October 30, 2014

Tour Stop! Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers + Giveaway!



About the Author

Robin LaFevers was raised on a steady diet of fairy tales, Bulfinch’s mythology, and 19th century poetry. It is not surprising she grew up to be a hopeless romantic.

Though she has never trained as an assassin or joined a convent, she did attend Catholic school for three years, which instilled in her a deep fascination with sacred rituals and the concept of the Divine. She has been on a search for answers to life’s mysteries ever since.

While many of those answers still elude her, she was lucky enough to find her one true love, and is living happily ever after with him in the foothills of southern California.

In addition to writing about teen assassin nuns in medieval Brittany, she writes books for middle grade readers, including the Theodosia books and the Nathaniel Fludd, Beastologist series. You can learn more about those books at www.rllafevers.com.

☆ How to find Robin ☆
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Annith has watched her gifted sisters at the convent come and go, carrying out their dark dealings in the name of St. Mortain, patiently awaiting her own turn to serve Death. But her worst fears are realized when she discovers she is being groomed by the abbess as a Seeress, to be forever sequestered in the rock and stone womb of the convent. Feeling sorely betrayed, Annith decides to strike out on her own.

She has spent her whole life training to be an assassin. Just because the convent has changed its mind doesn't mean she has...

My take: This book was so flipping good that I ate it alive! In Mortal Heart, Robin LaFevers reminds us how remarkably brilliant she is at crafting riveting historical novels, and she ended this trilogy phenomenally; but I’m super sad that it’s all over. I sure hope Robin will write a spin-off.

I loved how, with each book in this series, we follow a different character in the His Fair Assassin trilogy, and I appreciated how different, yet connected, each book was in this series. In the first book, we have a girl that has lived a life of pure hatred toward men where finding a purpose in life allows her to have an outlet for her hatred . . . and love. In book two, we have a girl that is severely mentally disturbed who has tried everything to escape the hauntings of her past but the past eventually catches up to her and blows up . . . and it’s horrifying. And in this last book, we have a girl that helped train girls to be Death’s assassin, she watches each assassin get their assignment but she never does and all she wants to do is serve her god. This last book is about discovering who this girl, Annith, really is and discovering her purpose in life.

There are a few truly insane twists throughout this book. While reading it, I felt like I was continuously engaged in a guessing game to help figure out where Annith’s story was going to go. Annith was an insanely good eaves-dropper and investigator throughout this series. She always wanted to know the “why” of every situation and circumstance. But there were times Annith would hardly give the evidence in front of her face the smallest bit of notice, where even I could see it plainly, and I wanted to yell at her through the pages to open her dang eyes! The storyline in Mortal Heart was well laid out, but it really was the unexpected plot twists that made this story phenomenal.

There were many things in this trilogy that were dramatically changed by how this story ended, and there were also new, exciting elements that were introduced in this book. The story ended beautifully, but because of the new elements that were introduced in this book, I’m hoping that a spin-off will be revealed soon.




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This is a tour hosted giveaway!
NO PURCHASE NECESSARY

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☆ The Tour ☆

Week One:
10/27/2014- Two Chicks on Books- Guest Post
10/28/2014- Katie's Book Blog- Review
10/29/2014- Once Upon a Twilight- Interview
10/30/2014- Magical Urban Fantasy Reads- Review
10/31/2014- Reading YA Rocks- Guest Post



Week Two:
11/3/2014- Mundie Moms- Review
11/4/2014- Tales of the Ravenous Reader- Interview
11/5/2014- The Starry-Eyed Revue- Review
11/6/2014- Step Into Fiction- Interview
11/7/2014- Parajunkee- Guest Post


October 18, 2014

I'm so annoyed! Kathleen Hale reminds me bloggers aren't safe!

The negative things I say here do not apply to all authors because 99% of the authors I've been in contact with are absolutely amazing.

