Sunday, April 29, 2018

Review: Second Nature

Title: Second Nature
Author: Lauren Kuzimski
Page Count: 408
My Rating: 3 TURTLES: An enjoyable read, but I suggest check out if you like the topic before adding it to your to-read list.
*I received this book in exchange for an honest review

Opposite elements, same side…

Long ago, the Esscas, a rogue group of elementals, had once dared to challenge the Queens, the self-proclaimed masters of the element realms. The resulting war had decimated the world and the very people. In the end though, the Queens had prevailed and banished the Esscas to the After for all eternity. 

Fae had shared no alliance with the Esscas, but had felt the ripples of their punishment nonetheless. For their actions, she would never be free. Born a fire elemental herself, Fae had spent every waking moment of her life training to be a guard for her Queen, with no choices in regards to her own fate. It was that or exile herself. 

Jace, on the other hand, had been born an earth elemental with every choice in the world, yet had been one of those that had taken part in the Esscas. His punishment… eternity in exile, swallowed in regrets…

When the Esscas escape, vengeful and angry, and threatening the world once more, Fae and Jace quickly find their fates intertwined. While Fae fights for the chance to taste her freedom, Jace finds a chance to atone for his past mistakes. 

Only by setting aside their differences, in both elements and loyalties, do they stand any chance to make a change and defeat Jace’s ex-team once more.

If only trust was that easy…

As much as I wanted to really like it, Second Nature wasn’t really my cup of tea. This book was hard for me to get into and stay invested in. I think part of the reason for me was that we are told about the conflict the Esscas have with the Queens, but not really shown the root of why the Esscas hate the Queens, at least not for a while, which makes it hard to feel emotionally invested. I can be told the Queens are tyrannical, but unless I see how their tyranny negatively impacts their subjects or the Esscas, it’s going to be hard for me to root for one team or another or feel emotionally conflicted about rooting for one team or another. 

Another thing that made it hard for me to get into the story was that there were a lot of details about the world building that were missing for me. It seemed to fall into the pitfall that some fantasy novels do where it focuses on the macro, it has an interesting and complex map of different realms divided by elements, but lacks the micro. The characters would stop in villages where everyone lived in “huts” and eat at bars, but the book did not give much more description than that. Where the huts white-washed? Covered with mud? Made out of timber? Did they have thatched rooves? Shingles? Maybe the rooves were made out of sod and covered with grass like the Viking settlement in Canada? The landscape and culture seemed roughly medieval European, but I would have loved more detail in order to picture it more clearly, maybe drawing off more specific cultures in the real world. For example, George R R Martin’s the North of Westeros has a lot of Scandinavian influence and J R R Tolkien’s Shire is clearly based on the English country side.

I did really enjoy learning about the different elementals’ powers. I was particularly interested in Jace’s ability to manipulate life matter and thought it was used really cleverly in the story. There were also some plot twists revealed towards the end of the story that I really liked and made different plot threads come together well. I’m also intrigued with Jace and his relationships with the other main characters. There is a lot of development and aspects about his feelings that are not completely clear yet, and I’m sure that will be something that is taken up in the next book.

While there were some parts of this story that I enjoyed and thought were intriguing, unfortunately I came away feeling really lukewarm about this book. If the description intrigued you, by all means check it out. There are a lot of elements in this story that fantasy fans especially might get a kick out of, but I don’t know that I’m invested enough to continue on with the series.

Disclosure: this post contains links to an affiliate program (Amazon), for which I receive a few cents if you make purchases.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Genre is Helpful, But Don't Let it Constrain Your Reading and Writing

When I was in high school, I was fortunate enough for the late author Brian Doyle to come speak at my creative writing class.

While the most memorable thing he told us had nothing to do with writing (he once got into an argument with the Dalai Lama about whether soccer or basketball was the best sport in the world) he did give a piece of writing advice that I continue to think about today.

He told us never to be constricted by genre in our writing. To tell the story we want to tell, whether or not it fits neatly into one category.

I think part of why that stuck with me for so long was because that was the first time I looked at genre as something constructed. 

Although I had never articulated the thought, I had always assumed bookstores labelled shelves as “Fantasy” or “Science Fiction” because that’s what the books there clearly were and they were trying help fans of those genres find books they enjoyed quickly.

I still think that’s partly true, sellers want readers to find the types of books they like quickly, and publishers want their books to be found by readers quickly, but sometimes labels are more easily fixed than others.

