Thursday, March 31, 2016

Review: Sisters of Salt and Iron

Sisters of Blood and Spirit #2
Kady Cross
Paranormal Young Adult
352 pages
Harlequin Teen
Available Now
Source: ARC from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Lark Noble is finally happy. She’s trying to move on and put the events of the past behind her: the people who avoided her because she talked to the ghost of her dead twin sister, the parents who couldn’t be around her anymore and even the attempt she made on her own life. She finally has friends—people who know her secrets and still care about her—and she has Ben, the cute guy she never saw coming.

Wren Noble is lonely. Unable to interact with the living, she wants to be happy for her sister’s newfound happiness, but she feels like she’s losing her. It doesn’t help that Kevin, the very not-dead guy she was starting to fall for, seems to be moving on.

Then Wren meets Noah, the spirit of a young man who died a century ago. Noah is cute, he’s charming and he makes Wren feel something she’s never felt before. But Noah has a dark influence on Wren, and Lark’s distrust of him drives the sisters apart for the first time in their lives. As Halloween approaches and the veil between the worlds thins, bringing the dead closer to the world of the living, Lark must find a way to stop whatever deadly act Noah is planning, even if it means going through her sister to do so.

The setup for Sisters of Salt and Iron is a common one (especially for second books in a series) that can be tricky, wherein a new character enters the picture and effectively drives a wedge between a previously established relationship. In this particular case that relationship exists between twin sisters Lark and Wren, but the same kind of anxiety exists as we're able to do nothing but watch helplessly as said character delivers one resounding thwack to that wedge after another, driving us closer to the moment the crack created between sisters becomes a full break.

What makes this familiar trope successful in Sisters of Salt and Iron is not only the fact that Wren and Lark are sisters and we therefore don't have to deal with an interloper threatening any kind of romantic relationship, but also that Ms. Cross keeps the drama between the girls to a minimum as Noah whispers his dark untruths in Wren's ear. Wren does fall for him quickly and grow distrustful of her sister's motives at every turn, but the moment things come to a head is relatively low key (in a good way), and the bond between sisters quickly proves to be far stronger than the charms of a ghostly boy.

A truly fascinating aspect of this second installment is the way Ms. Cross continues to highlight Wren's otherness, giving us small reminders here and there that she's not simply a young woman who just happens to be a ghost, but rather that she's in no way human given she's never lived. Born dead, Wren doesn't experience human emotion in the same way as her sister, and every now and then as we spend time with her (the narrative alternates between both sisters) we're smacked in the face with unexpected proof that Wren is delightfully and gruesomely different from us "breathers".

Overall, Sisters of Salt and Iron is a quick read that ensures we consider sleeping with the lights on for a night or two after we close the back cover just in case one of the residents of Haven Crest decides to pay us a visit.

Rating: 4/5

Find Kady:

This book was sent to me by the publisher free of charge for the purpose of a review
I received no other compensation and the above is my honest opinion.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday: Metaltown

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking The Spine and is a fun way to see what books other bloggers just can't wait to get their hands on!

Kristen Simmons
Young Adult/Dystopian-ish
Releases September 20th from Tor Teen

From Goodreads:

Metaltown, where factories rule, food is scarce, and hope is in short supply.

The rules of Metaltown are simple: Work hard, keep your head down, and watch your back. You look out for number one, and no one knows that better than Ty. She’s been surviving on the factory line as long as she can remember. But now Ty has Colin. She’s no longer alone; it’s the two of them against the world. That’s something even a town this brutal can’t take away from her. Until it does.

Lena’s future depends on her family’s factory, a beast that demands a ruthless master, and Lena is prepared to be as ruthless as it takes if it means finally proving herself to her father. But when a chance encounter with Colin, a dreamer despite his circumstances, exposes Lena to the consequences of her actions, she’ll risk everything to do what’s right.

In Lena, Ty sees an heiress with a chip on her shoulder. Colin sees something more. In a world of disease and war, tragedy and betrayal, allies and enemies, all three of them must learn that challenging what they thought was true can change all the rules.

First, that cover! It's all gritty and gorgeous and metal-y, and I need it in my hands immediately. Second, Kristen Simmons. I adored her Article 5 series, though I have to admit to being a tiny bit nervous because she does brutal really well and is skilled in the art of ripping out readers' hearts and stomping on them before making things better in the end. *stocks up on chocolate* I'm curious as to the dynamic between Ty, Colin and Lena as well, it sounds like it's going to be far more complicated than a triangle between two girls and one guy (if there's a triangle at all), and I can't wait to see how everything unfolds between them!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Review: The Darkest Craving

Lords of the Underworld #10
Gena Showalter
Paranormal Romance
472 pages
Available Now
Source: Finished copy from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Having endured weeks of torture in the bowels of hell, Kane wants nothing to do with his beautiful rescuer, Josephina Aisling. The half-Fae female threatens to awaken the demon of Disaster inside him—a beast he’s determined to kill, no matter the price.

