Thursday, August 27, 2015

Review + Giveaway: When a Scot Ties the Knot

Castles Ever After #3
Tessa Dare
Historical Romance
384 pages
Available Now
Source: eARC from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
On the cusp of her first London season, Miss Madeline Gracechurch was shyly pretty and talented with a drawing pencil, but hopelessly awkward with gentlemen. She was certain to be a dismal failure on the London marriage mart. So Maddie did what generations of shy, awkward young ladies have done: she invented a sweetheart.

A Scottish sweetheart. One who was handsome and honorable and devoted to her, but conveniently never around. Maddie poured her heart into writing the imaginary Captain MacKenzie letter after letter … and by pretending to be devastated when he was (not really) killed in battle, she managed to avoid the pressures of London society entirely.

Until years later, when this kilted Highland lover of her imaginings shows up in the flesh. The real Captain Logan MacKenzie arrives on her doorstep—handsome as anything, but not entirely honorable. He’s wounded, jaded, in possession of her letters… and ready to make good on every promise Maddie never expected to keep.

When a Scot Ties the Knot charmingly reminds us of all the reasons we love a Tessa Dare historical romance, giving us a sweet, self-aware heroine to show our gruff, slightly damaged hero that there’s more to life than duty and loneliness. A fanciful teenage attempt at self-preservation irrevocably alters the course of both their lives, taking all of us on a journey full of laughter and heat without weighing us down with unnecessary drama and conflict.

Maddie is nothing short of adorable, inventing a fantasy suitor in order to keep her family from pushing her to attend all the social events of her first Season out, something that makes her break out in a cold sweat thanks to a traumatic crowd-related incident in her youth. Years later when he suddenly shows up at her door, she meets him head-on with humor and self-deprecation, repeatedly reprimanding herself for bathing him in a romantic light when he’s clearly not there to sweep her off her feet, and begging him to share any number of faults to aid her in her quest to keep her heart from skipping a beat in his presence. What results is a relationship that’s utterly endearing, the two of them fighting their growing affection in a way that manages to be cute rather than frustrating.

Logan has the perfect amount of alpha in him; big, imposing, and completely loyal to the men under his command, but he also undeniably has what Maddie refers to–much to his chagrin–as “squish”. She’s not put off by his attempts at intimidation, instead choosing to see the positive over the negative at every turn regardless of both their efforts to yank her rose-colored glasses from her eyes. Despite a hasty marriage of convenience and necessity, the romance is definitely of the slow burn variety, the sexual tension between them taut as a bowstring for much of the book until Ms. Dare puts all of us out of our delicious misery.

Overall, When a Scot Ties the Knot is as sweet as can be, supporting fluff with plenty of substance and a strong set of secondary characters (here’s hoping we see some Logan’s men get books of their own!) to keep us engaged on every level.

Rating: 4/5

Find When a Scot Ties the Knot:

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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Mechanica Blog Tour: Interview + Giveaway

Welcome to my stop on the Mechanica Blog Tour! I'm thrilled today to have author Betsy Cornwell popping in to answer a few fun questions about tiny metal animal companions, inventions, royal balls and more, so I hope you guys get excited about this one and add it to your lists. Be sure and check the bottom of the post for all the details on a fantastic giveaway as well as the list of participating blogs so you don't miss out on any Mechanica awesomeness!

If you could pluck one of Nicolette’s inventions from her world and bring it into ours, what of hers would top your list?

Nicolette’s tiny metal horse, Jules, is technically her mother’s invention, so I don’t think I can say him! But she also makes a mechanical glass carriage to get herself to the royal family’s Exhibition of Art and Science. I need a new car, but ‘glass steampunk carriage’ would definitely be my dream vehicle if I had my choice.

What are three books we might find on the shelf in the secret cellar workshop Nicolette discovers?

Ooh, cool question! Nicolette’s a pretty omnivorous reader, so even though she lives in a fantasy world I would open a magic portal to slip her a collection of Christina Rosetti’s poetry (especially “Goblin Market,” which helped inspire the Night Market in Nicolette’s world), Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and Ada Lovelace’s work on the Analytical Engine. All of those brilliant women would be kindred spirits for Nicolette, and I know she’d fall in love with each of them.

