Monday, April 30, 2012

Character Interview + Contest: Noah and Echo from Pushing the Limits

Today, I'm very excited to share with you an interview with Noah and Echo, the main characters in Katie McGarry's absolutely stunning debut Pushing the Limits. This is a book that had me completely gripped and gutted me more than once, yet also had some seriously hot romance and kisses in it. If it isn't already, make sure this one is on your list.

And to entice you to wanting it, I not only am giving you an all access pass to Noah and Echo, but also have the chance for you to win an ARC of the book so you can get to reading!

Kari: Welcome, Echo and Noah. Let's start this off easy. Tell my readers about yourselves in 3 words.

Echo: Hi Kari! We are so excited to be here!

Noah: S'up.

Echo: Three words? I would have to say I'm an artist, a sister, and a friend.

Noah: And she's a wicked pool player.

Echo: Whatever. Your turn, Noah.

Noah: I'm loyal, a brother, and a risk-taker.

Kari: Your first real introduction with each other doesn't go so well, though I admit, it made me laugh a little. No offense. So with that, what was your second impression of each other?

Noah laughs. Echo's cheeks turn red.

Echo: You were such a jerk in that office.

Noah shrugs: You were too easy to mess with.

Noah turns serious: Second impression? That she was hiding something. Something big.

Echo: That he had the power to ruin what was left of my life.

Kari: Let's get to the really good stuff now. First, what's it like to kiss the other?

Echo chokes.

Noah lips slide into a mischievous grin and leans forward: I'll answer this one.

Echo slaps Noah's arm. Echo: You will not.

Noah: What? She asked. I'm just doing the polite thing by answering. Anyway, kissing's like my body melts into hers. There's no world. No disruptions. No chaos. Everything becomes silent--still and all of the problems that never made sense suddenly become clear. Kissing Echo? It's like coming home.

Echo weaves her fingers with his.

Echo: That's exactly what it's like.

Noah: And unbelievably hot.

Echo chokes again yet nods in agreement.

Kari laughs.

Kari: Yep, reading it was pretty dang hot too. If you two hadn't met in the circumstances you did, do you think you still would have ended up together?

Noah and Echo warily glance at each other.

Echo: I would like to think so. I can't imagine being with anyone else.

Noah: Yes. Definitely. Echo was made for me and I was made for her. No doubt we would have ended up together.

 Kari: I think you might be right, and I think it's time to wrap this up since the rest of my burning questions are totally spoilers. So one last question, without spoilers of course: Which scene was the most intense for each of you?

 Echo: Watching Noah bolt from the school and run to Isaiah's car. I felt like I couldn't breathe as I questioned if he would make it in time.

Noah: Holding her hand in the hospital while wondering if she was going to be okay. That was pure hell.

Thank you, Noah and Echo, for taking the time talk with me.

Now for your chance to win an ARC of Pushing the Limits, just fill out THIS form!

This contest is US  only, and ends May 14.

No entries will be accepted through the comments, but you know you want to leave one anyhow.

Book Review: Insurgent by Veronica Roth

SUMMARY: One choice can transform you—or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves—and herself—while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.

Tris's initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable—and even more powerful. Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so.

New York Times bestselling author Veronica Roth's much-anticipated second book of the dystopian Divergent series is another intoxicating thrill ride of a story, rich with hallmark twists, heartbreaks, romance, and powerful insights about human nature.


Completely gripping, brilliantly woven, and full of shocking twists, Insurgent is a whirlwind continuation of an already stunning series. With an intelligent and insightful central character who’s development continues to pull readers in, and a soft but tested romance still building, this one has an internal driving force that rivals the external one. Picking up immediately after the close of Divergent, and never relenting in the pacing, this book is impossible to put down and will leave readers craving more from the world and characters.

Tris continues to be a remarkable heroine, one who certainly has her moments of fear but who always pushes forward. While she has some flaws, who she is and how she is outweighs it, creating a perfectly balanced and well fleshed out character. The way she relies on Four without being dependent makes for a great realistic element, and helps to build not only the romance but the friendship between the two. Facing down some pretty rough events, and having some nearly impossible choices to make, Tris is a character who readers will back fully while still worrying about the outcome of everything.

Four will continue to make readers melt, even when he and Tris have their battles. While his relationship with Tris tested in some pretty big ways in this installment, painful but realistic at times, readers will still smile at the gentle touches, stolen kisses, and softness that radiates between the pair. A rougher side of Four is seen at times, yet he is such a strongly written character that it’s easy enough to look past the exterior and see what’s underneath. His motivations and reasons come through as strongly as Tris’s, and he plays his own important role in the events of this installment.

The plot of this one will wow readers as much if not more than Divergent did, throwing some gutting twists in and leading to an explosive and heart pounding climax. Roth continues to build the overall plot that will carry on into the final installment, while also rounding things out for this specific book. With plenty of clues dropped along the way, Roth lets her readers guess just enough to be self-satisfied while keeping some jaw-dropping reveals of her own. There are plenty of small intricacies and nuances that will leave readers astounded, each of which is woven seamlessly into the story. While this is a hard book to talk about without spoiling it or Divergent, rest assured it lives up to the stellar impact Divergent left and takes things to another level. With the same succinct yet vivid writing, and having a great pacing throughout, Insurgent is both enthralling and stunning.

Source: TLA 
Reading level: Ages 14 and up 
Hardcover: 544 pages 
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Publication Date: May 1, 2012

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Immortal Rules: Hierarchy of Vampire Society + Contest

Today's stop on the Immortal Rules blog tour, celebrating the latest release from Julie Kagawa and the start of her newest series The Blood of Eden, is all about the hierarchy of vampire society!


The Master vampires are the rulers of their covens, the oldest, most powerful of their kind. They are extremely strong, difficult to kill, and have earned their leadership by adhering to the ancient vampire rule of succession: eliminate all the competition. These Masters who rule over their lesser kin are called Princes, and each has his own set of rules and laws that must be obeyed. The Princes are supremely wary of each other and generally do not tolerate other Masters within their territory.

