Jul 25, 2013

Review + Giveaway: Shudder by Samantha Durante

It's only been three days, and already everything is different.

Paragon is behind her, but somehow Alessa's life may actually have gotten worse. In a wrenching twist of fate, she traded the safety and companionship of her sister for that of her true love, losing a vital partner she'd counted on for the ordeal ahead. Her comfortable university life is but a distant memory, as she faces the prospect of surviving a bleak winter on the meager remains of a ravaged world. And if she'd thought she'd tasted fear upon seeing a ghost, she was wrong; now she's discovering new depths of terror while being hunted by a deadly virus and a terrifying pack of superhuman creatures thirsting for blood.

And then there are the visions.

The memory-altering "stitch" unlocked something in Alessa's mind, and now she can't shake the constant flood of alien feelings ransacking her emotions. Haunting memories of an old flame are driving a deep and painful rift into her once-secure relationship. And a series of staggering revelations about the treacherous Engineers - and the bone-chilling deceit shrouding her world's sorry history - will soon leave Alessa reeling...

The second installment in the electrifying Stitch Trilogy, Shudder follows Samantha Durante's shocking and innovative debut with a heart-pounding, paranormal-dusted dystopian adventure sure to keep the pages turning.

Stitch was one of those books that, even months and months later, has stuck with me. Five glowing stars, but the thing that made it difficult to review was the fact that I didn’t want to spoil anything for those who hadn’t had the privilege of reading it. Same goes here, and it’s so hard not to just gush about all the things I love about this series so far! To sum it up, Samantha Durante has this wonderful talent for taking it to the next level. Topping it off with a writing style that keeps you hooked, Samantha never fails to throw you for a loop, smacking you head on with surprises that you never see coming.

We jump right into the action with Shudder with Alessa and Isaac on the run, doing their best to survive winter storms, attacks from strange creatures, and the fear of the disease that’s wiped out the population. Where unusual circumstances left you wondering what their truths really were in Stitch, we really get to attach ourselves to these characters in Shudder. Their relationship and the way they hold each other up is amazing. You can’t not fall in love with them.

I’m a huge fan of multiple perspectives. I know a lot of people tend to find it disorganized or confusing when reading, but trust me, Samantha Durante pulls it off in a way that I’m sure every reader can appreciate. We get to see different sides of the story, get to feel the different emotions from various points of view. Not only that, but we are able to become close not only to Alessa and Isaac, but other characters who play an important role. How can you not become invested in a story with all that at your fingertips?

One element of Samantha Durante’s novels that has struck me is the world building and description. You really do feel like you’re there with the characters in whatever environment they find themselves in. Not only that, but the history and the background that she lays out as a foundation is done really well, allowing the rest of the story to be built in a way that seems effortless.

Shudder builds and builds and builds, intriguing you from the very beginning, making you question and wonder to again slap you in the face with another twist. Nonstop action, beautifully written characters, and impeccable world-building, this is definitely a series to add to your shelf.

Samantha Durante lives in Westchester County, New York with her husband, Sudeep, and her cat, Gio. Formerly an engineer at Microsoft, Samantha left the world of software in 2010 to pursue her entrepreneurial dreams and a lifelong love of writing. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s Jerome Fisher Program in Management & Technology, Samantha is currently working full time for her company Medley Media Associates as a freelance business writer and communications consultant. The Stitch Trilogy is her debut series. Learn more about Samantha at www.samanthadurante.com.

Twitter: @SamanthaDurante | Hashtag suggestions: #Stitch, #StitchTrilogy, #Shudder
LibraryThing: Stitch | Shudder | Author Samantha Durante

Jul 18, 2013

Tour Stop: An Endless Summer by CJ Duggan

Sean looked out over the lake, squinting against the sunlight. He turned to me, his expression sobering as his eyes flicked over my face in a silent study.

“Come on Amy, I saved you once, I’ll save you again.”
I met his stare unflinchingly. “I don’t need saving.”
A wicked grin formed slowly. “Don’t you?”

After a rebellious summer night that almost claimed her life, Amy Henderson – the Onslow publican’s only daughter – is sent away to suffer a fate far worse than any other punishment:

Boarding School.

