Saturday, March 31, 2012

It's Bloggiesta! Ole!

So I'm getting a bit of a late start on this whole Bloggiesta thing but I've got a ton of things I would like to get done on this blog. 

Here's my current list (though it'll probably grow):
  • Update review archives
  • See about putting buttons on blog (GoodReads, Twitter, Pinterest, LibraryThing, Tumblr)
  • Update blog roll
  • Update labels (and remove from bottom of blog)
  • Blog post categories
  • Write reviews (I've got about 20 books on my list. Eep!)
  • Figure out Blogger's SEO thing and USE it (since I'm happy with Blogger and not planning on switching over to WP any time soon, even though a lot of bloggers have made the leap)
  • Add Meta tags/description to 2012 posts (farther back, if time)
  • Add alt-image tags to 2012 images used (farther back, if time) 
  • Update GoodReads and Amazon reviews
Actually, I'd like some critiques on my blog design and the blog itself, if you're feeling critique-y. What do you think? Is my header cheesy? (I like it just because it's my puppy but I'd really like something that works with my blog title. I have some ideas but not the wherewithal to create it. Yet.) Is it too busy? What about the posts? Any suggestions? Thanks in advance!

One BIG Question: when you comment, do you have to do word verification? Because I've turned the damned thing off like fifty times and it doesn't seem to stick. I'm exceptionally irritated (as are you, if you have to do that hideous Captcha thing--thank you for commenting!!). If you do have to do it, know I'm working to solve this problem!

Happy Bloggiesta! Ole! (I'm feeling a sudden urge for nachos and guacamole. Weird.)

Friday, March 30, 2012

Kiss Me I'm Irish ReadAlong Week 5: HOUNDED by Kevin Hearne

Oops--late with this post because this week has been ridiculously crazy! End of the quarter, testing, late work, and Field Day all conspired to keep me from doing this post on time. *sigh* Thank goodness for Spring Break!

Welcome to Week #4 of the Kiss Me, I'm Irish read-along! We're reading HOUNDED by Kevin Hearne, one of my favorite new Urban Fantasy series. If you haven't read his first three novels, why not? Holy cow, they're awesome!
Discussion Schedule:
March 02nd: Chapters 1-5 hosted by Geeky Blogger's Book Blog
March 09th: Chapters 6-10 hosted by On a Book Bender
March 16th: Chapters 11-15 hosted by Smash Attack Reads!
March 23rd: Chapters 16-20 hosted by In the Closet With a Bibliophile
March 30th: Chapters 21-25 + epilogue hosted by The Unread Reader
April 06th: Special interview with Kevin Hearne & announcement of winners

Questions for Chapters 21-25 + epilogue

1. In a moment of anger, Atticus reveals something about himself that he usually keeps very secret, for his own benefit. Has something similar ever happened to you? Have you ever spilled a closely guarded secret in a moment of excitement or anger or absent-mindedness?

All the time. Okay, maybe they're not big, massive secrets but they're something I've thought, "Oh, I'm not going to tell anyone this because what if it doesn't happen?" and then I end up spilling. Usually to my mother or under the influence of adult beverages.

2. Atticus tells Mrs. MacDonagh, "the universe is exactly the size that your soul can encompass. Some people live in extremely small worlds, and some live in a world of infinite possibility." Then he asks her what she is going to do with the new information she has discovered. What would you do if you found out that other beings were among us? Would you deny it or embrace it?

I'd so embrace it and probably see if there was some way I could join their world. I mean, there is magic in the world, though it's not in the way most Urban Fantasies portray it. But...wouldn't it be just so cool if there really were Fae or people with extraordinary powers? Scary, depending on the person, but so flippin' cool. (Okay, I'm a total nerd. I admit it.)

3. So far, Atticus has revealed a few of his powers and has even shared some power by putting bindings on Granuaile. What do you think has been his coolest or most helpful power so far? 

I've always liked the idea of Druids themselves--not extremists who were into human sacrifice but the people who embraced the world and all its majesty. So, I really like Atticus's connection to the world around him and how he uses the earth to recharge. I really like when he reaches out to the earth to help it heal. Of course, it's completely awesome when he gets all nekkid and really "connects" with the earth. If only I were his neighbor...with a telephoto lens... (stalker alert!)

4. Atticus gets pretty pissed when he finds out that Aenghus Óg is drawing power from the Earth and, in turn, killing it. That's when Atticus decides he must fight the old Fae for committing such a heinous offense. What is something you would fight for, even if it meant you might die trying?

When I look at political candidates, I look at their record with education and with the environment, both of which need to be improved and fought for. While I might not be committed enough to actually *die* for these causes, they are two that are very close to my heart. Oh, and my dogs. I don't have human kids so they're as close as I'm probably going to get for a while.

5. What did you think of the final showdown between Atticus and Aenghus Óg? Did it go down the way you expected? Was there anything about their battle that surprised you?

While I expected Atticus to get his butt kicked at first, I didn't really expect Aengus Og to really almost win. That cold fire...bad stuff. I was worried for a minute there. Of course, Atticus *is* only human (sort of) so he's a lot less powerful than ole Aengus but I kind of thought he'd kick butt a bit harder than he did. It was a serious struggle for him to win.

6. What was your favorite/least favorite part of Hounded? Who was your favorite/least favorite character?

I really don't like the witches. Even the ones who end up helping Atticus (reluctantly). They're too clique-y and unwilling to do the right thing and have to be practically blackmailed into helping. Bitches.

I ADORE the Widow MacDonagh. I'd gladly go sip some Irish whiskey with that woman. And Oberon, of course. He's awesome. And those scum-sucking lawyers of Atticus's. Oh, and Granuaile, who's really growing on me. Truly, the secondary characters in this whole series are fantastically drawn.