Josephina is hunted by a brutal enemy—her royal family—and Kane is her only source of protection. He’s also the only male to ever set her aflame, and even he succumbs to the heat. But as they navigate the treacherous world of the Fae, they are forced to make a choice: live apart…or die together.

The Lords of the Underworld series is one that never disappoints, always delighting with a sinful combination of sexual tension and humor on the way to happily ever after. The Darkest Craving is another quick read despite its length, the darkness of what Kane endured in hell tempered by an adorable heroine in Josephina as well as the complete absurdity of series favorite, William, as he accompanies Kane to the land of the Fae.

While each of the Lords is in the unenviable position of housing one of the various demons released when they opened Pandora's Box, a handful of them have particularly brutal demonic companions that earn them a special place in our hearts long before we're given their story in full. Kane is one such Lord, his presence in previous books always one that garnered a wince or two in sympathy as his demon, Disaster, wreaked havoc time and again. When we meet up with him once again he's finally escaped hell and its endless torture thanks to Josephina's help, and we find him much changed as a result of his time there. He's plagued by nightmares and memories of both physical and sexual abuse, and we can't help but want to reach out and hug him despite the fact that he would recoil from our touch. He wastes no time pitying himself however, and once he sets his sights on Josephina we get to see the warrior in him on fully delicious display.

Though Kane's recent past is dark and we get fleeting glimpses of unimaginable brutality thanks to his flashbacks and nightmares, Ms. Showalter ensures our time with him isn't overwhelmingly heavy thanks to Josephina. Despite being a blood slave for her miserable excuse for a sister (meaning for every misstep her sister takes, Josephina receives the punishment) and seeking out Kane in order for him to kill her as her only means of escape, she's still a source of light in this story. She doesn't take herself too seriously, giving herself compliments here and there because she never receives them from anyone else, and standing up to those she can–without being suitably punished–using her quick wit and smart mouth.

Another source of lightness in this tale comes from the Fae themselves, a race so fascinated by the Lords that they've spied on their lives for hundreds of years, detailing their battles, antics, and sexual escapades in pieces of fiction read by Fae everywhere. The result is various Fae fan clubs dedicated to each Lord, and when Kane finds himself in the Fae realm, it's nothing short of hilarious to watch them get starstruck in his presence. 

Overall, The Darkest Craving is everything there is to love about this series, and is highly recommended for Showalter fans everywhere.

Rating: 4/5

Find Gena:
This book was sent to me by the publisher  free of charge for the purpose of a review
I received no other compensation and the above is my honest opinion.

The Lords of the Underworld are going on tour! Well, the books are anyway. Be sure to follow along for more reviews and spotlights!

Friday, March 25, 2016

Friday Flourish: Masque

Happy Friday and Happy Almost Easter everyone!

I've been celebrating Easter basically since February when my grocery store started stocking Cadbury Mini Eggs, the most delicious chocolatey-goodness ever invented. This weekend will likely consist primarily of massive chocolate consumption, but also some quality family time as well. I hope you all have a wonderful holiday!

Before I rush off to my date with Mini Eggs though, I have another of my recent cover designs to share with you. I've had an influx of requests for illustrated covers lately, and it's made me ridiculously happy. The design memo author W.R. Gingell submitted for her fairy tale/fantasy novel Masque had me giddy with excitement not only because it's a bit of a Beauty and the Beast retelling and that's my very favorite fairy tale, but also because she emphasized her love for typography. You guys are well aware by now how much I love type and finding the perfect font for any given project, so as with last week's The Broken Crown, I started my design process by searching for the right typeface for Masque.

It didn't take me long to find a front runner – one that had a great deal of character to help create a brand for the series, as well as one that had a regal quality to it befitting the Victorian-era setting. Given the title of the book and the fact that masks themselves play a pivotal role, it seemed as though it might be odd if the design didn't incorporate a mask in some way, so once the type was in place I worked on putting the mask illustration together.

W.R. included a tagline in the artwork form she submitted to me, and when I saw the words "bloody murder", the concept for the mask really fell into place. I incorporated blood drips into the mask itself and added little blood spatter to the background, creating a bit of dark contrast to the gold and glitter of the mask and title. I couldn't be more pleased with how the cover turned out, so I hope you guys love it as much as W.R. and I do!

Beauty met the Beast and there was . . . Bloody murder?
It’s the Annual Ambassadorial Ball in Glause, and Lady Isabella Farrah, the daughter of New Civet’s Ambassador, is feeling pleasantly scintillated.
In the library is Lord Pecus, a charming gentleman whose double mask hides a beastly face, and who has decided that Isabella is the very person to break the Pecus curse.
In the ball-room is young Lord Topher, who is rapidly falling in love with an older woman.
And in the card-room, lying in a pool of his own blood, is the body of one of Isabella’s oldest friends: Raoul, Civet’s Head Guardsman. The papers sewn into his sash seem to suggest espionage gone wrong, but Isabella is not so certain.
Lord Pecus, as Commander of the Watch, is of the opinion that Isabella should keep out of the investigation and out of danger. Isabella is of the opinion that it is her murder to investigate, and that what a certain Beast-Lord doesn’t know won’t hurt him. . . .
Will Isabella find the murderer before Lord Pecus does, or will she end her investigation as a bloody spatter on the parlour floor?