Three years on, a now nineteen-year-old Amy returns to Onslow for the summer. What once was a cauldron of activity with live bands, hot meals and cold beers, the Onslow Hotel now lies dark, deserted and depressing. All fond childhood memories of loitering on the hotel stairs and eavesdropping on customers’ colourful conversations are in the distant past.

How had her dad let it come to this?

With the new threat of putting the Onslow up for sale, Amy reluctantly turns to a local tradesman for help: Sean Murphy, the very same Onslow boy who saved her life all those years ago. With his help and that of some old friends, the task is clear: spend the summer building the hotel back up to its former glory or lose it for good.

In an endless summer, Amy soon realises that sometimes in order to save your future, you have to face your past, even if it’s in the form of a smug, gorgeous Onslow boy.

C.J. Duggan has a writing style and an ability to tell a story that makes it impossible to put the freaking book down. I lost a lot of sleep reading The Boys of Summer, and I expected nothing less of An Endless Summer

Sean is one of my favorite characters in this amazing series. When I imagine him, all I can see is this mischievous glint in his blue eyes, and the rest is history. As for Amy, not so much. When a Henderson is described as pig-headed, I'd say that's an understatement. Amy is the queen of stubborn. So much so, that I kinda wanted to slap her around a bit to make her come to her senses and quit denying herself. 

The connection between Sean and Amy is... push and pull. Don't get me wrong, there's definitely a spark that ignites a roaring flame, but holy crap, Amy does all she can to douse the heat. Thank goodness for Sean and his ability to keep it cool in the awkward situations Amy creates in her head.

The Australian setting and lingo are fascinating to me. Being an all-American girl, I had to look up a few of the words and try to imagine my butchered version of an Australian accent, but I loved being taken somewhere I've never been before. C.J. Duggan immerses you in this world of the Onslow and it feels like you're on summer vacation.

The characters in this series are intense. They've got their complications and conflicted emotions, and it's impossible not to love every one of them. Even Chris with his bossiness and constant grouchy aura. I felt a connection with Sean and Amy in the first book of the series, so reading a story about the two of them only made that stronger. 

I can't wait to see what Duggan comes up with next. Highly recommend!

C.J Duggan is an Australian author who lives with her husband in a rural border town of New South Wales, Australia.
The Boys of Summer is Book One in her Mature Young Adult Romance Series.
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Jun 28, 2013

Great Book Finds

Anyone ever been on Etsy? It's this awesome little corner of the web in which anyone and everyone who has any kind of artistic skill, passion, or hobby can market and sell their goods. Homemade. Vintage. Unique. That's what you get at Etsy, and you can find pretty much anything your little heart desires. Sometimes, even things that you can't believe exist. But they do. On Etsy.

Of course, being the bibliophile that I am, I immediately go searching for "bookworm accessories" and man o man, is this a treasure trove. ("Ah, so that's why you've been MIA from the blogosphere, Keely. You've been perusing the Etsy-verse like a slacker.") HA, so not entirely true. (new job + new pregnancy = mindblown, which in turn = more than slightly preoccupied)

Anywho, here are my fantastic bibliophilic finds for you to OoH and AaH over :).

Sweet, eh? To see the full treasury, get clickin'. 


Happy Reading Everyone :)

Jun 20, 2013

Tour Stop! Review: Fall For Me by K.A. Last

“Angels aren’t supposed to fall in love, especially with each other. But for the record, you were worth it.”

Grace Tate is a Protection Angel and Vampire Hunter, and she has always followed the rules. But some rules are made to be broken…

Until now the fight against evil has been simple, and falling in love was never part of the plan. So what happens when it’s beyond Grace’s control, and when she least expects it she falls for the wrong person?

All hell breaks loose, that’s what.

At Hopetown Valley High, not everything is as it seems, and the one person Grace thought was her enemy becomes her most important ally.

Blood will be shed, lives will be lost and friendships will be tested. It all comes down to one decision, and when Grace tries to save all those dear to her, she realises not everyone can be—or wants to be—saved.

Angels and vampires? When I found out about this interesting combination, I really couldn't resist.

