old tale. I definitely think that helped me to like the story more, as it was much more exciting and interesting than an ordinary girl falling for a prince, and vice versa. Iko, Cinder's android assistant, was my favorite character in the book. She was so much fun!

The most unfortunate part of the book, the thing that kept me from giving it a full five stars, is that I figured out a major reveal very early on. I don't think there was much Marissa Meyer could have done differently to avoid that. It was just really obvious. And it did detract a bit from my enjoyment of the book. The next book in the series, Scarlet, is out, and I'm hoping to read it soon! I'm also hoping to read "Glitches", the prequel short, and "The Queen's Army" (story 1.5) before that.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Book Review: Clockwork Mafia (and giveaway)

Inventor Henrietta Mason is retiring from airships and adventuring to return home to Philadelphia. Determined to erase all trails leading to her late father's duplicity, she dismantles his lab and removes all records of the Badlands gold. While in the city, she can't resist the lure of a charity gala but winds up regretting the whole experience. Well, everything except a heart-racing dance with a certain U.S. Marshal.

His career and vengeance on the line, Carson Alexander must prove a connection between Senator Mason and the mafia. He lucked out happening across Mason's strikingly beautiful daughter, only to have her slip through his fingers. On a desperate hunt to track her down, he never expects his search to take him into the brutal Badlands.

With a mechanically enhanced enforcer after them, only Carson knows the extent of the danger they face. He'll have to win over Henrietta's trust, and her heart, before it's too late...

I was so excited to get my hands on Clockwork Mafia by Seleste deLaney... since I loved Badlands so much. In Badlands, we're introduced to Ever and the crew of the Black Hawk, including Spencer (the captain), Zeke, Mahala, and Henrietta (a doctor). In Clockwork Mafia we get to learn more about Henrietta. I was a bit concerned, since I didn't much care for her character in Badlands, but it turns out I enjoyed her and her story even more than Ever's.

Henri is odd and eccentric. So, of course, I should like her. But those qualities are problematic for her. She's grown up in Victorian London, or rather the steampunk version of it, and she's expected to be a proper lady. She needs to find a suitable husband, but that's just not her. Another thing we have in common! She's a doctor and has a knack for inventions.

In Clockwork Mafia the mob is after Henrietta. After her father's death, they need to get his work from her. But she's also got Carson (a marshal) and St. Clair (a lawyer) following her to get their hands on her father's work as well. I loved Carson from the moment he stepped into the first scene. He's a hero and possibly the only way Henrietta can survive the mob. Unfortunately, Henri's heart wants the one person who would not be a good match for her in society's eyes. That would be the lawyer.

This book not only has romance, but also action and adventure and a fun cast of characters. The world that Seleste created is so much fun with the airship and clockwork contraptions. We get to see the characters we love from the Badlands but has someone else stepping up as leading lady. I loved this book so much, that I'm giving one away. Enter to win an ebook copy of Clockwork Mafia by Seleste deLaney below. And if you win, and don't have Badlands, I'll throw that one in, too.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Guest Post: Seleste deLaney

Today on the blog I have Seleste deLaney, a fabulous author and fantastic friend. I absolutely loved Badlands and was thrilled when I heard CLockwork Mafia was coming out soon. Next Tuesday, to be exact. If you haven't read Badands, now is the time!

Why Men Don’t Rule

All authors get questions about the worlds they create, and we often try to answer those either directly or in future installments in a series. One of the biggest questions I get about the Badlands is how the prison system works and how that feeds into the political situation. It was a question I answered in Clockwork Mafia (at least a little), but the scene slowed down the pacing too much and was cut from a page and a half to two paragraphs. (Please bear in mind that since this was cut, it has not been edited.)

However, since people want to know…I want to share. (WARNING: the snippet has a teeny-tiny spoiler in it, but nothing that will hamper your enjoyment of Clockwork Mafia when you read it later. Because you will, right? I’d really like it if you did…)


…Of course, when the guard unlocked his door in the morning, instead of rushing forward to get out, he stepped back, his mouth open.

The guard peered into his cell. “Are you coming out or not? The queen said I should take you to the room where Dr. Mason was storing her things.”

“B-b-but…” Tobias tugged on his shirt in an effort to compose himself. “But you’re a man.”