7. What do you think is coming up next for Atticus? Will you continue reading this series, and if so, what do you hope to see happen in the next book?

While I've read all three of the books that are out, I really can't wait for TRICKED, which comes out April 24th (YAYAYAY!!). I hear they're leaving Arizona, a necessity after Atticus's last battle (so not smart, in my mind). I'm just hoping he doesn't get himself killed. He's skating a really fine line at the moment and, after book 3, I'm sure there are plenty of bounties on his head. I hope his relationship with Granuaile continues to develop. I hope he finds friends like the Widow MacDonagh where he's going. I hope he finds a way for Oberon to live forever with him because I'd be super-sad if that fab dog died because of something stupid Atticus did.

Related posts:
Kiss Me, I'm Irish ReadAlong Week 4
Kiss Me, I'm Irish ReadAlong Week 3
Kiss Me, I'm Irish ReadAlong Week 2
Kiss Me, I'm Irish ReadAlong Week 1

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Speed Date with Alex: FATED by Benedict Jacka

Thursday is Speed Date Night around here. What's a Book Speed Date, you ask? It's a quickie review--about 150 words or so--of any genre book (variety is the spice of life, after all). If you're interested in joining in the speed dating fun, sign up in the Linky below. This speed date is all about "meeting" new books. Cheers, my reader friends!

Book cover of Fated by Benedict Jacka
Urban Fantasy
304 pages, paperback
Available now (Feb. 2012)
Publisher: Ace Books
Review copy purchased

Alex Verus is part of a world hidden in plain sight, running a magic shop in London. And while Alex's own powers aren't as showy as some mages, he does have the advantage of foreseeing the possible future--allowing him to pull off operations that have a million-to-one-chance of success.

But when Alex is approached by multiple factions to crack open a relic from a long-ago mage war, he knows that whatever's inside must be beyond powerful. And thanks to his abilities, Alex can predict that by taking the job, his odds of survival are about to go from slim to none...

If you like urban fantasy and love Jim Butcher, you'll love this new series. Alex Verus (I kept wanting to call him "Alex Versus"--bad me!) has the power of foresight, the ability to see possibilities and probabilities. He can't predict the future, just what might happen based on what path he or someone else takes. Though it's not as impressive as a guy who can burn you to a crisp or a girl who can crush your heart with a flick of her finger, it's very handy when answering a phone without caller ID or knowing when to pick your underwear up off the ground before the uninvited guest arrives at your door.

While some story elements felt uncomfortably close to the world of Harry Dresden (hello, council who doesn't like Alex; apprenticed as a kid to a dark and cruel wizard/mage; on the outs with much of the magical world), the story itself swept me up and carried me off to a world filled with Light and Dark mages, the powerful and the powerless, and a plethora of interesting creatures. I'm pretty jazzed that there will be another two released in quick succession: CURSED (May 2012) and TAKEN (August 2012).

Available on Amazon | IndieBound

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Waiting On...THE DIVINERS by Libba Bray

Ooh, it's Wednesday and I'm really excited about this upcoming release. Libba Bray is known for her pretty off-kilter stories (beauty queens crash landing on a deserted island, a boy with mad cow disease, that kind of stuff) and her upcoming release promises to be another trippy ride that I want to be on! 

The cover's a little boring and, really, if I didn't already love Libba, I don't think I'd be tempted to pick it up off the shelf. Maybe it'll get a re-design before the actual release. I'm not looking for a girl in a fancy dress, just something a bit more eye-catching.
Book Cover of The Diviners by Libba Bray, New York Times Bestselling Author
YA Historical (Paranormal, too? Maybe. I can't really tell.)
608 pages, hardcover (holy crap, that's a HUGE YA book!)
Expected publication: September 2012
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Evie O'Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City--and she is pos-i-toot-ly thrilled. New York is the city of speakeasies, shopping, and movie palaces! Soon enough, Evie is running with glamorous Ziegfield girls and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is Evie has to live with her Uncle Will, curator of The Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult--also known as "The Museum of the Creepy Crawlies."

When a rash of occult-based murders comes to light, Evie and her uncle are right in the thick of the investigation. And through it all, Evie has a secret: a mysterious power that could help catch the killer--if he doesn't catch her first.

What do you think?
Hey, what are you waiting on? I need some new books to add to my list!
Waiting On Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

No Glove, No Love: BLACK HEART by Holly Black

Book Cover for Black Heart by Holly Black, a YA paranormal novel
BLACK HEART (Curse Workers #3) by Holly Black
YA Paranormal
296 pages, hardcover
Available April 3, 2012
Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books
Review copy provided by Southern Book Bloggers ARC Tour

Cassel Sharpe knows he’s been used as an assassin, but he’s trying to put all that behind him. He’s trying to be good, even though he grew up in a family of con artists and cheating comes as easily as breathing to him. He’s trying to do the right thing, even though the girl he loves is inextricably connected with crime. And he’s trying to convince himself that working for the Feds is smart, even though he’s been raised to believe the government is the enemy.

But with a mother on the lam, the girl he loves about to take her place in the Mob, and new secrets coming to light, the line between what’s right and what’s wrong becomes increasingly blurred. When the Feds ask Cassel to do the one thing he said he would never do again, he needs to sort out what’s a con and what’s truth. In a dangerous game and with his life on the line, Cassel may have to make his biggest gamble yet—this time on love.

Positive: Cassel. There's just something honest about Cassel. I mean, aside from the fact that he comes from a long line of liars and is a fantastic liar himself. He's a con and a curse worker and, while he's not particularly proud of it, he knows what he is. While he does try the straight and narrow for a while, he just can't stay on it completely (it doesn't help that those Feds' motives are seriously questionable). The art of the con is firmly ingrained.