I was struck by the unique and completely underdone dynamic in this novel. Usually we've got the vulnerable girl needing to be rescued by the strong, supernatural guy. Grace is anything but a damsel in distress, and while I felt that her connection with Josh was sudden and overwhelming (something that is overdone), I still think she kicks some major butt. She doesn't need to be saved and she's not afraid to do what's in her heart.

I loved Grace's relationship with her twin brother, Archer. His snark and ego only made him more lovable in my eyes, and I really enjoyed the connection, secrets, and legacies they shared. It's strange but unique, and their family's story really needs its own novel.

Seth is, by far, my favorite. He's the bad boy with the dark, mysterious personality, so it's no wonder. The love triangle between Seth, Josh, and Grace is pretty tug-of-war, but I'm leaning toward Seth, if I have to choose a side.

The characters in this story stand out with their own personalities. They each have a face and a voice, but there was something about them that lacked that "umph." I was wrapped up in the story, but I didn't feel a strong connection with them. Their emotions and point-of-views sometimes felt pretty out-of-nowhere, kind like the attraction between Grace and Josh. There were times that they just didn't feel genuine.

I liked the writing style and the dual point-of-view, but the story did feel to progress slowly. When jumping from one character's view to another, the story would step back a few paces and go through a scene we just experienced again from the other side of the spectrum. It felt like the whole "one-step forward-two-steps-back" kind of thing. However, K.A. Last has a definite talent for storytelling and description. The fight scenes were awesome and I could always envision what was happening as if I were watching a movie instead of reading a book.

The combo of vampires and angels, the storyline, and the complexity of the relationships between the characters will have me recommending this novel. While I did feel a few negatives, the positives far outweigh anything critical I could have to say. I look forward to reading the prequel, Sacrifice, and the sequel, Fight for Me soon!

K. A. Last was born in Subiaco, Western Australia, and moved to Sydney with her parents and older brother when she was eight. Artistic and creative by nature, she studied Graphic Design and graduated with an Advanced Diploma. After marrying her high school sweetheart, she concentrated on her career before settling into family life. Blessed with a vivid imagination, she began writing to let off creative steam, and fell in love with it. She now resides in a peaceful leafy suburb north of Sydney with her husband, their two children and a rabbit named Twitch.

Happy Reading Everyone :)

Jun 19, 2013

Tour Stop! Review: In Too Deep by Michelle Kemper Brownlow

Gracie has just finished her freshman year of college in Memphis when she takes a job at a local pizza joint in her home town of McKenzie, Tennessee. She is the epitome of innocence when she meets Noah. Noah is unabashedly handsome, intriguingly reckless and just cocky enough to be sexy. Gracie’s instincts tell her to stay far away from him and based on the stories she hears from her co-workers he leaves broken hearts in his wake. But still, she can’t explain her fascination with him.

Noah puts aside his bad boy ways when what he thought was a summer crush has him unexpectedly falling in love. But soon after Gracie transfers to UT Knoxville to be with Noah, their unexpected love becomes riddled with anger, deceit and humiliation.

Jake, Noah’s former roommate and Gracie’s best friend, can no longer be a bystander. Gracie’s world falls out from beneath her and when she breaks she turns to Jake for strength. As Jake talks her through a decision she’s not yet strong enough to make, together they uncover a truth so ugly neither of them is prepared for its fallout. Will Jake pull her to the surface or is Gracie Jordan finally In Too Deep?

It doesn't happen often, but sometimes you dive into a novel and it touches you on such a personal level  that it changes your entire perspective. In Too Deep is one of those novels for me.
This may be when you decide if you're going to sacrifice what you deserve for something you settle for.
Grace falls under the spell of Noah, this bad boy with a reputation for treating girls like commodities. Somehow, though, he's different with her, or she lets herself believe.

The truth is, he treats her like crap, and everyone but Grace can see that. He manipulates her, making her believe that her pain is her own fault at times, so on top of her beaten heart, she feels guilt. It's mental abuse, and it sucks.

