Friday, April 17, 2015

Friday Flourish: The Forgotten Web

Happy Friday Everyone!

I don't know about all of you, but I'm very ready for the weekend. Also a vacation:) Before I get to enjoy some much-needed time off though, I'm excited to share with all of you another of my recent cover designs!

While I thoroughly enjoyed my ten years as a wedding stationer, the designs after a while became something I could produce by rote simply due to the fact that though the brides' tastes varied, overall the final pieces still needed to look like wedding invitations. What I love so much about cover design work is the utterly unique challenge each and every project presents, and when author Sara C. Snider came to me with a description of The Forgotten Web I may or may not have done an embarrassing happy-designer dance.

There were so many elements to Sara's story we could have chosen to highlight on the cover, but what immediately took form in my head after reading her design memo was a single feather interlaced with spiderwebs, and after only a few changes it became the final cover. While the web makes obvious sense given the title, you'll just have to read to find out the significance of the feather ;-) Hope you like it as much as we do!

THE FORGOTTEN WEB


Robin's simple life is changed forever when a young Weaver named Fauwen accidentally unravels his existence and traps him in her own strange world. Refusing to accept his disastrous fate, Robin convinces Fauwen to use blood magic to weave his life anew.

But that which is unwoven can never be redone, and a life borne of blood carries a terrible price. Robin returns to a darkened world where shifting memories and tenuous realities threaten to tear apart the fabric of his sanity.

Find Sara & The Forgotten Web:


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

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses

A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES
A Court of Thorns and Roses #1
Sarah J. Maas
Young Adult/Fantasy
416 pages
Bloomsbury
Available May 5th
Source: ARC from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she's been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow grows over the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it . . . or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.


MY THOUGHTS

Every once in a while when we emerge from a story that's held our undivided attention for so long, blinking blearily at our reality, we find we can focus on nothing other than the desire to return to the first page and start the experience all over again. A Court of Thorns and Roses is very much that type of tale; one that leaves us physically unable to pick up another book for days following the turn of the last page given that doing so would be acknowledging our time with Feyre and Tamlin is temporarily over.

Ms. Maas has the uncanny ability to write characters who are a study in contrasts; a beautiful mess of conflicting attributes that resonate so thoroughly they become unforgettable in a very short amount of time. Feyre is gorgeously strong physically and mentally, providing for her crippled father and two older sisters as they sit comfortably in the tiny cottage they call home and complain about the speed at which Feyre puts food on their table. While confident in her hunting abilities, she's hugely self-conscious with regard to her intelligence, her inability to read and write something that causes her no shortage of shame. What she sees as a flaw though is but one of the many threads that bind us to her emotionally, able to feel her every joy and pain as if it were our own.

Tamlin, though more of a mystery to us given we spend all our time in Feyre's head, is as stunningly layered as she is, comprised of more shades of gray than we would have imagined possible prior to reading. At his core he could be described as good or even heroic, but like Feyre, when challenged and backed into a corner he's capable of making decisions that have brutal consequences for those around him. His relationship with Feyre is deliciously tense, the two of them tiptoeing around one another for much of the first half, trying to figure out how to make the best of a situation that's difficult for all involved. They spare us the drama we might have anticipated given Feyre's essentially kidnapped and forced to live in a world unfamiliar to her, instead proving they are not above apologizing when they make a misstep and constantly choosing to compromise when they could so easily lash out.

While Feyre and Tamlin are highlights, Ms. Maas supports them an extraordinary cast of secondary characters, each with shadows behind their eyes that whisper beseechingly to us as we slip further and further under the spell of this magnificent world, letting us know they have secrets to tell and scars for us to examine more closely. We're left in a very satisfying place, the events of the final hundred pages clearly going to have epic repercussions on this world and its inhabitants, but those repercussions remain firmly on the horizon as we flip the final page. A Court of Thorns and Roses is Ms. Maas at her very finest, giving us a glimpse at an imagination that impresses us more fully with each book we're gifted.

Rating: 5/5

Find Sarah:
 

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 15, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday: These Vicious Masks

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking The Spine and is a fun way to see what books other bloggers just can't wait to get their hands on!


Tarun Shanker & Kelly Zekas
Paranormal Young Adult
Releases February 2016 from Swoon Reads/Macmillan

From Goodreads:

Evelyn has no interest in marriage and even the dashing Mr. Kent can’t inspire her to give in to society’s expectations. She’d much rather assist her beloved sister Rose in her radical quest to become a doctor. Then she meets Sebastian Braddock. The reclusive gentleman is vexing, annoyingly attractive, and quite possibly mad—and his interest in Rose is galling. So when Rose disappears, Sebastian is immediately suspect.