As a book blogger, you come to realize that your book reviews are taken extremely personally by most authors. You also come to realize that there are a lot of authors that obsess over their first few bad blogger reviews. So, when I first "started" reading 'Am I being catfished?' An author confronts her number one online critic, I felt really bad for Kathleen Hale because I know that a lot of authors experience a lot of the same things she was feeling. When she talked about being tempted to make comments to this blogger that she talks about, in my mind I was coaching Kathleen and telling her "No!!! Don't do it!" Or when she went searching for bad reviews on Goodreads or searched her name on Twitter, I kept thinking "Oh no this can't be good!"

Bloggers know that authors do online searches to see what people are saying about them. Knowing this puts pressure on some bloggers because, if you've been blogging a while, you start to feel that you don't want any author to be obsessing about your reviews; especially, because there are some authors that lash out at bloggers, and there are even some authors that tell bloggers to remove their reviews!! (What? We can't have an opinion?!) A lot of bloggers learn to not care what authors think about their reviews/opinions if they’re negative. Other bloggers create pseudonyms so they can freely speak their opinions. I, myself, have had authors who were offended just because I didn't accept their review request, and I know this because the author would then make negative comments on one of my other reviews. This all seems very odd to me because bloggers aren't doing this for money, but at the same time I'm aware that their work is something they cherish. I'm not trying to tell you that you look fat in the outfit you are wearing, I'm just expressing my opinion about a book I wasted precious time reading (that's if I'm talking negatively, which doesn't happen very often). We are just reading books and speaking our mind about it. That's it!

I have a friend that was physically attacked (at her child's school!) because she tweeted her opinion about a book. The author didn’t like her opinion and proceeded to stalk her through Foursquare, finally tracking her down at her child’s school. Yep, stories like this make bloggers feel the need to create pseudonyms to protect themselves.

I've come to the point where, if I'm not liking a book, I simply stop reading it and set it aside so I don't feel the need to write a bad review. I also set aside books I don’t like because I'm already extremely busy with other things in my life, and I don't want to waste my valuable time on a sucky book. But I know of a lot of bloggers (and others) that feel the need to finish every book they've started. And, when you've put so many hours into a book that you didn't like, it's easy to have a lot of negative things to say, especially for that sucky book that took away all those precious hours of your life. I could gripe all day long about how much I hated the movie Drive, but that was only 1 hour and 40 minutes out of my life…unlike a lot of sucky books that take ten or more hours to read!

Now, when I feel the need to say something negative about a book or author, I just text my local blogging friends to vent about it because I don't want the author doing a search on Twitter to find it.

But Kathleen Hale took this searching/stalking thing to a whole other level by getting this blogger’s address, stalking her house on Google Maps, paying money for an internet background check, calling her at work and, finally, renting a car to show up at her front door step unannounced. I'm absolutely appalled! The only thing that had me questioning the blogger was her use of a supposed friend's picture. But since I don't know this blogger in question, I don't know if that information is true to begin with. I sure am not going to take the word of the person proudly stalking a blogger.

Now, Kathleen, if this was someone trying to have a relationship with you (online dating) then I can understand the horror of this hidden identity. But no! She's just a blogger who wants an online presence while keeping her identity a secret! Who cares if she's talking crap about your book!

On multiple occasions I’ve thought about how I wish I would have thought about keeping my identity secret from my blogging presence. Unfortunately, I realized this way too late, and now I'm kicking myself even harder for being so naive.

I just want to finish by saying, "Thank you Kathleen for reminding me that I'm not safe speaking my honest opinion in the book blogging world!"



October 7, 2014

Tour Stop! Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch + Giveaway!




Sara Raasch has known she was destined for bookish things since the age of five, when her friends had a lemonade stand and she tagged along to sell her hand-drawn picture books too. Not much has changed since then — her friends still cock concerned eyebrows when she attempts to draw things and her enthusiasm for the written word still drives her to extreme measures. Her debut YA fantasy, SNOW LIKE ASHES, the first in a trilogy, comes out October 14, 2014 from Balzer + Bray. It does not feature her hand-drawn pictures.

☆ How to find Sara ☆
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Publisher’s summary: Game of Thrones meets Graceling in this striking fantasy tale of dark magic, dangerous politics, and discovering your true self. Sara Raasch’s debut fantasy is a lightning-fast story of loyalty, love, and controlling one’s destiny.