Positive: The romance. Or, in much of this book, the distinct lack thereof. Cassel's been in love with Lila, the daughter of a powerful crime lord, forever. Cassel and Lila's romance is more than just rocky. It's more like having hearts broken apart into thousands of teeny little bits then attempting to super-glue them back together again. It's slow-going; filled with shards of happiness, pain and misunderstanding; and seemingly irreparable. Beautifully tragic.

Wish: Tighter cons. There are several light, loose cons throughout this story: a girl at school who needs help with a blackmailer, a sibling con (of course--the Sharpe siblings just don't do normal), a con for the good of Cassel's wanted mother. And, while they are fun and distracting, there's something missing from them. The best con is the final con with the nutso politician--now that's a tight con.

Wish: More Sam! Cassel's roommate played a huge role in the second book and I really got to like Sam. In this story, he's nursing a broken heart--Daneca dumped him and neither of them are good at apologies--and he's pretty much a wet rag throughout. Poor Cassel is really left out on his own for the majority of this story, with no one to talk to, no one to bounce ideas off of.

Overall: A satisfying ending to a creative and engaging series, BLACK HEART delves deep into the flawed but ultimately redeemable nature of human beings, especially in matters of the heart.

Available on Amazon | IndieBound

Monday, March 26, 2012

Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway Winner!

Seriously, is it Spring Break yet? My 8th graders are so squirrely, getting them to focus is like pulling teeth without the lovely gas that makes everything trippy OR Novocaine. *sigh* One more week for us...

Anyway, enough with the fussing (really, my students are great...mostly; we all just need a break). On to the winner of the Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway! There were a ton of fabulous people who stopped by to say hi and enter (hi, all!) but the lucky number, as drawn by was 77...

Veronica W.!
Yay *flailing Kermit arms*
Congratulations! As soon as I hear from you, I'll get your choice of books in the mail.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Kiss Me, I'm Irish Read-A-Long: Week 4 with HOUNDED by Kevin Hearne

Welcome to Week #3 of the Kiss Me, I'm Irish read-along! We're reading HOUNDED by Kevin Hearne, one of my favorite new Urban Fantasy series. If you haven't read his first three novels, why not? Holy cow, they're awesome!

Discussion Schedule:
March 02nd: Chapters 1-5 hosted by Geeky Blogger's Book Blog
March 09th: Chapters 6-10 hosted by On a Book Bender
March 16th: Chapters 11-15 hosted by Smash Attack Reads!
March 23rd: Chapters 16-20 hosted by In the Closet With a Bibliophile
March 30th: Chapters 21-25 + epilogue hosted by The Unread Reader
April 06th: Special interview with Kevin Hearne & announcement of winners!

Questions for Chapters 16-20

1. Just after Atticus is shot, Oberon has to "ninja" his way out of the shop and into Hal's Beamer (with the icky air freshener). Have you ever been in a situation where you had to "ninja" your way out and try not to be discovered? If so, what happened?

At my small college, one thing you had to do was climb the chapel. To do so, you had to sneak into the church, climb up the not-so-secret ladder up to the steeple, and then out to the widow's walk around the peak. And, of course, you had to have a drink up there. While our security wasn't all that tight, they did keep a pretty good eye on the chapel because of said tradition. Still, I climbed that chapel every year--even the year they tried to put a lock on the hatch to the outside! Yep. That's the extent of my ninja-ing.

2. Atticus's main goal through a large portion of the book is not only protecting Oberon, but also protecting the sword. You are now living in a paranormal world and you need a weapon! What weapon do you choose and what can it do?

A sword, of course! Maybe a katana, just because it's a sword with a cool name. Or maybe two swords so I could swing them around and around and make my opponent dizzy. Plus, they'd look really cool strapped to my back. No magical juju needed because, seriously, I'd kick that much ass with just my strap-on swords (okay, that came out wrong. hehe.).

3. To recharge and heal after being shot, Atticus sleeps naked, tattoos to the earth, in a patch of grass near the Civic Center in downtown Scottsdale. Where is the weirdest place you have ever slept?

I crashed in the middle of a beer tent at a Highland Games, with pipe bands playing their little hearts out all around me. To be fair, I played pipes in one of those bands so the music was a really loud lullaby. (No, I wasn't drunk, either.)

4. We finally find out some very interesting information about Granuaile and I don't know about you, but I certainly wasn't expecting to find that she's sharing her head with someone else. What about you, did you expect anything along those lines? If not, what were you expecting concerning Granuaile?

Now that one, I really wasn't expecting. I mean, I thought Granuaile would have some awesome magic-y thing going on with her but sharing her head-space with someone else was so not what I ever thought would happen. Cool and yet completely freaky.

5. Laksha is a witch, a truly evil one at that for many of the things she's done in the past. However, she's supposedly seen the error of her ways. Do you think she really has? Would you be willing to trust her? Do you think Atticus is smart to have decided to trust her to help him with the "other" witches?

First off, that name--Lakasha--isn't it from the Anne Rice vampire books? I think she was the Queen of the Vamps, wasn't she? (I'm sure I could Google this...) Anyway, that's what kept running through my head any time I heard her name so, even though she's supposedly reformed-ish, I kept thinking of her as the bad guy. I suppose that even bad guys can have moments. Isn't the expression, "Keep your friends close but your enemies closer"? If she's going to help Atticus and not backstab him, I think it's worth the risk. He's got to trust at some point, though he should be prepared for anything.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Speed Date with Phoebe: CALLUM by Melissa Schroeder

Thursday is Speed Date Night around here. What's a Speed Date in book world, you ask? It's a quickie review (about 150 words) of any genre book (variety is the spice of life, after all). If you're interested in joining in the speed dating fun, sign up in the Linky below and have fun. This speed date is all about "meeting" new books. Cheers, my reader friends!

