Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Interview: Rinda Elliott + Foretold


I'm so pleased today to welcome author Rinda Elliott to the blog to answer a few questions about her new paranormal young adult release, Foretold. I read this one recently and absolutely adored it, the combination of romance and Norse mythology a winning one for me. I'm already counting down the days until the second installment featuring Raven's sister Coral releases in August, so I hope you guys give Foretold a try if you get the chance!

Vanir has two wolf companions that have been with him since the accident that took his parents from him and his brothers. If you could choose any animal, real or mythological, to have as a companion/spirit guide, what animal would top your list?

This question kind of stumped me—really made me think. So I was with a big group at a birthday party and asked them all to try and figure out my spirit animal. They all answered wolf, except for one who said lion—which was cool. I mean everyone wants to seem like a lion, right? The wolf is a pretty powerful, too. Strong and intelligent. It’s also supposed to be wild. I like to think I’m intelligent…but I’m really not all that wild. I like my safe, quiet spaces. I thought about all the years I collected giant panda stuffed animals and posters as a kid. So, I looked up that one. Like a bear–soft on the outside, but strong underneath. Feels the need for personal space and physical comfort. Kind of emotional yet very goal oriented and determined. Oh yeah, this one fits. Isn’t that interesting that I’d picked that one as a kid? 

Vanir and Raven not only have to battle magic and myth in this story, but they also have the fight the elements when Ragnarok brings an epic snowstorm in the middle of summer. If Ragnarok were to hit our world right this moment, how prepared for survival would you say you are?

LOL. I was just going to answer, “I’m gonna die.” But that was my weird sense of humor rearing its head. I’m not stocked up on things and I don’t have a lot of personal skills in combat when things get scary. So, I’d have to learn those things. But, once the snow disappeared—and I’m assuming the Lockwood triplets will hopefully succeed—I do know how to garden. I grow a lot of my own fruits and vegetables. So, it’s possible I’d be a little more useful than I thought.

Since Foretold is written from Raven’s first person point of view, we don’t get to know what’s running through the fascinatingly complex mind of Vanir unless he gives his thoughts voice. If we happened to be in his head the moment he got his first good look at Raven, what are a few of the words we might see floating around in there?

First good look, eh? After thinking she was a boy who’d stolen his parents’ car—or so she thought. Nah, Vanir, who knows his own mind and knows what he likes, would have first been thinking “I’ve got to help this person fast.” He has such a very strong instinct to use his size, strength, and extra gifts where and when they’re needed. But, Vanir is also days before his eighteenth birthday and future leader as Odin or not, he’s also a boy who sees a girl he instantly finds intriguing. So, I imagine the words would be beautiful, interesting, different and unique, each one threaded with a strong dose of hope that she likes him just as much back.   

Raven feels as though, of the three sisters, her ability is the least important given she’s too late to change any of the things her runes reference. If she could choose any other paranormal ability to have for a day, which one might she jump at the chance to try out?

I think with her working two jobs and feeling such a need to make sure everyone is taken care of, she might want the ability to clone herself. As the oldest of my siblings, I’ve wished for that one a time or two myself. ;)

What’s one interesting fact or tidbit you learned about Norse mythology during your research for Foretold that you didn’t know before?

Oh, I learned a lot. I’ve always been fascinated with Norse mythology—even before I finally found the meaning of my odd first name and learned it meant giant and comes from Norse mythology. One difficult thing—but like most other mythologies really--is that the stories change from one writing to another. Spellings change and I worried a lot about getting things just right. I’d think I had, then I would find yet another spelling or yet another thought behind who a god or goddess really was. At one point, I finally decided to go with what worked for the story. Also, this book was originally called Wyrd, The Turning because the norns were considered the wyrd sisters and “wyrd” actually means that which has turned or has become. It’s the very idea of someone or something turning into something new. These girls have grown up knowing their lives aren’t entirely their own and each approaches that knowledge differently. With Raven, she has this terrific sense of responsibility when it comes to her family, yet inside, she’s always been terrified her norn would someday erase her own personality. Anyone with control issues would understand how scary that would be. And before I take this too far off tangent, I suppose learning the true meaning of wyrd when I’d already decided on norns was pretty cool. It was sort of serendipitous. 

Though Raven takes center stage in this first installment, her sisters obviously play an important role. What’s something about each of them Raven admires, and something about each of them that drives her crazy in the way only sisters can?