For example, a book about time travel on the moon is clearly going to be labelled science fiction, but what about a story of a secret hacking group who pull off stunts no one in the real world has yet but that experts would say is technically possible? Is that science fiction or tech thriller? 

What if the plot of the time travel on the moon book is solely featured on the love story of two astronauts who for some reason have to travel through time in order to be together? What if the only science-y part of the book is when the author describes the logistics of doing the horizontal tango in lunar gravity? Is that still science fiction or would it shelved as romance?

I got firsthand experience of how hard labelling some books’ genres are through my internship at a small publishing company. 

There was one book that my boss and I went back and forth on for a long time, deciding whether it should be labelled supernatural, thriller or Christian fiction. 

There were elements of the book that could have made it anyone of these, but since the readers of these genres are looking for different things, we wanted to make sure that the label we decided on would put the book in the flight path of the people who would be most interested in reading it and most likely to enjoy it. No small task.

That experience really showed me the limitations of those categories. I wonder how many people did not read it because we decided on Christian fiction, but would have read it and enjoyed it if it had been labelled a supernatural thriller?

I don’t wish genre categories would disappear. I would be overwhelmed in a bookstore if I didn’t have at least some idea of what to expect from any of the books on any of the shelves, and there are some tropes formulas of genre fiction that I really enjoy. Brian Doyle’s advice has challenged me as a writer to not relay on or be limited to conventions of genre to tell my stories and encouraged me as a reader to not dismiss a book outright because the genre is not one I typically read.

I think this has made me a more well-rounded creator and consumer of literature, so I extend this challenge to you too. Don’t limit yourself to writing a story in just one genre for genre’s sake if you think blurring those lines would make your story stronger. And it’s great if you think of yourself as a fan of a certain genre, but don’t let that keep you from reading books in another. You never know what gems you’ll find that you never would have otherwise.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Blog Tour: The Fireproof Girl

The Fireproof Girl
Loretta Lost
(Sophie Shields, #1)
Publication date: September 29th 2016
Genres: Mystery, New Adult, Romance
Abandoned at birth, Sophie Shields grew up in abusive foster homes, escaping into books and computers for solace. When the constant danger became too much to bear, she ran away, thinking she could survive on her hacking skills alone.
That was until she met Cole Hunter. He became the only person she could trust: her family, her friend, her partner-in-crime. Her everything. After struggling through college and starting their lives together, she believed that nothing could ever tear them apart.
Until it did.
And she'll do everything in her power to fix what is broken. If it isn't too late…
When Cole was nine years old, he watched his whole family burn to death in a house fire. Fueled by years of obsession, he started one of the world's leading architectural firms, with a mission to design homes resistant to fire, earthquakes, floods, and every threat known to man.
Sophie was his secret weapon. She was his purpose. Since they were teenagers, he was determined to build a better life for her, so she could finally be safe, and they could be together.
But disaster has always followed Cole around, ripping away everything he loves. This time, if he isn't careful…
His enemies might just take him down.