Find Masque:

Find W.R.:

You can check out more of my cover design work at Seedlings Design Studio 

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Review: Titans

Victoria Scott
Young Adult/Fantasy-ish?
320 pages
Available Now
Source: ARC from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Ever since the Titans first appeared in her Detroit neighborhood, Astrid Sullivan’s world has revolved around the mechanical horses. She and her best friend have spent countless hours watching them and their jockeys practice on the track. It’s not just the thrill of the race. It’s the engineering of the horses and the way they’re programmed to seem so lifelike. The Titans are everything that fascinates Astrid, and nothing she’ll ever touch.

She hates them a little, too. Her dad lost everything betting on the Titans. And the races are a reminder of the gap between the rich jockeys who can afford the expensive machines to ride, and the working class friends and neighbors of Astrid’s who wager on them.

But when Astrid’s offered a chance to enter an early model Titan in this year’s derby, well, she decides to risk it all. Because for a girl from the wrong side of the tracks, it’s more than a chance at fame or money. Betting on herself is the only way she can see to hang on to everyone in the world she cares about.

Titans is a fascinating reimagining of horse racing, one where flesh and blood are replaced by wires and steel, and the simple dirt track replaced by spectacularly dangerous obstacle courses.

Ms. Scott has a gift for writing character-driven stories, particularly those involving animals who steal our hearts over the course of hundreds of pages and cause our anxiety to kick up several notches as we worry for their well-being in the end. Padlock is just the latest of Ms. Scott's animals to leave his mark as we read, a horse who should be fully robotic and personality-free instead exhibiting a fighting spirit on the track and a capacity for love and affection off it. His relationship with jockey Astrid is both heartwarming and heartbreaking as their bond grows race after race, their success inspiring cruelty in others who feel an early model Titan and a lower class rider have no business in a sport driven by money and prestige.

While Astrid's relationship with Padlock is a highlight, her friendship with fellow factory worker's daughter Magnolia is also a show-stealer, the two of them there for one another every step of the way without any petty jealousy or unnecessary drama to dim their shine. Though the fact that this story is romance-free might be ever-so-slightly disappointing for those who live for it in their books (like myself), the fact that Ms. Scott decides to take what at first appears as though it's going to be a predictable enemies to lovers setup and shift it into something else entirely is a refreshing change.

Overall, Titans is a story full of heart, the bond between horse and rider beautifully sharing the spotlight with smile-inducing friendships as well as family dynamics to give us a well-rounded read with a little bit of everything for every reader.

Rating: 4/5

Find Victoria:

This book was sent to me by the publisher  free of charge for the purpose of a review
I received no other compensation and the above is my honest opinion.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday: Stealing Snow

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking The Spine and is a fun way to see what books other bloggers just can't wait to get their hands on!

Stealing Snow #1
Danielle Paige
Young Adult/Fairy Tale
Releases September 27th from Bloomsbury Childrens

From Goodreads:

Seventeen-year-old Snow has spent the majority of her life within the walls of the Whittaker Institute, a high security mental hospital in upstate New York. Deep down, she knows she's not crazy and doesn't belong there. When she meets a mysterious, handsome new orderly and dreams about a strange twisted tree she realizes she must escape and figure out who she really is.

Using her trusting friend Bale as a distraction, Snow breaks free and races into the nearby woods. Suddenly, everything isn't what it seems, the line between reality and fantasy begins to blur, and she finds herself in icy Algid--her true home--with witches, thieves, and a strangely alluring boy named Kai, none of whom she's sure she can trust. As secret after secret is revealed, Snow discovers that she is on the run from a royal lineage she's destined to inherit, a father more powerful and ruthless than she could have imagined, and choices of the heart that could change the fate of everything...including Snow's return to the world she once knew.

This breathtaking first volume begins the story of how Snow becomes a villain, a queen, and ultimately a hero.

I am ALWAYS on board for a good fairy tale, so this is one hundred percent right up my alley. I also have a soft spot for characters locked in a mental institution, as being in such a place is one of my recurring nightmares so I can't help but root for them to get out. How terrifying would it be to be in a mental institution when you know you're sane? The more you try to convince people you're of sound mind and body, the more insane you appear. IT'S A VICIOUS AND HORRIFYING CIRCLE!

I'm a little nervous about a possible love triangle since both the handsome orderly and Kai are mentioned (maybe they're the same person?), but after just having read the blurb I think I might already be backing the Kai ship. So looking forward to September! 