At times, I felt like I was Grace. I've been in her shoes, so while some may have seen her as weak, I could understand, to a certain extent, what she was experiencing and how she reacted.She was blinded by the belief Noah put into her mind that everything bad that was happening was somehow her fault. I'll admit, as the novel progressed, there were times I was annoyed with her. There were fleeting moments when I thought she'd finally stand up for herself, but she was always, always so afraid. She gave Noah way too many chances, and I was hoping she'd see she had a way out, but it took her a long time and an ocean of tears to get to that point. Grace, despite what Jake might say, was never a strong character. She always gives in despite her fears and better judgement, and even when there is a point when she was no longer blinded, she just keeps making stupid decisions that she knows will hurt her.  She feels like she can't stand on her own without someone holding her up, and it's this that made her weak. She refuses to face her fears, and if I was annoyed, it was because of that.

Grace is one of those characters that readers will either understand or won't be able tolerate. Unfortunately, and I hate to say this, but she may be what breaks the connection to this novel for some readers.

That being said, her character is not what touched me. It was the messages of those around her, those who loved her, that sucker punched me. Jake, for one, is an inspiration. He's too friggin' good to be true, and I love him for it. It's funny how long an experience like Grace's can stick with you. You're constantly afraid of letting people get too close for fear that they will begin to manipulate you - that you won't even know it until it's too late. You're also constantly on the defense, and you always feel like you owe people for their time.

Grace is one lucky girl to have someone like Jake who can make sense of the world she's become so lost in. He makes her believe that people aren't there just to take what they can from you. And in giving her his time, support, and love, that doesn't mean she owes him anything. That's what people who truly care about you do, unconditionally, and believing she's anything less than an amazing person that people would like to spend time with just to be around her is the work of Noah's poison.

The message really slapped me in the face, and at times, I had to put the book down and take a deep breath because of how overwhelmed I was. One thing's for sure: this book brought me to some realizations that never struck before, and I like to think I can see more clearly because of it.

I fell in love with this novel. It was tragic and extremely personal, but it was also hopeful all the way through. It's a book I would definitely recommend, but I would also remind you put yourself in Grace's shoes as you go along and have an open mind about how she's feeling. It can be frustrating, but more often than not, it rings true for a person who's been in her situation.

Michelle Kemper Brownlow has been a storyteller her entire life. Her debut was on the high school cheerleading bus granting requests to re-tell her most embarrassing moments for a gaggle of hysterical squadmates. Earning her Bachelor’s degree from Penn State University in Art Education and then marrying her very own “Jake,” she moved to Binghamton, NY where she taught high school. After having two children she quit work and finished her Master’s degree in Elementary Education at Binghamton University. The Brownlow family of four moved to Michelle’s hometown of Morgantown, PA while the children were still quite young. A few years after moving, her family grew by one when they welcomed a baby into their home through the gift of adoption. The family still resides in PA, just miles from where that high school cheer bus was parked. Michelle has been an artist for as long as she can remember, always choosing pencils and crayons over toys and puzzles. As a freelance illustrator, her simple characters play the starring roles in numerous emergent reader books published by Reading Reading Books. “Writing is my way of making sense of the world. When I give my characters life on the pages I write, it frees up space in my mind to welcome in new stories that are begging to be told,” says Brownlow.

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Happy Reading Everyone :)

Jun 14, 2013

Review: Eros, My Love by April Bostic

Gabrielle Foster never thought she would fall in love with a mythological character. After reading the pages of a mysterious blog, she finds herself enamored yet sympathetic toward a young man claiming to be the Greek god Eros. The journal paints him as a tragic and lonely god with a selfless heart that yearns for companionship. But the anonymous blogger is a clinically insane woman, so Eros couldn't really exist...could he? While working the night shift at a local city diner, a secret admirer reveals his true identity and Gabrielle realizes he may be the key to her own heartache.

I wasn't sure what to expect from Eros, My Love. It's only around 26 pages long, and that seems impossibly short to fit in an entire story. However, April Bostic offers a sweet and dramatic surprise.

The one question that bugged me was why Eros would reveal himself to the mysterious blogger and basically drive her into a mental institution. Just passing the time, Eros? He's selfish, as most gods of the Greek or Roman variety tend to be, ruining any other relationship Gabrielle has had, but for her, that's easy to overlook when it comes to the physical perfection that practically knocks you to your knees. 