Raven, Coral and Kat are very much typical sisters despite all the bigger-than-life things they deal with. Raven loves that Coral can be forgiving, can be the peacemaker in the family, but she worries that Coral isn’t strong enough for what’s coming. Raven doesn’t worry about whether Kat is strong enough. Kat comes off tough. But Kat also drives Raven and for that matter, Coral, both kind of crazy because she’s not as accepting of how they’ve lived and how their mother has dealt with things. She’s got a mouth on her. But, Raven’s favorite thing about Kat is her fierce loyalty.

You suddenly find yourself experiencing a rune tempus as Raven does when the Norse goddess within her makes her presence known. When it’s over and you take a look at the runes, it’s clear they carry a message about Coral’s upcoming story, Forecast. What do the runes say? 

Slightly off the top of my head here, but I think they’d say something like:



What was once myth
Nightmares brought into light
Forces that gather
Know their true birthright

Thanks so much for taking the time to stop by today Rinda!

• • • • • • • • • • • 

FORETOLD


It is written that three Sisters of Fate have the power
to change the world's destiny.
But only if they survive…


The Lockwood triplets have had the prophecy drummed into their heads since birth. Still, Raven, the eldest of the sisters, can't believe it's really happening. She's the reincarnation of a Norse goddess? One of the sisters is destined to die? When it starts snowing in summer in Florida, the sisters fear the worst has come to pass. Ragnarok, the Norse end of the world, has begun.

Raven finds herself the secret protector of Vanir, a boy with two wolves, a knowledge of Norse magic and a sense of destiny he can't quite explain. He's intense, sexy and equally determined to save her when it becomes clear someone is endangering them. Raven doesn't know if getting closer to him will make a difference in the coming battle, but her heart isn't giving her a choice.

Ahead of the sisters is the possibility of death at the hand of a warrior, death by snow, death by water or death by fire.

Or even from something else…

Sisters of Fate
The prophecy doesn't lie: one is doomed to die.


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• • • • • • • • • • 

RINDA ELLIOTT

Photo: Kathryn Moad Photography


I love unusual stories and credit growing up in a family of curious life-lovers who moved all over the country. Books and movies full of fantasy, science fiction and romance kept us amused, especially in some of the stranger places. For years, I tried to separate my darker side with my humorous and romantic one. I published short fiction, but things really started happening when I gave in and mixed it up. When not lost in fiction, I love making wine, collecting music, gaming and spending time with my husband and two children. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Pam Reviews: The Spindlers + Fortunately, The Milk

I'm so excited today to turn the blog over once again to my fabulous mom who's going to share her thoughts on a pair of middle grade titles!

THE SPINDLERS
Lauren Oliver
Middle Grade/Fantasy
HarperCollins
246 pages
Available Now
Source: Finished copy from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Evocative of Alice in Wonderland, this novel from New York Times bestselling author Lauren Oliver is a bewitching story about the reaches of loyalty and the enduring power of hope.

Looking across the breakfast table one morning, twelve-year-old Liza feels dread wash over her. Although her younger brother, Patrick, appears the same, Liza knows that he is actually quite different. She is certain that the spindlers—evil, spiderlike beings—came during the night and stole his soul. And Liza is also certain that she is the only one who can rescue him.

Armed with little more than her wits and a huge talking rat for a guide, Liza descends into the dark and ominous underground to save Patrick's soul. Her quest is far from easy: she must brave tree-snakes, the Court of Stones, and shape-shifting scawgs before facing her greatest challenge in the spindlers' lair, where more than just Patrick's soul is at stake.


PAM'S THOUGHTS
I was totally enchanted with Lauren Oliver's world building in her wonderful and unusual adventure tale, The Spindlers. The ABOVE is a world of humans, where heroine Liza Elston lives a normal life with her parents and her beloved younger brother, Patrick. But the strange, perilous BELOW is an underworld filled with monsters that become either her kind allies or her scary enemies on a journey to save her brother. Liza must rescue his soul, which frightening Spindlers–half human, half spiders with long pointy legs ending in human hands–will consume. All the monsters are imaginative, original and magical: the crafty, thieving Troglods; the helpful, sensitive Lumen; the beautiful, harmless Nocturni; the evil, soul nabbing Spindlers; and many more. All depict horror and wonder. The Spindlers is a purely entertaining, enjoyable read and guaranteed to capture anyone’s interest.
 

I think Lauren Oliver is quite the descriptive storyteller. Her numerous infusions of similes and metaphors in her writing style perfectly illustrate emotions or visuals that impact the reader instantly. Although her book is geared for the middle grade reader, the imparted values of love, strength, honesty, loyalty and what it means to be a friend are gentle reminders for readers of any age.
 