I would personally love a tiny metal horse of my very own (come live with me Jules!).  If you could make yourself a tiny metal companion, what type of animal would you choose and what would his/her name be?

Jules pretty much became my favorite character as I wrote the book, and I think a tiny steampunk horse with great fashion sense would be an ideal companion. Especially after seeing this amazing fanart by Laya Rose, I’d have to bring him to life if I had the chance!

However, I love this question, and if I could have a tiny metal companion who wasn’t in the book, I would make a rattlesnake named Vivian who could slither around my house and eat dust and clutter in hard-to-reach corners, and maybe rest on my feet while I write (I’m always cold, and steam-powered metal animals must stay pretty warm).

What’s one modern-day dance you think would liven up a typical royal ball?

I am suddenly picturing royal ball-goers dancing to The Jacksons’ “Blame It on the Boogie,” and now I can’t give any other answer.

Nicolette doesn’t necessarily want the standard fairy-tale happily ever after. If you could choose one book that doesn’t have a happy ending and change things around, what book would you choose?

Okay, spoilers ahead if you haven’t read this children’s classic: I have always loved Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt, but when I first read that ending it broke my heart. Of course, I was eleven, but all I wanted was for Winnie and Jesse to be together. I couldn’t fathom why she made the choice she did. I mean, you could live forever with a guy that cute?

I hate to tell my eleven-year-old self this, but now I think the ending of Tuck Everlasting is perfect. Winnie made exactly the right choice, and I can see Jesse’s flaws much more clearly now (even though I still think he’s a wonderfully drawn character). That’s the book that sprang to mind right away, but I actually love when a story’s ending kind of beats me up, so I can’t think of any that I would really want to change.

. . . Wait, there is one. If Will and Lyra were real, I would let them be together at the end of the His Dark Materials trilogy. Pullman’s ending is transcendently good, but I still ugly-sob when I think about those two sitting alone at their bench every year.

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions Betsy!

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Nicolette’s awful stepsisters call her “Mechanica” to demean her, but the nickname fits: she learned to be an inventor at her mother’s knee. Her mom is gone now, though, and the Steps have turned her into a servant in her own home.

But on her sixteenth birthday, Nicolette discovers a secret workshop in the cellar and begins to dare to imagine a new life for herself. Could the mysterious books and tools hidden there—and the mechanical menagerie, led by a tiny metal horse named Jules—be the key to escaping her dreary existence? With a technological exposition and royal ball on the horizon, the timing might just be perfect for Nicolette to earn her freedom at last.

Gorgeous prose and themes of social justice and family shine in this richly imagined Cinderella retelling about an indomitable inventor who finds her prince . . . but realizes she doesn't want a fairy tale happy ending after all.


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Hi! I'm Betsy Cornwell, an American writer and teacher living in a stove-heated cottage in west Ireland, together with my horse trainer spouse, a small herd of dairy goats, and an increasing number of other animals. I write fiction and nonfiction and blog about Irish folklore, travel, wild food, goats (of course!), homesteading, and growing up.

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  • 1 winner will receive a finished copy of MECHANICA and a beautiful watch necklace from this etsy shop! US Only.
  •  2 winners will receive a finished copy of MECHANICA. US Only.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Court of Fives Blog Tour: Interview with Kate Elliott

Today I have the pleasure of welcoming author Kate Elliott to the blog as part of the promotional tour for her first foray into YA fiction, Court of Fives. Kate was nice enough to answer a few questions for me about Jes, Kal, and all things competitive sports, and I was even able to pry from her a 5 word sneak peek at what's in store for us in the next installment. *pats self on back* I hope you guys enjoy the interview, and be sure to check the bottom of the post for the full list of participating blogs!

If Jes was helping you train to compete in The Fives, what would the first words out of her mouth be on day one when she evaluated your fitness and strategy?

“I have so much respect that you have come to train, Honored Lady, but at your age I have to suggest that you might think twice about setting your sights on the highest levels of competition.”

What was Kal’s first thought when he saw Jes first compete in The Fives?

How does she DO that???

If Jes lived in our modern world, what are the top three Olympic sports she’d be dying to compete in?

