Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Character Interview with Dante Walker and INT Giveaway of The Collector by Victoria Scott!

The Collector (Dante Walker, #1)Hey everyone! I'm so excited to introduce this next book. I actually won it on another blog's giveaway, and boy, am I glad I did! It totally took me by surprise... in a good way! Plus, Victoria Scott is one of the sweetest authors you'll ever meet. Just the icing on my Dante Walker cake. :-)

Goodreads Book Description: He makes good girls...bad.

Dante Walker is flippin’ awesome, and he knows it. His good looks, killer charm, and stellar confidence have made him one of hell’s best—a soul collector. His job is simple: weed through humanity and label those round rears with a big red good or bad stamp. Old Saint Nick gets the good guys, and he gets the fun ones. Bag-and-tag.

Sealing souls is nothing personal. Dante’s an equal-opportunity collector and doesn't want it any other way. But he’ll have to adjust, because Boss Man has given him a new assignment:

Collect Charlie Cooper’s soul within ten days.

Dante doesn't know why Boss Man wants Charlie, nor does he care. This assignment means only one thing to him, and that’s a permanent ticket out of hell. But after Dante meets the quirky Nerd Alert chick he’s come to collect, he realizes this assignment will test his abilities as a collector…and uncover emotions deeply buried.


My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Author Blurb: Victoria Scott is a teen fiction author represented by Sarah Crowe. She's the author of the DANTE WALKER series (Entangled Teen) and the FIRE & FLOOD series (Scholastic). Victoria lives in Dallas with her husband and adores cotton candy. You can visit her online at www.VictoriaScottYA.com


DANTE WALKER INTERVIEW

*fans face* Whoo! It's HOT up in here. Thanks so much, Dante, for swinging by my humble blog, Ensconced in YA. I know you had to take some time off of your busy job to do so, and we appreciate it. 

1. Can you tell us a little about your occupation? I place seals on people's soul who do naughty things. You don't see me watching, but all that matters is that I see you. 

2. What's your best memory from life? The few times I spent with my father, I guess. I don't know. I don't really like to talk about that kind of stuff. It's whatever. 

3. Alcoholic beverage of choice? Come on, you're dead, you can tell us :-) I'm going with Jack Daniels, because it's straight up hard, like me. 

4. What's your most embarrassing moment-- either from life or death?
I don't get embarrassed, doll. Everything I do is done with intention. 

5. Describe your ideal girl. *fans face again*
Any girl that knows how to rock her shit. I dig a girl that likes her own body, regardless of whether it's a stick figure or a brick house. 

6. Favorite book? 
Pass. None. 

7. Movie?
The Godfather. That dude got mad respect. 

8. Music?
Anything that's heavy, loud, and angry. 

9. Food?
Bacon. Also, more bacon. 

10. Mode of transportation?
Candy-apple red Escalade. Pow! 

11. Cat or dog person?
All day long...dogs. Cats creep me the hell out.  

12. Favorite vacation spot?
Probably my old stomping grounds, Chicago.  

Thanks so much to Dante for visiting us here at Ensconced in YA! Now everyone MUST get their hands on this fantastic book! Here's a chance to win a copy!
  a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, May 27, 2013

Read my short stories for me and INT Giveaway!

Guys, thank you so much for being such wonderful readers. I really need your help now! Because of your support, Playing With Fire made it to the top ten. Sadly, The Perfect Day didn't, but I have a third and final entry, The Exam, which is currently in the top ten and really needs your help! The selecting author judge only reads the top 10 hearted entries. I would love to get a chance just to have the authors read my writing!
1. You first need to register for free on figment.com (which is worth it anyway because they have such GREAT contests and posts!)

2. Go to this link: http://figment.com/books/649711-The-Exam
and click on the heart ONLY if you liked it! A comment will count as an entry. A heart also counts as an entry.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Interview with Katie Williams, author of the YA paranormal, Absent and US/Can giveaway!

Absent Guys, I loved this book, and the author is super cool! Read the interview and enter to win this great book!

Goodreads Book Description: Forever is a long time to be stuck in high school.

Seventeen-year-old Paige is dead, the victim of a freak fall from the roof during Physics class. Now she’s a ghost, permanently bound to the grounds of her high school. It isn’t all bad, she can find out everyone’s secrets, which can be amusing—for a while. But then Paige hears something that isn’t amusing at all: the rumor spread by the most popular girl at school that her death wasn’t an accident—that she supposedly jumped on purpose. Paige is desperate to stop the gossip, but what can a ghost do? Then Paige discovers something amazing. She can possess living people when they think of her, and she can make them do almost anything. Maybe, just maybe, she can get inside the girl who’s responsible for the stories. . . and have a little fun turning the tables while she’s at it.

Katie Williams’ second novel is a suspenseful page-turner full of eerie wit and a touch of the otherworldly


My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars



Author Blurb: Katie Williams is the author of *Absent* (forthcoming May 2013), *The Space Between Trees* (2010), and many short stories for teenagers and adults. She grew up in Michigan, went to school in Texas, and now lives in California, with her husband Ulysses. She likes orange cats and cinnamon ice cream.

Author Interview
1. Can you tell us a little about your journey to becoming a writer and how you came to write YA?
I suppose the beginning of my journey is that I've always loved to read. When you love to read and you go to college, you often end up becoming an English major, which leads to many adults telling you how nice your English degree will look on your law school applications. But I was not law-school bound. Each semester, I signed up for as many creative writing classes as I could. In fact, I almost didn't graduate on time because I hadn't taken enough "proper" English courses. Then, in graduate school, teachers and classmates kept suggesting that I might write YA novels, I think because my protagonists are usually teenagers. Me, I'm ambivalent about the term "YA"; on the one hand, there are things I expect from YA stories--immediacy, a vibrant voice, coming-of-age storylines--but on the other hand, I find that well-written YA fiction isn't much different from well-written adult fiction, so I'm not always sure about the distinction. If there's any one thing I'd say about writing YA, it's that I consider it a privilege to write books for people who are (as I did when I was younger) first owning that title of reader.