Rating 4/5

Find Lauren:



FORTUNATELY, THE MILK
Neil Gaiman
Middle Grade
114 pages
HarperCollins
Available Now
Source: Finished copy from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
"I bought the milk," said my father. "I walked out of the corner shop, and heard a noise like this: T h u m m t h u m m. I looked up and saw a huge silver disc hovering in the air above Marshall Road."

"Hullo," I said to myself. "That's not something you see every day. And then something odd happened."

Find out just how odd things get in this hilarious story of time travel and breakfast cereal, expertly told by Newbery Medalist and bestselling author Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Skottie Young.

PAM'S THOUGHTS
Page after page of whimsical, humorous characters and their silly, futuristic adventures with a father protecting his precious purchase of much needed milk for his children’s breakfast, await to entertain middle grade readers in Fortunately, The Milk. I thought the author told this tale with beautifully colorful and witty language through the narrator, the Dad. Ordinary items found around Dad’s home were very cleverly turned into his unique characters or settings. For example, his son’s stegosaurus dinosaur model was the inspiration for the unforgettable character of Prof. Steg, and the volcano drawing on the fridge became an incredible setting for a harrowing escapade. Although this book was written for a younger audience, adults can also appreciate Gaiman’s humor and gentle barbs at pop culture. It really is a purely fun read for anyone.

However, what elevated my rating of this fantasy were the superb pen-and-ink illustrations by the talented cartoonist, Scottie Young. They’re simply amazing and, for me, his commanding artistic style was an absolute delight to view. EVERY page (some full and even double spread) was filled with extremely clever drawings along with a unique and imaginative use of illustrated type. Although Dad’s adventure drawings were impressive, the most outstanding ones were those expressive emotions he captured for each character. My favorite appeared at the end of the book: The smug expression on Dad’s face reflecting his pride in having turned a too-lengthy errand to the store for milk into a dangerous, magical, time-traveling epic tale for his very skeptical children. It was priceless.

Rating: 4/5

Find Neil:


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, Pam's) honest opinion.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Review: House of Ivy & Sorrow

HOUSE OF IVY & SORROW
Natalie Whipple
Paranormal Young Adult
352 pages
HarperTeen
Available April 15th
Source: eARC from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Josephine Hemlock has spent the last 10 years hiding from the Curse that killed her mother. But when a mysterious man arrives at her ivy-covered, magic-fortified home, it’s clear her mother’s killer has finally come to destroy the rest of the Hemlock bloodline. Before Jo can even think about fighting back, she must figure out who she’s fighting in the first place. The more truth Jo uncovers, the deeper she falls into witchcraft darker than she ever imagined. Trapped and running out of time, she begins to wonder if the very Curse that killed her mother is the only way to save everyone she loves.

MY THOUGHTS
With a title like House of Ivy & Sorrow and a synopsis that speaks of curses and witchcraft, we fully expect a dark tale when we crack the spine, but though there are undoubtedly dark undertones and painful moments, the overall tone is perhaps a bit lighter than anticipated. The fact that the story itself defies expectation and goes in a slightly different direction isn’t necessarily worthy of complaint, it just takes us a little additional time to adjust and get on board with a protagonist who reads a touch younger than the themes intimated in the synopsis suggest.

Josephine is a fun heroine to follow through this story, keeping the aforementioned darkness surprisingly at bay as she crushes on a young man from a neighboring farm and continually tries to deter her hilarious Nana from spelling him with any number of unfortunate physical ailments for touching or talking to her. Her relationship with her grandmother is a highlight, the two of them sharing a bond that seeps through the pages and warms our hearts, eternally grateful to see a positive familial relationship detailed so beautifully in a genre typically void of parental involvement.

Where we start to stumble just a bit in this story is when Jo’s youth really begins to show, her sometimes irrational anger at people keeping secrets from her coming across to us as largely hypocritical given the number of things she’s keeping from one of her friends and her boyfriend. She’s also quick to jump to conclusions before she has all the information at hand, and instead of standing her ground and demanding the pieces she’s missing from those who can provide them, she runs away to lick her perceived wounds with nary an explanation to those left behind clueless and hurt at her abrupt departure. She does always see the error of her ways and seek to make amends, but the repair of whatever rift she’s caused (and she causes several) seems to happen quickly and easily, leaving us standing in shallow waters when we want nothing more than to dive headfirst into the deep end of her various friendships and relationships.