Chuckling, the guard smoothed his beard. “Last I checked. Don’t let that fool you though, women still rule here. Quite frankly, I don’t want it to be any different.” He waved a hand toward the corridor.

Tobias picked up his jacket and dusted it off before stepping from the cell. “Why? It would seem once prisoners are released they’d band together to take power.”

“That’s Union thinking.” He waved at another guard—a woman this time—who unlocked the door leading to an open area surrounded by guardrooms. Once they entered, she moved to the other door and unlocked it, releasing them into the fortress proper. “You see. The Union says a man needs to be locked up for five years, ten years—however long—then they let ‘em out. Time served.

“Ain’t like that here. Just getting to the prison means we want to reform. Those warriors that man the borders don’t force anyone to come here. You run; you die. You put up more than minimal fight after finding out the rules; you die.” They twisted and turned down more corridors than Tobias could track, but perhaps that was the plan. “The men in those cells are the ones who want to change. In the Union, we’d be treated the same as the ones who go right back to doing wrong. No jobs, no homes, no lives. Here? Once we get out of the cells here, we’re human.

“Since Queen Laurette took the throne, there’s more opportunities than ever. She believes in what’s right, not just what’s right for women.” The guard opened another door at last and waved him in. “Why the hell would we try to destroy a world that treats us better than the one we came from?”

Dust from the floor stirred as Tobias entered and he covered his mouth to keep from coughing. “But what about power? Surely you strive for more than being a guard.”

Scoffing, the man reached in and swept a hand gently over the dimly glowing lichen on the walls, making them flare to life. He pointed to the far corner. “Broom’s over there if the dust really bothers you. As for me? I had power as a criminal and look what it got me—one cell to another until they shipped me across the river to a cell here. Too many people can’t handle power, men or women. It’s the reason they treat everyone, including criminals, the way they do here. You aren’t born to position; you earn it. Some men come out to be stable hands because that’s what they decided to earn. There ain’t much I want more right now than to make sure the men inside understand what they can do.”


If you have any questions about the men and the prison system, now’s the time to ask! I’ll answer as many as I can between now and the Romantic Times Booklovers’ Convention next week (look me up if you’ll be there!)

Clockwork Mafia:

Inventor Henrietta Mason is retiring from airships and adventuring to return home to Philadelphia. Determined to erase all trails leading to her late father's duplicity, she dismantles his lab and removes all records of the Badlands gold. While in the city, she can't resist the lure of a charity gala but winds up regretting the whole experience. Well, everything except a heart-racing dance with a certain U.S. Marshal.His career and vengeance on the line, Carson Alexander must prove a connection between Senator Mason and the mafia. He lucked out happening across Mason's strikingly beautiful daughter, only to have her slip through his fingers. On a desperate hunt to track her down, he never expects his search to take him into the brutal Badlands.

With a mechanically enhanced enforcer after them, only Carson knows the extent of the danger they face. He'll have to win over Henrietta's trust, and her heart, before it's too late...

Buy at:
Carina Press
Amazon UK
Amazon CA
Barnes and Noble
All Romance Ebooks

If you aren’t going to be able to see her next week at the Romantic Times Booklovers’ Convention—or even if you are—you can also find Seleste around the internet:
Facebook Page
Facebook Profile

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Book Review: Born Wicked

A gorgeous, witchy, romantic fantasy!

Everybody knows Cate Cahill and her sisters are eccentric. Too pretty, too reclusive, and far too educated for their own good. But the truth is even worse: they’re witches. And if their secret is discovered by the priests of the Brotherhood, it would mean an asylum, a prison ship—or an early grave.

Before her mother died, Cate promised to protect her sisters. But with only six months left to choose between marriage and the Sisterhood, she might not be able to keep her word... especially after she finds her mother’s diary, uncovering a secret that could spell her family’s destruction. Desperate to find alternatives to their fate, Cate starts scouring banned books and questioning rebellious new friends, all while juggling tea parties, shocking marriage proposals, and a forbidden romance with the completely unsuitable Finn Belastra.

If what her mother wrote is true, the Cahill girls aren’t safe. Not from the Brotherhood, the Sisterhood—not even from each other.