Jes would be dying to compete in American Ninja Warrior, of course! As for the Olympics, she would leap at the chance to try out the snowboard halfpipe with its twists and tricks, as well as the one sport the Olympics finally just last year allowed women to compete in: the ski jump. Nothing like the adrenalin rush of flying!

The social and gender divide in this world was enough to make me want to throttle a few select characters for their treatment of another human being. What’s the last book you read that made you spitting mad (the good, “I’m so involved in this story” kind of mad)?

Can I change the medium? I adore the television show Nashville, and probably the last time I got spitting mad with a narrative in the “I am so incredibly involved in this story and in these people’s lives that I have lost all perspective given they aren’t even real” has been with Nashville. Whether it’s Jeff, or Juliet, or Deacon, or even stubborn Rayna (why did you dump Luke???), I love this show exactly because I get exasperated with the characters in the same way I might with people I know in real life. That’s the magic of narrative!

If Jes could ask an Oracle what she’ll have to face in the next book, what are a few of the words she might hear in the Oracle’s answer?






Cheat and murder do not sound good. *bites nails* Thanks so much for answering my questions Kate!

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The greatest danger is that she might win.

In this imaginative escape into an enthralling new world, World Fantasy Award finalist Kate Elliott's first young adult novel weaves an epic story of a girl struggling to do what she loves in a society suffocated by rules of class and privilege.

Jessamy's life is a balance between acting like an upper-class Patron and dreaming of the freedom of the Commoners. But away from her family she can be whoever she wants when she sneaks out to train for The Fives, an intricate, multilevel athletic competition that offers a chance for glory to the kingdom's best contenders. Then Jes meets Kalliarkos, and an unlikely friendship between two Fives competitors--one of mixed race and the other a Patron boy--causes heads to turn. When Kal's powerful, scheming uncle tears Jes's family apart, she'll have to test her new friend's loyalty and risk the vengeance of a royal clan to save her mother and sisters from certain death.

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Kate Elliott has been writing stories since she was nine years old, which has led her to believe that writing, like breathing, keeps her alive. As a child in rural Oregon, she made up stories because she longed to escape to a world of lurid adventure fiction.  She now writes fantasy, steampunk, science fiction, and YA.

It should come as no surprise that she met her future husband in a sword fight. When he gave up police work to study archaeology, they and their three children fell into an entirely new set of adventures amid dusty Mexican ruins and mouthwatering European pastry shops.  Eventually her spouse's work forced them to move to Hawaii, where she took up outrigger canoe paddling. With the three children out of the house, they now spoil the schnauzer.

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Monday, August 24, 2015

Review: Bounce

Boomerang #3
Noelle August
Contemporary New Adult
304 pages
William Morrow
Available August 25th
Source: ARC from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Amazon)
When you have one chance to become a star, you can't let love get in the way . . .

Playing the occasional club gig just isn't cutting it for twenty-two-year-old cellist Skyler Canby, who's trying to support herself and her mother back home in Kentucky. When she accompanies her best friend Beth on an audition for the first feature film launched by Blackwood Entertainment, she figures, Why not? Beth's a shoe-in for the lead, but maybe Skyler's newly dyed pink hair will help her stand out enough to score a small speaking part.

Never in her wildest dreams does Skyler imagine she'll land the lead role or that she'll have her socks knocked off by the kiss her audition partner, Grey Blackwood, plants on her—a kiss that feels very real and not at all like acting.

Reckless musician Grey Blackwood spends his days fetching coffee and doing odd jobs on the set of his CEO brother's newest project, but he lives for nights when he performs with his band. He knows that if he can stay focused, success as a singer is just around the corner. But that's tough with a distracting pink-haired girl occupying his every waking thought. Skyler and Grey have every reason to resist each other. But, like a song neither of them can get out of their minds, they have no choice but to go where the music takes them.

Bounce continues in the same vein as Boomerang and Rebound before it, delivering a sweet, low-drama New Adult romance between to people with whom it's a joy to spend a few hours. Unlike the previous two books however, a faint love triangle comes into play as things between Grey and Skyler progress, and though it's not a major source of angst for any of the parties involved, Skyler spending time with another guy when it's obvious she and Grey are going to get together is still somewhat off-putting for those of us who like the path to love to be a straight line between two points rather than three.