Sixteen years ago the Kingdom of Winter was conquered and its citizens enslaved, leaving them without magic or a monarch. The Winterians’ only hope for freedom is the eight survivors who managed to escape, and who have been searching for the opportunity to steal back Winter’s magic and rebuild their kingdom ever since.

Orphaned as an infant during Winter’s defeat, Meira has lived her whole life as a refugee. Training to be a warrior—and desperately in love with her best friend, Winter’s future king—she would do anything to help Winter rise to power again. So when scouts discover the location of half of the ancient locket that can restore their magic, Meira decides to go after it herself—only to find herself thrust into a world of evil magic and dangerous politics, and to realize that her destiny is not, never has been, her own.

My take: I absolutely loved Snow Like Ashes! This book has it all . . . chaos, betrayal, heartache, torment, despair and bloodshed . . . all the while still including moments of friendship, loyalty, sacrifice and love. I’m absolutely blown away with everything that happened and I’m more than a little excited to read anything else written by Sara Raasch; more importantly, I’m dying for the next book in the Snow Like Ashes series.

My all-time favorite aspect of this book is the character build. We immediately start to learn the unique personalities of these characters, and Meira is the perfect heroine for this series. As each character is introduced, you almost immediately have feelings of admiration for the character or utter hate. There is nothing better than a story where you can actual have as much hate toward a villain as do the characters in the book. Or when there is a betrayal, you feel as though that knife was plunged into your back right along with the character. I have to say to Sara, “Now that’s talent!” Normally I’d pick several characters to talk about at this point along with the specifics of my love, my hate or my anger towards them, but I’m scared I might spoil something by expressing my feelings about any one character. Well . . . I will give you a shout-out about two characters. First, I have a huge crush on Theron and, second, Nessa is just so dang cute. Both characters you will not meet right away. Is that good enough?

The world Sara created in this book is truly phenomenal, even though I have to admit that I’m a little confused over the differences between the Seasons and the Rhythms and all that. But I absolutely loved the politics! Oh! My! Gosh! There is so much betrayal, backstabbing and desperation when it comes to the politics that it’s just plain crazy! And then when someone actually does recognize the need to be self-sacrificing, it even turns out worse when it doesn’t even work out the way they wanted it to. Or, worse, when it doesn’t work out at all! INSANE I tell ya!!!

I love how, in only one book, there are so many changes in scenery as we get to see the characters’ lives from multiple angles. And, oh my! I’m sitting here thinking that Snow Like Ashes was going to be like most books where we have a storyline that might lead to a crazy insane ending…but no! Sara wants to give us the entire craziness right smack in the middle! Because, even though there are some crazy action scenes throughout the book, something really big happens right smack in the middle, and it completely changes things! Or does it? I’m going to stop now . . . or I might end up taking away some of the awesomeness of this book by telling you about things that happen. All I’ll say is that, at that point smack in the middle of the story, the scenery completely changes again…to very dark. But Sara doesn’t leave it there . . . and there are still tons of moments of heart pounding intensity, with an ending that leaves me craving for more.


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This is a tour hosted giveaway!
NO PURCHASE NECESSARY

a Rafflecopter giveaway

☆ The Tour ☆

Week One:
10/6/2014- Bookish- Interview
10/7/2014- Magical Urban Fantasy Reads- Review
10/8/2014- Bewitched Bookworms- Guest Post
10/9/2014- Fictitious Delicious- Review
10/10/2014- Adventures of a Book Junkie- Interview


Week Two:
10/13/2014- Fiction Freak- Review
10/14/2014- Dark Faerie Tales- Interview
10/15/2014- Fiktshun- Guest Post
10/16/2014- IceyBooks- Review
10/17/2014- Two Chicks on Books- Guest Post

September 26, 2014

Lark Rising by Sandra Waugh Tour Stop + Giveaway!