“Why?” she demands to know, jutting her chin out defiantly. “Why on earth shouldn’t I die? Give me a reason. Give me one good fucking reason.” 
Those eyes of hers. Heaven help me. My hand lifts from her elbow to rest on her cheek, and I hold my palm there for a second before letting my fingers drift down to get tangled up in her hair. I brush my thumb over her ear as I stare down into her angry, but innocent eyes. They pierce directly into me, seeking. They pull me closer. Her lips part slightly and soften, and my pulse quickens. My heart begins to pound so loudly that I can feel it in my ears. Every part of my body feels awake and alive and tingling with sensation. 
She wants me to kiss her. 
She is so close that our breath mingles. I can already taste her. She is challenging me, daring me, and asking me all at the same time. It’s impossible to refuse. 
Our lips barely brush, so barely that it might not even have happened. But I summon a bit of inhuman strength so that I can pull away. 
“Because,” I tell her through my heavy breathing. “Because things are going to get better now.”
“Cole,” she whispers brokenly, gripping a handful of my shirt to pull me closer. 
She arches her body a little to press against mine, and I groan at the sensation of her softness and warmth against me. My head falls a little, until our noses are touching. 
I need to kiss her. I nearly do. 
Her eyelids flutter closed halfway in anticipation, and I grow dizzy with how much I want this. I want to kiss her until she knows how I feel—how much I care. I want to wrap my arms around her body and hold her close, and promise her everything. I want to promise her the world. I want to promise her forever. 
But then I see it all going up in flames. I see the whirlwind romance. I see us making love, and I see how passionately and desperately we would cling to each other. I see me getting lost inside her. I see me growing addicted to her. I see her begging me for more, until I become her escape, and I become her death. 
She did not seem to care much for heroin, but no one is immune to the simultaneous opiate, narcotic, and stimulant that is love. 
I see us bleeding each other dry. I see us both sacrificing our goals for one more moment together. One more mind-numbing and soul-crushing moment of bliss. We will erase each other. We will blend into each other until we forget who we used to be. Who we could have been. 
I see how broken she is, how afraid and insecure, and I see me wanting to do anything to make her whole. I see my own brokenness, and the way I would use her body to try and forget my own pain and loss. I see me expecting her to nurture me enough to replace my mother and father; I see me endlessly asking her for more, and more, and more. I see me leaning on her a little too much every time it becomes difficult to stand on my own two feet and become a man out there in the real world. 
I see us drowning in a love of overwhelming power, and both of us unable to breathe or come up for air. I see us being consumed, and eventually incinerated.
This love is a dangerous one. I can feel it now, as I teeter on the edge of falling in. It is a flame that burns so white-hot it could only destroy everything it touches. It would destroy us. 
We’re not strong enough yet.
We are just two frightened kids who have nothing, and no one. If we had each other, we would tear each other to shreds. We would devour each other, looking for all the things that we’re missing, and all the things that we were supposed to find in ourselves first. 
I see it all so clearly, and it gives me the courage to pull away from her—even though it feels like I am ripping off my own flesh. It gives me the courage to stop before I can kiss her—because once I do, there’s no going back. 
“Scarlett,” I say as tenderly as I can. “No.”

Author Bio:
USA Today bestselling author Loretta Lost writes to experience all the love and excitement that can often be lacking from real life. She finds it therapeutic to explore her issues through the eyes of a different person. She hopes to have a family someday, but until then her characters will do nicely.
Follow @loretta.lost on Instagram for cute photos of her cat reading books. He refuses to cooperate unless they are really good books.
You can also subscribe to Loretta's mailing list for updates:
You will receive a FREE book as a gift for signing up!


Sunday, April 22, 2018

Cover Reveal: Ruthless Magic

Today Megan Crewe and Rockstar Book Tours are revealing the cover and an exclusive content for RUTHLESS MAGIC, her new YA Fantasy which releases May 30, 2018! Check out the awesome cover and enter the giveaway!

On to the reveal! 

Author: Megan Crewe
Pub. Date: May 30, 2018
Publisher: Megan Crewe
Formats: Paperback, eBook
Pages: ?
Find it: Goodreads, Pre-Order  

In the contest to keep their magic, the only options may be die... or kill.

Each year, the North American Confederation of Mages assesses every sixteen-year-old novice. Some will be chosen. The rest must undergo a procedure to destroy their magical ability unless they prove themselves in the mysterious and brutal Mages' Exam.

Disadvantaged by her parents' low standing, Rocío Lopez has dedicated herself to expanding her considerable talent to earn a place in the Confederation. Their rejection leaves her reeling-and determined to fight to keep her magic.

Long ashamed of his mediocre abilities, Finn Lockwood knows the Confederation accepted him only because of his prominent family. Declaring for the Exam instead means a chance to confirm his true worth.

Thrown into the testing with little preparation, Rocío and Finn find themselves becoming unlikely allies-and possibly more. But the Exam holds secrets more horrifying than either could have imagined. What are the examiners really testing them for? And as the trials become increasingly vicious, how much are they willing to sacrifice to win?

The start of a new series by USA Today bestselling author Megan Crewe, Ruthless Magic combines the magic of Harry Potter with the ferocity of The Hunger Games alongside a poignant romance. Fans of Cassandra Clare and Holly Black, look no further for your next urban fantasy fix!

 Grab the prequel MAGIC UNMASKED for FREE!

Exclusive Excerpt!

Hail pelted us, and the wind lashed at us from all sides. I could hardly breathe. The only solid thing was Finn. I curled my fingers into the damp fabric of his shirt and sang into the stiller space between us. "Como veían que resistía."

Magic hummed from the vicious air into me. An image swam up of the grate I'd come across in the courtyard, between the buildings. A grate that led to something below.