If it were me, I'd have been pissed at Eros for keeping me from happiness because of his jealousy. But when you have a daydream or fantasy about being swept off your feet and away from the burdens you currently carry, nothing can be wrong. And in Gabrielle's case, the fantasy becomes not just a figment of her imagination, but a reality she never would have believed could happen to her

As a character-driven reader, I was happy to discover my connection to Gabrielle was immediate. I felt like I knew her and could relate to her frustrating situation of feeling "stuck." She felt genuine, and I instantly liked her.

The world building was pretty awesome, especially given the short amount of time the author had to draw us into the story. I read it quickly and was sucked in immediately. I'd love to read one of Bostic's full length novels, because if she can draw me in in only 26 or so pages, I can just imagine how I'll feel with a few hundred to drag me under.

There's a definite talent in the writing style. It's smooth and it flows. The inevitable sex scene had a few eye-rolling moments when it came to word choice,  but overall, the writing presents an obvious talent that I'd like to see more of.

Eros, My Love is a fun, sweet, and surprising short story. It leans toward the quality of being a fantasy or a day dream, and I could almost imagine Gabrielle snapping out of it at any moment. I felt like she was waiting for the same thing, but as the reality struck her, how could she possibly go back to the mundane?

If you have a few minutes, I'd recommend curling up with Eros, My Love. It's short and slightly unbelievable, but what fantasy isn't?

Visit April Bostic via
Website ~ Goodreads

Happy Reading Everyone :)

Jun 10, 2013

My Kid's Future Library

I found out a couple of months ago that my husband and I are no longer going to be just two. We have a third little member of our family arriving towards the end of November, and while there are a lot of different emotions that are running high at this time, I'd say excitement tops the list.

***Side note: This is one of the major reasons I've been a little less active on the blog. Understandably so, I would think.***

Anyway. The generations of kids coming into this world get more and more technologically focused. iPhones, iPads, computers, video games, etc. And the list will grow and grow, I'm sure. My husband and I have talked about the things we want our kid to grow up with. On his side, it's camping, fishing, and outdoor adventures. We live in Maine, after all. That's very important to me too, but I also want my kid to, hopefully, appreciate the wonders of the written word and the possibilities of imagination.

If I have a baby shower, I 'd rather people bring a children's book and a pack of diapers than anything else. My kid is going to have a stellar little library and there will be an awesome reading nook involved. I want him/her to enjoy reading and learning and using his/her imagination. I honestly don't remember a time in my life when I wasn't reading, and I hope to instill that love for books in my child.

I haven't thought about children's books in quite a long time, and thinking back is really giving me a decent laugh and a certain sense of nostalgia. Jon Scieszka, in particular, was one of my favorites.

And who can omit Where the Wild Things Are as one of their favorite books as a kid?

Shel Silverstein's Where the Sidewalk Ends

And, as I got into first and second grade...

Ah, the memories. Of course, you can never go wrong with good, ole Dr. Seuss or classics such as The Hungry Caterpillar or Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?

Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle by Betty MacDonald, and... just remembered! The Three Billy Goats Gruff by Paul Galdone.

I also remember falling in love with the horror genre at an early age with R.L. Stein's Goosebumps, and  M.T. Coffin's Billy Baker's Dog Won't Stay Buried. 

Now that I think about it, I read a lot when I was little. I was always excited about the "book fairs" at school and I was constantly in and out of the library, anxiously waiting for the day I could get into the high school's library because their's was so much bigger. 

I really hope my kid has that same love for books. What was your favorite when you were a kid?

Happy Reading Everyone :)

Jun 7, 2013

Book Blitz: Snow White Sorrow by Cameron Jace

What if all you knew about fairy tales was wrong?

Sixteen year old Loki Blackstar is no Prince Charming. His mother is a ghost. His only friend is a red Cadillac that sings to him through the radio. He looks like an Angel but acts like jerk. No wonder he has been banned from Heaven, which is the least of his troubles. Loki needs a job to pay for school and support himself.

Still, Loki has a rare gift: He is a Dreamhunter. One of the few in the world who can hunt and kill immortal demons in their dreams so they never wake up again. 

When Loki is sent to kill a sixteen-year-old vampire girl the locals call Snow White Sorrow, he is pulled into a magical but dangerous world. The locals believe the monster to be Snow White.

The real Snow White... living in the ruins of an ancient castle in a small town. She is described as horribly beautiful, terrifyingly enchanting, and wickedly lovely.