I feel so bad about leaving Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood on my shelf for so long. I bought it when it came out, which was over a year ago. I met Jessica on the Breathless Reads tour, and since she's local, I've met her several times since. She is so sweet and lovely. So I felt bad about having not read it. But at the same time I was afraid to read it. What if I didn't like it? I didn't want to give it a bad review. She'd probably see it. (panics)

But I finally read it, and... it was AMAZING! It's definitely one of my favorite books I've read so far this year. I loved everything about it. (suppresses the gushing)

Cate Cahill is the oldest of three. She has two younger sisters, Maura and Tess. And they're all witches. That wouldn't be such a problem except the time period. Born Wicked is set in the late 1800's. Witches were feared. They were killed or locked up. Women weren't allowed an education. We weren't treated as equals. Cate is running out of time on her intention ceremony. She can choose to join the Sisterhood (which is not what it seems) or a young man who proposes to her. Or the Brotherhood can choose for her.

I really enjoyed Cate. I don't have two sisters, but I definitely connected with her in her role as oldest. Growing up, my mother was sick. I took care of my brother a lot. I could understand why she did what she did and made the decisions she made. It's not easy being the oldest and shouldering all of the responsibility. Trying to protect her siblings and doing what's best. Maura reminded me a lot of my brother. Being rebellious and seeing the older sibling as bossy instead of someone who is taking the role of caregiver. Whether they were getting along or not, I enjoyed their relationship. It felt really genuine.

Cate has two suitors. Finn and... that other guy. Just kidding. His name is Paul. But I'm Team Finn all the way! He's working at his family's book store and in the Cahill's gardens. He's intelligent and funny and different from other guys. Cate can't help but fall for him. She knows it's a bad match for a number of reasons, but the heart wants what it wants. While Born Wicked does have something of a romantic triangle, it's not the typical triangle we see in YA paranormal fantasy. And I really appreciated that. Too often it's a girl torn between the good guy and the bad boy, while we all know she's going to pick the bad boy from page one.

The Brotherhood... there are not words to describe how much I hated them. I wanted to jump in the pages and rip them limb from limb. As a woman and a feminist, they did nothing but piss me off. Which was their point. The Brotherhood, the men who work in god's service, were the real monsters. Not the witches. These villains were very well written.

And lastly, another thing that I loved about this book was that it kept me guessing. I had some theories. Some of them played out. But even reading the final pages, I wasn't sure what Cate was going to do. And that was quite possibly the best part about the book. I just requested book two, Star Cursed, on NetGalley. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

Oh! And while I can't read French, I need this book on my shelf! See that last cover? One of the best witchy covers ever!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Book Review: The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight

Who would have guessed that four minutes could change everything?

Today should be one of the worst days of seventeen-year-old Hadley Sullivan's life. Having missed her flight, she's stuck at JFK airport and late to her father's second wedding, which is taking place in London and involves a soon-to-be stepmother Hadley's never even met. Then she meets the perfect boy in the airport's cramped waiting area. His name is Oliver, he's British, and he's sitting in her row.

A long night on the plane passes in the blink of an eye, and Hadley and Oliver lose track of each other in the airport chaos upon arrival. Can fate intervene to bring them together once more?

Quirks of timing play out in this romantic and cinematic novel about family connections, second chances, and first loves. Set over a twenty-four-hour-period, Hadley and Oliver's story will make you believe that true love finds you when you're least expecting it.

I don't read very many YA contemporary romances. I prefer when the romance is more of a subplot. But I had heard so many great things about The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E Smith, that when I was offered a chance to review it, I couldn't say no. And I was not disappointed.

I really liked Hadley, our lead female character. I felt like I really knew where she was coming from. The way she felt about her father and his remarrying. Her conflicting emotions. It was really emotional for me because of this. Hadley is on her way to England to go to her father's wedding, but she misses her plane and ends up on a later flight, sitting right next to Oliver. Oliver is sweet, adorable, and British. He's returning home for another reason.

Throughout the book their paths cross, and they have their ups and downs. Despite the fast paced relationship, their closeness made sense. It didn't feel rushed or fake. And it definitely read more as love than just infatuation. I enjoyed every bit of this book, the story and the characters.