Though Jo has moments where she frustrates us with her behavior, the witchcraft element of this story is strong and fascinating, the concept of light and dark magic erased completely and replaced with only dark magic and the question of a witch’s control over it. Those who are able to stay in control can wield it for purposes that help rather than harm, but those who allow the magic to control them find themselves consumed. Overall, The House of Ivy & Sorrow has both highlights and lowlights, the equal ratio of the two making for an entertaining if not hugely memorable read.

Rating: 3.5/5



Find Natalie:


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.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Cover Design Reveal: Elusive Memories

As many of you know, I recently overhauled my graphic design business and shifted its focus from wedding stationery and paper goods to book covers and promotional items for authors, so as I complete projects I thought it might be fun to share them on the blog for everyone to check out.

I'm proud of each and every design I put together, whether it's a personal piece simply for me or a design for a client, but I'm doubly excited about the cover today because it was done for my friend and fellow blogger Amanda from On a Book Bender. She's written a pair of non-fiction books on blogging (Blog Events and The Blogger's Mindset), but this is her first fiction novel and I'm honored she came to me for her cover artwork.

Without further ado, I give you Amanda's upcoming release, Elusive Memories.



The resistance has hunted the Gifted for years. When Sam Benson is taken and her memory stolen, she certainly isn’t the first victim of the resistance. But she’s determined to use her family’s influence as memory-bringer elders to make sure she’s one of the last.

As soon as she escapes the resistance’s compound, anyway.

Two resistance guards claim to be working to get Sam free, but only one has her best interests at heart—and holds the key to mounting an offense against the resistance. With her memory fractured and the resistance set against her, can she choose the right person to trust?

Elusive Memories will be available this May in both e-book and print, so be sure and keep an eye on Amanda's website for all the release day details!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Interview: Molly McAdams + Deceiving Lies


Today I'm thrilled to welcome New Adult author Molly McAdams back to the blog to answer a few questions about her latest release, Deceiving Lies. Deceiving Lies is the second book in her Forgiving Lies series and is available now from William Morrow paperbacks. Thanks so much for stopping by Molly!

If Rachel were to write her own wedding vows to Kash, what are a couple things she would make sure to include?

Hahah, oh lord. I had a hard enough time writing my own vows ;) But I’m sure there would be something along the lines of: Loving him, fighting with him, making pancakes for him while pretending to hate them, and always stealing his green Sour Patch Kids.

Let’s say you’re moving into a new place and discover you have an insanely attractive neighbor like Kash. Are you the confident, strike-up-a-conversation type, or (like me) the more shy, observe-from-afar type?

I’m definitely no Candice, but I’m not shy either. I’m directly in the middle. I’m completely like Rachel. I would see him in passing—and by passing, I mean I would make an ass out of myself by tripping in front of him, accidentally hitting him in the face (has happened) … something along those lines.

If Kash could have a do-over for any part of his relationship (large or small) with Rachel, what moment might he wish he had a second chance at?

There are so many things I could put here. Not let Rachel walk away with Blake in Forgiving Lies, but Blake had escaped so many times before, if he hadn’t been so consumed in Rachel, he would have probably escaped again. Then there’s not leaving the night/morning she was kidnapped in Deceiving Lies, but then they would have just killed him and Mason. He could have staying after everything went down with Blake in Forgiving Lies, but it would have put a major strain in their relationship rather than giving them time to realize they needed each other. So … nothing. There’s nothing to do-over.

You write some very strong, sexy couples. Who is your all-time favorite couple from a book, movie, or TV show?

Ahh, Romeo and Juliet. I’m a Shakespeare fan, those were the only books I read in high school. I actually took Shakespeare classes. They were so young, naïve, so passionately in love, and they obviously would do anything to be together. They will always be my favorite.

Kash is a cop often assigned undercover missions. If he were to teach a class on what it takes to go undercover, what’s one of the first tips/lessons he’d emphasize to those who have never experienced it?

You have to be willing to completely lose yourself, to forget who you thought you were, and everything you know. You have to be willing to do things you grew up knowing you would never go near.

Since this series deals with secrets and lies, let’s put people to the test and see how good they are at sniffing out truth from lie. Please give us three facts about yourself, one that’s true and two that are completely false.

1. I loathe the sound of cicadas.
2. I have been pooped on by a cow.
3. One of my all-time favorite movies is: Idiocracy.

Thoughts on which is the truth? Leave your guess in the comments!


• • • • • • • • • • • 

DECEIVING LIES


Rachel is supposed to be planning her wedding to Kash, the love of her life. After the crazy year they've had, she's ready to settle down and live a completely normal life. Well, as normal as it can be. But there's something else waiting—something threatening to tear them apart.