Yet Sebastian’s strange tales of special powers soon prove to be true, and Evelyn learns that Rose’s kidnappers have much worse in mind for her than simply ruining her reputation. Surrounded by secrets, lies, and unprecedented danger, Evelyn has no choice but to trust Sebastian, yet she can’t help but worry that his secrets are the most dangerous of all…

Well hello there, gorgeous cover! I love absolutely everything about this cover, from the background texture to the type to the bright pop of red in the ribbon, so it of course went on my list as soon as I saw it. And while characters with secrets (I'm looking at you Sebastian) cause me stress, especially in a romantic situation, I still can't help but want to uncover every last one of them like the obsessively curious reader I am. I die a little inside every time I look at the release date, but I'm sure it will be 2016 in no time, right? RIGHT?!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Tracy Reviews: At Wolf Ranch

I'm thrilled today to welcome back my sister-in-law Tracy with a review for a fun and sexy Avon western. Cowboys for the win!

AT WOLF RANCH
Montana Men #1
Jennifer Ryan
Contemporary Romance/Western
384 pages
Avon
Available Now
Source: Finished copy from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads):
After years on the rodeo circuit, Gabe Bowden wants nothing more than land of his own and a woman who will claim his heart for more than one night. When he has the chance to buy the enormous Wolf Ranch spread, he snaps up the incredible deal. Everything is set, until Gabe rescues a woman on the deserted, snowy road leading to the property, and the half-frozen beauty changes everything.

Ella Wolf rushes to her family's abandoned Montana ranch after her twin sister is murdered. She knows she's next . . . unless she can uncover a secret hidden somewhere at Wolf Ranch. The last thing Ella expects is to be rescued by a rugged rancher with his own agenda. A man who almost makes her forget how dangerous love can be.

As an unlikely partnership sparks into something so much more, and a killer closes in, can Ella and Gabe learn to trust one another before it's too late?


TRACY'S THOUGHTS

Hello Again Supernatural Snark Readers!

Thank you, Jenny, for entrusting me with your blog for a second time - I appreciate the chance to flex my writing muscles!

When I first looked at the cover of this book, my head immediately queued the Big & Rich song "Save A Horse, Ride A Cowboy".  :-)  I was not exactly sure what to expect from At Wolf Ranch, and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this easy read!

Ms. Ryan flings us into action immediately, and rather unexpectedly, into an intense scene. Ella Wolf witnesses her twin sister's murder, and goes on the run to uncover whatever secrets her sister investigated at her family's ranch that caused her life to be taken from her too soon. While Ella is running, the sexy cowboy Gabe Bowden comes to her aid. While some parts of the book are slower moving, the overall pace of At Wolf Ranch was good.

The storyline was full of mystery and intrigue - much more than I expected out of a romance novel - which pleasantly surprised me.  That being said, if you are looking for a book with a lot of steamy erotic sex scenes - this might not be the book to pick up. Ella and Gabe only kiss 1/3 of the way through the book, and the sparse sex scenes that follow are more of the loving and comforting variety.

During the second half of the book, much focus is put on the superficial differences of the 'Rich City Girl' and 'Cowboy', and questioning whether their budding relationship could last long term. What strikes a cord with me (because it reminds me of myself and my husband) is that despite their outward dissimilarities, Ella and Gabe both value family, friendship, commitments, and hard work.  These principles bind them to be more alike than people could ever imagine.  

The characters of Ella and Gabe were both extremely likable, and I appreciated the fact that Ms. Ryan wrote Ella's character not to be a 'damsel in distress', but rather a smart, strong young woman who just needed a sturdy shoulder to lean on during a horrific and terrifying point in her life. Gabe was a perfect gentleman, and the cowboy that every girl dreams about. More than just killer biceps (which make me swoon...) and a pretty face, Gabe is written as intelligent, driven, and caring. Gabe is the whole package of goodness - what is not to like about that! :-)

Overall, At Wolf Ranch is an enjoyable read, with lots of action and emotion. I will definitely check out the Montana Men series to come and welcome the opportunity to meet Gabe Bowden's brothers!

Rating: 3.5 to 4 out of 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 Tracy's honest opinion.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Review: The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things

THE QUEEN OF BRIGHT AND SHINY THINGS
Ann Aguirre
Contemporary Young Adult
328 pages
Feiwel & Friends
Available Now
Source: ARC from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Sage Czinski is trying really hard to be perfect. If she manages it, people won’t peer beyond the surface, or ask hard questions about her past. She’s learned to substitute causes for relationships, and it’s working just fine… until Shane Cavendish strolls into her math class. He’s a little antisocial, a lot beautiful, and everything she never knew she always wanted.

Shane Cavendish just wants to be left alone to play guitar and work on his music. He’s got heartbreak and loneliness in his rearview mirror, and this new school represents his last chance. He doesn’t expect to be happy; he only wants to graduate and move on. He never counted on a girl like Sage.

