Monday, August 3, 2015

Review: The Heart of Betrayal

The Remnant Chronicles #2
Mary E. Pearson
Young Adult/Fantasy
470 pages
Henry Holt & Co.
Available Now
Source: ARC from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Held captive in the barbarian kingdom of Venda, Lia and Rafe have little chance of escape. Desperate to save her life, Lia's erstwhile assassin, Kaden, has told the Vendan Komizar that she has the gift, and the Komizar's interest in Lia is greater than anyone could have foreseen.

Meanwhile, nothing is straightforward: there's Rafe, who lied to Lia, but has sacrificed his freedom to protect her; Kaden, who meant to assassinate her but has now saved her life; and the Vendans, whom Lia always believed to be barbarians. Now that she lives amongst them, however, she realizes that may be far from the truth. Wrestling with her upbringing, her gift, and her sense of self, Lia must make powerful choices that will affect her country... and her own destiny.

The Heart of Betrayal is a bit of a tricky sequel, picking up the exact moment the first book left off and continuing Lia's story without the benefit of any recap. Those (like me) for whom it's been a year in between books will likely struggle to settle in, trying desperately to recount the finer details of past events and stumbling at the mention of characters who don't ring as loud a bell in our memories as we need in order to feel emotionally invested. The fact that this second installment is a bit slower in its pace only adds to our difficulties, failing to reach out and grab us to the degree that our inability to recall certain aspects of its predecessor becomes irrelevant, instead leaving us without the anchor we so desperately need.

That being said however, Lia is still an enjoyable heroine, playing it smart while in enemy territory by using silence as a weapon, largely keeping her mouth shut and evaluating all that's shared in order to fill the dead air. She's willful when necessary though, showing the Komizar and everyone else that her spine is not lacking in steel and that she will not break as easily as they so clearly expected. When it comes to the romance, Lia's feelings are clear throughout, but the hint of a triangle remains because she must play a role in order to protect herself and the one she loves, keeping the three of them riding a razor's edge of tension that at any minute might end up cutting them all to shreds.

The main issue keeping this tale from a higher rating aside from the lack of any small reminders to help us recall book one is the fact that Rafe, Lia and Kaden are all in a holding pattern for majority of the book. Rafe and Lia spend their days in Venda waiting for Rafe's friends to sneak in and help them escape, and while we're grateful the two of them realize such an endeavor is far more than two people can handle on their own and therefore don't make any easily avoidable mistakes, we don't learn all that much as they bide their time. A few chess pieces are moved though, and the Komizar proves to be a character of depth and complexity who piques our curiosity whenever he appears on page, keeping us flipping the pages in the hopes that a little action will be waiting for us.

Overall, The Heart of Betrayal is a bit slower moving than The Kiss of Deception, a book that is a rumble of thunder on the horizon, warning us of the storm that is to come in the final installment.

Rating: 3/5

*Full disclosure: I've been in a bit of a YA reading slump of late, so this very well could have been more me than the story itself. Anyone who loved book one should definitely give this a try!

Find Mary:

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

Friday, July 31, 2015

All the Ways to Ruin a Rogue: Review + Giveaway

The Debutante Files #2
Sophie Jordan
Historical Romance
384 pages
Available Now
Source: eARC from publisher for review

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Sophie Jordan continues her new series, The Debutante Files, featuring debutantes on the hunt for Mr. Right.

First friends, then enemies...

Lady Aurelia hasn’t always hated Max, Viscount Camden, her brother’s best friend. In fact, as a besotted girl, she thrived under his kind attention—sure that he was the most noble and handsome man in the land. Until her young heart discovered what manner of rogue he really was. Now, though she enjoys nothing more than getting on his last nerve, she can’t deny Max drives her to distraction—even if she tries to pretend otherwise.

Now something more...

Max cannot recall a time when Aurelia did not vex him. If she was not his friend’s sister, he would stay far away from the infuriating vixen. Unfortunately, they are always thrown together. At parties and family gatherings…she is always there. Mocking him, tossing punch in his face, driving him mad ... until one night, she goes too far and he retaliates in the only way he can: with a kiss that changes everything.

All the Ways to Ruin a Rogue gives us a romance that's deliciously tense on a number of levels, Aurelia and Max not just a combination of little sister and big brother's best friend, but also enemies of sorts as inadvertent actions in their teen years brought their previous friendship to an abrupt halt. We're privy to the series of events that lead to the dissolution of their friendship (and Aurelia's crush on Max), our hearts reaching out to both of them as hurt and betrayal cut deep on both sides. We then catch up with them several years later, the pain they caused each other as teenagers having festered to the point that their wounds remain open, barely able to be in the other's company without poking at the sore spots they know so well. It's nearly impossible not to get caught up in the storm constantly raging between them, reading with a smile on our faces as we wait to see the tide of that storm slowly change into something more.