About the Author

Sandra grew up in an old house full of crowded bookshelves, in walking distance of an old library that allowed her to drag home a sack of six books at a time. It goes without saying, then, that she fell in love with the old house in Litchfield County, CT, because of its many bookshelves, and she lives there now with her husband, two sons, and a dog who snores. Loudly.

LARK RISING is her first novel and the first in the GUARDIANS OF TARNEC series. SILVER EVE follows in 2015.

☆ How to find Sandra ☆
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About the Book

Full of romance and nature magic, this debut fantasy is perfect for fans of Shannon Hale, Juliet Marillier, and Kristin Cashore.

“A beautifully realized world, a unique voice, and a compelling, action-packed story. This is a striking debut novel with a lovely folkloric flavor.” —Juliet Marillier, author of Wildwood Dancing

Lark has foreseen two things—she will fall for a young man with sage green eyes, and he will kill her.

Sixteen-year-old Lark Carew is happiest close to home, tending her garden and gathering herbs for medicines. But when her Sight warns her that monsters called Troths will soon invade her village, Lark is summoned on a journey to seek help from the legendary Riders of Tarnec. Little does she suspect that one of the Riders, Gharain, is the very man who has haunted her visions. Or that the people of Tarnec have called her there for another reason: Lark is the Guardian of Life, the first of four Guardians who must awaken their powers to recover four stolen amulets. Together, the amulets—Life, Death, Dark, and Light—keep the world in Balance. To take back the Life amulet, Lark will have to discover her true inner strength and give in to a love that she swears will be her downfall.

☆ How to find Lark Rising ☆
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Hello all! Today's guest post is by Sandra Waugh. Whenever I'm given the option to pick a guest post topic, I try to think of a topic that is unique to the author. While looking on Sandra's website I noticed lots of pictures of plants, then I remembered that Lark's passion is gardening, so I knew there was a personal story there. So let's welcome Sandra Waugh.

When we moved from NYC to the very old house in a very small town, I took on the duty of groundskeeper for our four acres. I did not understand the enormity of the task. Sure, I tended a potted fern that decorated my bedroom growing up (and still lives!) and bought packets of seeds at local harvest fairs imagining some day I’d create beautiful herb gardens to wander through wearing a floaty sundress, snipping a bit of lavender here, a smidge of sage there….

Okay. Fast forward to real life: That’s a moment only achievable if I’m NOT concurrently groundskeeper, cook, laundress, housecleaner, ms. fix-it, wife, and mom. Oh… and writer.

Basically it’s a mad dash outside to mow the lawn and the back field, then off to hack at the forsythia and wild roses and blackberries before they swallow everything. And then there’s poison ivy and God-knows-what-their-names are weeds and moss and various creepers that ruin any hope of lush green carpets to walk upon—things I bravely insist I’ll eradicate and never do. There are the overrun gardens that I’m determined to cultivate into jaw dropping jungles of color at the start of each spring, but then give up halfway through June. Oh and the hornets—I’ve learned the hard way that hornets live in underground nests and attack you from nickel-size holes. This summer I discovered eight such nests. Eight.

By September I am tossing fallen apples and pears into the woods because I forgot to pick any. Come November I shoulder the leaf blower and sweep every blade of grass. This takes four days. On the fifth the winds come and redecorate the lawn with branches and sticks and half the leaves from the neighbors’ piles.

When spring returns I start again.

But the crazy thing is, I am glad to start again. Because no matter how grueling, or annoying, or lame my efforts, the outdoors is so full of wonder and discovery that I will gladly trudge back into the fray. For everything I’ve missed, I’ve still seen. And it’s what inspired LARK RISING.

It’s true that a hawk landed on my porch, prompting the first pages; the rest evolved while mowing the lawn. Plant and creature showed me the way into this story—my own backyard offering glimpses of Lark’s gardens, her fence, Dark Wood, ghisane, the visiting hawk, the fox, the hare. I am inspired by Nature, what’s just beyond my doorstep, what I’ve watched each day on this tiny scale struggling to thrive. LARK is all about Nature—both its fragile balance and its tenacity. To be witness to such beauty, to share it is just… pretty great.