I know a lot of people who are not a fan of the YA contemporary romance, but I would definitely encourage them to give this one a shot. It was a lot of fun, and I look forward to more from Jennifer E Smith in the future.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Book Review: Hex Hall

Three years ago, Sophie Mercer discovered that she was a witch. It's gotten her into a few scrapes. Her non-gifted mother has been as supportive as possible, consulting Sophie's estranged father--an elusive European warlock--only when necessary. But when Sophie attracts too much human attention for a prom-night spell gone horribly wrong, it's her dad who decides her punishment: exile to Hex Hall, an isolated reform school for wayward Prodigium, a.k.a. witches, faeries, and shapeshifters.

By the end of her first day among fellow freak-teens, Sophie has quite a scorecard: three powerful enemies who look like supermodels, a futile crush on a gorgeous warlock, a creepy tagalong ghost, and a new roommate who happens to be the most hated person and only vampire student on campus. Worse, Sophie soon learns that a mysterious predator has been attacking students, and her only friend is the number-one suspect.

As a series of blood-curdling mysteries starts to converge, Sophie prepares for the biggest threat of all: an ancient secret society determined to destroy all Prodigium, especially her.

Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins has been on my shelf for way too long. I bought it when it came out, and I got it signed when I met Rachel, who (btw) is really funny. I'm so glad I have all three books on my shelf though because now I don't have to wait to read Demonglass.

I loved this book so much. Gush, gush, gush... sorry. I can't help it. I'm practically kicking myself that I didn't pick it up sooner. It was such a fun book. Hex Hall was somewhat inspired by the British show, Hex, which I LOVE! And I'm drawn to anything and everything witchy.

Sophie is such a fun character, and she's very easy to relate to. Despite being a witch, she's still very human, making mistakes and going through the troubles that come with being a teen. Getting into trouble, being sent to a school for delinquents by her non-existent father, starting off at that school on the wrong foot. Poor Sophie. But at the same time it's hilarious to watch all that she goes through, and you'll want to root for her.

My only complaint is the way "bad language" was handled. Basically, there is a sentence of dialogue which contains a mildly inappropriate word like "shit" and then the following sentence of internal dialogue goes something like "Well, I didn't say shit. What I said was much worse." I'm sure that's a thing with the editor and/or publisher (instead of the author), but it really annoys me when it comes up. Which, thankfully, isn't often. It pulls me right out of the story. I actually have to pause for a few minutes because it's that ridiculous. Teens curse. It happens everyday. There's no reason to dial down language, when there's only one instance of "bad language" in a book. And I really doubt the word Rachel Hawkins had originally put in there was that bad.

Aside from that one little complaint, this really is a fantastic book! I couldn't put it down. It's fast paced and tons of fun. If you haven't read it yet, you are so midsing out!

PS> I'm including the cover to the left because I find it kind of amusing. I guess this is how teen witches dress in Bulgaria. You certainly won't find this cover in the US on a YA book. Especially that girl in the middle.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Guest Post: Marie Brennan

Today on the blog, I have Marie Brennan, author of A Natural History of Dragons which you may have seen hit the shelves about a month ago.

Sometimes you have to fiddle around with a book before it starts working, before you find the right approach to the story, the right voice for the narrator.

In this instance, it took all of about three sentences.

I knew, when I started writing A Natural History of Dragons that it was going to be a Victorian-style memoir. When I started writing, I immediately discovered the delights of that approach. My protagonist is, especially in this first book, a headstrong and slightly naive young woman -- but the woman who is telling the story is decades older. The result is the best of both worlds: I get to play with her youthful enthusiasm and foolishness, but also the perspective and bulletproof audacity that comes with age. Older women in many times and places have been allowed leeway not given to their younger selves, and Isabella is exploiting that to the fullest.

It’s also fun to play around with the explicit framing the memoir format provides. I’ve written first-person stories before that are less strictly constructed, stories where you’re in the protagonist’s head, but she isn’t telling her story from a defined point in time, or to a defined audience. This approach loses a degree of flexibility, but provides a whole array of games to play. Isabella can distinguish between the young woman she was then and the old woman she is now, reflect on changes in her world, and tell the reader outright what she is and is not willing to talk about. It still has its implausible conventions, of course; when she reports a conversation word-for-word, what exactly is she basing that on? She kept a diary, of course, as many people in that time period did, but a great deal of what she says must be invention or after-the-fact reconstruction. But all fiction has such artificialities, regardless of the approach. What’s different in this instance is that I’ve never tried the memoir format at a length longer than a short story.