I knelt down, pulling Finn with me, and pressed my free hand to the spongy ground. The wind tried to steal my next lyrics from my lips, but the magic raced through me all the same-through me and down, down, into an open space I sensed below us like a gasp of fresh air.

I did gasp then, and forced out a verse. I'd never magically transported another person with me before, but I had to. I had to.

The magic rushed up around us with the thrust of my words. I clung to Finn, singing the energy around him as tightly as I could. Then I propelled us downward with a lurch.

We surged through rough blackness that rasped over my skin and landed with a feet-jarring thump. I exhaled in a rush, dizzy in the sudden quiet. My eardrums ached from the pounding of the storm we'd escaped and the effort of the conjuring.

We crouched in total darkness. The surface beneath me felt like concrete. Cold dank air hovered around us with a faintly salty flavor that reminded me of the ocean.

My fingers were tangled in Finn's shirt. His arm was still around me. In the dark, I was abruptly aware of the rise and fall of his rasping breath, the warmth of his chest, and the answering warmth it sent through me.

He was alive-we were alive-and in that moment, it felt like a miracle.

About Megan: 
Photo credit: Chris Blanchenot
Like many authors, Megan Crewe finds writing about herself much more difficult than making things up. A few definite facts: she lives in Toronto, Canada with her husband and son (and does on occasion say "eh"), she's always planning some new trip around the world, and she's spent the last six years studying kung fu, so you should probably be nice to her. She has been making up stories about magic and spirits and other what ifs since before she knew how to write words on paper. These days the stories are just a lot longer.

Megan's first novel, Give Up the Ghost, was shortlisted for the Sunburst Award for Canadian Literature of the Fantastic. The Way We Fall was nominated for the White Pine Award and made the International Literacy Association Young Adults' Choices List, and Earth & Sky was an OLA Best Bet for 2015. She is also the author of the rest of the Fallen World series (The Lives We Lost, The Worlds We Make, and Those Who Lived), the rest of the Earth & Sky trilogy (The Clouded Sky and A Sky Unbroken), and the standalone contemporary fantasy A Mortal Song.
Giveaway Details:
One lucky winner will receive a $10 Amazon gift card and a pack of Ruthless Magic swag featuring the cover and character art.

Ruthless Magic cover reveal giveaway

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Spotlight: The Book of Songs

About the Book:
Anne has led a privileged life: she is a weaver, a magic user, in a world ruled by the extraordinary.
Yet one day it all changes. She is deemed too powerful by the aristocracy and is sent to a monastery for life. To avoid this fate she embarks on a journey, driven by a prophecy she doesn’t want to fulfill. But will she have any choice in the end?

The Book of Songs is the first stand-alone novel in The Weaver Trilogy. Written by Louice Svedin, it's a story about friendship and sacrifice, and how who we are often is shaped by those we meet.

About the Author:
Louice is a 23 year old psychology student who lives in Sundsvall, Sweden. She started writing The Book of Songs when she was 13 years old and in the year 2014 it was released in Swedish by Mörkersdottir förlag.
In her spare time Louice practices aikido, a Japanese martial arts (or budo as it's also called) in which she has a black belt.

Check out The Book of Songs on Amazon
Visit the Author's Website

Disclosure: this post contains links to an affiliate program (Amazon), for which I receive a few cents if you make purchases.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Book Blitz: Royal Attraction