Paranormal romance
234 pages, paperback
Available now (Feb. 2012)
Publisher: self via CreateSpace
Review copy purchased

Will desire be the answer or the ruin of an entire clan?

As Laird, Callum Lennon feels he has always failed to protect his cousins. Callum’s impulsiveness caused the death of his father and the experience has scarred not only his body, but his soul. From that point on, he made sure to always go with the more logical choice in every matter. When his younger cousin Angus finds clues that might help break the curse, Callum begrudgingly hires Phoebe Chilton to investigate. Callum doesn’t like bringing outsiders into their family affairs. Their life would become fodder for the tabloids if anyone were to find out about the curse. It doesn’t help that the instant he meets Dr. Chilton he’s attracted. But, he doesn’t really have a choice because she might be their last hope.

An expert in archeology, Phoebe has always been dwarfed by her parents’ shadow. Their high standards had her in college by thirteen and earning a second PhD by twenty-two. But her career and her broken marriage have left her needing something more than just diplomas and degrees. She wants to prove that her interest in legends, especially Celtic legends, is as important as her parents’ work. When the Lennon family contacts her, she sees the opportunity to win a massive research grant. With a long-time rival breathing down her back, she jumps at the Lennons’ offer her, hoping it will ensure her the grant. But uncovering the Lennon family secrets, and her attraction to Callum, could prove more than she can handle.

Forces outside the family are determined to ensure that they fail. When an old enemy threatens both the well being of the clan and the fragile new love, Callum will have to choose between believing his mind or his heart.

Ooh...isn't Callum dreamy? Lucky Phoebe. Too bad he acts like such an ass when Phoebe first meets him. He does have an excuse for his ass-hattery: due to a terrible curse, Callum's had to protect the remains of his clan for hundreds of years, and he really doesn't trust anyone, even the woman he hired to translate an ancient diary that might reveal the way to break said curse (whew, quite a mouthful).

Phoebe, for her part, tries to ignore the glaring hottie while doing what she was hired to do. Too bad she's collaborating with Callum's enemy, though she doesn't know it. But their lust is too great to ignore. (Come on, people. Why fight it?)

Filled with plenty of searing looks and throbbing...hearts, CALLUM is a very promising start to a new romantic series.

Available on Amazon: ebook (free for Prime members!) | paperback

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

It's not you, it's me: When it's just not working

This year has been a series of highs and lows in my book reading life (and IRL, though that's a different story). There have been some books that absolutely blew me away and some that, well, I just didn't want to spend any more time with. They just didn't capture my interest and, with so many other books waiting for me, I had to say goodbye. Be sure to check out other reviews, as both of these books have plenty of people who loved them!
Series Break-Up: The Firelight series
VANISH by Sophie Jordan
YA Paranormal
294 pages, hardcover
Available now (Sept. 2011)
Publisher: HarperTeen
Review copy provided by publisher via NetGalley

To save the life of the boy she loves, Jacinda did the unthinkable: She betrayed the most closely-guarded secret of her kind. Now she must return to the protection of her pride knowing she might never see Will again—and worse, that because his mind has been shaded, Will’s memories of that fateful night and why she had to flee are gone.

Back home, Jacinda is greeted with hostility and must work to prove her loyalty for both her sake and her family’s. Among the few who will even talk to her are Cassian, the pride’s heir apparent who has always wanted her, and her sister, Tamra, who has been forever changed by a twist of fate. Jacinda knows that she should forget Will and move on—that if he managed to remember and keep his promise to find her, it would only endanger them both. Yet she clings to the hope that someday they will be together again. When the chance arrives to follow her heart, will she risk everything for love?

While I do love dragons and there was absolutely nothing wrong with the writing (I enjoyed the descriptions, especially of the dragons in flight), the characters annoyed me. In particular, Jacinda. To me, she comes off as very immature and selfish. It's not her way, so she sneaks around, endangering her entire species. Of course, I'm not a big fan of the leaders of her pride either--they're cruel and unforgiving--however, Jacinda and her mercurial emotions just made me want to shake her. That, coupled with the massive cliffhanger at the end of book two (gah!) and love triangle (double gah!), is why I'm breaking up with this series.

Book Break-Up: PRETTY CROOKED by Elisa Ludwig
YA Contemporary
358 pages, hardcover
Available now (March 2011)
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Review copy provided by publisher via NetGalley

Willa’s secret plan seems all too simple: take from the rich kids at Valley Prep and give to the poor ones. Yet Willa’s turn as Robin Hood at her ultra-exclusive high school is anything but. Bilking her “friends”-known to everyone as the Glitterati-without them suspecting a thing, is far from easy. Learning how to pick pockets and break into lockers is as difficult as she’d thought it’d be. Delivering care packages to the scholarship girls, who are ostracized just for being from the “wrong” side of town, is way more fun than she’d expected.

The complication Willa didn’t expect, though, is Aidan Murphy, Valley Prep’s most notorious (and gorgeous) ace-degenerate. His mere existence is distracting Willa from what matters most to her-evening the social playing field between the have and have-nots. There’s no time for crushes and flirting with boys, especially conceited and obnoxious trust-funders like Aidan. But when the cops start investigating the string of burglaries at Valley Prep and the Glitterati begin to seek revenge, could he wind up being the person that Willa trusts most?

This is such a cute premise! I love a good heist story, especially when the nasty folks get their just desserts. However, about halfway through, I started to wonder why Willa didn't just stand up to the Glitterati. Sure, they would have kicked her out of their little group and she wouldn't have been one of the popular girls any more but so? It takes a lot more guts to stand up to someone or a group of someones who are doing the wrong thing than trying to even the playing field by stealing. Grammy always said, "Two wrongs don't make a right." I think this really twanged my nerves because of the bullying and teasing I see at school--and so few of the kids stand up to those who are being aggressive to others. Again, it was a cute story but I just wasn't happy that Willa didn't make a more public stand against the Glitterati and support the "underdogs".