Our relationship with Grey starts out a bit rocky as we're reunited with him when his older brother Adam comes home to find his beautiful home trashed thanks to a party thrown in his absence, but the writing team of Noelle August does a beautiful job of growing him up over the course of the book. Grey proves he's capable of learning from his mistakes with each chapter, putting forth a valiant effort to stand and meet his problems head-on rather than running away and licking his wounds, becoming a young man we want to see achieve whatever goal he sets for himself by the end. Skyler doesn't quite have the same maturity hurdles to overcome as Grey, but she does learn a few things about herself thanks to a business that's brutal on even those with the thickest of skins, taking some of Grey's newfound strength to prop herself up when her legs get knocked from underneath her.

The romance itself is perhaps the slowest burning of all three Boomerang books due in large part to the aforementioned triangle and Grey's younger age (he's nineteen), leading us on a merry dance of hesitation and flirtation until the very end when things finally heat up between them. Overall, Bounce is another hugely enjoyable tale from Noelle August, giving us plenty of depth and complexity in our lead pair (and a standout secondary character in Garrett Allen) to have us feeling as though we've learned a great deal about them by the time we reach the last page, and leaving us with a satisfied smile as we take comfort in the knowledge that good things lie in store for them both.

Rating: 4/5

Find Noelle August:

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, August 21, 2015

Friday Flourish (+ Giveaway!): Secrets in the Grave

Happy Friday Everyone!

I've been crazy busy with work lately which never ceases to amaze me–in the best possible way–as for a while there I was sure designing book covers was only ever going to be a dream job. Luckily enough though, I've had a number of fantastic authors and publishers take a chance on me, and I'm always so excited to share the final products with all of you.

I've had the pleasure of working with Karen Ann Hopkins on all of her indie published books, and I'm so absurdly grateful to her for bringing me such fun and challenging projects. Her Wings of War series and Serenity's Plain Secrets series couldn't be more different in look and feel, so I always enjoy bouncing back and forth between them (Karen writes crazy fast!). The third installment of her Amish murder mystery series is titled Secrets in the Grave, and we kept to the aesthetic established with the previous two books, focusing on an ominous outdoor landscape with lots of color to make sure it stands out online. I hope you guys love this latest installment as much as we do!

Serenity's Plain Secrets #3

Just when Sheriff Serenity Adams thinks life is getting back to normal, the death of a young, pregnant Amish woman rocks the community. Is it circumstance…or murder? It’s up to Serenity and her ex-Amish boyfriend, Daniel Bachman, to discover the truth about the new shaman-type medicine man who’s brought his dark secrets to Blood Rock.

But Serenity has secrets of her own, and if she and Daniel don’t work it out, the reappearance of a woman from his past could threaten to ruin their relationship.

The deeper Serenity delves into the magical world of Amish herbal medicine, the phenomenon of laying of the hands and other cultural healing oddities, the more she wonders if miracles are real. What she witnesses with her own eyes may be too fantastical for her to believe.

In this riveting third installment of Serenity’s Plain Secrets, beliefs are challenged, a way of life is questioned and family skeletons are unearthed, leaving no one untouched.  

Serenity's Plain Secrets #2

Some Amish communities aren't so cozy.
Whispers From The Dead is the powerful and thrilling sequel to Lamb to the Slaughter, in the Amish mystery series, Serenity’s Plain Secrets.

Sheriff Serenity Adams and Daniel Bachman are once again partnered up in a criminal investigation, when they travel to a northern Amish settlement that has been riddled by arsons for the past two decades. Serenity quickly discovers that there is much more going on than just barns being set on fire in the touristy community, and that the new group of Amish has their own secrets to hide. She begins to unravel an extensive criminal underworld that threatens to destroy everything that the simple people of Poplar Springs hold dear and once again puts her own life in jeopardy.

And even though Serenity tries desperately to avoid it, things begin heating up between her and Daniel, making her wonder if true love and happiness are really within her grasp.

Serenity's Plain Secrets #1

Lamb to the Slaughter is a story about the intertwining lives of three unlikely people in an Indiana Amish Community and the devastating results when a rebellious teenage girl is found shot to death in a corn field during the harvest.