Before the plague, Masters could sire Elite vampires, the second most powerful vampires in the hierarchy. After the mutated Red Lung virus spread through the world, the Masters could still sire new offspring, but there was an equal chance that they would spawn a rabid.

On the very, very rare occasion, a Master could potentially sire another Master.

The Elite/Type-2s

The Elite vampires are those that have been sired by a Master, and they usually serve as his personal guard, the inner council, or other tasks that keep them close to the Prince. They make up most of his coven and usually do not ever break away from the Prince's service, though there have been exceptions. Elite vampires are very fast and strong, and while not as powerful as the Master himself, they are formidable in their own right.

Before the plague, Type-2 vampires could only sire the lesser vampires known as mongrels. After the plague, their reproductive capabilities shrank to almost nothing, as nearly every new spawn they tried to create produced a rabid.

Mongrels/Type 3/Lesser vampires

Mongrels, or Type 3 vampires, are the least powerful but also the most numerous of their kin, and the most likely vampire to be found roaming the dark city streets. Before the plague, many were wanderers, trying to fit into human society, preying on them from the shadows. Few owed allegiance to any Prince, and as they were considered beneath their Prince’s notice, were usually left alone. They are the weakest of the vampire hierarchy, though still stronger and faster than any human.

Mongrels could only create other mongrels before the plague, and did so often, spreading vampirism across the world in secret. However, after becoming infected with the mutated Red Lung virus, all attempts at producing new offspring have failed, spawning a rabid every single time. Most mongrels fled to the safety of the vampire cities after the plague, pledging their service to the reigning Prince but still being allowed the privileges of a vampire citizen. But it is now illegal, under punishment of death, for any vampire of the Type-3 variety to attempt to sire new offspring.

The next stop on the blog tour is at the lovely Reading Angel, so be sure to check it out!

If you're drooling for this book, you're in luck. Now's your chance to win a copy!

To enter, just fill out THIS form!

This contest is US/Can only, and ends May 14.

You can also check out the Harlequin blog for a list of all the tour stops, and the ways you can enter to win not only a Kindle but a custom, one of a kind Immortal Rules case!

For more information on the series, check out the Blood of Eden website, and the trailer.

Friday, April 27, 2012

From the Writing Post (2)

It's me, with the writer hat on, to talk about 'wasted projects.'

The manuscript lovingly dubbed SlackerBoy is not the first book I wrote. In terms of full length actually finished books, it was the third. Which, really, isn't too bad. I've heard plenty of writers with five, ten, fifteen books before they get a 'winner' that lands them an agent and sells.

But when you step back, that seems like so much time, and so much, well, waste. I've fallen into that trap, of feeling like I wasted my time, my energy, my effort writing these books that were headed nowhere. Fact: The first book I finished, I then did a full rewrite on to make the main character younger. Then I did about six more rounds of revisions, with lots of changes and rewrites along the way. It was my first book, the first real proof I had that this passion in me could actually go somewhere.

Then I shelved the project, one revision away from querying. By then, I had the first draft of SlackerBoy done. I had written another book in between. I knew more about the industry. And that first one, AddictBoy? Maybe it could have gone somewhere, but my gut was starting to tell me it wouldn't. Not to mention, my raw version of SlackerBoy was, to me, better than this nearly finished one of AddictBoy. And that wasn't a good sign, and that is the biggest reason I put it away.

Except it hurt. Despite knowing the decision was for the best, I ached. I shed a few tears. I was partly mad at myself for spending so much time on this book that wasn't good enough, and frustrated that the road to publication would be drawn out even more.

Once that sting wore off, though, and I let myself think of it all again, I don't regret it. Why? I learned SO much writing that first book. Getting the critiques, not just from friends but from authors. Yes, I spent money on that book - bought a few crits from charity auctions. And maybe the feedback specific to that book went nowhere, but in all that, I learned how to revise. I learned how to streamline. I learned how to pack a punch in fewer words.

Writing that book, revising that book, pushed me so far to where I am now. Though the book I wrote in between AddictBoy and SlackerBoy (lovingly dubbed LoverBoy... do we see a trend?) didn't get as much attention, and is on the back burner for different reasons, I can still see how much my writing improved just from AddictBoy to it. The mistakes I made with AddictBoy weren't present as much in that one, and in truth, by the time I got to SlackerBoy, they were even fewer. Even the little things, that you don't necessarily think about, still show up to readers. I've learned to not do those things, to leave it out of my writing, to identify it on my own so others don't have to, and can use their time to point other things out to me.

This has nothing to do with my post.
It just makes me laugh.
 So all in all? AddictBoy was far from a wasted project. He was more than that first pancake, the one you burn just to get to the good stuff. He was my biggest learning tool, and I will always love that book in part just for that (and okay, I really did just love that book). Will I ever do something with AddictBoy? Maybe. It would be another rewrite, maybe even a somewhat different story from a different character's perspective instead. The options are there, some of them even send that thrill through me that comes with any Shiny New Idea.

Which is why, even when it hurts, even when it's devastating, even when it makes you feel like maybe this is all just one big pipedream and you're wasting your time... you aren't. It's not just a persistence is key thing... it's a learning and growing thing. Take out your first book, and tell me honestly if you haven't improved immensely sense. And with each new manuscript, even if it just goes into the trunk, tell me if you didn't learn something new, improve somehow. Ultimately, there are no wasted projects, even if you have to look a little harder to see it.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

From the Boy Closet

Yep, it's time to meet another guy From the Boy Closet.

So,today's boy is one that, in all honesty, totally makes me want to pick the author's brain and ask all my sordid questions about. He's a guy who is such a mess, who is, honestly, a jerk a lot of times, yet he's also a guy who has this mushy inside that makes you melty, and who, in the end, is a pretty solid guy.

The hottie? Rusty from Jessi Kirby's In Honor.