This break-up post is inspired by  
Lori at Pure Imagination's Book Break-Up feature.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Beware the Killer Nuns: GRAVE MERCY by Robin LaFevers

YA Historical Paranormal
564 pages, hardcover
Available April 3, 2012
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Review copy provided by publisher

Why be the sheep, when you can be the wolf?

Seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage into the sanctuary of the convent of St. Mortain, where the sisters still serve the gods of old. Here she learns that the god of Death Himself has blessed her with dangerous gifts—and a violent destiny. If she chooses to stay at the convent, she will be trained as an assassin and serve as a handmaiden to Death. To claim her new life, she must destroy the lives of others.

Ismae's most important assignment takes her straight into the high court of Brittany—where she finds herself woefully under prepared—not only for the deadly games of intrigue and treason, but for the impossible choices she must make. For how can she deliver Death’s vengeance upon a target who, against her will, has stolen her heart?

Positive: A convent of assassin nuns. I mean, how can you go wrong? They're nuns who kick ass on behalf of the god of Death. They know a thousand ways to kill those marked by Death, slipping in and out before anyone even knows they're there. Ismae, a young nun on her first assignment after years of training, is one awesome assassin.

Positive: Unusual historical setting. Set in 13th century Brittany when it was still a country unto itself, GRAVE MERCY brought the ancient world to life. LaFevers uses real-life people and events, such as Brittany's struggle to maintain its independence in the face of a much stronger France and the young queen's difficult decisions on behalf of her country, to build a strong framework for her story.

Positive: Twisty politics and a love story all wrapped into one. There's some serious political maneuvering going on as Anne, Brittany's young ruler, plots with her trusted (and untrustworthy) advisers to keep the country out of France's greedy hands. And then there's the love story between Ismae and Duval. Bastard half-brother to Anne, Duval is also her main adviser, and Ismae works with him to uncover a nasty plot against Anne. When Duval is first introduced, there didn't seem to be a connection between him and Anne. But, as they got to know one another, a deep love and healthy respect developed. It was quite sweet.

Wish: That I didn't have to wait until next spring for the next book in the series. According to the ARC, DARK TRIUMPH (His Fair Assasin #2) will feature Sybella, another assassin nun and friend of Ismae. Half-broken and on the brink of madness, Sybella is sent on a mission to infiltrate the household of a power-hungry lord to do Death's bidding.

Overall: Thought the book weighs in at a hefty 564 pages, its fascinating characters, unexpected love story, and political shenanigans make the pages fly by.

Available on Amazon | IndieBound 

Friday, March 16, 2012

Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway Hop!

Welcome to the LUCKY LEPRECHAUN GIVEAWAY HOP hosted by Inspired Kathy at I am a Reader, Not a Writer Books Complete Me, and Author Cindy Thomas. It's simple. Lots of blogs. Lots of giveaways. Visit them all, and you're bound to win something.:)
 2nd Annual Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway Hop
March 17th to 22nd

For this hop, I'm giving away a choice of two fabulous books:
ARC of Incarnate by Jodi Meadows
ARC of Everneath by Brodi Ashton
Signed copy of Bloodring by Faith Hunter
ARC of Faery Tales and Nightmares by Melissa Marr

Kiss Me, I'm Irish Read Along: Week 3 with HOUNDED by Kevin Hearne

Welcome to Week #3 of the Kiss Me, I'm Irish read-along! We're reading HOUNDED by Kevin Hearne, one of my favorite new Urban Fantasy series. If you haven't read his first three novels, why not? Holy cow, they're awesome!
Discussion Schedule:
March 02nd: Chapters 1-5 hosted by Geeky Blogger's Book Blog
March 09th: Chapters 6-10 hosted by On a Book Bender
March 16th: Chapters 11-15 hosted by Smash Attack Reads!
March 23rd: Chapters 16-20 hosted by In the Closet With a Bibliophile
March 30th: Chapters 21-25 + epilogue hosted by The Unread Reader
April 06th: Special interview with Kevin Hearne & announcement of winners!

1. I love Leif Helgarson, Viking Vampire, Esq. I have to say that combo makes a pretty cool attorney. If you could have a paranormal/mythical beastie (or combo) covering your tuckus in court, what would you choose and why?

Actually, I'd probably pick Leif (completely unoriginal but that's what I get for answering this question on too little sleep). Leif's aggressive, smart, and, if you piss him off, he can suck you dry just like a good lawyer should. Heh.

2. The police show up to question Atticus about his Irish Wolfhound, Oberon. If you could own any dog breed, what would it be and why? (P.S. Oberon is going on my list of favorite sidekicks!)

While I do love Oberon, I like my pups to be soft and cuddly. My current breeds are fluffy mutts: Finnegan's part Basset (stubborn & scent-driven) and part Sheltie (all fluff); Fiona's part Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, part ?? (I don't think her mom discriminated...). But my favorite breeds are Cavaliers (how can you resist those little faces?) and Corgis (how can you resist those ears?).

3. Malina Sokolowski and the other Sisters of the Three Auroras coven have my antennae up. What is your opinion of them?

I'm distrustful of witches as a whole, mostly because of the whole coven factor (you know, a bunch of women together...probably on the same cycle and full of power....eep). It can't be good. Atticus thinks with a different part a little too often when it comes to women. Boy better watch his back!

4. Brighid, goddess of poetry, fire and the forge, gave Atticus the power of Cold Iron, which can be used to fight off that nasty lilttle hellspawn. If you could wield one magical power, what would it be and why?