Lark says that she thinks the Earth sings to her.

I think it does. I’ve heard it.

☆ Sandra's Garden ☆




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This is a tour hosted giveaway!
NO PURCHASE NECESSARY
1 winner will receive a leaf necklace, $25 Amazon gift card, sachet, a signed hardcover of LARK RISING, and a bookmark and a postcard. US Only.

1 winner will receive leaf earrings, cuff, soap, sachet and a signed hardcover of LARK RISING, and a bookmark and a postcard. US Only.

3 winners will receive a signed hardcover of LARK RISING, and a bookmark and a postcard. US Only

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☆ The Tour ☆

Week One:
9/15/2014- Mom With A Kindle- Interview
9/16/2014- The Book Landers- Review
9/17/2014- My ParaHangover- Review
9/18/2014- Two Chicks on Books- Guest Post
9/19/2014- Carina's Books- Review

Week Two:
9/22/2014- A Backwards Story- Review
9/23/2014- Word Spelunking- Guest Post
9/24/2014- Literary Meanderings- Interview
9/25/2014- Fall Into Books- Interview
9/26/2014- Magical Urban Fantasy Reads- Guest Post

September 24, 2014

Winterspell Tour Stop! Interview with Claire + Giveaway!



About the Author

Claire Legrand is the author of books for children and teens, including The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls, The Year of Shadows, the upcoming Winterspell, and its prequel, Summerfall. She is also one of the four authors of The Cabinet of Curiosities.

When not writing books, she can be found obsessing over DVD commentaries, going on long walks (or trying to go on long runs), and speaking with a poor English accent to random passersby. She thinks musicians and librarians are the loveliest of folks (having been each of those herself) and, while she loves living in central New Jersey, she dearly misses her big, brash, beautiful home state of Texas.

Her work is represented by Diana Fox of Fox Literary, LLC.


☆ How to find Claire ☆
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About the Book

The clock chimes midnight, a curse breaks, and a girl meets a prince . . . but what follows is not all sweetness and sugarplums.

New York City, 1899. Clara Stole, the mayor's ever-proper daughter, leads a double life. Since her mother's murder, she has secretly trained in self-defense with the mysterious Drosselmeyer.

Then, on Christmas Eve, disaster strikes.

Her home is destroyed, her father abducted--by beings distinctly not human. To find him, Clara journeys to the war-ravaged land of Cane. Her only companion is the dethroned prince Nicholas, bound by a wicked curse. If they're to survive, Clara has no choice but to trust him, but his haunted eyes burn with secrets--and a need she can't define. With the dangerous, seductive faery queen Anise hunting them, Clara soon realizes she won't leave Cane unscathed--if she leaves at all.

Inspired by The Nutcracker, Winterspell is a dark, timeless fairy tale about love and war, longing and loneliness, and a girl who must learn to live without fear.



☆ How to find Winterspell ☆
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Mindy: Hi Claire Legrand! Welcome to Magical Urban Fantasy Reads!

Claire: Hi! I’m so excited to visit you today!

Mindy: I noticed that your previous releases were Middle Grade. What made you decide to write a Young Adult novel? And, which of those novels came more naturally to you, and which was more difficult to write and why?

Claire: This is a great question! I love writing both middle grade and young adult novels, but when I sat down to start planning WINTERSPELL, I knew it would need to be a young adult novel. The Nutcracker has such interesting and mature themes, and to explore them sufficiently, I needed to write the story for slightly older readers.

Of my published novels so far, I think THE YEAR OF SHADOWS, my second middle grade novel, came most naturally to me. More than any other character I’ve written so far, Olivia felt so familiar, like she was a real person existing somewhere outside my head. Also, much of the story revolves around music, and I used to be a musician myself, so I felt very comfortable in that world, because it’s one I know intimately.

Mindy: When you started writing WINTERSPELL, did you already know that you were going to set the story in the era of 1899,or did that come to you while you were writing? With that being said, did you already know that you were going to write about Steampunk and Fae?