Rusty has easily skyrocketed into my Top Ten Favorite Boys. He's that guy who you want to punch in the face while also wanting to hug him close. His antics will crack you up, and some of them most definitely test the limits. But he also has these moments of not hiding behind his rough exterior that just... break you a little. He was a mess before his best friend died, and even when he's at his worst, it's so easy to see how much more of a mess he is now. Rusty isn't just that guy you want to fix, though... he's that guy that just seems to have so many layers, so much going on underneath that you want to know him, and know what he really thinks about things.

And okay, so he spends a particularly vivid and long scene in the book in his boxers. And he was that guy that spent quite a bit of his time in the backseat of the car with a girl. And he most definitely does not hold back on what he wants to say.

But he just... is so broken that I was a goner from the first time we meet him on the pages.

Also, I feel like I need to find a picture of the back of the book cover, because then you get Rusty. Or at least his lower half. And it's a good half... Ahem.

So that's this week's droolworthy boy, and trust me, you do not want to miss meeting him.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Character This or That: Marshall from Glimmer

I've stolen Marshall from Phoebe Kitanidis' Glimmer for a round of This or That, so let's dive in!

Boxers or Briefs


Hippogriff or Unicorn

Hippogriff. You’re talking to a proud HP nerd, not a 6 year old girl. *ducks*

Blonde or Brunette

Huh. Hard to say. Elyse is blonde, but if she dyed her hair brown, or red, or black, or even purple, I’d probably like it. Neon green, now that would take some getting used to…

Guitar or Drums


Apple or Grape Juice

Uh…how about Redbull? It’s like juice, but more intense and therefore more fun. 

X-Files or Fringe

Both options rock equally hard.

Basketball or Baseball

Whatever. It’s like, snore versus zzzzzz. But I guess non-magical people have to entertain themselves somehow.

Zebra or Antelope

Zebras look cool, but herd animals freak me out. Most predators seem a lot smarter.

Car or Truck


Red or Blue


Thank you, Marshall, for those awesome answers, and congrats, Phoebe on the release!

This one is already on shelves so make sure you check it out! You know you want to get to know Marshall.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

TLA Wrap Up

Last week I headed down to Houston for TLA, which was such a blast! I had such an amazing time, and met some of my favorite authors as well so let's just get right to the photos!

 Me with Jessi Kirby, at her signing. In Honor is one of my favorite books ever, and getting to meet Jessi again was just fabulous. And pick her brain a little about Rusty, because man is my love for that boy intense...

 Veronica Roth! I don't think I need to say anything else, except she remembered me from last summer and *dies*

 Stacey Kade! I love this series, and yay Will is back in my hands!

 Megan Miranda! I met up with her for lunch on Wednesday, but of course we forgot to take a picture so I hunted her down the next day. She is as fabulous as she seems. 

 Jessi Kirby (again) and Stasia Kehoe. I met up Friday for lunch with Stasia, who is pretty much one of the most hilarious people ever. 

 Sara Zarr. I freaked out internally with this one, and turned a little red in my gushing to her while she signed my books. 

Jackson Pearce! 

I also met Melissa Walker, but forgot to take a picture, mostly because I was in that state of omg that renders me a little useless. Barry Lyga was also there, and I got the copy of I Hunt Killers that I already had signed, and chatted with him about the next book some, and about serial killers. I also may have told him his brain scares me in the best possible way.

Also signing was Brent Crawford, Matthew Quick, Madeline George, Kate Ellison, Sharon Draper and Allan Zadoff. I also met Rachel Hawkins, but again forgot to take a picture... Though Deb Calletti was signing, I missed it, along with a few other signings, but overall it was just an amazing experience.

Getting to see Mary Lindsey again was fabulous, as was seeing Sophie Jordan and Tara Lynn Childs. Love these ladies! 

Annnnd the books:

 This isn't quite all of the books I got, but it's the ones I'm most excited for and stare at in confusion every time I have to pick a new book. 

And here's the books I got signed (plus Second Chance Summer in the first picture). Most of the finished copies I bought, but a few were for giveaway.

So that was TLA! It was a seriously awesome event, and getting to see the other bloggers was great as well. 

And though I didn't get this one at TLA, it was waiting for me when I got home. I read it right away and LOVED it. And since my love is so great for this one, I wanted to include it in here and encourage all of you to add it to your lists: 

Keepers of the Lost Cities by Shannon Messenger (and model Toby, passed out after 5 days at the kennel)

Monday, April 23, 2012

Character Interview: Tristan from the Vicious Deep

Today, I've got Tristan, the main character of Zoraida Córdova's debut The Vicious Deep dropping in to answer a few questions, and give you a chance to win a copy of the book!

So… you’re a merman. What’s that like?

It’s like waking up one day and realizing you’ve outgrown all of your clothes.

Describe Layla in three words.

Oh. My. God.

What would your perfect first date be, if you could take Layla anywhere without restraints?

I dunno. We’ve spent every day together since we were practically zygotes. Well, I was a merbaby zygote. Still. She knows every date I’ve taken girls on. It’s a lot of pressure. I wonder if she’d think I’m playing my best cards, which I would be. I’ve been saving it all for someone and it’s her.

Now, I just have to think of something special enough. Can you help me out?

What is your favorite thing about your family? What frustrates you the most?

My mom and dad are the coolest parents in the world. I don’t mess up a lot because I don’t want to betray their trust. The only think that pissed me off was keeping the whole “oh, by the way, your mom’s an ex-mermaid princess. Also, you were also born a merman.”

That’s the kind of thing you tell your kid..

Boxers or briefs?

Wouldn’t you like to know...

What’s the best kiss you’ve ever had?

It’s all I’ve been thinking about since it happened. More than anything. But, no spoilers. You’ll have to read about it.

Thank you, Tristan, for dropping in and congrats, Zoraida, on the release!

This one hits shelves May 1, but if you can stand to wait, I've got your chance to win an ARC!

To enter, just fill out THIS form!

Contest is US only, and ends April 30. There will be 2 winners.

No entries will be accepted through the comments, but you know you want to comment anyhow.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Character Tweets: The Summer of No Regrets

It's time for another round of character tweets, in which The Summer of No Regrets author has been posed the question: If your characters had twitter accounts, what would the feed look like to their followers.