Kash is ready for it all with Rach. Especially if all includes having a football team of babies with his future wife. With his line of work, he knows how short life can be, and doesn't want to waste another minute of theirs. But now his past as an undercover narcotics agent has come back to haunt him ... and it's the girl he loves who's caught in the middle.

Trent Cruz's orders are clear: take the girl. But there's something about this girl that has him changing the rules and playing a dangerous game to keep her safe. When his time as Rachel's protector runs out, he will turn his back on the only life he's known, and risk everything, if it means getting her out alive.

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• • • • • • • • • • • • 

MOLLY MCADAMS


Molly grew up in California but now lives in the oh-so-amazing state of Texas with her husband and furry four-legged daughter. Some of her hobbies include hiking, snowboarding, traveling and long walks on the beach…which roughly translates to being a homebody with her hubby and dishing out movie quotes. When she’s not diving into the world of her characters, she can be found hiding out in her bedroom surrounded by her laptop, cell, Kindle and fighting over the TV remote. She has a weakness for crude-humored movies, fried pickles and loves curling up in a fluffy comforter during a thunderstorm...or under one in a bathtub if there are tornados. That way she can pretend they aren't really happening.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Review: Dreams of Gods and Monsters

DREAMS OF GODS AND MONSTERS
Daughter of Smoke and Bone #3
Laini Taylor
Paranormal Young Adult
613 pages
Little, Brown
Available Now
Source: e-ARC from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
By way of a staggering deception, Karou has taken control of the chimaera rebellion and is intent on steering its course away from dead-end vengeance. The future rests on her, if there can even be a future for the chimaera in war-ravaged Eretz.

Common enemy, common cause.

When Jael's brutal seraph army trespasses into the human world, the unthinkable becomes essential, and Karou and Akiva must ally their enemy armies against the threat. It is a twisted version of their long-ago dream, and they begin to hope that it might forge a way forward for their people.

And, perhaps, for themselves. Toward a new way of living, and maybe even love.

But there are bigger threats than Jael in the offing. A vicious queen is hunting Akiva, and, in the skies of Eretz ... something is happening. Massive stains are spreading like bruises from horizon to horizon; the great winged stormhunters are gathering as if summoned, ceaselessly circling, and a deep sense of wrong pervades the world.

What power can bruise the sky?

From the streets of Rome to the caves of the Kirin and beyond, humans, chimaera and seraphim will fight, strive, love, and die in an epic theater that transcends good and evil, right and wrong, friend and enemy.

At the very barriers of space and time, what do gods and monsters dream of? And does anything else matter?


MY THOUGHTS
Dreams of Gods and Monsters is one of those books that inspires conflicting reactions upon finishing it, the overwhelming love of the previous two books predisposing us to adore this final book as well, but even with our desire to love at its highest, we find ourselves perhaps less enthused upon finishing than we might have hoped. Reading this final book is a bit like watching a chess match without a full understanding of the rules, well aware each move on the board is leading up to either victory or defeat, but our ignorance keeps us from emotionally engaging in the epic battle of strategy.

Much the same way, Ms. Taylor spends nearly the entirety of this impressively substantial final installment moving pieces around her board, but where the first two books felt like an intimate game between she and us as readers, Gods and Monsters sees our single chessboard expanded to include so many more, and the sheer enormity of the expansion leaves us feeling slightly adrift. New players are introduced, and with them comes enormous implications for Karou, Akiva and the rest of their ragtag group. Suddenly, the final battle we were prepared to face in this last book is rendered nearly insignificant as the shadow of the new threat creeps into clarity. We’re left then with an end that is in fact a beginning–unarguably fitting given Karou and Akiva have called themselves a beginning all along, but also a bit frustrating after everything the characters have been through in this series.

All of that being said however, Dreams of Gods and Monsters is as gorgeous a story as its predecessors, Ms. Taylor’s writing achingly beautiful and her characters the stuff of cherished memories. The core characters of Karou, Akiva, Zuze, Mik, Ziri and Liraz carry this tale even when the tying together of disparate plot threads slows the pace to a near crawl, the six of them acting as emotional anchors who keep us tethered to this world and its questionable fate. Overall, beloved fans of the series will undoubtedly be pleased with some of the truly stunning moments Ms. Taylor paints on page, and I certainly can’t wait to see what her astoundingly imaginative mind has in store for us next.

Rating: 3.5/5



Find Dreams of Gods and Monsters:

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Find the Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy


*If you haven't had a chance already, be sure and check out my Karou artwork and enter to win a copy of Dreams of Gods and Monsters!

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.