2. I love the hook of your story. I don't know if you are a Buffy fan, but the premise reminds me of an episode where people kept getting killed in the high school after playing out a tragic love story between teacher and student, and Buffy has to break the cycle. Of course, this plot is totally different, but I wondered where you got the idea for the story?

Well met, fellow Buffy fan! Joss Whedon is one of my storytelling idols because he doesn't throw magic into his stories just to jazz them up, but rather uses the magical elements to express things about his characters in a way that reality can't quite capture. That's interesting that you were reminded of the episode "I Only Have Eyes for You" (had to look that title up!). I can see that. If there's one episode that crossed my mind while writing *Absent*, it was "Out of Mind, Out of Sight" where a girl at school is so often overlooked that she becomes literally invisible.  

But I digress. The idea for *Absent* actually came from the setting. I wanted to write a novel that took place in a contained space. When I was in high school, my friends and I were allowed to stay late sometimes to work on projects, and we'd come down from the library into a nearly vacant school. It was so strange being in this now-empty place that was usually bustling. So, I started with that: A group of kids in an empty high school. Then, I thought, 'What if the kids are dead?'


3. I absolutely love your characters, especially some of the supporting ones. Did you have a favorite? Did any of them refuse to mold to your will and become someone else?
Thanks! I have a particular fondness for Harriet who essentially wrote herself. My favorite moment in the book is when she wipes away the smudge on the athletes' trophy case. And then I always love my villains, but I think I shouldn't say anything more about that right now.  

4. For our aspiring writers, can you tell us about your relationship with other YA authors? Has this been intimidating, helpful, or useful in any way?
Well I'm perpetually intimidated by other authors' work, but this is just because I'm a spaz. I was lucky enough to present at a conference with Holly Black a couple of years ago, and every time I talked to her I would do something like trip or spill food on myself or snort when I laughed. Holly was entirely nice of course. Everyone has been nice. If there are diva YA authors, I've yet to meet one.

5. What is your favorite YA book of all time, and what was your favorite read in the past year?
*Graceling* by Kristin Cashore used to be my clear favorite, but it now has competition from her latest book, *Bitterblue*. These are linked fantasy novels with overlapping characters, so if you read one, you'll likely read the other. Cashore does the same thing Whedon does; the magic in her novels is essential to who the characters are. And then *Bitterblue* also has a mystery, a romance, secret codes, and the librarian Death, who may be one of my all-time favorite characters. Okay, maybe *Bitterblue* claims the title after all.
 
This book didn't come out last year, but I recently read *The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks* by E. Lockhart, which is a really smart story about a girl who takes on the power structures at her boarding school. It reminds me a bit of one of my other favorite boarding school novels, *Prep* by Curtis Sittenfeld. For a book published in the past year...hmmm...*Seraphina* by Rachel Hartman or *Code Name: Verity* by Elizabeth Wein.
 
6. If Paige could meet any character from a book, movie, or TV show, who do you think she would be best friends with? Worst enemies with?
What fun! Paige would hang with pretty much anyone in Veronica Mars's circle. The Hogwarts sorting hat would put her Ravenclaw, from where she'd maintain an unfair disdain for all Hufflepuffs. She'd choose Gale over Peeta, but partly because she'd be afraid that Katniss would kick her butt. Not that she'd ever admit that. 

7. Can you tell us a little about some of your other books?
I have one other novel, *The Space Between Trees*, which is about a girl who, through a series of lies, inserts herself into the aftermath of a classmate's murder. She and a friend start playing at being detectives, and, well, things don't go as they expect. It's sort of an inside-out mystery like *Absent* is an inside-out ghost story.  


8. What do you have on the horizon? Any new YA books that we can be excited about?
I'm working on two new projects now. The first is a novel set in 1885 San Francisco about a young woman who writes correspondence for mail-order brides, but then something goes wrong with one of the brides and she is sent out to set things right. My guess is that this one will end up as an adult novel. The new YA novel I have brewing is near-future science fiction that focuses on the cast of a reality television show.  

This interview was absolutely terrific! Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts with us, Katie, and now, everyone, please sign up to win this fantastic book!
 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Review of the Collector by Victoria Scott

The Collector (Dante Walker, #1) Goodreads Book Description: He makes good girls...bad.

Dante Walker is flippin’ awesome, and he knows it. His good looks, killer charm, and stellar confidence have made him one of hell’s best—a soul collector. His job is simple: weed through humanity and label those round rears with a big red good or bad stamp. Old Saint Nick gets the good guys, and he gets the fun ones. Bag-and-tag.

Sealing souls is nothing personal. Dante’s an equal-opportunity collector and doesn't want it any other way. But he’ll have to adjust, because Boss Man has given him a new assignment:

Collect Charlie Cooper’s soul within ten days.

Dante doesn't know why Boss Man wants Charlie, nor does he care. This assignment means only one thing to him, and that’s a permanent ticket out of hell. But after Dante meets the quirky Nerd Alert chick he’s come to collect, he realizes this assignment will test his abilities as a collector…and uncover emotions deeply buried.


Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Review: 
I won this book from Keely of the wonderful blog Realms of an Open Mind. Honest disclosure: I've heard great things about this book on the internet, but the cover is not my favorite-- so I really wasn't sure I'd like it. Once I cracked open the cover and started the first few pages though, I was hooked.

The Collector by Victoria Scott stars Dante Walker who is the bad of the bad. He collects souls for the Big Boss (I think we all know who that is alluding to). To get the promotion he's been waiting for, he has to lure a girl, Charlie, to the dark side. Charlie is a teenaged girl-- but unlike a lot of our typical heroines these days, she's nerdy, unattractive, and gangly. Dante doesn't know why she is so special, and he has 10 days to get her soul. But a few days with Charlie shows him what he's been missing his whole life-- what will he risk for this girl he just met but strangely, starts to care about so deeply?