TrentYves @noneotherthantrent
Guess who is Celeb’ Magazine’s Reader’s Choice Hot Teen Actor of the Month? Thx fans! U rock!

Brigitta @gitagirl

“Go & catch a falling star/Get with child a mandrake root/Tell me where all past years are/Or who cleft the devil's foot.” <3 John Donne!

Natalie @nattycat

Finally saw THE LUCKY ONE. <3 <3 <3 Zac!

Mallory @Malibu1

Headache and dry mouth MAY be a symptom of mental illness. Check w/your doctor. It’s better to know.

Luke @RamblinMan

Did you know that the King of Hearts is the only king without a mustache in a deck of cards?

TrentYves @noneotherthantrent

Appearing on Letterman 2night. Buckle your seatbelt.

Mallory @Malibu1

Friends of Youth needs donations of razors, shaving cream and blankets for youth shelter. We can make a difference!

Brigitta @gitagirl
Treehouse + 5 brand new books = bliss!

Luke @RamblinMan

Slugs have 4 noses. I checked.

Natalie @nattycat

At SeaTac Airport. OMG!! Just saw David Archuleta buying a smoothie! Will keep u all posted!

TrentYves @noneotherthantrent

Out and about in NY. Having a bagel. I seem to have a stalker.

Brigitta @gitagirl

Finished DRAGONSWOOD by Janet Lee Carey. *Happy sigh*

Natalie @nattycat

David A heading towards gate A14. Will get a pic if I can.

Brigitta @gitagirl

@nattycat Got us advanced tix to SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN! Happy early birthday.

Natalie @nattycat

David almost saw me! I’m hiding in gift shop. He’s sitting right by the gate texting.

Natalie @nattycat

@gitagirl You are so sweet! Can’t wait! Gotta go. David just stood up.

TrentYves @noneotherthantrent

Back at hotel. Geez, she followed me here. I understand the personal magnetism, but give me a break.

Mallory @Malibu1

Hello Seattle! Gd 2b home. Helping parents w/retreat center. I’m a city girl, but nature is gd 4 the prefrontal cortex.

TrentYves @noneotherthantrent

Got to elevator just in time. She looked crushed. Now I feel bad. I’m sorry sweetheart. I’ll leave an autographed pic at the front desk.

Luke @RamblinMan

I have never seen the moon like that! Makes me want to write songs or something.

Natalie @nattycat

He went to the men’s room! And now my flight is boarding. Aargh!

Brigitta @gitagirl

WOW! The moon! It’s floating on a sea of stars. I am so sleeping in the treehouse tonight.

TrentYves @noneotherthantrent

First-ever striptease on Letterman (well, almost-striptease). Women went crazy. Better than I’d hoped. Thanks, New York!

Thank you, Katherine, for giving us that look at your characters, and congrats on the release! This one hits shelves May 1 so be sure to check it out!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Author Interview: Amy Carol Reeves

Stopping in today is Ripper author Amy Carol Reeves, to talk about her book, her characters, and trees.

Describe Abbie in 3 words.

Brave. Subversive. Determined.

If you lived in Jack the Ripper's London, what do you think would have been the best part?

In the Bloomsbury district definitely. It’s in the center of London, with a lot of literary roots (Dickens and later the Bloomsbury Group) and that way I could have been very near the museums. I would have spent all my time in the Reading Room. And I would have been a spinster—with a very nice garden and a Labrador retriever named Mavis.

What is the most fascinating part about Jack the Ripper to you?

I think it’s that the mystery is so unsolvable. While researching the murders, I ended up with more questions than answers. I thought I would have a good suspect in mind after all of my reading. But I never did. No one seemed to “fit.”

If you could pair Abbie with any character from any book, what would your pick be for her?

Definitely Victor Frankenstein. Abbie would have discovered his secret laboratory and corpse pieces and convinced him that this creating-a-monster-thing was a really bad idea.

What book has impacted you the most?

My two favorite books are Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre. But this is a difficult question, because I’ve had so many books impact me in different ways. But, right now, one book that sticks out in my head is Middlemarch. I love George Eliot’s Middlemarch; I remember reading it in my early twenties, as I was contemplating what I wanted to do with my life. I felt a strong connection to Dorothea Brooke, the main character. She had goals in life and ambitions, but she also experienced disappointments, made some bad choices, and felt the difficulties of clinging to her dreams in spite of the obstacles that came her way. She is an extraordinary and dimensional character, and I remember thinking that Dorothea Brooke is a good example of how a woman should live her life.

Besides Voldemort, which Death Eater would you want to fight?

Bellatrix Lestrange—no wands, just hair pulling.

What kind of plant would you describe yourself as?

A lime tree, definitely. (They’re called lindens in the United States.) It seems like everything interesting in British literature happens around lime trees. Samuel Coleridge pouts under one in “The Lime-Tree Bower My Prison” and then in my favorite Victorian mystery, Lady Audley’s Secret, all sorts of crazy intrigue, blackmail, and flirtations happen around the lime tree walk in the book. If I couldn’t have been Lady Audley herself, I would have been a lime tree, and thus an eyewitness to her scandalous behavior.

Thank you, Amy, for dropping in and congrats on the release! Ripper is out now, so be sure to pick it up, and check out the book trailer below!

Friday, April 13, 2012

From the Writing Post

Let me start this post by saying I am now querying. Those of you who follow me on twitter have seen me talking about SlackerBoy, and yes, that is the manuscript that is being published. Nope, it's not it's actual title, but a nickname. 

I've been wanting, for awhile, to start merging my blog into more of a writer's blog. I'll definitely still talk books, tell you guys my favorites, but I know that as a writer, as someone who is actively pursuing getting my stuff published, someone who beta reads for other writers and authors, the way I view books has changed. So with that, I'm going to start doing a weekly post that is me as a writer, rather than a reader, and as more changes start slowly happening around here, I hope you guys will stick with me.

