Friday, April 18, 2014

Interview: Cassandra Rose Clarke + The Wizard's Promise

Today I'm thrilled to have author Cassandra Rose Clarke stopping by the blog as part of the promotional tour for her upcoming young adult novel, The Wizard's Promise, which releases May 6th from Strange Chemistry. Cassandra was nice enough to answer a few questions for me, so I hope you all enjoy the interview. Welcome to Supernatural Snark Cassandra!

Hanna wants nothing more than to learn how to be a witch. What’s one particular spell or aspect of witchcraft she’s most excited to get a handle on?

Hanna just wants to be able to do magic, rather than spend her days out on a fishing boat. Although she doesn’t think of it this way, it’s almost like she wants witchcraft to be her job, the way people hope to turn their art or writing into jobs. So probably the aspect of witchcraft she’s most excited to learn is one of the more difficult, complicated spells that would prove to people she’s capable of spending her life as a witch rather than a fisherwoman.

To help those of us who have yet to meet Hanna get to know her a little bit better, how might her apprentice master describe her or her dedication to her craft?

If he was speaking where Hanna couldn’t overhear, he’d say she was hardworking and skilled—not just at magic, but at fishing too, since fishing is what she’s currently apprenticed for. Of course, he’d also complain that she doesn’t take her fishing duties seriously, and that she needs to be more practical.

Now, if Hanna could overhear, he’d probably leave off the parts about her being hardworking and skillful. He doesn’t want to be too generous with the compliments.

If Hanna could live in another fictional world (book, movie or TV show) dominated by witches, which one would top her list?

I think Hanna would appreciate living in the world of Once Upon a Time, in particular the parts set in the Enchanted Forest. There would be adventure galore for her, and she’d have plenty of opportunities to test out her powers.

There’s mention of a beautiful non-human boy in the synopsis, and lover of romance that I am, his presence has me absurdly excited to dive into this story. What are three characteristics you think make a love interest swoon-worthy?

Pretty big doses of mystery and broodiness, both tempered by a generous splash of kindness. I love tortured, angsty love interests, but not when their angstiness goes too far and they become jerks!

Let’s say you wake up tomorrow in an unfamiliar world. Which character from any of your books would you call on for help in facing whatever this world might throw at you?

Definitely Ananna, from The Assassin’s Curse. She’s got the street smarts that I sorely lack, plus she knows how to fight and use a sword. I’m pretty sure the two of us could take on anything.

What’s one question you wish you would be asked in an interview and how would you answer?

Okay, technically I have been asked about this, but not since I moved to a new house! The question is about where you write and what your writing set-up looks like. Since my laptop broke, I’ve been chained to a desktop, so no more writing in a Starbucks or in the park for me. However, I have set up an entire writing room in my new house, and I just love it. I re-acquired my childhood desk and set my computer up on that, and I even put in a daybed—which I used to beg my parents for when I was kid. Finally got one! I’ve installed shelves to keep all my papers and things organized. Oh, and the walls are mint green! I just need to add some artwork and the room will be sweet writing perfection.

If you could promote The Wizard’s Promise using only a single quote from the book to entice readers, which one would you choose to share?

“I don’t make a habit of trusting boys who can swim in ice water,” I said.

Isolfr gave me one perfect, dazzling smiling. “I’m not a normal boy.”

• • • • • • • • • • • 


All Hanna Euli wants is to become a proper witch – but unfortunately, she’s stuck as an apprentice to a grumpy fisherman. When their boat gets caught up in a mysterious storm and blown wildly off course, Hanna finds herself further away from home than she’s ever been before.

As she tries to get back, she learns there may be more to her apprentice master than she realized, especially when a mysterious, beautiful, and very non-human boy begins following her through the ocean, claiming that he needs Hanna’s help.

• • • • • • • • • • • 


 Photo: Brittany at Flashbox Shop

Cassandra Rose Clarke grew up in south Texas and currently lives in a suburb of Houston, where she writes and teaches composition at a local college. She graduated in 2006 from The University of St. Thomas with a B.A. in English, and two years later she completed her master’s degree in creative writing at The University of Texas at Austin. In 2010 she attended the Clarion West Writer’s Workshop in Seattle, where she was a recipient of the Susan C. Petrey Clarion Scholarship Fund.