We meet Aurelia as a young woman of fifteen, having developed a crush on her brother's best friend at the tender age of nine and finally deciding it's time to make her feelings known. When she catches him in a compromising position, our hearts plummet right along with hers, recalling every moment in our own lives when a crush seemed larger than life and solely responsible for our entire happiness. Years later, she handles the barbs Max hurls at her as he attempts to keep their vicious cycle of anger and pain going with as much grace as she can muster, slowly attempting to change their interactions by not giving him the response he expects. She of course lashes out a time or two and makes things worse between them, but it's hard to wish for her to suffer in silence simply because that way lies the higher road, and quite frankly Max deserves what she dishes out on a number of occasions.

Max, for his part, is crueler in his verbal sparring than Aurelia, and while we might give her the favor of our female solidarity, his own hurt stemming from the aftermath of that disastrous day years ago is more than a little understandable. He also has a fear of love and marriage thanks to the tragic death of his parents, making his desire for Aurelia an epic internal battle between what he wants and what he thinks he isn't capable of. Though he takes far more than he gives emotionally for majority of the book, the two of them and their painful, stumbling dance to happily ever after is nothing short of enthralling, gluing us to the pages as we wait and see who will either deliver the next blow or make the next move toward intimacy.

The only very minor complaint with this story is the speed at which Max's views on marriage, love and children change in the concluding chapters, a sudden epiphany wrapping things up for the two of them with a pretty bow. That being said however, a happy ending is what we want most for these two, so Max's sudden change of heart is something easily overlooked. Overall, All the Ways to Ruin a Rogue is a hugely enjoyable historical romance, blending moments of heartache with moments of pure joy to ensure we immediately visit Ms. Jordan's website upon finishing to gorge ourselves on her backlist.

Rating: 4/5

Find All the Ways to Ruin a Rogue:

AmazonB&NiTunesGoogle PlayHarperCollins • Goodreads

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Sophie Jordan grew up in the Texas hill country where she wove fantasies of dragons, warriors, and princesses. A former high school English teacher, she’s the New York Times, USA Today and international bestselling author of more than twenty novels. She now lives in Houston with her family. When she’s not writing, she spends her time overloading on caffeine (lattes preferred), talking plotlines with anyone who will listen (including her kids), and cramming her DVR with anything that has a happily ever after. You can visit her online at

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Thursday, July 30, 2015

Review: Hard as it Gets

Hard Ink #1
Laura Kaye
Romantic Suspense
368 pages
Available Now
Source: Finished copy from publisher

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Tall, dark, and lethal...

Trouble just walked into Nicholas Rixey's tattoo parlor. Becca Merritt is warm, sexy, wholesome--pure temptation to a very jaded Nick. He's left his military life behind to become co-owner of Hard Ink Tattoo, but Becca is his ex-commander's daughter. Loyalty won't let him turn her away. Lust has plenty to do with it too.

With her brother presumed kidnapped, Becca needs Nick. She just wasn't expecting to want him so much. As their investigation turns into all-out war with an organized crime ring, only Nick can protect her. And only Becca can heal the scars no one else sees.

Desire is the easy part. Love is as hard as it gets. Good thing Nick is always up for a challenge..

Hard as it Gets is a fast-paced, low-angst romance, giving us a lead pair who handle everything thrown at them with maturity and make communication one of their top priorities. The result is a relationship that brings a smile to our faces, the perfect amount of heat and tension combining to give us more than a little swoon while sparing us frustration with either party as they start unraveling what's clearly going to be a series-long military-based mystery.

Becca is everything we could want in a heroine, a young woman who's out of her depth when it comes to her missing brother and knows it, leading her to ask for the help she do desperately needs instead of going off half-cocked and trying to fix things on her own. Given Nick is ex-Special Forces, Becca could have easily fallen into one of two categories of heroine: One, she could have played a damsel in distress to the fullest, completely relying on him to save both her and her brother; or two, she could have been bound and determined to be the exact opposite, wanting to prove her mettle by tossing herself into the middle of everything dangerous. Thankfully, Becca creates her very own category, fully recognizing that Nick has skills she doesn't, but at the same time refusing to allow him to run roughshod over her and dictate her every move. She's honest at all times, both with feelings and with any information she has that might help the investigation, and even when she learns what a binding non-disclosure agreement keeps Nick from telling her, she handles it in a way that has us wanting to reach out and hug her for being awesome.