I think one of the hardest things for any writer is knowing when to step back, when to take a break, and when the manuscript is really done. Sometimes, honestly, I feel like I move too slow. Like I've taken too long to get SlackerBoy to the querying point. This was my NaNo 2010 book, and though I've written 50K on another book, and fiddled with some other ideas, this one has taken over my head so completely that I've done nothing besides it. So a year and a half seems like a really, really long time.

But the one thing I did know? I didn't want to rush into querying. I didn't want to be told about a major problem with my book by an agent. I wanted that to come from someone else, when I could fix it before agents saw it. Did I catch everything myself? Not at all. Did I struggle trying to fix what some of my readers said needed to be fixed? Absolutely. Did it seem easier to just ignore them, say my way is right, and move on? So much.

Yet when I heard the same similar thing from 2-3 people, I knew I had to work on it. Even if it was something not specific or tangible, per say, I still had to figure it out. It seems obvious, when I say it like this, but you hear all the time about writers rushing things, rushing into querying.

I've had four rounds of readers, and each time the list of things to fix grew smaller until finally, most of what was being said was more personal preference, than a specific flaw.

Yes. Personal preference. And that is the point where I knew my book was as good as I could make it. Where I didn't have to make every change that came back in a crit. Where I was potentially going to damage the book rather than making it better.

Does that mean I wrote the suggestion off? No. I definitely considered every one, but if it was simply a matter of catering the book to that person, then I didn't need to do that. It's hard to know, though, when it's at this point. To some extent, it's intuition, and to another extent, I've simply learned. I've paid attention to what suggestions of mine other people have taken and what they haven't. I've talked it out with a writing friend at times, debated the pros and cons depending on how big a change it would  be.

Basically, I haven't been afraid to take a break. To take several months off, to let the book get out of my head so I can go back in with fresh eyes. I haven't been afraid to take a year and a half to get from first draft to final revision. I've let myself tweak and pick, yet set a standard from the start that would be the point where I stop picking.

Did I take too long? Maybe. But am I completely happy with what I am presenting with agents, rather than feeling like I am settling just to be querying? Undeniably.

So that is, in truth, my biggest piece of advice for anyone wanting to query. Do not rush it, but do not pick endlessly either. Before you implement a suggestion, make sure you're doing it because it's right for the book, not because it's what just one person prefers. Don't be afraid to take months off, even if it seems like wasting time, because looking back, I don't regret the time I've taken for this one.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Character Interview: Luke from Thou Shalt Not Road Trip

Stopping in today is Luke, the main character from Antony John's Thou Shalt Not Road Trip. He's hilarious, sweet, and has a great story, so let's get right to meeting him!

What part of the road trip was your favorite?

Well, there’s this bit where I make out with someone. And, I don’t know about you, but I find making out is a great way to block out pretty much any other thoughts. Like breaking down, and getting booed, and blisters. You know, stuff like that. (New Mexico was pretty too!)

Despite the problems you had along the way, especially with your brother, if you could have restarted the trip without him, would you?

Hold on, this one of those character development-type questions, isn’t it? Like, am I pleased my utterly useless brother put me in so many awkward situations that I was forced to change?

Here’s the thing: I really like sleep. I like eating at regular intervals. I like being coherent, and I hate blisters. Put it all together and you can see why I really like the idea of having a professional escort next time.

All the same, I think I get my brother better now (even if he’s still a deadbeat). And there was that moment at Havasu Falls. And behind the hotel in Oklahoma City . . .

All right, I wouldn’t restart without him, after all. Life’s definitely more interesting when he’s doing the driving.

What's it like to kiss Fran?

Uh, how do you know about that? Oh, that’s right, I just admitted it in answer #1. And you probably saw the photos.

Okay, I’m not going to lie . . . Fran is a really good kisser. Like, small earthquakes and major fireworks stuff. I have a feeling that if I could, I’d still be behind that hotel.

Boxers or briefs?

Briefs. I know, I know . . . Matt keeps telling me it’s time to graduate to boxers, but old habits die hard.

Plus, I’ve got about twenty pairs in my underwear drawer, and I don’t want to be wasteful. Global warming and all that, you know?

What kind of office supply would you describe yourself as?

A crisp, clean manilla envelope, capable of presenting a professional and organized façade to the recipient. Unfortunately, as a result of my road trip, the sight of a manilla envelope sends me into a cold sweat. It’s really quite unfortunate. If I were the kind of person who uses words like “sucks,” I’d say it sucks. But I don’t say stuff like that, of course.

So there you guys have it! Thank you, Luke, for letting me pester you and congrats, Antony on another release! This one hits shelves today, so get on it!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

From the Boy Closet

I know it's been too long since I've done one of these, but I'm trying to bring it back. From the Boy Closet is a (hopefully weekly) feature where I talk about a book boy that I fell for, who I then shoved in my Boy Closet.

This week's boy is one that left me twisted. He's the cocky, sexy, arrogant boy that does those small things that just make. You. Melt. Among other things. Not to mention, he's in a band and, well, you know. Oh, and did I mention he's the son of a Lust demon?

Yeah. That.

The boy?

Kaiden Rowe, from Sweet Evil by Wendy Higgins.

Kai had me hooked almost from the start, from the brash way he acts, even while his eyes tell a different story. At least, when his eyes aren't covered behind sunglasses. But the real reason I love this boy so much? He's tortured, a little broken, and he's so intense and passionate that it will bowl you over. He's got that quiet control thing going on, solid even in a maelstrom, and yet he has these softer, sweeter moments that will break you. He fights for what he needs to, he even has a little bit of fear in him. He's so well done, and so chronically sexy, that you will want to kiss him and hug him and punch him and then kiss him again. I do admit, the biggest reason I love him is a book spoiler, so you'll just have to read it for yourself, but trust me, it's worth it.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Book Review: The Last Echo by Kimberly Derting

SUMMARY: In the end, all that's left is an echo...
Violet kept her morbid ability to sense dead bodies a secret from everyone except her family and her childhood-best-friend-turned-boyfriend, Jay Heaton. That is until forensic psychologist Sara Priest discovered Violet's talent and invited her to use her gift to track down murderers. Now, as she works with an eclectic group of individuals—including mysterious and dangerously attractive Rafe—it's Violet's job to help those who have been murdered by bringing their killers to justice. When Violet discovers the body of a college girl killed by "the girlfriend collector" she is determined to solve the case. But now the serial killer is on the lookout for a new "relationship" and Violet may have caught his eye...