Cassandra’s first adult novel, The Mad Scientist’s Daughter, was a finalist for the 2013 Philip K. Dick Award, and her YA novel, The Assassin’s Curse, was nominated for YALSA’s 2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults. Her short fiction has appeared in Strange Horizons and Daily Science Fiction.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Review: Don't Look Back

Jennifer L. Armentrout
Young Adult/Mystery
384 pages
Disney Hyperion
Available Now
Source: ARC from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Samantha is a stranger in her own life. Until the night she disappeared with her best friend, Cassie, everyone said Sam had it all-popularity, wealth, and a dream boyfriend.

Sam has resurfaced, but she has no recollection of who she was or what happened to her that night. As she tries to piece together her life from before, she realizes it's one she no longer wants any part of. The old Sam took "mean girl" to a whole new level, and it's clear she and Cassie were more like best enemies. Sam is pretty sure that losing her memories is like winning the lottery. She's getting a second chance at being a better daughter, sister, and friend, and she's falling hard for Carson Ortiz, a boy who has always looked out for her-even if the old Sam treated him like trash.

But Cassie is still missing, and the facts about what happened to her that night isn't just buried deep inside of Sam's memory-someone else knows, someone who wants to make sure Sam stays quiet. All Sam wants is the truth, and if she can unlock her clouded memories of that fateful night, she can finally move on. But what if not remembering is the only thing keeping Sam alive?

Don't Look Back has a premise that's always fascinating no matter how many times we may have run across it previously, the loss of memory automatically connecting us to our heroine given we want her questions answered as much as we want our own. The totality of Sam's amnesia makes her unreliable as a narrator, so each clue she uncovers we can't help but want to analyze from every possible angle, looking for something Sam simply doesn't see or that she misinterprets. As a result, the tension in this story is at an all-time high, theories swirling in our minds and emotions a jumbled mess as we attempt to sort through what we knew of Sam before the night she disappeared and compare her to the girl she appears to be now, the distance between the two an enormous gaping chasm we can't wait bridge.

Sam is easy to like from the beginning, her horror at the type of person she used to be matching our own, uniting us in our shared distaste for someone who treated others so abominably for her own amusement. The post-accident Sam is a young woman we can fully support, someone who, while understandably confused as friends, family and a boyfriend all try to remind her of the girl who disappeared on them days prior, doesn't use that confusion to fall back on bad habits. She doesn't let her friends or her boyfriend convince her to be that stereotypical mean girl once again, instead she stands up to them repeatedly and apologizes for their behavior to those on the receiving end of their mockery. She's also fairly upfront (with one or two exceptions) with both the few people she trusts and the police when she remembers bits and pieces of that night, choosing to step forward with what she knows even when those around try to tell her the things she's seeing in her mind aren't important.

Ms. Armentrout is well-known for her ability to write romances with varying levels of heat, and while there is romance in this story, it's one of her more quiet ones, Sam's amnesia remaining the focus throughout. Her relationship with Carson–one previously strained by by cruel words and near constant put-downs–evolves slowly as Sam attempts to remedy the mistakes of a girl she can't imagine herself being, but as it grows and changes we also have the distinct displeasure of dealing with Sam's actual boyfriend Del. It takes Sam a bit longer than we'd like to finally break things off with him despite the unease she feels the moment she sees him after the accident, and while it's easy to understand her hesitancy to make too many changes when so many things around her have already shifted, we can't help but wish she cut him loose far earlier. There's no true love triangle though as Del is more villainous than anything else, and Carson is one of those beautiful good guys who refuses to move forward with Sam until she's free and clear of Del's entanglement, moving him up the ladder of our attraction with impressive speed.

Overall, Don't Look Back is an entertaining read with a well-executed mystery and a sweet romance, and though it's not necessarily one that dazzles with its uniqueness, it still takes us on a ride we don't want to be over even once we reach the last page.

Rating: 4/5

Find Jennifer:

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

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Interview: Rinda Elliott + Foretold

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

• • • • • • • • • • • 


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

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

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

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

Or even from something else…

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


• • • • • • • • • • 


Photo: Kathryn Moad Photography

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

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Pam Reviews: The Spindlers + Fortunately, The Milk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating 4/5

Find Lauren:

Neil Gaiman
Middle Grade
114 pages
Available Now
Source: Finished copy from publisher for review

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: 4/5

Find Neil:

This book was sent to me by the publisher free of charge for the purpose of a review
I received no other compensation and the above is my (or in this case, Pam's) honest opinion.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Review: House of Ivy & Sorrow

Natalie Whipple
Paranormal Young Adult
352 pages
Available April 15th
Source: eARC from publisher for review

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: 3.5/5

Find Natalie:

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

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Cover Design Reveal: Elusive Memories

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

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

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

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

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

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

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