Nick, for his part, is as enjoyable as Becca, possessing an excess of alpha qualities but never once coming across as bossy or overbearing. He has every reason to bear a grudge against Becca's family, but after their initial meeting, he never once holds the sins of the father against either Becca or her brother Charlie, throwing himself wholeheartedly into helping them both. He respects what Becca brings to the table regarding her brother's disappearance, never once disregarding her opinion or relegating her to the sidelines because she doesn't have his training. They're partners every step of the way, and the two of them together delight from first to last page.

Overall, Hard as it Gets is an outstanding first installment to the Hard Ink series, introducing us to a military cover up that will span multiple books, but ensuring we turn the last page fully satisfied with a complete story in this first installment. We also find ourselves acquainted with the remaining living members of Nick's Special Forces team, a group of men who bring a sense of humor and camaraderie to the story, deepening our emotional investment as we look forward to seeing each of them find their own slice of happiness in future books.

Rating: 4.5/5

Find Laura:

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

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Waiting On Wednesday: Love & Gelato

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!

Jenna Evans Welch
Contemporary Young Adult
Releases April 2016 from Simon &Schuster

From Goodreads:

A summer in Italy turns into a road trip across Tuscany in this sweeping debut novel filled with romance, mystery, and adventure.

Lina is spending the summer in Tuscany, but she isn’t in the mood for Italy’s famous sunshine and fairy-tale landscape. She’s only there because it was her mother’s dying wish that she get to know her father. But what kind of father isn’t around for sixteen years? All Lina wants to do is get back home.

But then Lina is given a journal that her mom had kept when she lived in Italy. Suddenly Lina’s uncovering a magical world of secret romances, art, and hidden bakeries. A world that inspires Lina, along with the ever-so-charming Ren, to follow in her mother’s footsteps and unearth a secret that has been kept from Lina for far too long. It’s a secret that will change everything she knew about her mother, her father—and ever herself.

People come to Italy for love and gelato, someone tells her, but sometimes they discover much more. 

You guys. THIS BOOK! It's like it was written just for me. Italy? Romance? GELATO?!!!!! *falls down dead of want* I've been lucky enough to visit Italy a couple times, and I may or may not have eaten my weight in gelato on both occasions. It's made of magnificence. This whole post could be an ode to my love of gelato, but I won't force that misery upon you, so instead I'll just reiterate that I cannot wait for this book. I want to know all about these secret romances and hidden bakeries, and of course I want to met the charming Ren. Yes to Tuscany. Yes to family secrets uncovered. And of course an enormous YES to gelato.

Plus, that cover is too cute for words.

Monday, July 27, 2015

The Secret Sister Blog Tour: Interview + Giveaway

I'm so pleased today to have author Brenda Novak stopping by the blog to answer a few questions about her upcoming release, The Secret Sister. Brenda was a new-to-me author until a couple months ago (FAIL!) when I participated in a tour for This Heart of Mine, the latest in her Whiskey Creek series. I fell madly (madly!!!!!) in love with that book, so I'm super excited to be a part of the promotional tour for The Secret Sister as Brenda now has another adoring fan in me. Welcome to Supernatural Snark Brenda!

To help us get to know Maisey a bit better, let’s take a look at her bookshelves. What are 3 books that sit on her shelf of favorites?

Maisey writes children's book, so she would have a collection of the children's books that've inspired her the most: LOVE YOU FOREVER, THE GIVING TREE, THE POLAR EXPRESS, WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE, THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR, GOODNIGHT MOON, JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH, the Harry Potter series and HOLES.

If Maisey could ask you one question about why you wrote her family the way you did, what do you think she would most want to know?

Hmm...this is tough because I didn't write the story; Maisey did. This is all coming from her, so it's her thoughts, her feelings, her perspective. She's the one who struggles with her controlling mother and her substance-abusing brother. She also misses the father that was so nurturing to her growing up and provided her with a firm foundation amidst the confusion and pain.

Let’s say that tomorrow you find a box of photographs that hints at a family secret as Maisey does, which one character (aside from Sherlock Holmes) from a piece of fiction would you most like to recruit to help you unravel the mystery?

If I had a mystery to solve, I think I'll have to go with Thomas Magnum from Magnum P.I. Why? Tom Selleck is still hot. LOL (And Maisey has her own hot guy living next door, so why shouldn't I have one to help me, too?)

If you were to create a time capsule for future generations of your family, what are a few of the items you would include to help them get a feel for who you were?