The Collector doesn't have a whole lot of unique ideas-- we get the good girl seeing the "good" in the bad guy and changing him slowly to the good. We have devils and angels. And yet... Dante is a very unique perspective. I've never heard anything like his voice, and he is truly what makes this book work and succeed. Dante is a hugely flawed character, but you can't help but like him (even when he is crazy full of himself and flaunting his assets). Usually, I don't like expletives in YA, but for Dante, it just fits his voice, and honestly, I didn't even notice it, I was so drawn to his character. OK, and yeah, he's a bit hot. I thought I was over the whole bad guy craze, but apparently, not so much. :-)

And don't even get me started on Charlie. She's the other unexpected surprise in this book. She is so atypical for a heroine but so honestly good that you can't help but love her. She reminds me a lot of myself when I was her age-- just very awkward and definitely not popular and sheltered, but at the same time, very firm in her beliefs.

Overall, The Collector is the first terrific entry in the Dante Walker series. The characters are truly what makes this book sing-- they are unique, fascinating, and above all, likeable. Victoria Scott is an author to watch.


What did you think about this book? Or if you haven't read it, who is your favorite YA bad boy? 

Enter this great giveaway to win a copy!
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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Character Interview with Elijah from Black City by Elizabeth Richards and INT giveaway!

Black City (Black City, #1)
To commemorate the release of Phoenix in June, Elizabeth Richards kindly agreed to allow one of her characters, Elijah to stop by Ensconced in YA!

Goodreads Book Description: A dark and tender post-apocalyptic love story set in the aftermath of a bloody war.

In a city where humans and Darklings are now separated by a high wall and tensions between the two races still simmer after a terrible war, sixteen-year-olds Ash Fisher, a half-blood Darkling, and Natalie Buchanan, a human and the daughter of the Emissary, meet and do the unthinkable—they fall in love. Bonded by a mysterious connection that causes Ash’s long-dormant heart to beat, Ash and Natalie first deny and then struggle to fight their forbidden feelings for each other, knowing if they’re caught, they’ll be executed—but their feelings are too strong.

When Ash and Natalie then find themselves at the center of a deadly conspiracy that threatens to pull the humans and Darklings back into war, they must make hard choices that could result
in both their deaths.

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

My Amazon Review: Black City Review


Phoenix (Black City, #2)
Goodreads Book Description: Weeks after his crucifixion and rebirth as Phoenix, Ash Fisher believes his troubles are far behind him. He and Natalie are engaged and life seems good. But his happiness is short-lived when he receives a threatening visit from Purian Rose, who gives Ash an ultimatum: vote in favor of Rose’s Law permanently relegating Darklings to the wrong side of the wall or Natalie will be killed.

The decision seems obvious to Ash; he must save Natalie. But when Ash learns about The Tenth, a new and deadly concentration camp where the Darklings would be sent, the choice doesn’t seem so simple. Unable to ignore his conscience, Ash votes against Rose’s Law, signing Natalie’s death warrant and putting a troubled nation back into the throes of bloody battle.


My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars




Author blurb:
Elizabeth Richards is an award-winning journalist who spent her early career reviewing video games for a living before making the bold (or crazy) move to become a travel writer and editor, specializing in cruise holidays, despite suffering from terrible sea sickness.

In her spare time Elizabeth ran a successful lifestyle website aimed at teenage girls, where she got to interview many of her favorite bands, go to gigs and basically bag loads of free swag all in the name of "research".

More recently she worked as a website editor before deciding to pursue her dream of becoming an author. She now dedicates her time to writing fantasy books aimed at young adults. BLACK CITY is her debut novel.

Interview with Elijah 
Elijah, thanks so much for joining us on Ensconced in YA. *ducks* to avoid his tail. Wow, watch where you swing that thing! 
*chuckles* Sorry about that, pretty girl. Thank you for having me. 

1. So tell us a little about family, where you lived, and what your childhood was like.

Like most of my people, I live in Viridis in the Emerald State. It’s this beautiful, ancient city built up the side of an enormous cliff-face, with a waterfall cascading down its center. It’s quite amazing. I love it there, although it’s pretty isolated, especially since Purian Rose came into power—we don’t get a chance to travel much anymore. My childhood was okay, I guess. I mean, it was sort of lonely. My parents aren’t together anymore, so it’s just me and my mom, but she works a lot, so I was on my own most of the time. I do have three half-brothers though: Acelot, Donatien and Marcel. Acelot’s great, we’re really tight, but the other two are just...urgh. Donatien is a real mommy’s boy, and Marcel’s a total jerk.      

2. Do you have a favorite past-time?
I love fishing! Ace taught me how to fish when I was a kid, and takes me out on his boat whenever he can. We also keep a few horses at the embassy, so I go riding at night sometimes, when everyone else is asleep. I read poetry too.   

3. Who would you say is your best friend and why?
I don’t really have a best friend—guys don’t like me for some reason, and my female friends are more interested in kissing than talking, not that I’m complaining!—but I’m close to Acelot. He took me under his wing a few years ago, and basically raises me.  He’s very funny and doesn’t care what anyone thinks of him. I really look up to him.   

4. Tell us something you've never told anyone.
I hate birds. They freak me out; especially the tiny ones. I can’t stand their beady little eyes and clawed feet, and the way they flap at you when you go near them. Urgh, it makes my skin crawl just thinking about it.  

5. What is your favorite food?
My mom’s legendary fish stew, with fresh tomatoes and lime. She always cooks it for me on the weekends, because she knows how much I like it.

6. Where is your favorite spot to just be yourself and relax?
There’s nothing like being out on Ace’s boat, miles away from anyone, with just the sound of the ocean to keep me company. It’s very peaceful. It’s just me, the sky and the waves.