What he finds instead is a beautiful monster girl filled with rage and hurt, who has an epic untold story to tell of things such like why the Brothers Grimm altered the fairy tale, who the Evil Queen really is, where the mirror came from, and who possessed it.

Snow White has killed every person who has dared come near the castle where she once lived with the queen. Mysteriously, she lets Loki live, and whispers two words in his ears; two words that will change his life forever.

I've been looking forward to reading this one ever since I first laid eyes on the cover. Then I made my way over to the synopsis, and I was done for. A retelling of Snow White? In which she's closer to a monster than an angel? I can dig it. Love dark retellings of classic fairy tales, and this is one that I will most definitely be reading asap.

Sound good to you? How can it not? Seriously. To get a little more of Snow White Sorrow, keep scrolling for *bonus* a giveaway. On top of all that, I'm including an excerpt from Snow White Blood Red, the prequel to Snow White Sorrow.

Dear Wilhelm Carl Grimm,

She is not that giddy, na├»ve, and helpless princess she pretends to be. Please don’t let her fool you with her innocence if you see her sing to the birds in the forest. Resist her charm from bringing joyful tears to your eyes, and shield yourself from her devious beauty before she deceives you into wanting to kiss her awake. It'll  be a kiss of death. Your death. That’s how she fooled the Huntsman, Prince Charming, and me, her birth mother.
I still remember the original script of the fairy tale, the one you wrote in 1812. It clearly stated that she was my own flesh and blood daughter. I don’t have the slightest idea why you altered it fifty years later.
What was the point of turning me into an evil, narcissistic, and heartless stepmother, blinded by jealousy and envy of the young princess?
For years, I have been looking forward to telling you the truth about her, but you were impossible to reach.
I am glad I found your brother, Jacob. He told me that you wanted to tone the stories down so children could sleep better at night, instead of having nightmares about the Queen who sought to eat her daughter’s heart and liver.
Shame on you, Wilhelm.
You, of all authors, knew why I wanted to kill her. My actions were justified. I was trying to save my kingdom from her wrath, before everything we loved was destined to an end. The same way you had to rewrite the true fairytales after cursing us, so the War of Sorrows would end forever after.
Night after night, and year after year, parents fed their children false bedtime stories, until your lies grew into inescapable memories. Your happily ever after lies, Wilhelm, shaped the so called fairy tale world.
I wondered why you didn’t burn the original scripts, instead of rewriting them. You must have figured out that sooner or later someone would dig up the truth and expose you. Altering it was the smarter solution. You let children believe that the bites were resurrecting kisses, and that torturing glass coffins were made for sleeping beauties, waiting for a prince to come and kiss them awake.
A wise man once said that the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he was someone else. You did the same with us, Wilhelm. You turned us into pastiches of the immortals that we really are, and made it harder for us if wanted to persuade the world otherwise.
I know that you did it to save us from her. And I appreciate how you concealed our real names, or we would have ended up like Rumpelstiltskin, tortured by those who knew of his real name.
But sometimes, I can’t help but wonder why no one ever questioned why I was called the Evil Queen, and why I was never given a real name in the books.
Was I so superficial to the world, so stereotypical and mundane? Why was I treated as if I were the monster of the week?
You know what I think? I think that the world never got the time to hate me. It just wanted to hate me long before it met me.
If I tell those who detest me about the true nature of their little princess, would they ever care about me half as much as they care about her?
I know that deep inside, they adore me. They like the way I talk, walk, dress, and even the way I kill.
They are just afraid to admit how much they love me. I am the Snow White Queen, strong enough that I don’t need anyone’s pity or love, because I am loved by the greatest and most majestic heart in the world:

Wonderlander, Neverlander, Unicorn-chaser, enchanter, musician, survived a coma, & totally awesome. Sometimes I tell stories. Always luv the little monsters      I write young adult paranormal romance, urban fantasy, and science fiction mostly. The Grimm Diaries series is a seven book saga that deals with retellings of fairy tales from a young adult POV - it connects most of the fairy tales together and claims to be the truth about fairy tales.      I live in San Fransisco and seriously think circles are way cooler than triangles.

Visit Jace via
Goodreads ~ Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook

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Happy Reading Everyone :)