In a time capsule, I would put pictures of my family. They mean the most to me (I have five kids). I would also put my favorite books--JANE EYRE, PRIDE & PREJUDICE, THE SECRET GARDEN, GONE WITH THE WIND, THE THORNBIRDS, OUTLANDER, EYE OF THE NEEDLE, SHOGUN, FOREVER AMBER, THE ALIENIST, A WOMAN OF SUBSTANCE, the early books by Kathleen Woodiwiss, several Susan Elizabeth Phillips titles, several of Sandra Brown's titles and many of the Stephanie Plum series (I would add more but you didn't say how big this time capsule could be--LOL). I would then probably include the awards I'm most proud to have received--like the Silver Bullet Award from the International Thriller's Association, which I was awarded for my efforts to raise money for diabetes research over the years. After that, I'd put in a few things that mean a lot to me because they represent milestones in a career I have thoroughly enjoyed (like the pin I will receive this summer for having written 50 books for Harlequin). And last, but not least, I would include some of my journals to show my thoughts and feelings and what I have learned as I progress through life.

If The Secret Sister was to be made into a movie, how would the tagline on the promotional poster read?

Tagline: Did she once have a sister? Has her mother lied all these years? Why?

Thanks so much for answering my questions Brenda!

• • • • • • • • • • • • 


After a painful divorce, Maisey Lazarow returns to Fairham, the small island off the North Carolina coast where she grew up. She goes there to heal—and to help her brother, Keith, a deeply troubled man who's asked her to come home. But she refuses to stay in the family house. The last person she wants to see is the wealthy, controlling mother she escaped years ago.

Instead, she finds herself living next door to someone else she'd prefer to avoid—Rafe Romero, the wild, reckless boy to whom she lost her virginity at sixteen. He's back on the island, and to her surprise, he's raising a young daughter alone. Maisey's still attracted to him, but her heart's too broken to risk…

Then something even more disturbing happens. She discovers a box of photographs that evoke distant memories of a little girl, a child Keith remembers, too. Maisey believes the girl must've been their sister, but their mother claims there was no sister.

Maisey's convinced that child existed. So where is she now?

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New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Brenda Novak has penned over 45 novels. A two-time Rita nominee, she's won The National Reader's Choice, The Bookseller's Best, The Bookbuyer's Best and many other awards. She runs an annual online auction for diabetes research every May at To date, she’s raised over $2 million. Brenda considers herself lucky to be a mother of five and married to the love of her life.

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Up for grabs today are 5 copies of The Secret Sister! To enter, please fill out the Rafflecopter form below. Giveaway is open to US/CA only.

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July 27
Supernatural Snark – Interview
July 28
Savings in Seconds – Review
July 29
Her Book Thoughts – Review
All Romance Reader – Review
July 30
Maine Book Momma – Review
Jael’s Reviews – Review
July 31
Aug. 3
Maureen’s Books – Review
Rainy Day Ramblings – Review
Aug. 4
Paperrdolls – Review
Remember the Books – Review
Aug. 5
Aug. 6
Talk Supe – Review & Guest Post
Aug. 7
Brooke Blogs – Review
Every Free Chance – Review

Friday, July 24, 2015

Friday Flourish: The Box of Souls

Happy Friday Everyone!

I have one more cover to share with all of you before I take a little break from flourish posts, and I really couldn't be more excited to show you because...DRAGONS. As much as I love reading about dragons, I might love designing with them even more, so when author Tanya Miranda sent in her artwork form my eyes immediately zeroed in on the word dragons and I might have flailed.

Tanya and I went through a few initial comps for The Box of Souls, playing with a scale texture and blending it with imagery of the Golden Gate Bridge to give a sense of place while keeping a dragon symbol as the focal point, but ultimately we decided that simplicity was the way to go. We eliminated both the scale texture and the bridge image, adding a subtle lighting effect to the background but otherwise allowing the triple dragon symbol to speak for itself. We also kept the typeface clean and easy to read, letting it have just a single flourish for personality and movement.

The Box of Souls releases next month, so I hope if you're intrigued you'll add it to your lists!


18-year-old Jasmyn secretly resents her family's preference for her 8-year-old sister Katarina. Her jealousy grows when her grandmother, a dying witch, overlooks Jasmyn and chooses Katarina to inherit her magic powers.  Although being second-place to her sister is something Jasmyn has grown accustomed to, this rejection wounds her like no other.

Little does Jasmyn know, she too has inherited some of her grandmother's powers. Resentment and envy are a dangerous pair, but when doused with magic, the chaos it creates is unimaginable.


You can find more of my cover design work at Seedlings Design Studio!