7. Describe your dream girl.
Well, obviously you’re my dream girl, but you’re already taken *pouts*. My dream girl is brave and caring, with an adventurous spirit and good sense of humor. I don’t mind what she looks like; I’m attracted to all sorts of girls, she doesn’t have to be a Bastet. In fact, I’d prefer it if she wasn’t. Bastet girls are incredibly vain, and coming from me, that’s saying something.  

8. What would you say your "motto" is and why?
“Trust no one.” Experience has taught me it’s best not to put your faith in people.

Thanks so much for joining us today! 
It was my pleasure, beautiful.
 

*blushes* So, um, thanks again, and erm, *fans face* I'm really (whew, it's hot in here!) looking forward to having you back on my blog!

Now enter to win some great prizes! 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, May 20, 2013

Review of Absent by Katie Williams and US/Can Giveaway of Signed Copies!

AbsentGoodreads Book Description: Forever is a long time to be stuck in high school.

Seventeen-year-old Paige is dead, the victim of a freak fall from the roof during Physics class. Now she’s a ghost, permanently bound to the grounds of her high school. It isn’t all bad, she can find out everyone’s secrets, which can be amusing—for a while. But then Paige hears something that isn’t amusing at all: the rumor spread by the most popular girl at school that her death wasn’t an accident—that she supposedly jumped on purpose. Paige is desperate to stop the gossip, but what can a ghost do? Then Paige discovers something amazing. She can possess living people when they think of her, and she can make them do almost anything. Maybe, just maybe, she can get inside the girl who’s responsible for the stories. . . and have a little fun turning the tables while she’s at it.

Katie Williams’ second novel is a suspenseful page-turner full of eerie wit and a touch of the otherworldly


My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

My Review:  I received this book from Librarything Early Reviewers giveaways. I have been so lucky lately-- I have been reading some terrific books, this being one of them.

Absent by Katie Williams is about Paige, a girl who has died in a freak accident during Physics class. She lives as a ghost in the school after her death with two other kids who have died at school. Once Paige realizes a horrible rumor has been started about her that she has committed suicide, she finds an unexpected way to possibly change the course of this rumor trail.

This is just a very superficial plot description as this book delves into much deeper issues (ethical and psychological) and has some terrific plot twists. Paige is a very sympathetic character who grows and learns as a ghost as to what is truly important. We have some wonderful supporting characters, including Evan, another ghost who lives at the school, Paige's best friend, and Wes, a cute "burner." I'm not even going to explain that terminology-- read the book and figure it out! The prose is beautifully written, and it ends the only way it can.

I loved this book, and Katie Williams has now made it on my "Authors To Watch" list.


Now enter to win this terrific book!
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Saturday, May 18, 2013

No Strings Attached Giveaway Blog Hop (US only)


no strings May

I've had the privilege of partaking and winning several books from this hop, so it's my turn to give back! Thanks again to the wonderful Kathy, who runs I Am A Reader, Not A Writer!

The best thing about this giveaway hop is all you have to do is press enter under my rafflecopter without having to do anything else. Have fun!

The prize for this giveaway is 1 book (and some swag) off of my shelf to TWO lucky US winners. As you might imagine, most of my books are YA. The winner can request category:

YA contemporary (Signed ARC of Thou Shalt Not Road Trip by Antony John, signed to me-- I need to stop doing that! ;-))
YA science fiction (MILA 2.0 ARC)
YA dystopian (The Bridge by Jane Higgins- Hardcover copy)
YA time travel adventure (Keeper of the Black Stones by PT McHugh, ARC)
YA fantasy (Signed paperback of Transcender: First Timer by Vicky Savage- signed to me, but she gave me two copies :-))
YA Goth (Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea ARC by April Tucholke)
YA paranormal (Anew by Chelsea Fine SIGNED)
YA graphical novel (Uglies: Cutters by Scott Westerfield)
Adult mystery
Adult horror
Adult paranormal

WOW, you guys did this so quickly! We now will have two winners!!!

Here's  another incentive. For every 50 entries, I'll reveal the name of one of the books you have a chance to win! There are some big names!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Saturday Updates

Dear Awesome Readers of Ensconced in YA:

I have several important updates to tell you all.

1. It grieves me to tell you this, but because I need to start studying for the Pediatric Boards, I've realized I'd better cut down on my reading/blogging to focus more on that. We all know what I'd rather be doing! I'll be back to full time starting November 1st. These are the changes until then that you'll notice:
- The sections that will be on hiatus until then include Rants, Writing, and Tips, as these are the most time consuming to put together.
- I will post 2-3 times a week instead of 6 times a week.
- I will continue to post reviews and interview/giveaways, just less frequently.
- I am not accepting review requests from authors I have not worked with until after November 1st. For those authors I have worked with in the past, I will accept their new novels or sequels (however, all books MUST be YA or NA).

2. I will be opening a new blog, Ensconced in Literature after November 1st. It will focus on my adult reads. Thanks for voting and supporting this new adventure! This blog will only be a part time blog, but will be able to showcase some great adult indie writers that I've had the pleasure of reading and reviewing their books. There will also be giveaways :-) I will probably only be posting once a week on this blog, and there will be a link from Ensconced in YA to Ensconced in Literature.
-After November 1st, I'll agree to review SOME adult literature-- I will be very selective.

3. Please join me via Bloglovin' as GFC is going down the drain July 1. I'm so sad about this! But I want you all to continue following!

4. One of my favorite indie reads of the year thus far was Torched by Andrea Colt. If you weren't one of the lucky winners in her giveaway last week, you can pick up your own copy for only 99 cents through Monday!
Link to Amazon for Torched by Andrea Colt

5. Also, check out this awesome giveaway by A Reading Nurse: She's giving away the entire Hex Hall series by Rachel Hawkins SIGNED!
Hex Hall Giveaway

6. And this one: the entire Matched trilogy set by Cafebiblioart! You know you want to get your hands on this!
Matched trilogy giveaway

7. Another one at Cafebiblioart: Kindle Fire HD!
Kindle Fire Giveaway

Thank you all for being so supportive. This has been an amazing year! :-)
Christina

Friday, May 17, 2013

Shudder by Samantha Durante Cover Reveal and INT giveaway!