Royal Attraction
Tiffany Truitt
Published by: Entangled Embrace
Publication date: September 18th 2017
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult, Romance
Alexandra Ryans's life has been anything but normal. Some might even call it a fairy tale. As the daughter of the former U.S. ambassador to England, she grew up within the palace walls, best friends with the three young princes. Adored by the press and the British people. What more could a girl want?
If only the press knew the real story behind her relationships with the Dudley boys. Then, they'd really sell some papers.
Oliver Dudley, youngest son and third in line for the throne, loves everything about his life. The fame. The parties. The women. The utter lack of expectations and responsibilities that come with being last in the line of succession. But while the world thinks he has everything he wants, there's one thing he was never able to call his own-the beautiful and spunky American Aly Ryans. But how can he convince her when she hates everything about his life? And what is he willing to give up to get her?
"I'll only be here a little while longer, Ollie," I manage in between breaths. "Then everything can go back to the way it was. Like I never returned."
The lines in his forehead deepen. "You think that's what I want? To go back? Tell me your life has been better since you left," he challenges, raising an eyebrow.
I place my hand against his chest and attempt to push him out of my way, but he doesn't budge. Not even an inch. Instead, he places a hand against my cheek. I inhale sharply, caught off guard by the sudden gentleness of the action. "You tell me right now that since leaving here your life has been better, that you're happy, and I'll walk out of this greenhouse. I'll pretend that seeing you here doesn't drive me wild. I'll ignore all the things my body wants to do to yours. I'll forget the fact that you leaving without a goodbye wrecked me."
I open my mouth to argue, but he cuts me off. "You wrecked me, Ryans," he reiterates, his voice desperate.
I prepare to tell him that I'm happier. That life has been easier without being caught between him and Aiden. That I enjoy not having to worry the press is lurking around every corner. That I prefer being a normal girl. That the day we shared together was just that-a day. It didn't mean anything. It didn't define me.
But the words refuse to come out of my mouth. Instead, a small gasp breaks free, and I know that if I don't bolt soon, my resolve will shatter. Ollie's hand slowly trails down my cheek and across the length of my neck, stopping on the delicate skin above my collarbone. My breathing picks up.
Tell him to stop, Alexandra.
He tugs at the collar of my jersey, bringing my face dangerously close to his. I bite down hard on my bottom lip. Ollie's eyes travel down to my lips. My body gravitates toward his till it's nearly pressing against the length of him.
When did it become this? This need? Because need is coursing through me like wildfire.
"You said it, Ryans. You won," he reminds me, his voice all throaty and hoarse and incredibly sexy. "You want me to spend the rest of your time here ignoring all that's left unanswered between us? Say it. If you desire to go back to that emptiness, that life that you seem so anxious to return to, I won't stop you. Just say it's what you want. 'Cause I can't stand the indecision anymore, the what-ifs. I've lived three years of that. Wondering what could have happened if things had been different. "

Author Bio:
Tiffany Truitt was born in Peoria, Illinois. A self-proclaimed Navy brat, Tiffany spent most of her childhood living in Virginia, but don't call her a Southerner. She also spent a few years living in Cuba. Since her time on the island of one McDonalds and Banana Rats (don't ask), she has been obsessed with traveling. Tiffany recently added China to her list of travels (hello inspiration for a new book).
Besides traveling, Tiffany has always been an avid reader. The earliest books she remembers reading belong to The Little House on the Prairie Series. First book she read in one day? Little Woman (5th grade). First author she fell in love with? Jane Austen in middle school. Tiffany spent most of her high school and college career as a literary snob. She refused to read anything considered "low brow" or outside the "classics."
Tiffany began teaching middle school in 2006. Her students introduced her to the wide, wonderful world of Young Adult literature. Today, Tiffany embraces popular Young Adult literature and uses it in her classroom.


Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Spotlight: Onions

Book Description:
Onions has just been sent to his 16th foster home, Despondent, he steals the purse of Sandrine, a retired circus performer. Instead of turning him in to the police, Sandrine enlists the boy in her fight against City Hall. In the process, Onions learns the importance of reading, having a worthwhile life-goal, and how to play the trumpet, his ultimate redemption. Sandrine is a strong role-model for pre-teens through 18-year-olds as she helps Charles Wesley Onions find meaning in life. A tragic event leads to the powerful, uplifting, and inspiring ending. Finally, Onions is a modern-day Holden Caulfield .. without the swearing.

About the Author:

Cy Young began his professional career as a dancer at the Empire Room of the Palmer House in Chicago. One night the six member dance troupe (two guys, six ladies) was invited to a party by an habitual customer whose apartment was one huge bedroom. The customer; Hugh Hefner! Cy moved to New York where he performed on Broadway, in Upstairs At The Downstairs revues, recorded for Painted Smiles records, wrote several produced musicals, co-starred at London’s Globe Theater in “Divorce Me Darling,” played opposite Buster Keaton in “Once Upon A Mattress,” had three plays published by French, has a song on the Streisand Third Album (“Draw Me A Circle”), wrote a short story, “The Schitzle Connection,”which won first prize in an Oklahoma City Writers’ competition and was later published by Twit Publishing (Winter/Spring 2011 Edition), and has now written his first ebook, “Onions”. Check out the book’s trailer on Cy’s website, Or click here:

Check it out on Amazon!

Disclosure: this post contains links to an affiliate program (Amazon), for which I receive a few cents if you make purchases.