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Skylighter Blog Tour: Guest Post + Giveaway!

Today I'm thrilled to welcome author Becky Wallace back to the blog as part of the promotional tour for The Skylighter, the follow up to last year's The Storyspinner. The Storyspinner was one of my favorite reads of 2015, and I can't recommend it highly enough if you haven't had a chance to read it yet. 

I had the opportunity to suggest a topic for Becky to address, and I thought it would be fun given how politically-focused our country is at the moment to ask Becky about the power game and politics of Johanna's fantasy world. I hope you guys enjoy!

If you were long lost royalty as Johanna is and suddenly found yourself in the middle of a power play for the throne, what are the top 5 concerns you would have about claiming your birthright?

If I was actually in Johanna’s position, I’d totally run and hide. Maybe take a little cash with me so that it could be a comfortable hiding place instead of a shack in a forgotten swamp. I’m still a princess at heart, yo.
If I was able to muscle past my flight instinct, here are the things I’d worry about:
Let’s be honest, y’all. Poisoned food, sneak attacks, assassins, and literal backstabbers are a real concern for folks who want to claim their rightful thrones. Unless you plan to surround yourself with heavily-muscled guards bristling with weapons—which might not be that bad—or sequester yourself to windowless rooms, then claiming a throne isn’t exactly the safest life goal. But if you feel, like, morally obligated to improve the lives of thousands of people, then go for it. Good for you, I guess.

Who can I really trust? Like really? 
See, here’s the problem with people: just about anybody can be bought for the right price. Sometimes that price is a bag full of gold and sparkly jewels, sometimes it’s the promise of power in a new government, and sometimes (gasp!) people make really crappy decisions because they’re really crappy people. The problem for soon-to-be rulers is knowing who those people are and surrounding yourself with the other kind—the stalwart, chivalrous, good kind. And sadly, the good ones are hard to find. Heh.

I have no idea how to run a kingdom. Why am I trying to run a kingdom? Whose idea was it that I should run a kingdom? Can we kill that person? DON’T TELL ME TO CALM DOWN.

How many days off do I get?
Can you hear Queen’s Under Pressure in your head? Cause that’s what I hear when someone says the words “take over a kingdom.” All that responsibility…it causes wrinkles, ulcers, and maybe bad posture. You know, with the weight of the world on your shoulders and all that. Now, if you’re promised a month of vacation on a lush, private island then maybe it would be worth it.

Who am I betrothed to?
I mean…if It’s for good of my people, who I’m suddenly very concerned about, then sure. I’ll marry Prince Harry.

I probably wouldn’t turn down Prince Carl Phillip of Sweden, either.

But if it was Prince…I’d want my advisors to see if there were better political ties to be made elsewhere. 

Also, he totally looks like a villain.

Thanks so much Becky! I would absolutely take Prince Carl Phillip of Sweden as well. Hello, there.

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •


Johanna and Rafi are in a race against time to save their country before a power-mad Keeper destroys everything they hold dear in the “enthralling magical world” (Cinda Williams Chima, author of The Heir Chronicles) introduced in The Storyspinner.
As the last of the royal line, Johanna is the only person who can heal a magical breach in the wall that separates her kingdom of Santarem from the land of the Keepers, legendary men and women who wield elemental magic. The barrier protects Santarem from those Keepers who might try to take power over mere humans…Keepers who are determined to stop Johanna and seize the wall’s power for themselves.
And they’re not the only ones. As the duchys of Santarem descend into war over the throne, Johanna relies more than ever on the advice of her handsome companion, Lord Rafael DeSilva. But Rafi is a duke too, and his people come first. As their friendship progresses into the beginnings of a tender relationship, Johanna must wonder: is Rafi looking out for her happiness, or does he want the throne for himself?
With war on the horizon, Johanna and Rafi dodge treacherous dukes and Keeper assassins as they race to through the countryside, determined to strengthen the wall before it’s too late…even if it means sacrificing their happiness for the sake of their world.


• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •


In second grade, Becky Wallace had to sit in the corner because she refused to write anything except princess stories and fairy tales (and because she talked too much). Her time in isolation gave her plenty of opportunities to dream up the fantasy worlds she’s been dabbling with ever since. She was lucky enough to find her own real-life Prince Charming. They have four munchkins and live in happy little town near Houston, Texas.

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • •


Five lucky winners will each receive autographed sets of both The Storyspinner AND The Skylighter along with some awesome swag. Ten additional winners will get swag sets. To enter, please fill out the Rafflecopter form below. Giveaway is open to US residents only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

3/14/2016- Once Upon A TwilightInterview 
3/15/2016- Jessabella ReadsReview  
3/16/2016- Owl Always Be ReadingExcerpt 
3/17/2016- Take Me Away To A Great ReadReview 
3/18/2016- a GREAT readInterview
3/21/2016- Mundie MomsReview
3/22/2016- Supernatural SnarkGuest Post
3/23/2016- Wishful EndingsReview
3/24/2016- Two Chicks on BooksInterview
3/25/2016- Seeing Double In NeverlandReview

Monday, March 21, 2016

Review: The Darkest Corners

*I signed up for this tour date prior to implementing my new no-Mondays rule, so next week will be the week I drop down to 4 posts!