Shudder by Samantha DuranteShudder Synopsis
It’s only been three days, and already everything is different.

Paragon is behind her, but somehow Alessa’s life may actually have gotten worse. In a wrenching twist of fate, she traded the safety and companionship of her sister for that of her true love, losing a vital partner she’d counted on for the ordeal ahead. Her comfortable university life is but a distant memory, as she faces the prospect of surviving a bleak winter on the meager remains of a ravaged world. And if she’d thought she’d tasted fear upon seeing a ghost, she was wrong; now she’s discovering new depths of terror while being hunted by a deadly virus and a terrifying pack of superhuman creatures thirsting for blood.

And then there are the visions.
The memory-altering “stitch” unlocked something in Alessa’s mind, and now she can’t shake the constant flood of alien feelings ransacking her emotions. Haunting memories of an old flame are driving a deep and painful rift into her once-secure relationship. And a series of staggering revelations about the treacherous Engineers – and the bone-chilling deceit shrouding her world’s sorry history – will soon leave Alessa reeling…

The second installment in the electrifying Stitch Trilogy, Shudder follows Samantha Durante’s shocking and innovative debut with a heart-pounding, paranormal-dusted dystopian adventure sure to keep the pages turning.

My review of Stitch, the first book
Stitch Review

About the author:
Samantha Durante, Author of the Stitch TrilogySamantha Durante lives in Westchester County, New York with her husband, Sudeep, and her cat, Gio. Formerly an engineer at Microsoft, Samantha left the world of software in 2010 to pursue her entrepreneurial dreams and a lifelong love of writing. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s Jerome Fisher Program in Management & Technology, Samantha is currently working full time for her company Medley Media Associates as a freelance business writer and communications consultant. The Stitch Trilogy is her debut series. Learn more about Samantha at www.samanthadurante.com.

Enter a great giveaway to win her book!
Enter the Giveaway HERE!!!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Curmudgeon's Corner (CB): Infodumps

Let’s talk about infodumps. Sometimes you’re reading a book and the author just decides to tell you about… well, whatever she decides she’s interested in that day. It doesn’t really advance the plot. Or else it does advance the plot, but it could have been said in a lot fewer words, and it’s clear the author just wanted to share.

Bitterblue (Graceling Realm, #3)
Bitterblue (Cashore) is an example of this. The action completely stops in the middle of the book, while we’re treated to a lecture on cryptography. Cryptography! I happen to really like cryptography (I used to study something related), so I had a blast with this, but I can totally see another person being a little taken aback by it. For another perspective, a similar cipher is used in Curse of Chalion (Bujold), and the cipher is described in less than a paragraph. (To be fair, in Curse, the cipher is a little less important to the plot.)

I just read a book called Admission (Korelitz) (which isn’t a YA book, can I still talk about it?) which has multiple infodumps about college admissions, as far as I can tell simply because the author wants us to know about it. It’s not really relevant to the plot. It’s sort of vaguely relevant to the characterization of the main character (who is a college admissions officer), but everything that’s relevant could have been communicated in far fewer words. Again, I had a great time reading the infodump digressions.

And of course there’s the King of Infodump Digressions: Victor Hugo. Les Miserables is famous for whole chapters and sections where Hugo tells you all his FEELINGS on convents, or (famously) Napoleon, or poop. (No kidding. There is a whole chapter on poop. I had no idea you could say that much about it!)

Do you enjoy infodump digressions, or do they just take you out of the story?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Love in Bloom Giveaway Hop: Time Between Us by Tamara Ireland Stone, INT giveaway

love in bloom 2013 final
Love in Bloom 
Giveaway Hop
Featuring Lighthearted/Contemporary Young Adult Romance
& Sweet, Clean Adult Romance
Hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer & Portrait of a Book
May 16th to 22nd


Thanks to I Am A Reader, Not a Writer and Portrait of Book hosting this great giveaway! I have the privilege of introducing you all to one of my most favorite new YA authors, Tamara Ireland Stone, who not only is an amazing writer and accomplished business woman, but she is also the sweetest person ever who gives great hugs!

Time Between Us (Time Between Us, #1) Goodreads Book description: Anna and Bennett were never supposed to meet: she lives in 1995 Chicago and he lives in 2012 San Francisco. But Bennett has the unique ability to travel through time and space, which brings him into Anna’s life, and with him a new world of adventure and possibility.

As their relationship deepens, the two face the reality that time may knock Bennett back to where he belongs, even as a devastating crisis throws everything they believe into question. Against a ticking clock, Anna and Bennett are forced to ask themselves how far they can push the bounds of fate, what consequences they can bear in order to stay together, and whether their love can stand the test of time.

Fresh, exciting, and deeply romantic, Time Between Us is a stunning, spellbinding debut from an extraordinary new voice in YA fiction.

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Author Blurb: Tamara lives with her husband and two children just outside San Francisco, California.

TIME BETWEEN US & TIME AFTER TIME are her companion novels. TIME BETWEEN US, told from Anna's point of view, is available now. TIME AFTER TIME continues the story from Bennett's perspective, and will be on shelves on October 8, 2013.

TIME BETWEEN US has been published in English, Spanish, French, and Italian, and will be available in twelve more languages throughout 2013. It has been optioned for film by CBS Films.

TIME AFTER TIME will be published in multiple languages throughout 2014.

For more information, visit tamarairelandstone.com or timebetweenus.com.


Tamara Ireland Stone
Author Interview 
1. I absolutely love your story of how you transitioned from being a high powered and successful business woman to now being a wonderful YA writer. Can you tell us a little about how you got to where you are now, and how your previous job played a part in the writer you have now become? 
Throughout my career, I’ve considered myself a storyteller. In my marketing communications business, I help my clients tell a story about how their software empowers people to be more effective. In crafting their story, I rely on customers—the actual users of the technology—to make it compelling. Those customers are real people, but like characters in a book, they’re the heart and soul of the story. If you connect with them, you’ll want to hear more.