For all the challenges (and believe me, there are challenges, especially when it comes to the things Isabella doesn’t want to talk about), I’m having a blast, and have been since those first three sentences. Her voice clicked instantaneously -- a shameless old woman talking about her youthful stupidity -- and my brain is constantly supplying me with entertaining little asides, or wry commentary on the characters and events. In fact, the only downside to that part is figuring out when to rein Isabella in!

I’m two books into the series at this point, and it’s still as fun as when I started. In my line of work, we call that a win.

Marie Brennan is a former academic with a background in archaeology, anthropology, and folklore, which she now puts to rather cockeyed use in writing fantasy. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to many short stories and novellas, she is also the author of A Star Shall Fall and With Fate Conspire (both from Tor Books), as well as Warrior, Witch, Midnight Never Come, In Ashes Lie, and Lies and Prophecy. You can find her online at

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Anthology Review: The Dark Woods

THE DARK WOODS is a bewitching collection of young adult short stories, ranging from science fiction and fantasy to paranormal, all featuring a lesbian heroine. This collection is part of Project Unicorn, a fiction project that seeks to address the near nonexistence of lesbian main characters in young adult fiction by giving them their own stories.

Stories by Sarah Diemer

Witch Girls (Dark Fantasy): The wild witch girls lurk at the edge of the woods, waiting to snatch away any girl who’s less than good. Gran’s warnings are the same every day: be good, or the witch girls will take you. But what if you want to be taken? Witch Girls is my favorite of Sarah’s contributions. The warning about the witch girls only made me want to be one of them.

Surfacing (Fantasy): When Alice’s brother John takes a mermaid out of the sea and drags her into the woods to die, Alice must find the courage to stand up to the worst bully she’s ever known in order to save a life. This was a sad but wonderful story. I’m always drawn to mermaids. So I thought this was a wonderful story.

Curse Cabin Confession (Paranormal): When Robin invites her girlfriend, Malinda, up to her family cabin for the weekend, it’s not just for a romantic time. Robin has a confession to make: she’s not exactly human. This was a fun short, but it’s not as memorable as most of the others.

Wolves of Leaving (Paranormal): After challenging the Alpha–and losing–Cadie begs the girl she loves to forsake all they’ve ever known and escape the tyranny of the pack. I really liked the ending to this one. It was a great story.

Devil May Care (Paranormal): When Corrine is forced to summon a demon to find a missing loved one, the afternoon turns stranger than expected. My other favorite of Sarah’s. This is one of the stories you won’t find online. It stood out, being more unique than the others.

Stories by Jennifer Diemer

A Craving (Fantasy): Snow knows little of the world, having spent most of her life within the safe confines of the cottage she shares with seven little men, her protectors. But every day, a young girl comes to the door, offering her an apple, and every day brings Snow one step closer to taking a bite. I love anything and everything based on fairy tales. Snow White is not one of my favorites, but the twist here was fantastic!

Natural (Paranormal): Terra feels confused and alone–until she meets a mysterious girl in the forest, standing next to her favorite tree… Possibly the most beautiful story in the group. As a pagan girl, I really enjoyed the magic here.

Haunt (Paranormal): Every moonrise, Tam and Ailsa defy the laws of time and space to meet in the forest and kiss beneath the stars. Haunt brought tears to my eyes. Another beautiful story by Jenn. But also sad. *sniff*

Dreaming Green (Science Fiction): Mirelle catches a mysterious seed during a spacewalk, and, though it is forbidden, she dares to plant it, nurture it, and let it grow. This was probably the most unique story in the entire group. It’s listed as science fiction, but it’s also very magical. A lovely story.

Mirrors (Fantasy): Bewitched by an old compact in an antique store window, Maisy is startled to realize that the reflection in the mirror is not her own. This is the other story not available to read for free on the site. This was my favorite of Jenn’s contributions. But, then again, I love anything with faeries.

You can download The Dark Woods from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Smashwords. Or, if you’d like a print copy of the first three months of Project Unicorn, you can get one signed from Sarah and Jennifer at Sappho’s Boutique.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Novella Review: One Solstice Night

To the cozy little town of Benevolence, the Wolf of Winter is a distant memory. Two generations ago, this nightmare creature crept through the streets and brought with it a blizzard of catastrophic proportions.