Honestly, this is my favorite of this series. And if we’re going for full disclosure, I admit it. This is the most messed up of the three in terms of the murder mystery. Derting hits on some seriously whacked topics, but she does it magnificently. With her usual stunning writing, and a creepy vibe throughout the book, this one is compelling and brilliant. There is a pretty massive twist in this one that will linger with readers for long after the book is done.

Violet has made some great strides in her development, even before the opening of this book, but she makes even more impressive ones in this book. Not as dependent on Jay and her parents, and really starting to stand up for herself in terms of fitting in with the new group she’s found and trying to just understand more about her gift, this book’s journey felt much more centered around her than some of the others have. I loved watching what she went through, and I admire so much that she feels true, raw fear, rather than acting like she’s invincible. Does she still find herself in some horrible situations? Sure. But the motivations are more deeply rooted, and some of them are more inevitable.

Though we saw him in Desires of the Dead, this book brings a much closer look at Rafe, and I have to say, I love this book. I admit it. I like him way more than Jay, and though I get that Jay and Violet are in love and have been best friends for so long… if Violet jumped the Jay ship and ended up with Rafe, I would so not complain. There is just something so quietly endearing and alluring about Rafe, from the way he acts towards Violet to the aloof air around him. I want to know his secrets, and those soft moments when he lets Violet and therefore the reader see more of him are some of the most beautiful in the series. He is a stellar character, who adds so much to the plot and to the way Violet develops in this book.

The Last Echo has some shocking twists in it, and several elements and plotlines that tie together perfectly. The writing has a way of grabbing readers, giving voice to Violet but an even stronger one to the killer, invading reader’s minds and taking over. With a higher level of unpredictability in this one, and the perfect way of dropping bombs on readers, Derting has done phenomenally with this installment.

Source: ARC received from publisher in exchange for an honest review 
Reading level: Ages 14 and up 
Hardcover: 368 pages 
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication Date: April 17, 2012

Monday, April 9, 2012

Character Interview + Contest: Blake from Breaking Beautiful

Stopping in today is a boy that I definitely fell for in a book, the kind of guy who is a bad boy by a reputation given to him, more than because of who he is. So with that, I bring you guys Blake from Jennifer Shaw Wolf's (absolutely stunning) debut Breaking Beautiful, along with your chance to win a signed copy of this book!

If Allie had ended up with someone besides Trip, would you have been so hurt over not being the one to date her?

That’s a tough one. We’ve always had a connection, so Allie with anyone else would have been a slam. I was completely shattered that she didn’t try to contact me the whole time I was in Nevada, because the first time I finally got the nerve up to kiss her… totally intense. But I guess I screwed that one up like a lot of things back then. But coming back to find out she was with Trip, the guy who’s made my life hell since preschool? Yeah, that was like a knife to the gut. And then he treated her like she was something he owned, something he bought with his dad’s money and could do whatever he wanted with. If she was with another guy? One who treated her decent? One who made her happy? No. It still would have sucked. Maybe not as bad, but it still would have sucked.

Without spoilers, of course, what part of the book was the most intense for you? 

The cave. I thought it was over for both of us. Hard to save someone who doesn’t want to be saved, especially when you’re in trouble too. I’ll have nightmares about Allie’s face slipping under the water until the day I die.

What's your best memory with Allie?

The night before the Sweetheart Ball, when it was just me and her, before the fire and everything went to hell. That night I was finally sure Allie wasn’t just hanging onto me because she was still messed up over Trip’s accident. That maybe she could feel the same about me that I did about her.

What's it like to kiss Allie?

Think the first hill of a rollercoaster, when the world rushes up on you and the adrenaline kicks in and your heart is pounding and you’re not sure if you’re going to live or die, but you know its totally worth it. Then combine that with something warm and comfortable and just right, like wrapping up in a really soft blanket and knowing you could stay there forever. Like the best smell and taste and feeling you could possibly imagine. Intense, but right and sweet, and just amazing. Wish I could capture something like that in a painting.

Boxers or briefs?

Boxers. Not going to elaborate.

What kind of dinosaur would you describe yourself as?

Dinosaur? Seriously? Okay, well…how about a triceratops? Kind of cool, kind of different with the three horn thing going on. They look tough, but they’re plant eaters so I guess they’re pretty harmless, unless someone threatens their territory, then they’ve got the horns. I’m kind of like that. My outside, what people think I am, doesn’t match the inside but if you threaten something that’s important to me...

Thank you, Blake, for stopping in (and putting up with my questions), and congrats, Jennifer, on the release!

Breaking Beautiful hits shelves April 24, and is definitely a book that you do not want to miss! Emotional and intense, but just the right amount of soft humor and sweet romance, this one is captivating from start to finish.

And in case you can't stand to wait 2 more weeks to get your hands on this book (who could blame you?), I have your chance to win it right now, for one lucky winner, a signed copy.

To enter, just fill out THIS form.

This contest is US only, and runs through April 22.

No entries will be accepted through the comments, but you know you want to leave one anyhow.

Friday, April 6, 2012

TGIF: Best Series Finale

I know I haven't participated in this before, but when Ginger from GReads! posted the question on twitter yesterday, I knew I had to jump on it. TGIF is just a weekly question Ginger gives to see people's answers and celebrate the fact that it is Friday!

So this week's question: Which book, from any series, has been your favorite ending? What about your least favorite ending?

Favorite: Spell Bound by Rachel Hawkins. This was a seriously tough one to decide on, but I think this one wins. I felt like it was such a stunning and perfect ending to the series, with so much action and twists still keeping you guessing right up until the last chapter. I didn't find this ending to be a cop out at all, and I was left in such a good place as a reader.