Now, I’m also a storyteller in the more traditional sense, but I’m still creating a story around people who have a challenge and are trying to figure out how to solve it. Again, the characters are the heart and soul of the story. If you connect with them and their challenge, you’ll want to keep turning the pages to see how they figure everything out.

In both cases, I write stories that I hope will inspire you to act. In my marketing world, I want you to buy something. In my author world, I want you to do what many people have written to tell me they did after reading Time Between Us, like taking up running or looking into a student exchange program in another part of the world or trying rock climbing or setting their sights on an important goal and going for it.

I don’t have to tell you which one I find more personally rewarding, do I? 

2. Your characters are terrific. What aspects of their personality were derived from people you know? Which character was the most surprising? 
Thank you. I’m glad you like them! A lot of people I know and love are sprinkled throughout those pages.

Anna was inspired by two teens I greatly admire, but there’s probably a little of me in both Anna and Bennett as well. Anna is more like my 22-year-old self, when I first moved to San Francisco, discovered running, and sped up hills with Nirvana playing loud in my ears. But I didn’t have Anna’s restlessness. We moved a lot when I was young, so like Bennett, I was always looking for more stability.

I was probably most surprised by Bennett’s grandma, Maggie. She started off a bit like my mother-in-law and my grandmother combined, but as I was writing this story, she became a completely unique person. I thought she’d be a minor side character, but she stole my heart.

Justin is a lot like my husband, Mike, who is sweet and kind and a bit on the shy side. We met through a mutual friend and totally hit it off, but it took him ten days to call and ask me out (I know. I was counting). When we first started dating, Mike would make me mix tapes and decorate the covers with watercolors, just like Justin does for Anna (can I get a group “awww...”). Bennett’s got the confidence, but for me... I’ve always been attracted to the sweet, shy guy who doesn’t quite know how amazing he is. 

3. What was the most difficult aspect about writing about time travel? The most fun? 
Everyone says that you need to establish your rules and stick to them like glue, but let me tell you, that’s a heck of a lot harder than it sounds. Sometimes you have this great idea and think it’ll be twisty and cool and totally fun for the reader, but one you start working out the logistics—which I do all the time, using timelines and stick figures and arrows—you realize it just doesn’t work. Or, more often, it breaks some other element you’ve already established. I’ve wasted a lot of time trying to figure out how to make a fun idea work that was inherently impossible given the rules I’d defined.

I had the most fun once I came up with the rule that Bennett could only travel within his lifetime.  I wanted him to be 17 in present-day, and when I realized that meant he was born in 1995, this whole story opened up for me. I lived in Evanston, Illinois in 1995, so I set the story there, picked the music I loved back then, and got to time travel myself—going back to a point in my life where I was experiencing a lot of things for the first time. It was a blast. 

4. Tell us a little about your editing process. How many drafts did you go through to get to the final draft? 
Far too many! I started it in December 2008 and exactly a year later, I had the full story on paper from beginning to end. After that, I worked with a writing coach on the second draft, and that took about six months. Once I found my agent, I spent another three months revising it and rewrote big chunks of the story with her guidance. When it sold to Disney-Hyperion, my editor and I spent another eight months working on it together and we went through multiple drafts. That sounds like five or six drafts, but there was so much changing in between the formal revisions as well. I think it was closer to fifteen, at least. 

5. You are a busy woman! Tell us how you found the time to write a novel when you have so many other responsibilities! 
If I’d listened to that little voice in my head that said, “What are you doing? You don’t have time to write a novel!” I never would have done it. Because trust me, that voice was loud and constant!

No one has time to write a novel. You write a novel because you love to write, and if you’re lucky enough to get a story in your head and you feel you have to tell it, you’ll find the time.

I wrote the first draft in small chunks of time, wherever and whenever I could—in bed in the middle on the night, in the evening instead of watching TV, and on my iPhone while I was waiting in lobbies for meetings to start or sitting in the carpool line. I wrote all the time, as fast as I could.

And I tried not to think, “I’m writing a novel.” Instead, I thought of each part as a scene in a movie and I’d say to myself, “You can do this. You’re just writing a scene”. After I had a bunch of scenes, I started building them like Lego blocks, figuring out how they worked together, what was missing, and what didn’t need to be in the story at all. Surprisingly, it started to look a lot like a novel. Thank goodness for the amazing coaches who helped me make it into one. 

6. On your blog, you talk about stories you tell your children. What is their favorite one? 
Their favorites are what we call “popcorn stories”. They’re always silly and different every time.

I ask them to give me two things they each want in their story and they shout out things like “giant ants” or “fairies” or “horses”, at which point, my son usually bounces up and adds “horses that poop gold” and my daughter rolls her eyes and agrees with the gold pooping horses.

Then I bring them all together to create a story about a world where a powerful fairy army rides giant ants, and all’s well until an evil anteater discovers their secret land. One of the fairies goes on a quest to find help and discovers a neighboring village with these beautiful horses who posses a powerful talent. They follow her back to her land, build an enormous wall out of gold poop to protect them, and they all live happily ever after.  

7. What has been your favorite YA read of the past year? 
I’m a big fan of a good cry. So while I’ve read many amazing YA novels in the last year, I’m going to have to go with The Fault in Our Stars. I’ve loved John Green ever since I first read Paper Towns, so I couldn’t wait to read Fault. It was one of those stories I couldn’t put down. I devoured it in a single day, it stuck with me for months afterward, and I can still sit here and sob just thinking about it. I love Amsterdam, and my goodness, who wouldn’t love that adorable Augustus. *sigh* Now I want to go read it again. 