So goes the story. Isabella Fox finds the legend hard to believe. A witch for hire, she's just moved to Benevolence because it's the only place in the world where nothing ever happens. As the new village magicmaker, she's expected to cast only one spell a year--freeing up her time to pursue new dreams, and perhaps love.

As the Winter Solstice celebration draws near, Benevolence flurries with the magic and wonder of the holiday season. But not all are welcome to partake in the town's festivities. Outcast shapeshifter, Emily, lives alone in the mountains. She is a mystery to Isabella, until they happen upon each other by chance in the snowy wood...

On the night of the Winter Solstice, love is in the air...but so is the cold, sky-piercing howl of the Wolf of Winter.

I read One Solstice Night by Elora Bishop back just before the solstice. It was such a lovely, fun read. If you read my Q&A with Sarah Diemer, then you saw that she and Elora Bishop are the same person. While One Solstice Night is not a YA book, it's perfectly fine for teen readers.

Young witch, Isabella, is run out of town because of her failure at being a witch. When she finds an add for a job as the town witch for Benevolence, she snatches it up. And when she finds out that her only job is performing one spell, at the winter solstice, she knows she can succeed with that. It's just one simple spell. Isbella isn't in Benevolence long before she starts finding trouble. She falls for a young woman who is an outcast who is not allowed in town due to mistakes made by her ancestors. You'll root for Isabella and Emily right from the start.

This was such a beautiful, wintery tale. You'll want to snatch it up right now to read snuggled up by the fire. You can pick up a signed copy from Sappho's Boutique. Or if you'd prefer an ebook copy, it's available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Book Review: Annie on my Mind

Liza never knew that falling in love could be so wonderful . . . and so confusing.

"'Liza,' Mom said, looking into my eyes, 'I want you to tell me the truth, not because I want to pry, but because I have to know. This could get very unpleasant . . . Now--have you and Annie--done any more than the usual experimenting . . . '

'No, Mom,' I said, trying to look back at her calmly. I'm not proud of it, I make no excuses--I lied to her."

This groundbreaking book is the story of two teenage girls whose friendship blossoms into love and who, despite pressures from family and school that threaten their relationship, promise to be true to each other and their feelings. This book is so truthful and honest, it has been banned from many school libraries and even publicly burned in Kansas City.

Annie on my Mind by Nancy Garden is the third lesbian book written for teens. But it stands out as the first lesbian book for teens in which the characters are punished for being who they are. That's not to say that the girls don't have their fair share of troubles. They do. But compared to the books before and some since, it's a relatively happy story.

I knew going in to this one that it would be dated. It was published in 1982, the year I was born. It was definitely interesting reading it and thinking back to how the world was so different back then. While we have a long way to go, we've come a long way as well. But I was pleasantly surprised. It didn't seem as dated as I feared it would. Many of the issues are still relevant, more so in certain areas. Where I come from, tolerance isn't as much of a problem as it is in more conservative areas.
In addition to Annie on my Mind being a lovely read, telling the story of two teen girls who have fallen in love, I feel like it's an important book. It's a pioneer in the world of lesbian fiction. Particularly YA lesbian fiction. There are so many books being published in recent years with main characters who are gay, lesbian, bi, transgendered... I've read several books by Julie Anne Peters, Malinda Lo, and Sarah Diemer that I've really enjoyed. And Nancy Garden paved the way for these authors to share their wonderful books.

I strongly urge everyone to read this book. It was one of my favorite books read in 2012. And be sure to get the anniversary edition, which includes a Q&A with lesbian author, Nancy Garden.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Book Review: Forsaken

Mara's mother is missing, her little brother is sick, may be dying, her father is grieving. It all seems hopeless - until Mara sets out on a life or death journey to bring her mother home.

I am a huge fan of Katherine Langrish, so when I found out she had a mermaid book, I had to get my hands on it. Forsaken was an extremely short book. I could have read the entire thing in less than 20 minutes, but I drew out the reading experience and made sure I broke it down into two sittings.

Mara's father is a merman. Mara and all of her siblings are merchildren. But Mara's mother is human. She left her world for the man she fell in love with. But she grew tired of living in the ocean and longed for her home. So she leaves her children and husband behind.