Serenity Adams is the newly elected young sheriff in the country town of Blood Rock and besides dealing with the threatening behavior of her predecessor, she now has a dead Amish girl on her plate.  At first glance, the case seems obvious.  The poor girl was probably accidently shot during hunting season, but when the elders of the Amish community and even the girl’s parents react with uncaring subdued behavior, Serenity becomes suspicious.  As she delves deeper into the secretive community that she grew up beside, she discovers a gruesome crime from the past that may very well be related to the Amish girl’s shooting.

Serenity enlists the help of the handsome bad-boy building contractor, Daniel Bachman, who left the Amish when he was nineteen and has his own dark reasons to help the spunky sheriff solve the crime that the family and friends who shunned him are trying desperately to cover up.  Serenity’s persistence leads her to a stunning discovery that not only threatens to destroy her blossoming romance with Daniel, but may even take her life in the end.


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

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Thursday, August 20, 2015

Review: Archangel's Enigma

Guild Hunter #8
Nalini Singh
Paranormal Romance
384 pages
Berkley Sensation
Available September 1st
Source: ARC from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
Naasir is the most feral of the powerful group of vampires and angels known as the Seven, his loyalty pledged to the Archangel Raphael. When rumors surface of a plot to murder the former Archangel of Persia, now lost in the Sleep of the Ancients, Naasir is dispatched to find him. For only he possesses the tracking skills required—those more common to predatory animals than to man.

Enlisted to accompany Naasir, Andromeda, a young angelic scholar with dangerous secrets, is fascinated by his nature—at once playful and brilliant, sensual and brutal. As they race to find the Sleeping archangel before it’s too late, Naasir will force her to question all she knows...and tempt her to walk into the magnificent, feral darkness of his world. But first they must survive an enemy vicious enough to shatter the greatest taboo of the angelic race and plunge the world into a screaming nightmare…

The Guild Hunter series is an unusual one in terms of overall format, focusing on a single couple in the early books before veering off and giving us one-book romances featuring prominent secondary characters. While falling in love with a primary couple in a series and then having to give up our time with them in favor of others (especially since we do loop back around to them in a later book) might sound a touch off-putting, Ms. Singh makes it work effortlessly, ensuring we’re so invested in this world as a whole that we can do nothing but look forward to whomever is in the starring role.

Archangel’s Enigma sees one of Raphael’s Seven step to the forefront once again, Naasir winning our hearts easily (as has the entirety of the Seven) in previous books with his unapologetic nature. Naasir has teased both those around him as well as readers with hints about what he truly is (something uniquely other from the angels and vampires that inhabit this world) from the background of others’ stories, and proves as delightful in this tale as we’d hoped he’d be. He’s endearingly quirky and blunt, boldly announcing his desire to “rut” with Andi from almost the moment he meets her and rarely allowing polite company to dictate his words and behavior.

Once he learns Andi has made a vow of celibacy, one enormously important to her given the things she’s seen growing up with parents who take debauchery to a nightmare-inducing level, he refuses to let her break it even as their feelings for one another develop and deepen. Before setting off on their assignment, Andi gives Naasir what she believes to be an impossible task, stating that she’ll only break her vow should he be able to complete it (it’s important to note however that she doesn’t give him this task to make him jump through hoops or prove himself worthy, instead it’s more for herself – to keep her desire for him in check by making the reality of a relationship something that will never come to pass). The seriousness with which Naasir takes this task is absolutely adorable, his occasional grumbling about her “stupid Grimoire” when things get romantically tense between them keeping a smile on our faces even as the darkness of this world settles heavily in our bones.

The two of them together are a joy, and given Andi’s vow we get to spend a lot of time with them as they get to know one another emotionally before even the tiniest of baby steps toward physical intimacy are made. While this is the only book that will feature Naasir and Andi as the main couple, it’s best to read this series in order, the overall plot arc regarding the start of the Cascade in previous books continuing to develop in this installment. We’re of course left with a happy ending for Andi and Naasir, but the political climate for the archangels is turbulent at best by the time we reach the last page, and big changes are clearly on the way in future books.

Rating: 4.5/5

Find Nalini:

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.