8. Can you tell us a little bit about the companion novel to this book? Was it difficult to get in Bennett's head? 
Time After Time, the companion to Time Between Us, comes out this October. We’ve always known that the second book would be a sequel and I really wanted to continue Anna and Bennett’s love story from Bennett’s point of view. But I was really nervous about it. After all, I’ve been a 16-year-old girl, but I’ve never been a 17-year-old boy. Nor, have I been someone who could time travel. But I like a good challenge, and frankly, Bennett was the only person who could tell the story I wanted to tell. I’ve loved being in his head for the last year and a half. I hope readers enjoy it too. 

9. What do you have in mind after that book is finished? I'm curious if you'll use your techie background to do a science fiction novel! :-)
My next story probably won’t be a sci-fi, but that’s not to say I won’t ever write one—I love technology and adore all the fun twists sci-fi affords.

I have this other story that’s been rattling around in my head for a good three years now and it’s itching to get out. After that, who knows? I’m up for anything. Maybe even gold pooping horses. 

Thanks so much, Tamara, for such a wonderful interview! All of us are dying to get our hands on the sequel to Time Between Us. Enter now! 
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Monday, May 13, 2013

Science Fiction Night with Lauren Oliver, Tamara Ireland Stone, Lenore Appelhans, and Antony John in St. Louis

Welcome back, everyone! I have to gush like a crazy fan girl when I tell you what a terrific event I went to a week ago. I was frantically tweeting all the authors prior to the event. I've already done interviews with the terrific Lauren Oliver and Antony John, but newcomers to my blog, Tamara and Lenore have also graciously agreed to do an interview and giveaway for you guys!!!

And now back to the event. Lauren Oliver was terrific and funny as usual. She talked about her father who inspires her and wrote books about serial killers (a little different than her genre). She also mentioned that she worked two jobs on top of being a grad student and wrote most of Before I Fall on her blackberry with her lightning thumbs. Although I knew that fact from her last visit to St. Louis, it still never fails to amaze me. She also refuses to choose between her two male characters in the Delirium trilogy-- that secret will die with her. Last little tidbit-- she got another tattoo. :-)

 Antony John is the only author local to St. Louis. I am lucky enough to serve as his beta reader occasionally. He talked about his favorite character in Elemental, who is the fiery and strong character, Alice. He also mentioned the worst job he ever had consisted of driving around the same circuit for a straight 12-14 hours dropping people off. He said that the only way he stayed sane was keeping a book at his fingertips so that he could read a line or two before he had to start driving again.



Lenore was a total hoot. She talked about how showers and naps are essential to be a writer. Although too many naps means not as much writing. She also talked about how her worst job was when she was 8 years old and served as a babysitter for a bratty kid that would jump on her as soon as her mother was out of sight, pound her face into the ground and scream, "EAT GRASS, EAT GRASS!" I have to admit that I've never heard of such a terrible job! She also mentioned that her favorite character in her book Level 2 was her main character's father. He is a composer and records frolicking goats. She even did a demonstration! You had to be there to experience this wonder.


The last author was the very sweet and very successful Tamara Ireland Stone. She wrote Time Between Us and talked about working for Steve Jobs back in the day. Apparently, she never bought any Apple stock. Which is kind of where the idea of the book came from, as she would definitely go back in time and buy as much stock back then as she could ;-) I also love that she would go back in time and see some of the great bands play at different venues. I think it would be so cool to do that-- like to see Dave Matthews Band before they got big or something! She is also writing a follow up book in Bennett's voice. If that weren't enough, she gives terrific hugs!

I got to schmooze with these terrific ladies (and guy) afterwards and get a ton of books signed :-) The best part of the night was going out afterwards to talk with these great authors and eat a yummy meal at a pub in St Louis until midnight. Sorry, readers, the secrets revealed during this time will die with me ;-)


And just to sweeten the pot, here's a new giveaway. For US winners only, a signed copy of a gently used and twice read copy of Before I Fall, one of my favorite books of all time!

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Sunday, May 12, 2013

Review of Time Between Us by Tamara Ireland Stone and INT giveaway!

Time Between Us (Time Between Us, #1) Vacation was unbelievably amazing, and I got a lot of reading done too! But it's great to be back with you all as well. 

For my loyal blog followers, you get a jump start on this great giveaway as usual! 

Goodreads Book Description: Anna and Bennett were never supposed to meet: she lives in 1995 Chicago and he lives in 2012 San Francisco. But Bennett has the unique ability to travel through time and space, which brings him into Anna’s life, and with him a new world of adventure and possibility.

As their relationship deepens, the two face the reality that time may knock Bennett back to where he belongs, even as a devastating crisis throws everything they believe into question. Against a ticking clock, Anna and Bennett are forced to ask themselves how far they can push the bounds of fate, what consequences they can bear in order to stay together, and whether their love can stand the test of time.

Fresh, exciting, and deeply romantic, Time Between Us is a stunning, spellbinding debut from an extraordinary new voice in YA fiction.


My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

My Review:  I don't even know where to start. It's been a while since I was speechless from a book. Tamara Ireland Stone is coming to my town for a signing soon, and so I picked up her book. I had no idea what a treasure I was buying!

Time Between Us by Tamara Ireland Stone focuses on Anna, a girl who lives in the year 1995, who meets a strange boy named Bennett. He appears and disappears one day when she is running at a track, but when she meets him again at school the next day, it's as if he never knew her in the first place. This starts a romantic adventure of a love that spans time, space, and every other dimension.

I don't want to say too much more about the plot, because it's incredible to get to experience it all firsthand. The writing is gorgeous, and it took all of my willpower to put it down last night and not stay up all night finishing it. The characters are well drawn, and it's hard not to like Anna. She's a great main character, and Bennett is intriguing. Her parents are briefly mentioned, but in a few deft strokes, you can tell what their personalities are like. Emma, as the best friend, was my other favorite-- and I can hear her Brit accent in my head. The plot races along at a perfect pace, and while I'm not usually one for description, it takes a central role in this novel. I can imagine all the beautiful places in my head so effortlessly with the way Stone describes them. I can feel the sand between my toes, and the chalk as I dust it on my hands before hitching myself up on the first crease of a rock face.