I'd like the power to stop people in their tracks with a single look. This includes their mouths, so they're forced into silence until I released them. Maybe this is because I teach middle school, but I'd rock this power hard.

5. The cops show up at Atticus’ shop to search for poor Oberon, who remains magically hidden throughout the ordeal. What is the one thing you would do if you could remain hidden from sight? I want to hear some good answers for this one!

Boo, coppers! Leave Oberon alone! Hum...invisibility for one thing...some days I do wish to be a fly on the wall...god, I'm sucking at this answer! I'm going to have to revisit this.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Speed Date with Eryn: SECOND SKIN by Judith Graves

Thursday is Speed Date Night around here. What's a Speed Date in book world, you ask? It's a quickie review (about 150 words) of any genre book (variety is the spice of life, after all). I'm hoping this might catch on, and we'll have a bunch of quick "dates" with books.

If you're interested in joining in the speed dating fun, sign up in the Linky below and have fun! This speed date is all about "meeting" new books. Cheers, my reader friends!

YA Urban Fantasy
270 pages
Available now (Dec. 2011)
Publisher: LEAP Books
Review copy provided by author

With FIENDS like Eryn…

Monsters. Bloodsuckers. The evil. The damned. Eryn McCain knows they exist— she’s been hunting them since she was a child. At sixteen, she’s ready to take on all comers. Being a shapeshifter gives her an advantage when it comes to her unusual part-time job. The hours suck and the pay is, well, non-existent, but bonuses like inhuman strength and night vision make tracking scary beasties a dream come true. Especially in a town like Redgrave.

When an ancient demon targets Redgrave High, Eryn and her crew of hunters must face their innermost fears to prevent the Harvest Moon Dance from becoming one serious Monster Mash. Loyalties are tested and temptations abound. With questions ever brewing, can Eryn share a future with the brooding, noble, human Alec—the hunter after her heart? Or will she succumb to her enemy’s son, Wade, a seductive predator as bloodthirsty as she is?

What happens when you’re both the beauty and the beast?

Eryn and her crazy friends are a fun speed date. The second book in the Skinned series has Eryn coming into herself a bit more--she's earning her hunter stripes, taking on all manner of beasties and creatures with the help of her friends while surviving the most difficult place of all...high school.

Now, there is a love triangle in this story but I actually enjoyed it (go figure--usually I'm so not a fan). Guess everyone just charmed me. Plus, I really like Eryn. She's tough but in a chocolate-covered marshmallow kind of way and snarky with just enough vinegar to keep things on edge.

There's a great, twisty mystery in this story, and Eryn's forced to really look at what she knows about her parents and question what she's accepted as truth. A very enjoyable story, one that can be picked up without reading the first in the series (though the first is a good read, too!).

Available on Amazon | LEAP Books

And check out Judith Graves' awesome interview HERE as she gives great insight into what it takes to actually WRITE the book...yeah, it takes that first step of actually, yanno, writing.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Waiting On...DEFIANCE by C.J. Redwine

 Y'all. Is this not an awesome cover? It's not the typical girl-in-a-dress cover--I mean, it's a cape (I just love a good cape, don't you?). Her expression is so fierce and that gorgeous red hair just pops against all that gray and black. Plus, there's the fortress and the woods, giving a hint as to the settings. This just pops for me. And the story sound right up my alley, as a fantasy with a strong female character and charmingly protective male character.
by C.J. Redwine
YA Fantasy
Available August 28, 2012
Publisher: Balzer + Bray

Within the walls of Baalboden, beneath the shadow of the city’s brutal leader, Rachel Adams has a secret. While other girls sew dresses, host dinner parties, and obey their male Protectors, Rachel knows how to survive in the wilderness and deftly wield a sword. When her father, Jared, fails to return from a courier mission and is declared dead, the Commander assigns Rachel a new Protector, her father’s apprentice, Logan—the same boy Rachel declared her love for two years ago, and the same boy who handed her heart right back to her. Left with nothing but fierce belief in her father’s survival, Rachel decides to escape and find him herself. But treason against the Commander carries a heavy price, and what awaits her in the Wasteland could destroy her.

At nineteen, Logan McEntire is many things. Orphan. Outcast. Inventor. As apprentice to the city’s top courier, Logan is focused on learning his trade so he can escape the tyranny of Baalboden. But his plan never included being responsible for his mentor’s impulsive daughter. Logan is determined to protect her, but when his escape plan goes wrong and Rachel pays the price, he realizes he has more at stake than disappointing Jared.

As Rachel and Logan battle their way through the Wasteland, stalked by a monster that can’t be killed and an army of assassins out for blood, they discover romance, heartbreak, and a truth that will incite a war decades in the making.

So, what are you waiting on?

Waiting on is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Guest Post: Author Judith Graves

The Book Swarm is pleased to welcome Judith Graves today! Judith is the awesome YA author of the Skinned series (Under My Skin, Second Skin, and Skin of My Teeth, out in 2013) and a fierce promoter of all things spooky, paranormal, and urban fantasy. She's spearheaded The Crossroads Blog Tour, which The Book Swarm's participated in the past two years, and is currently co-writing (with Dawn Dalton) a middle grade, non-fiction series called Most Wanted Monsters.
**A Prescription for Success**

When I do author visits, or even in casual conversations with people I’ve just met, inevitably someone will ask, “I’ve been thinking of writing a book, how do I get it published?”

My issue with this question isn’t that I’ll have to rattle off a hoard of agent/publisher query tips and resources – I’m more than happy to share what I know and point people in the right direction. I don’t have some preconceived notion the individual’s writing would be unworthy of publishing, or contrarily, that this is my future competition standing in front of me, so I better steer them wrong. My issue is the “THINKING” part of this question…they’ve been thinking of writing a book. They don’t have a work in progress. Or a first draft. They may not have written a short story or a diary entry in their lives, but they want to know about publishing.