Runner Ups: There are several series endings that aren't on shelves yet, but I've already read them, and many of them are great. I didn't want to pick a not yet published book for the top one, so here's my other picks that were close and darn hard to really choose between:

  • A Want so Wicked by Suzanne Young: Aching but amazing, this one is darker than the first book but really ties things up in a great way.
  • Endlessly by Kiersten White: This one, like Spell Bound, left me in a good place as a reader, and led up to a stunning climax without taking any cheap shots on the way.
  • Where She Went by Gayle Forman: I'm with Ginger a bout this one as a totally worthy runner up. This book sort of broke me, but it was the best kind of break you can feel.
  • Last Sacrifice by Richelle Mead: Though I was bothered when I first read this about a few plot lines that were left open in anticipation of the Bloodlines spin off, as far as Rose's story goes, I thought this tied it up so perfectly.
Least Favorite: Again, I'm with Ginger on Breaking Dawn. I felt like much of this installment was a cop out, and everything that had been built up in New Moon and especially Eclipse was for nothing.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Book Review: Breaking Beautiful by Jennifer Shaw Wolf

SUMMARY: Allie lost everything the night her boyfriend, Trip, died in a horrible car accident—including her memory of the event. As their small town mourns his death, Allie is afraid to remember because doing so means delving into what she’s kept hidden for so long: the horrible reality of their abusive relationship.

When the police reopen the investigation, it casts suspicion on Allie and her best friend, Blake, especially as their budding romance raises eyebrows around town. Allie knows she must tell the truth. Can she reach deep enough to remember that night so she can finally break free? Debut writer Jennifer Shaw Wolf takes readers on an emotional ride through the murky waters of love, shame, and, ultimately, forgiveness


Emotional, wrenching and hopeful, Breaking Beautiful is a perfectly blended coming of age and murder mystery. With a broken and sympathetic central character, a vivid setting, and a constantly lingering emotional and painful air, this one most definitely pulls the reader in on page one and refuses to relent. Flashbacks are integrated in a way that progresses the real time plot, and the pacing is steady and engaging.

Allie is most definitely a broken character, the result of far more than losing her boyfriend in a tragic accident. Close to her twin brother, and rapt with guilt over not having cerebal palsy to the debilitating degree he does, there is a very gentle note about Allie even as she stays in a survival type mode for most of the book. With an interesting view on the world, a strong desire to push through the pain more often than not, and a phenomenally woven overall character arc, Allie will stick with readers and rally them behind her.

Allie's family is close, despite the run of the mill disagreements they have. Though stressed by her accident and grief, she continues to be close to them, especially Andrew. The relationship between the twins was poignant and beautifully crafted, giving it a bold realism that will stick out to readers. While her father sometimes comes off as overbearing or too hard on his daughter, the strength of his love is still clear, giving him a depth that brings him full circle by the end of the book.

Blake is a very well done character, playing into his bad boy stereotype given to him by his peers more than simply being a bad boy. Intense yet boyish, Blake is that guy who you want to get to know even when everything else is saying to stay. He and Allie go through a fantastic journey together that builds and tests both. Unafraid of emotions, yet unwilling to simply forgive and forget, there is a very real note to Blake that makes Allie shine without letting himself be washed out.

This one has a very steady pacing in the plot, with bursts of intensity and action, yet mixed with plenty of strong character development. The mystery aspect is perfectly built, giving some clues to let readers predict a few things, while still leaving them with a gutting feeling when the reveals actually happen. Not reliant on convenience or cop outs, the time and thought Wolf has put into every element of the book, right down to the simplest, most mundane of details, is clear and showcased by the end of the book. Hitting on some incredibly rough topics, and giving enough detail to let the readers know all she doesn't say, this one goes all out in it's range and intensity.

The writing is engaging, holding a strong voice yet constantly emotional and wrenching. With some great descriptions, smooth transitions, and flashbacks that are perfectly woven in, Wolf's talents shine easily. The setting is well shown without kicking the reader out of the book whenever it's described, and readers will easily find themselves right next to Allie the entire time.

Guaranteed to leave a lasting impression, Breaking Beautiful is unflinching, visceral, and, in the end, courageous. Blending several different elements and plot lines perfectly, Wolf has taken a new approach to both the coming of age and murder mystery. Going in depth without being overly graphic, hitting some harsh realities, and with a brilliantly fitting title, Breaking Beautiful is a stellar and must read debut.

Source: ARC received from publisher/author in exchange for an honest review
Reading level: Ages 12 and up 
Hardcover: 368 pages 
Publisher: Walker Childrens
Publication Date: April 24, 2012

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Character Interview: Kat from Kiss the Morning Star

Dropping in today is a lively character from a great read: Kat from Elissa Janine Hoole's debut Kiss the Morning Star. Trust me, you don't want to miss this book, and Kat is hilarious. So let's meet her!

Describe Anna in three words.

Ha! How can I limit myself to only three? I mean, I would say she’s beautiful and brilliant and sexy as hell, but that would only make her blush, so I’ll go with cautious, independent, and so freaking strong.

What was the best part of the road trip?

I’ll tell you what. Nothing on this entire trip matters except for this—Anna driving, me sitting here drawing with my feet up on the dash, and I look over at her, you know. Out of the corner of my eye, so she doesn’t know I’m looking. And there she is, for the first time in forever, looking like herself again. She lights up, when she’s not thinking about it, when she’s not worrying. The best part of this road trip is getting my best friend back, one mile at a time, watching her come back to life.

So. A bear. What was facing that like?

Dude, that was the most intensely scary moment of my life. What were we even doing out there? Here we are, like a million miles out in the wilderness, and this crazy shaggy beast is all swinging his head back and forth and charging straight at us—his breath was snorting out right at us, and I just froze. I’m standing there, completely vulnerable, and I thought we were dead. We probably would have been, if Anna hadn’t taken charge. She’s like a superhero or something. Bear Girl. I don’t ever want to hear the word backpacking again in my life.

What’s the best kiss you’ve ever had?

Under the bear grass, definitely. The light of the sun shining through those white blossoms and Anna kneeling there with her eyes squeezed shut so lovely and frightened and hungry…I won’t ever forget that.