Kara Thomas
Young Adult/Thriller
336 pages
Available April 19th
Source: eARC from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
The Darkest Corners is a psychological thriller about the lies little girls tell, and the deadly truths those lies become.

There are ghosts around every corner in Fayette, Pennsylvania. Tessa left when she was nine and has been trying ever since not to think about it after what happened there that last summer. Memories of things so dark will burn themselves into your mind if you let them.

Callie never left. She moved to another house, so she doesn’t have to walk those same halls, but then Callie always was the stronger one. She can handle staring into the faces of her demons—and if she parties hard enough, maybe one day they’ll disappear for good.

Tessa and Callie have never talked about what they saw that night. After the trial, Callie drifted and Tessa moved, and childhood friends just have a way of losing touch.

But ever since she left, Tessa has had questions. Things have never quite added up. And now she has to go back to Fayette—to Wyatt Stokes, sitting on death row; to Lori Cawley, Callie’s dead cousin; and to the one other person who may be hiding the truth.

Only the closer Tessa gets to the truth, the closer she gets to a killer—and this time, it won’t be so easy to run away.

Young Adult thrillers can sometimes be tricky reads (particularly for older readers like myself) due in large part to a general premise wherein teenagers assume responsibility for solving a crime without the help of the law, thereby stretching plausibility so incredibly thin that it can be hard to settle into the story. The Darkest Corners, however, succeeds where so many others have faltered, giving us a pair of young girls who seek to uncover the truth in an entirely believable way while simultaneously weaving together several crimes so there's rarely a moment we're not kept on our toes.

While Tessa and Callie do don their super-sleuth hats and set out to discover what really happened to Callie's cousin over a decade ago, their reasons for not immediately turning to the police with their suspicions are completely valid given it was their dual testimony that guaranteed the alleged killer's death penalty sentence. Recanting their testimonies would not only be admitting to perjury, but it would also give a man who arguably still belongs behind bars despite being innocent of the murders a chance at freedom.

With one small exception, Tessa and Callie don't run off half-cocked with grand ideas about how to track down and expose the true killer, instead their search is quieter and more personal, involving a great deal of research and talking to various people who at some point or another knew Tessa's wayward mother and sister (a friend of Callie's late cousin). What's slowly and fascinatingly revealed through each interaction adds a new brushstroke to the painting of what happened that night so long ago, a picture that's far more complex than two little nine year-old girls coerced into providing a false identification could have possibly imagined.

Overall, The Darkest Corners is a well-executed psychological thriller, one that keeps us questioning throughout but gives us all the answers we could have hoped for in the end.

Rating: 4/5

Find The Darkest Corners:

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • •


Kara is the author of THE DARKEST CORNERS, coming from Penguin Random House/Delacorte Press in Spring 2016. She also wrote the Prep School Confidential series (St. Martin’s Press) and the pilot The Revengers for the CW under the pen name Kara Taylor. She’s represented by Suzie Townsend of New Leaf Literary & Media for books and United Talent Agency and Brillstein Entertainment Partners for film. You can find her on TwitterInstagram, or on the couch with her rescue cat, Felix.

Be sure and check out all the stops on the tour for more reviews!

3/14 Fresh Fiction
3/15 Jessabella Reads
3/16 Book Addict Confessions
3/17 Hollywood News Source
3/18 Undeniably (Book) Nerdy
3/19 Curling Up with a Good Book
3/20 Out of Time
3/21 Supernatural Snark
3/22 Live to Read, review
3/23 Dark Faerie Tales
3/24 Ex Libris
3/25 Reading with Cupcakes
3/26 The Reader Bee
3/27 The Eater of Books!
3/28 Reading Teen
3/29 Chapter by Chapter
3/30 Winter Haven Books
3/31 Once Upon A Twilight
4/1 Intellectual Recreation
4/2 The Hiding Spot
4/3 Carina Books
4/4 Cover Contessa
4/5 Me Read A Lot
4/6 The Writer Diaries
4/7 Whimsically Yours
4/8 Hook of a Book
4/9 Reading Nook Reviews
4/10 Downright Dystopian
4/11 Such A Novel Idea
4/12 Across the Words
4/13 Reviews From a Bookworm
4/14 Itching For Books
4/15 Waste Paper Prose
4/16 The Irish Banana
4/17 The Book Rat
4/18 YA Reads
4/19 No BS Book Review
4/20 Serenity’s Lovely Reads
4/21 Pandora’s Books

Friday, March 18, 2016

Friday Flourish: The Broken Crown

Happy Friday Everyone!