Royalties. Movie rights.

They want to get to the end of the race before they know if they can run.

Now, don’t get me wrong, we all start by dreaming of writing a book, or at least of telling a damn good story. Without that initial spark, you’ll never enough fire to see your idea to completion. However, I’ve been thinking of losing fifteen pounds for about two years now and it ain’t gonna happen unless I cut back on the wrong foods and get my ass up on that treadmill in the basement - currently used to air- dry laundry.

There’s no magic pill for weight loss or for writing a novel. If there were, I’d be more than slightly addicted. Screw the side effects.

And I have to say self-publishing is not the magic pill some believe it to be. It’s a fast track to a keen audience, however, that audience doesn’t pull any punches or hold back the tomatoes. Putting your work out there before it’s ready can be a lesson in how NOT to start your writing career.

Any indie author who takes their art seriously knows this. They revise their work, hire editors, and revise again and again. They do this because readers of indie authors still want great stories. They’ll forgive some grammar mistakes, sure, but if you don’t have the basics of the craft or know how to translate what’s in your head into the written word…you won’t gain the readership.

Or the big royalties. Or sell the movie rights.

If you’re really keen, you’ve got a fever for writing and you’re willing to do the work, then my prescription is this:

Think about writing a book, but do more than that. Get a resource like Save the Cat: The Last Book On Screenwriting That You’ll Ever Need by Blake Snyder (I don’t care it’s for screenwriting – the plot structure is the BEST I’ve seen and I use it for scripts and novels alike) and start plotting your book.

Pick up a pen, a pencil, a crayon, an antique typewriter, a laptop – whatever – and start WRITING. One sentence at a time.

Join an impartial group of writers and share critiques (aka - not your best friend/mother). Nothing teaches more than reading the work of others and seeing first hand what works and what doesn’t. Constructive eyes on your own work will be enlightening. Oh, and you may want to invest in a thick, leathery hide – some of the lessons you’ll learn will sting a bit. is a wonderful online community and has free, as well as pay services.

Read author, agent, and publisher blogs to learn about common writing mistakes, the publishing industry, and start building relationships with other writers, bloggers, readers, etc.

You can do this, I know you can, because I did - and I thought it would be impossible too.

Hmm…now about that treadmill…

Be sure to comment on ANY Second Skin tour post (either HERE on Judith's site, or on participating blogger/author sites) will get you entered in the kick-assiest of kick-ass GRAND PRIZES.

Under My Skin is available on Amazon | Leap Books
Second Skin is available on Amazon | Leap Books

Monday, March 12, 2012

Interview with the author of WANDERLOVE: Kirsten Hubbard

Visiting The Book Swarm today is Kirsten Hubbard, author of the fabulous YA contemporary travel novel, WANDERLOVE (review here). 

Intrepid traveler and travel writer for, Kirsten has also published LIKE MANDARIN (review here). You can visit her blog and the Wanderlove Tumblr site, which is filled with gorgeous pictures and descriptions of places I'm definitely adding to my list. Welcome, Kirsten!

Wanderlove is filled with your own sketches. Why did you decide to include sketches with this book?

I've always drawn, and Bria was always an artist. I think including illustrations was something I hoped for, in my heart of hearts, from the very beginning. But I was also aware doing so would be totally up to my publisher; since I'm not a professional illustrator, her reaction could very well have been, um, no, your drawings are awkward. Plus illustrations in a book are an additional expense for the publisher. Fortunately, both my agent and editor were on board immediately. Hooray!

The main character, Bria Sandoval, desperately wants to be a global vagabond. As a serious traveler yourself, do you consider yourself a global vagabond? How is that different than a traveler or tourist?

Throughout Wanderlove, Bria writes down travel rules she gets from Rowan (a very experienced backpacker). Rule number four is something I've observed time and again: "No matter how well-traveled you are, you'll always meet someone who's traveled more than you." I've backpacked quite a few times, but every time I travel, I meet people who haven't returned home in over a year, people who've lived abroad and visited triple the countries I have.

As for the global vagabonds, I didn't put too much thought into it – it's the name of the dorky tour group Bria ditches early on. When she sees the name, and longs to be one, she only pictures the romance, not the reality of travel: the poverty and crime and mosquito bites and unhappy stomach conditions. As Bria says, "backpacking really does push aside the curtain".

You've traveled all over the place including throughout Central America, which you write about for What was one of the most interesting place you've visited, and where are you would you like to go next?

Black Rock City, Nevada is definitely the most interesting, and also a favorite. While I adore traveling abroad, there's nothing like wandering through a post-apocalyptic white sand desert at sunset and coming across a three-story bouquet of fire-breathing flowers. As for where to next: I always say I'd go anywhere, but right now, I'm most interested in visiting Colombia, India, and Spain/Morocco. Might be a little hard to hit all three on the same trip, though!
And a couple of writing questions...
Since you’ve been published, what’s the coolest thing that’s happened to you?

Melina Marchetta blurbing Like Mandarin :)

Where do you do the majority of your writing?

It's about 75% my office – which now includes my ultimate writing desk: a consignment dining room table, just beautiful – and 25% at one of the coffee shops down the street. I can't write when people I know are around, but somehow, I can concentrate in a sea of strangers with Macbooks.

What's your biggest distraction when writing?

The internet, general. Metafilter, specific.

WANDERLOVE is available on Amazon | Indiebound
LIKE MANDARIN is available on Amazon | Indiebound

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Travel Envy: WANDERLOVE by Kirsten Hubbard

YA Contemporary (Travel)
352 pages, hardcover
Available March 13, 2012
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Review copy provided by publisher via NetGalley

It all begins with a stupid question:

Are you a Global Vagabond?