This is the story of Mara's journey, venturing on land to find her mother. While very short, it's a wonderful story. I highly recommend it!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Book Review: The Twilight Kingdom

What if a high-tech computer game was a gateway to the dangerous Realm of Faerie?


Jennet Carter and Tam Linn are almost out of time. Feyland, the most immersive computer game ever designed, is about to be released into the world—along with the Realm of Faerie’s dangerous magic.


The faeries, desperate to break free from their realm, have set treacherous plans in motion. Despite magical allies of their own, Jennet and Tam have no idea what dire threats await, both in-game and out.


Battling for their lives against the united powers of the Dark Queen and Bright King, Jennet and Tam’s quest to stop the fey takes them into the perilous Twilight Kingdom, where illusion reigns—and magic can break all the rules.

The Twilight Kingdom is book three in the Feyland trilogy by Anthea Sharp. I was lucky enough to receive an arc, though it is out now. And I loved it. In book one, Jennet and Tam went up against the Dark Queen. In book two, it was the Bright King. But now the two monarchs have teamed up to open a portal to the mortal world for good. They are sent into the Twilight Kingdom to wake the elder fey to restore balance.

I love Jennet and Tam, and I've enjoyed watching their relationship grow. The interactions with all of the characters is great. The story is unique. And to top it off, Anthea uses faery lore correctly. And that, to me, is the most important aspect of any faery book. While this book may have commonalities with other modern YA faery books (i.e. Seelie and Unseelie courts, humans drawn into their world), this series is also unique. Did you see the part about gaming?

The faeries have tapped into the Feyland game, and are going to use that to drain mortals and feed the faeries. It's an interesting, fun twist that makes this series very unique. I highly recommend it. And if you haven't seen, I'm giving away an ebook trilogy right here. Check out the post below this one! Enter and good luck!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

January Giveaway: Feyland Trilogy

What if a high-tech computer game was a gateway to the dangerous Realm of Faerie?


Feyland is the most immersive computer game ever designed, and Jennet Carter is the first to play the prototype. But she doesn’t suspect the virtual world is close enough to touch — or that she’ll be battling for her life against the Dark Queen of the faeries.


Tam Linn is the perfect hero — in-game. Too bad the rest of his life is seriously flawed. The last thing he needs is rich-girl Jennet prying into his secrets, insisting he’s the only one who can help her.


Together, Jennet and Tam enter the Dark Realm of Feyland, only to discover that the entire human world is in danger. Pushed to the limit of their abilities, they must defeat the Dark Queen… before it’s too late.


Jennet Carter escaped the dark faeries of Feyland once. Now, fey magic is seeping out of the prototype game, beguiling the unwary and threatening everyone she cares about.


Tam Linn may be a hero in-game, but his real life is severely complicated. Still, he'll do whatever it takes to stop the creatures of Feyland, even if it means pushing Jennet toward the new guy in school--the one with an inside connection to sim-gaming... and the uncanny ability to charm everyone he meets.


Despite the danger, Jennet and Tam must return to Feyland to face the magic of the Bright Court--and a powerful new enemy who won't stop until the human world is at the mercy of the Realm of Faerie.


Jennet Carter and Tam Linn are almost out of time. Feyland, the most immersive computer game ever designed, is about to be released into the world—along with the Realm of Faerie’s dangerous magic.


The faeries, desperate to break free from their realm, have set treacherous plans in motion. Despite magical allies of their own, Jennet and Tam have no idea what dire threats await, both in-game and out.


Battling for their lives against the united powers of the Dark Queen and Bright King, Jennet and Tam’s quest to stop the fey takes them into the perilous Twilight Kingdom, where illusion reigns—and magic can break all the rules.

I was given the opportunity to read arcs of all three of these books, and I loved them! I love many books about faeries, including books by Melissa Marr, Holly Black, Charles de Lint, Maggie Stiefvater, and Tiffany Trent to name a few. And something all of these authors have in common is that they do faeries right! Meaning, it's not some random mess of winged-creatures. They're faeries based on ancient lore, often involving courts. Anthea Sharp, like the authors mentioned above, knows her faery lore. And adds a unique twist with the gaming. I'm not a gamer (except occasional Guitar Hero), so don't let that twist put you off.

And... since I loved these books so much, I'm giving away ebook copies. Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Smashwords... your choice.

a Rafflecopter giveaway