It's been a cover reveal kind of week this week on the blog, and today I have one of my most recent designs to share with you. I've admitted to my love of illustrated covers before, both as a reader and as a designer, so I'm especially excited about today's Flourish!

Author Amryn Cross came to me wanting an illustrated cover with a strong type treatment, something to catch the eye as well as create a brand for the series, and I may or may not have tripped all over myself in my hurry to get started. There's very little that makes me happier than perusing font sites looking for the perfect typeface for a particular design, and when I came across the one you see below, I knew I needed to look no further for this project.

I started with the title since it was going to be the primary focal point, manipulating the individual letters to make them fit together in a way that made the title an illustration in and of itself. Once I was happy with how the letter shapes flowed together, I moved on to the rest of the illustration. Illustrated covers tend to take me quite a bit longer than photography-based covers, so I sometimes like to submit rough versions of a layout to my clients to make sure I'm heading in the right direction. I thought it might be fun for you guys to see the in-progress black and white version of The Broken Crown before taking a look at the final cover, so below is the proof I sent to Amryn for overall concept and font approval:

I was madly in love with the type treatment and the crown, and luckily for me, Amryn gave her enthusiastic approval, but there were still some things that needed tweaking. I felt like the title and the crown were too separate, something that became even more apparent when I started adding color and texture, so I sought to make them visually relate to one another a touch more in order to unify the design. I also simplified the cityscape at the base of the crown to make it more recognizable at a smaller size, and redrew a number of the flame shapes in the background. A few additional adjustments were made to the title, and after working and reworking the overall color scheme a couple times I arrived at what ended up being the final design:

Princess Emilia Aurelius was only seven when she watched her mother die at the hands of her father—martyred for believing in the God of the Atlas Empire’s Insurgo rebels. At seventeen, exiled to a military outpost where no one knows her true identity, she’s vowed to leave her royalty behind and explore the truth of the Insurgo rebels her mother loved.

When the Emperor of Atlas summons the princesses from each of the provinces to the imperial city to choose a wife for the crown prince, Emilia must leave her military life behind to join a royal court rife with cunning and intrigue. Navigating the waters of court politics and budding love are treacherous on their own, but Emilia fears for her life should anyone learn of her Insurgo sympathies.

With an unlikely ally in the captain of the emperor's guard, Emilia must uncover the truth of the Insurgos, start a revolution, and learn to become the princess she’s vowed never to be, all while protecting her heart from a prince who could sign her death warrant.

Find The Broken Crown:
(releases May 23rd!)


Find Amryn:

You can check out more of my cover design work at Seedlings Design Studio 

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Review: Marked in Flesh

The Others #4
Anne Bishop
Urban Fantasy
416 pages
Available Now
Source: Bought

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
For centuries, the Others and humans have lived side by side in uneasy peace. But when humankind oversteps its bounds, the Others will have to decide how much humanity they’re willing to tolerate—both within themselves and within their community...

Since the Others allied themselves with the cassandra sangue, the fragile yet powerful human blood prophets who were being exploited by their own kind, the delicate dynamic between humans and Others changed. Some, like Simon Wolfgard, wolf shifter and leader of the Lakeside Courtyard, and blood prophet Meg Corbyn, see the new, closer companionship as beneficial—both personally and practically.

But not everyone is convinced. A group of radical humans is seeking to usurp land through a series of violent attacks on the Others. What they don’t realize is that there are older and more dangerous forces than shifters and vampires protecting the land that belongs to the Others—and those forces are willing to do whatever is necessary to protect what is theirs…

Marked in Flesh is a pivotal book in The Others series, finally giving us a terrifying taste of just what's out there in the wild country as the Humans First and Last Movement makes one mistake too many. In the previous books we've been treated to the more "civilized" species of Others, those who are able to interact with humans without causing them to go catatonic with fear, but with each new installment we've gotten fleeting glimpses of the Elders, and we can't help but let a vengeful smile crease our faces as they make their presence known.

The Humans First and Last Movement are at their most appalling in Marked in Flesh, the hatred and prejudice they spread all the more infuriating because it's in no way exaggerated despite its place in a piece of fiction, and we can't help but want to snarl as the Others do at their sense of superiority and entitlement. It's downright impossible to root for any side but that of the Others and the handful of humans who've formed relationships with them over time, and when extinction threatens we're simply unable to muster up any sympathy for those who merrily paved the way to their own destruction.

While this fourth book takes us outside of the Lakeside Courtyard more than any of the previous books, introducing us to yet another group of new characters residing in a town eventually linked character-wise to those we've visited in books past, Meg, Simon and the rest of Lakeside Courtyard are still at its heart. Some of the intimacy of the first two books is missing though, with beloved characters like Sam, Tess, the Crowgard and the ponies existing only on the periphery, but given the size of the events taking place as humanity begins to reap what its sown it's an understandable loss.