No, but 18-year-old Bria Sandoval wants to be. In a quest for independence, her neglected art, and no-strings-attached hookups, she signs up for a guided tour of Central America—the wrong one. Middle-aged tourists with fanny packs are hardly the key to self-rediscovery. When Bria meets Rowan, devoted backpacker and dive instructor, and his outspokenly humanitarian sister Starling, she seizes the chance to ditch her group and join them off the beaten path.

Bria's a good girl trying to go bad. Rowan's a bad boy trying to stay good. As they travel across a panorama of Mayan villages, remote Belizean islands, and hostels plagued with jungle beasties, they discover what they've got in common: both seek to leave behind the old versions of themselves. And the secret to escaping the past, Rowan’s found, is to keep moving forward.

But Bria comes to realize she can't run forever, no matter what Rowan says. If she ever wants the courage to fall for someone worthwhile, she has to start looking back.

I'm in love. WANDERLOVE spoke to my heart, to my desire to be a global vagabond, to grow wings and fly away to exotic locales and have adventures with adorable backpack boys. Personally, I was too chicken to go when I was younger, too influenced by my mother who was afraid of travel and letting me out of the country on my own.

But not Bria. Sure, she might be scared, but she signs up and heads off to Central America with no real clue of what she's getting herself into, excited by the prospect of traveling to a place no one she knows has ever gone and doing so on her own. She winds up on a tour with middle-aged mothering types who stifle her and, when she runs into Starling, a freewheeling backpacker, she plunges headfirst into an adventure of a lifetime.

Watching Bria grow, learn, and find her happiness through her travel experiences was a breath of fresh air, air ladened with the scent of tropical flowers, starlit lakes, and unwashed backpackers. She starts out a tightly curled bud, sheltered and unsure of her future and her abilities. She evolves into a capable, more confident, and stronger flower with the capability to survive and thrive.

The relationships between the characters--Bria, Starling, and Rowan--are beautifully drawn. While siblings Starling and Rowan are both experienced backpackers and knowledgeable in the ways of travel, they're running from their pasts. There's a little bit of a love affair between Bria and Rowan but it's not the driving force behind the story.

Enhanced by Kirsten Hubbard's own sketches and extensive travel experience, WANDERLOVE will fill your heart with a strong desire to strap on a backpack and have your own travel adventure.

Available on Amazon | IndieBound

Friday, March 9, 2012

Kiss Me, I'm Irish: HOUNDED by Kevin Hearne Read Along Week 2

HEY! THIS IS MY 500TH POST! Very cool. :)

Discussion Schedule:
March 02nd: Chapters 1-5 hosted by Geeky Blogger's Book Blog
March 09th: Chapters 6-10 hosted by On a Book Bender
March 16th: Chapters 11-15 hosted by Smash Attack Reads!
March 23rd: Chapters 16-20 hosted by In the Closet With a Bibliophile
March 30th: Chapters 21-25 + epilogue hosted by The Unread Reader
April 06th: Special interview with Kevin Hearne & announcement of winners!

1. In Chapter 6, Atticus goes hunting with Oberon and Flidais. What was supposed to be a fun hunting trip turned rather disastrous. Were you expecting something like this to happen or did it catch you by surprise? Have you ever had something that should have been fun turn disastrous or nearly disastrous?

As Oberon is one of my favorite characters, I was pretty worried about the furry guy. I mean, they wouldn't really put him down, would they? I'm all for death and destruction but I only want the characters I don't like to die! As to the second part, yes, I've had some good days go bad. I hate when that happens!

2. We are only briefly introduced to the witches (or, a witch) in chapter 7. What are your first impressions? How much would you trust the witches? Why?

These witches seem pretty shady to me. While probably not all of them are bad, a few rotten apples can ruin the entire barrel. You know how it is with girls--you get too many together and they can either become a force of good or a force of tremendous evil. Atticus better proceed with extreme caution around those chicks. 

3. Oberon says, “With dogs you just go up and smell their asses and you know where you stand. It’s so much easier. Why can’t humans do that?” Do you ever wish there was an easier way to find out where you stand with someone (besides Oberon’s suggestion, of course)? In what cases would it be easier or better to hide your true feelings?

While I'd really prefer not to bend over and take a whiff, it would be nice to be able to get a strong first impression of someone based on something more than just their appearance. With the majority of humans, I think we have a tendency to hide our true selves below many layers, not revealing our true nature until we feel confident in our abilities to protect ourselves and to trust the person we're revealing ourselves to. Life would be much easier if we could just smell butts, get a true sense of the person, and move on with our lives.

4. Chapter 9 makes Atticus’ life much more difficult: the witches are in some way working with Aeghus Og, Bres comes after Atticus, and more trouble appears at the end of the chapter. Have you made sense of what has happened thus far? Any predictions for what might happen?

Well, my Grammy always said, "Never trouble trouble 'til trouble troubles you." Atticus must not have heard that truism because he seems to like kicking the hornet's nest sometimes just to see what comes out. He brings a lot of trouble on himself both because of his propensity for seeking it out and just because of who he is. (I'm not adding predictions because I've read all three of the novels. Though I will add, Tisk, tisk, Atticus!) Still, I think he'd be happiest if people just let him drink his beer, eat good food, and chat in peace.

5. Atticus has had plenty of time to cultivate attitudes and ethics that would allow him to live a very long time. What do you think it is about Atticus that has allowed him to live for as long as he has?

Even though he does draw trouble to himself, his laid-back attitude, his friends, and love of the world and many of the things in it keep him alive and kicking. That, and his ability to kick some serious ass when necessary.

Don't forget to head over to On a Book Bender to link up your answers!