There are certain plot twists that I was doubtful about, but it all comes full circle as all loose ends are tied up in a way that makes sense and is completely believable (in this novel's reality). The ending is spot on-- usually difficult for most authors. Every move that Stone has made is right, and this book has currently stolen my heart as one of my favorite reads this year.

Overall, a gorgeously told novel with terrific characters, scenery, and pacing. Stone is one of the most talented authors that I have discovered this year, and I can't wait to pick up the next gem she writes!


Just so you know what's coming up, guys-- an exciting interview with her as well as a recap of the amazing book event that she participated in here in St. Louis a week ago!

OK, enter to win some great prizes!
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Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Birthday and a brief goodbye

Dear all:
Thanks to all of you for wonderful birthday wishes yesterday. It was a whirlwind, but I'll get to celebrate in earnest starting today!

I am going to post a giveaway, but it didn't make sense to start it now when I'll be gone for a bit. I'll miss you all, and I'll start posting again next week. Have a wonderful rest of the week and Mother's day!

Christina @ Ensconced in YA

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Clean your Shelf Giveaway Hop, Featuring Requiem by Lauren Oliver


Clear Your Shelf May

Clear Your Shelf Giveaway Hop!

This is your chance to clear out your overflowing bookshelf and pass some of your books on to other booklovers.  Time to pass on those books that just weren’t for you or the review copies that you are never going to get read.
You should be giving away:
Books that you’ve read but will never read again.
Books you’ve started but just couldn’t get through.
Review copies you’ve accepted but have never read.
So guess what, guys? Since in my last giveaway, the winner opted for the $15 amazon GC, I still have a signed hardcover copy of Requiem by Lauren Oliver to give away to one lucky winner (US only!). I am also giving you another YA book from my bookshelves randomly-- I will take into consideration what genre you like.  Just so you know, I got to hang out with Lauren Oliver (and some other really incredible authors) at a pub the other night. I'll have a dedicated post to the book event hopefully soon! :-)
Requiem (Delirium, #3)
Goodreads Book Description: They have tried to squeeze us out, to stamp us into the past.

But we are still here.

And there are more of us every day.

Now an active member of the resistance, Lena has been transformed. The nascent rebellion that was under way in Pandemonium has ignited into an all-out revolution in Requiem, and Lena is at the center of the fight.

After rescuing Julian from a death sentence, Lena and her friends fled to the Wilds. But the Wilds are no longer a safe haven—pockets of rebellion have opened throughout the country, and the government cannot deny the existence of Invalids. Regulators now infiltrate the borderlands to stamp out the rebels, and as Lena navigates the increasingly dangerous terrain, her best friend, Hana, lives a safe, loveless life in Portland as the fiancĂ©e of the young mayor.

Maybe we are driven crazy by our feelings.

Maybe love is a disease, and we would be better off without it.

But we have chosen a different road.

And in the end, that is the point of escaping the cure: We are free to choose.

We are even free to choose the wrong thing.

Requiem is told from both Lena’s and Hana’s points of view. The two girls live side by side in a world that divides them until, at last, their stories converge.


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Thursday, May 2, 2013

Review: Mind Games by Kiersten White

Mind Games (Mind Games, #1) Goodreads Book Description: Fia was born with flawless instincts. Her first impulse, her gut feeling, is always exactly right. Her sister, Annie, is blind to the world around her—except when her mind is gripped by strange visions of the future.

Trapped in a school that uses girls with extraordinary powers as tools for corporate espionage, Annie and Fia are forced to choose over and over between using their abilities in twisted, unthinkable ways…or risking each other’s lives by refusing to obey.

In a stunning departure from her New York Times bestselling Paranormalcy trilogy, Kiersten White delivers a slick, edgy, heartstoppingly intense psychological thriller about two sisters determined to protect each other—no matter the cost.


My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

My Review:
I've had this book on my to read list for a while, and I know White's Paranormalcy trilogy is hugely popular, so I knew I had to pick this one up. And with any book that induces me to want to chuck it across the room and snuggle it to my chest simultaneously, I gave it the only rating it deserved... a full 5 stars.

Mind Games by Kiersten White has boys in it, but the heart of the story is the relationship between two sisters, Fia and Annie, who are fighting to exist in a terrible situation. In alternating perspectives and timelines, we learn more about these two sisters-- Fia is the younger, but has taken it upon herself to take care of her sister, Annie, who is blind. They are orphans after a terrible accident, and seem to have hit the jackpot when they are wooed to start at a prestigious school to help train their "talents." Annie is immediately won over, but Fia knows that this situation is not all what it seems. As they both get sucked into working for a nefarious organization, these two girls fight tooth and nail to keep a semblance of self as well as save each other.

Like I said above, I had a love/hate relationship with this book. I was angry at both characters for a long time, especially Annie. They are deeply flawed and many times unpleasant characters. But they have a good reason for being that way. Having both two points of view and jumps in time could have been really difficult to read, but White makes the transitions seamless. The prose is pitch perfect and the pacing just right. The book ends the only way it could and sealed its fate to stay on my favorites shelf for all of time. I'm not sure that people who don't have a sister, or even a similar relationship with a sister such as in this book, will understand or love it as much as I do. Some days you hate each other, some days you can only tolerate each other because no one else UNDERSTANDS. But above all, you love and protect each other fiercely no matter what-- and that's what this book is about.

Overall, a heart wrenching and ultimately satisfying depiction of two sisters caught in a web of deception and evil, fighting against impossible odds-- but with pitch perfect prose, White masterfully pulls the story together. I will be watching White's career for a long time-- she is an amazing writer.


What did you think of this book? 

Addendum: I've seen that this book has gotten mixed reviews, and I get that. I feel like you have to have had a similar relationship as these two girls for this book to pack that emotional punch.