We're sent reeling for nearly the entire second half of this story, the Elementals across Thasia teaming up with Ocean herself and the Elders to mete out much-deserved punishment, but Ms. Bishop wraps things up on a hopeful note with a small and beautiful moment between Meg and Simon. It hints that perhaps the romance we've all been waiting for is on the cusp of becoming reality, which of course makes the wait for the next book all the more painful. As has always been the case though, it will undoubtedly be one worth waiting for.

Rating: 4/5

Find Anne:


Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Wednesday Flourish (+ Giveaway!): Memories of Ash

Hey Everyone!

It's going to be a double-Flourish kind of week this week, so I hope you guys don't mind me bombarding you with new cover designs! The cover I'm featuring today was actually completed back in 2014, so I'd just like to take a moment to pat myself on the back for not sharing it the minute it was approved. Patience is not my strong suit when it comes to things I'm excited about, so the past year and a half has been a real test. *rewards self with chocolate and cookies*

BUT TODAY IS THE DAY! Finally I get to share with you the cover for Memories of Ash, the sequel to Intisar Khanani's YA fantasy novel Sunbolt. Sunbolt (and Intisar herself) will always have a special place in my heart as it was my first commissioned cover, and I can't thank Intisar enough for taking a chance on me after only seeing a few of my cover redesigns on the blog. Since Sunbolt, I've done nearly 100 covers, something I never dreamed possible before I received Intisar's inquiry. Thank you, Intisar, for helping me launch my dream!

Now that I've digressed and gotten all mushy on you, let's get back to the reveal shall we? First, a reminder of the cover for Sunbolt:

And now Memories of Ash!

In the year since she cast her sunbolt, Hitomi has recovered only a handful of memories. But the truths of the past have a tendency to come calling, and an isolated mountain fastness can offer only so much shelter. When the High Council of Mages summons Brigit Stormwind to stand trial for treason, Hitomi knows her mentor won’t return—not with Arch Mage Blackflame behind the charges.

Armed only with her magic and her wits, Hitomi vows to free her mentor from unjust imprisonment. She must traverse spell-cursed lands and barren deserts, facing powerful ancient enchantments and navigating bitter enmities, as she races to reach the High Council. There, she reunites with old friends, planning a rescue equal parts magic and trickery.

If she succeeds, Hitomi will be hunted the rest of her life. If she fails, she’ll face the ultimate punishment: enslavement to the High Council, her magic slowly drained until she dies.

Pre-order Memories of Ash!


 Intisar is running a very special pre-order campaign for Memories of Ash, so I'll let her tell you all about it!

Not only is the pre-order of Memories of Ash on sale for only 99 cents, but anyone who buys the pre-order will receive a free digital art print of Hitomi by artist Grace Fong. Just email your proof of purchase to!
Haven't read Sunbolt (Book 1) yet? It's been knocked down to just 99 cents to celebrate the release and is available at most major e-retailers. That's two fantastic books for less than a cuppa joe.

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • •


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Cathy Reviews: The Girl From Everywhere

My mother in law Cathy is back today sharing her latest review!

The Girl From Everywhere #1
Heidi Heilig
Young Adult/Time Travel
464 pages
Greenwillow Books
Available Now
Source: Finished copy from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Nix has spent her entire life aboard her father’s ship, sailing across the centuries, across the world, across myth and imagination.

As long as her father has a map for it, he can sail to any time, any place, real or imagined: nineteenth-century China, the land from One Thousand and One Nights, a mythic version of Africa. Along the way they have found crewmates and friends, and even a disarming thief who could come to mean much more to Nix.

But the end to it all looms closer every day.

Her father is obsessed with obtaining the one map, 1868 Honolulu, that could take him back to his lost love, Nix’s mother. Even though getting it—and going there—could erase Nix’s very existence.

For the first time, Nix is entering unknown waters.

She could find herself, find her family, find her own fantastical ability, her own epic love.

Or she could disappear.

The Girl from Everywhere is Heidi Heilig's debut YA novel, one combining myth, time travel and historical fiction together in a single story. The book is packed with descriptive information and a compelling plotline. Our heroine is 16 year old Nix who travels through time and space aboard the ship, Temptation, with her father and a motley crew that they have collected over the centuries.

In this first book, the main plot is centered on Nix's father's desire to go back in time to when her mother was still alive. This causes contention between the two because Nix is unsure if this trip might literally be her last. There is plenty of angst between the pair even if they are time travelers and Nix secretly plots to run away. 

What is unique in this novel is the use of maps. For the Temptation to travel anywhere, there is lots of wheeling and dealing and historical intrigue in order to get a map. While the concept of the maps is very clever, it was also the most challenging aspect of the story for me personally. I wasn't quite sure exactly how all the time travel and transporting worked. It was a little confusing, but at the back of the book Ms. Heilig included an author's note that gave all the details of the myths and history that she had researched and incorporated. I wish I had known this was there and read it first, as I think it might have made some of the plot flow more smoothly.