But love doesn’t mend all broken things, and sometimes life has to fall apart before it can be put back together again…


MY THOUGHTS
Where so many stories depict the struggle of life, the moments spent stumbling around in the darkness with only the promise of a light at the end of the tunnel, The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things gives us the beautiful moments following the first few hesitant steps that leave the darkness behind. We get a three-hundred page slice of life with Sage and Shane, the two of them putting one foot in front of the other to create as much distance from their difficult pasts as possible, and there's something extraordinarily satisfying in watching as they do everything they can to embrace the good in their lives while they have it. Their story is sweet and touching, largely free of drama and angst but full of feeling nonetheless, and our time with them is spent smiling and hopeful that their respective tunnels are well behind them.

Sage is an inspirational young woman, writing a few kind words on a brightly colored Post-it note and sticking it on the locker of someone who's having a rough day despite the mockery she gets for doing so. Her dedication to such a seemingly small gesture makes us fall a little more in love with her with every note, and when a moment comes that lets her see just how profound an effect her words have had over the years, we can't help but tear up and look for any opportunity to pay the kindness we've seen from her forward in our reality. She wants so badly to prove she's more than the events of her past, and her sheer determination to rise above and keep the shadows at bay makes us want to pick up a stack of pink Post-it notes and beat them back right beside her.

Sage's romance with Shane is characterized by one cute moment after another,
the two of them choosing to share the secrets of their pasts slowly but surely as they make their way toward happiness instead of falling prey to the typical teenage habit of failing to communicate. Some readers may wish for a few more ups and downs between them, a happy couple perhaps not as riveting as one fighting to be together, but there's a certain desirable comfort that radiates from the two of them, blanketing us in their warmth even as their pasts rear their ugly heads one final time. 

Overall, The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things is a story full of light and hope even dappled with darkness as it is, showing us how impressively far-reaching and life-changing the tiniest of kindnesses can be.

Rating: 4/5
 

Find Ann:

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.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Still The One Blog Tour: Interview + Giveaway


I'm absurdly excited today to welcome author Jill Shalvis (*flails*) to the blog as part of the promotional tour for Still the One, the latest in her Animal Magnetism series. I absolutely adore all Jill's romances, but animal lover that I am, this series has a special place in my heart. I was lucky enough to be able to ask Jill a few questions, so I hope you all enjoy the interview! Don't forget to check the bottom of the post for all the details on a fantastic giveaway.

To help inspire those who have yet to experience the Animal Magnetism series (what are you waiting for?) to pick it up immediately, what are three things about this world and its characters they should definitely know?
1.That there are funny, sassy animals, such as a parrot who swears like a sailor and a 100 pound St. Bernard with a drool and gas problem.  ;-) 
2. Sexy, hot guys … guaranteed.   
3. Funny, sassy animals interacting with aforementioned sexy, hot guys.
If Darcy and AJ were to find out their romance was shared with the world in a piece of fiction, what do you think each of their reactions would be?
Darcy would no doubt be pissy about it. She’s not much for sharing… 
AJ wouldn’t care, he has nothing to hide. :-) 
Darcy is exceedingly good at pairing the right dogs with the right people to create the perfect fit. If she showed up at your door claiming to have a dog that would suit your life to a T, what kind of personality traits would that dog possess? 
Laidback, easy going, calm. And the dog would be able to chase off bears and yet appreciate the fine art of eating cookies. 
Darcy and AJ, due to inclement weather, find themselves having to participate in a series of trust exercises at a company retreat. Had you been there with them, which of the exercises would have been easiest/hardest for you?     
I would have had a hard time directing a blindfolded Alpha Man through that maze.  I have zero sense of direction…
Peanut, a parrot with a delightfully foul mouth, is always a highlight for me. Darcy added a fun new phrase to Peanut’s repertoire in this book, but she can hardly be blamed for all the bird’s choice words. Who would you say is most responsible for Peanut’s impressive vocabulary? 
100% Jade from Animal Attraction.  :-)
Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions Jill!

• • • • • • • • • • • •

STILL THE ONE


Darcy Stone is game for anything—except sexy Navy vet and physical therapist AJ Colten, the guy who’d rejected her when she’d needed him most. Now the shoe is on the other foot and he needs her to play nice and help him secure grants for his patients. Unfortunately Darcy can’t refuse. She needs the money to fund her passion project: rescuing S&R dogs and placing them with emotionally wounded soldiers.

AJ admits it—Darcy is irresistible. But he’s already been battle-scarred by a strong-willed, vivacious, adventurous woman like Darcy, and he’s not making the same mistake twice—until he and Darcy are forced to fake a relationship. Growing closer than they’d ever imagined possible, Darcy and AJ have to ask themselves: how much between them is pretend? What’s the real thing? And where does it go from here?


• • • • • • • • • • •

JILL SHALVIS


ill Shalvis is a New York Times and USA Today bestseller. She has written more than four dozen romance novels and lives in Nevada with her family.


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