What kind of dinosaur would you describe yourself as?

I don’t feel like a dinosaur, at least not like any dinosaurs I can remember. They seem so heavy and solemn, or else vicious and cold. I’m warm-blooded, you know? Are there any dinosaurs that like to dance? I’ll be that one, if there are. 

Thank you, Kat, for stopping in and congrats, Elissa on the upcoming release!

Kiss the Morning Star hits shelves May 15, so be sure to keep your eye out for it!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Book Review: Where It Began by Ann Redisch Stampler

SUMMARY: Sometimes the end is just the beginning.

Gabby lived under the radar until her makeover. Way under. But when she started her senior year as a blonder, better-dressed version of herself, she struck gold: Billy Nash believed she was a the flawless girl she was pretending to be. The next eight months with Billy were bliss...Until the night Gabby woke up on the ground next to the remains of his BMW without a single memory of how she got there.

And Billy's nowhere to be found.

All Gabby wants is to make everything perfect again. But getting her life back isn't difficult, it's impossible. Because nothing is the same, and Gabby's beginning to realize she's missed more than a few danger signs along the way.

It's time for Gabby to face the truth, even if it means everything changes.

Especially if it means everything changes.


The Short Version:
Though admittedly frustrating at times, but filled with voice and some vivid characters, Where It Began is an interesting tale of relationships, finding the truth, and getting past something huge. Though Gabby borders a little too much on the pathetic side of things for this reader, and some parts of the story seemed too repeated and focused on, her overall character is one that can be understood and related to. Well written with an interesting narrative style, and blending the before and after of the accident, there is a quiet mystery set inside an otherwise coming of age type story.

The Extended Version:
Gabby is the kind of girl who holds on too tight to what she views as the one good thing in her life, and while her obsession and willingness to do anything to keep Billy as her boyfriend is frustrating and kind of pathetic, the reasons she clings to him is easy to understand in light of the full scope of her life. With an essentially absent father, and a mother who is seemingly impossible to please, the clear change in how Gabby feels about herself when she’s with Billy makes it easy to get why she acts the way she does. Still, her refusal to see what is obvious and determination that Billy really does love her gets hard to keep reading after a certain point. Her overall development, however, has a mostly smooth pacing and there is a noticeable change in her by the end of the book.

Though there are several other characters in the book, the focus stays on Gabby throughout, with the others flitting in and out. From her close friends, the ones who her mom thinks aren’t good enough for her ‘status’ to Billy, who seems to be the answer to everything, there is a big range of characters. Billy is a hard character to like, even from the start, easy to see through as a reader. Lisa and Anita are what good friends should be, trying in their own way to help their friend without forcing things to be how they think it should. The overall cast is well done, with great interactions between them.

The plot of this one is simple, without too many subplots weaving through it. This did add to the repetitive feeling of Gabby’s belief that Billy really has her best interest at heart, and her clinging to the perfect ideal of him that seemed to always be on the pages. Still, despite a few lags, there was a steady pacing overall and the lurking mystery of what really happened the night of the crash will keep readers engaged. While the big twist is predictable, it’s still well built into the story.

The writing style is full of voice, and something that is clearly Gabby. With a great blending of scenes from the past with what is happening now, mixed in with Gabby’s recovery, the legal aspect, and what she wants things to get to, there is an interesting narrative style in this one. Very direct in a lot of ways, and with some nicely done descriptions, the writing definitely helps pull this one through.

Source: ARC received from publisher in exchange for an honest review 
Reading level: Ages 14 and up 
Hardcover: 384 pages 
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: March 6, 2012

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Bookish Updates!

I've gotten a few emails from various publishers this week about awesome things going on with them, and I definitely want to pass the info on to you guys! So here we go:

The Contests: 

You can win an ARC of Suzanne Young's A Want so Wicked, the sequel to A Need so Beautiful, and trust me, you do NOT want to miss either of these books. So much emotion, intrigue, and hot boys.

Also, do not forget to enter for an ARC of Gretchen McNeil's Ten, which is seriously amazing and mindblowing and twisty and achy and plenty of other great things. Romance and death. Oh yes.

You can also win an ARC of J.A. London's Darkness Before Dawn, which is another book you don't want to miss. Post-apocalyptic vampires, done seriously well with some great twists. Check it out.

There are plenty of other awesome Goodreads giveaways going on as well, but the three above are ones I can definitely recommend, but make sure you check these out too: Through To You (OMG want!), Defiance (OMG also want times a million), The Whispering House, The Other Normals, Invisible Sun (Black Hole Sun #2), The Lost Girl, and The Lost Code.

Epic Reads and Story Crush also have weekly giveaways going on through April. Don't miss it.

Follow Pitch Dark Books on twitter all month long for some special tweetstakes, including a Die for Me paperback, and galley giveaways of Fall From Grace and Dark Eden 2. Not to mention, they just rock.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Teen will be doing a prom-themed giveaway this month, so make sure you keep tabs on their Facebook page!

The Books of Note:

Though I definitely don't read enough of it, I love Middle Grades... and Marissa Burt's Storybound is Harper's Book of the Month! You can browse inside of it here, or just straight up purchase it on Amazon, B&N or IndieBound.

Incarnate by Jodi Meadows is the Epic Reads April Pick, and all month long there will be giveaways, discussions, author chat and more!

With Prom Season just around the corner, there are several great books that deal with Prom which you definitely shouldn't miss! Check out Illuminate by Aimee Agresti, Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick by Joe Schreiber, Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey (a total favorite of mine!), and Ditched by Robin Mellom to get you in the prom season mood!

The Things to Make You Want More: 

You can download the Epic Reads Book Club Sampler starting Monday, with sneak peeks from several awesome upcoming Harper books, including A Want so Wicked, Something Strange and Deadly, Tiger Lily, Fall From Grace, The Lost Code and Thumped.

Harper also has some ebook promotions going on, as well some other chapter samplers!

So that's what's going on in the YA/MG world right now. Check back periodically for more, and good luck on those of you entering the contests!