Ms. Heilig does develop the characters with enough depth that we like and care about them. She has included a possible love interest for Nix, Kashmir. He is the best friend, but there are feelings there and we know there is more to come, which is great because this is the first book in the series. As the Temptation sails from Hawaii, we have to wait to see where the next map will take them.

Rating: 3.5/5

Find Heidi:

This book was sent to me by the publisher  free of charge for the purpose of a review
I received no other compensation and the above is my, or in this case Cathy's, honest opinion.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Blog, Interrupted

Hey Everyone!

I just wanted to write a quick post today to share an update on this blog. As most of you know, work has been really busy for me the past few months, so I haven't been able to focus on the blog as much as I have over the past 5 years (I can hardly believe this is my 6th year!). The fact that my (relatively) new business venture has generated enough interest to necessitate working overtime nights and weekends is a fantastic problem to have, but it's also meant that this blog isn't the escape that it used to be when I worked in an unrelated field.

Since a lot of my clients have found me through the blog, it's become an extension of my work, and therefore something that has come to feel as such rather than something fun and different from what I did everyday. The drive to read has been steadily decreasing for me as a result, so over the past year I've dropped down from 3 reviews a week to 2 just to keep up, but even with that change I'm still having some trouble getting posts together each and every day.

Long story short (sort of?), I'm going to start posting just 4 days a week instead of 5 temporarily, giving myself Mondays off from blog responsibilities to focus more on work. Once I get caught up a bit more I'll bump it back up because I love this blog and this community, but for now I'm granting myself this small break. I'll have reviews on Tuesdays and Thursdays, a WoW meme on Wednesdays, and a Flourish post, tour stop, or interview on Fridays.

So many of you have left amazingly supportive comments when I've had to admit to not having posts prepared here and there recently, and I can't tell you how much they mean to me! I can't help but put pressure on myself to deliver content each day, but I need to cut back just a touch so I don't burn myself out entirely:)

Talk to you all tomorrow!

Friday, March 11, 2016

Review: Firstlife

Everlife #1
Gena Showalter
Paranormal Young Adult
480 pages
Harlequin Teen
Available Now
Source: ARC from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)

Tenley “Ten” Lockwood is an average seventeen-year-old girl…who has spent the past thirteen months locked inside the Prynne Asylum. The reason? Not her obsession with numbers, but her refusal to let her parents choose where she’ll live—after she dies.

There is an eternal truth most of the world has come to accept: Firstlife is merely a dress rehearsal, and real life begins after death.

In the Everlife, two realms are in power: Troika and Myriad, longtime enemies and deadly rivals. Both will do anything to recruit Ten, including sending their top Laborers to lure her to their side. Soon, Ten finds herself on the run, caught in a wild tug-of-war between the two realms who will do anything to win the right to her soul. Who can she trust? And what if the realm she’s drawn to isn’t home to the boy she’s falling for? She just has to stay alive long enough to make a decision…

Firstlife is a dark start to this new series, introducing us to Ten in the asylum of which she's a temporary resident, and we're quickly submerged in the horrors of her day to day life. Ms. Showalter doesn't pull many punches in the opening third of this tale, the physical and emotional torture (as her parents are the one ordering her "treatment") ensuring we grow attached to Ten quickly and easily if for no other reason than to be a silent support system and witness to her abuse. Ms. Showalter doesn't leave us in complete darkness however, her trademark sense of humor providing much needed moments of levity in the form of two new inmates to Prynne Asylum, and we grab hold of those fleeting moments with all our strength before Ten's capacity for pain endurance is tested once again.

The aforementioned inmates turn out to be two young men, one from Troika and one from Myriad, sent to convince Ten to sign her Everlife (or life after human death) over to their realm, and while the mention of two guys in Ten's life might send many a reader running for the hills, no love triangle forms. Archer, the representative from Troika, initially comes to Ten in the form of her female roommate in the asylum, and their bond, even when he returns to his naturally glorious male form, remains firmly in the friendship zone until it gradually deepens and becomes one that exists between family. Her romantic feelings are for Killian exclusively, though the romance between them remains in the background of the epic battle between Troika and Myriad to recruit Ten, and is deliciously slow in forming due to her understandable trust issues.

Firstlife is a thrill ride from beginning to end, the callousness with which one of the realms in particular treats a person's human life something that makes our blood boil and our loyalty shift to its enemy with far less deliberation than Ten undertakes. Her inability to pick a side is completely understandable within the context of her circumstances however, and before it becomes a source of frustration she makes it clear to us as readers who she favors, but she must continue to avoid a firm decision in order to play the political game she's unwillingly drawn into.

Overall, this first installment is a fast, enthralling read despite its length, Ten's story both brutal and uplifting as she's forced to learn what family and friendship truly mean in the most painful way possible.

Rating: 4/5

Find Gena:

This book was sent to me by the publisher  free of charge for the purpose of a review
I received no other compensation and the above is my honest opinion.