Claire: When I started planning WINTERSPELL, I knew that I wanted the “real” world part of the story to feel like something out of a period piece. I didn’t want it to be modern, because to me, the story of The Nutcracker feels so timeless, so classic. I wanted the setting to reflect that. As I continued planning the story, and it became evident what themes I wanted to explore, I decided that the time period should be in the Victorian era, a time in which pretty much everyone was sexually repressed, especially woman. A big part of Clara’s journey in WINTERSPELL is her sexual awakening, coming to terms with her body and her desires. The Victorian era seemed a perfect foil for that.

About the steampunk and fae elements—first of all, I don’t think of the faeries in WINTESRPELL as the traditional fae from European folklore, at least not precisely. Obviously I drew upon certain familiar fae elements, but I also wanted these faeries to be something unique. Instead of being repelled by iron, they use it to amplify their magic. They are creatures of machinery, tinkering, crafting. You’d be more likely to find them in a clockmaker’s shop rather than out in a field or forest somewhere.

I always knew I wanted there to be a steampunk (or at least, a vaguely steampunk) element to WINTERSPELL because of the traces of steampunk in the original fairy tale—toys that come to life, one of the characters being a magical clockmaker and inventor. So the steampunk element was always there, and my version of faeries grew out of that.

Mindy: The villains in your story are extremely creepy. Was it hard for you to write those characters or did they just come naturally to you?

Claire: I don’t know what this says about me, but I find it pretty easy to write villains! Not easy as in without challenges, but easy as in, when I’m writing a scene that features an antagonist, everything flows easily. Often the antagonist is the character most clear in my mind when I begin planning a story—which I think is a good thing! A lackluster antagonist kills a story, in my opinion. I also like when an antagonist has layers, when you find yourself feeling sympathy for him/her. And now I really want to talk about the primary antagonist in WINTERSPELL, but I feel it’s best if you go into that part of the story unspoiled.


Mindy: Without spoiling, which scene was your favorite to write and why?

Claire: There’s a scene in Part Three of WINTERSPELL that takes place on a palace rooftop in the snow. This was absolutely my favorite scene to write because it’s a turning point for Clara in a couple of different ways—both as it involves her own personal journey and also her relationship with a particular character. I don’t like to go back and read my books once they’re published because inevitably I find tiny things I wish I could fix, but I will probably go back and read this scene from time to time, just because I love it that much. I hope it’s as powerful for readers as it was for me to write.

Mindy: Do you have any other Young Adult titles in the works? If“Yes,” can you tell us about them?
Claire: I always have other books in the works! Right now, however, I’m mostly working on middle grade titles—one of which is already written and I hope I can officially announce it soon! I have lots of ideas for other YA books, too, but none that I’m ready to talk about just yet.

Mindy: Thank you so much for stopping by Magical Urban Fantasy Reads. Hopefully we’ll get to do this again!



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This is a tour hosted giveaway!
NO PURCHASE NECESSARY
10 prize packs/10 winners! The prize packs = finished copy of Winterspell + swag (bookmark, bookplate, character postcards) + map of Cane + Winterspell-themed jewelry.US only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

☆ The Tour ☆

Week One:
9/22/2014- Alice Marvels- Review
9/23/2014- The Midnight Garden- Guest Post
9/24/2014- Magical Urban Fantasy Reads- Interview
9/25/2014- Cuddlebuggery- Guest Post
9/26/2014- Fiktshun- Guest Post

Week Two:
9/29/2014- Novel Sounds- Guest Post
9/30/2014- Parajunkee- Interview Author or Character
10/1/2014- Takes of the Ravenous Reader- Interview Author or Character
10/2/2014- Two Chicks on Books- Guest Post
10/3/2014- Dark Faerie Tales- Review
Dear followers, fans and peeps! Some of the books I review on Magical Urban Fantasy Reads are provided to me for free by either the publisher or author in exchange for my honest review. Please know that I am in NO WAY compensated for my reviews. All opinions are mine and I am not required to give a positive review in exchange for a free book! But some of the purchase links on my blog are monetized through places like Amazon, Book Depository or Barnes & Noble.