Saturday, August 31, 2013

New Shelf Goodies & The Weekly Nutshell {60}

For New Shelf Goodies, I'll be showing you what lovely books I acquired this week, whether from publishers, or the library, or from whatever half-crazed book-buying binge I happened to go on. :D (Inspired by Tynga's Stacking the Shelves) The Weekly Nutshell will be just week here at Stories & Sweeties, in a nutshell. (inspired by Ginger @ GReads and her recaps at the end of the TGIF posts)

 Here's my week in books:
 For Review: 
Looks like a good series---Russian paranormal
Sounds very sci-fi, action packed!
Once We Were by Kat Zhang (for blog tour)
Just finishing book one in this, really does remind me of Never Let Me Go.
This may be the LOL read I've been searching for!
Famous artworks are cursed and come to life! Love the concept.
Looks great, awesome cover & parallel universes!

Thanks to Random House, Harper Teen, and Bloomsbury for these!

The Weekly Nutshell:

{Friday} Interview with Sarah Beth Durst + signed Conjured giveaway!

Have a great week, everyone!  Happy 3-day weekend to those in the states! :D 

Friday, August 30, 2013

Interview with Sarah Beth Durst + signed Conjured giveaway!

Visiting Stories & Sweeties today, I am so thrilled to have the fabulous Sarah Beth Durst! YA author and creator of mind-blowing fantastical tales, she has given us Into the Wild, Out of the Wild, Ice, Enchanted Ivy, Drink Slay Love, Vessel...and now Conjured!  I shared my thoughts on the wildly creative Conjured earlier this week (here) and now Sarah is here to talk a little more about her newest book and writing life.  Here we go!

The imagery of the carnival in Conjured is creepy and at times disturbing.  Have you always had a fascination with them? Or a fear of them?
I used to have this three-foot antique clown doll that sat in my bedroom.  One day, a helpful babysitter told me about Stephen King’s It.  The next morning, I insisted my parents move the clown out to the garage.  Even then, I could feel it looking at me.
Seriously, who isn't fascinated by carnivals?  There's something so surreal about them.  It feels like going to another world, one with a lot of cotton candy.

There are a lot of strong themes running through Conjured: freedom and trust and sticking to your true self.  If Conjured were a fable, what would the proverb at the end say?
I always hesitate to say, “This is the theme,” because, as you said, there are a number of related themes in Conjured, and different ones will resonate with different readers.  Reading is such a personal experience.

For me personally, the novel is about being true to yourself.  More specifically, it’s about your ability to discover and decide who you are.  No one else has the right to define you.  You define yourself.

Conjured introduced us to a lot of really interesting characters. Which were your favorites to write and why?
I loved writing Zach, the boy without magic who can’t stop talking.  And I loved writing the banter between Malcolm and Aunt Nicki, the marshals from the paranormal Witness Protection Agency.  I tend to like characters who quip, ramble, snark, or babble.  Usually, when I write, the dialogue comes first, so characters with particularly strong or distinct voices come alive for me first.
Eve, my protagonist, was also fun to write.  She has zero memories and lots of bizarre powers.  This meant I got to write a character who was inventing herself through her story.

Your stories are always full of such unique settings and characters and plot twists. Do you know how a story is going to end when you sit down to write it?
Yes.  I always know the end (though sometimes it changes!).  The middle, on the other hand…  My outlines always seem to feature at least one “something cool happens next” bulletpoint.  I think of it like that S. Harris cartoon that has a scientist at a blackboard filled with equations on the left and the right with the words, “Then a miracle occurs,” in the middle.

Is there anyone special, a teacher or mentor, who inspired you on your path to becoming a writer?
In fifth grade, I had a teacher named Mr. Bostock who was the first person to encourage me to write.  I wrote my very first not-for-a-school-assignment story in his class.  (I remember the story too.  It was a cross between Wizard of Oz and G.I. Joe.)

When my first book came out in 2007 (Into the Wild), I did an author visit at my old elementary school, and I got to thank him in person.  He’s retired now, but he came into the school to surprise me.  It was so phenomenally awesome to be able to say thank you to someone who had such a profound influence on my life.  I wrote about that visit here:

What kind of books did you love to read as a teenager?
Same kind of books I love now!  I read and have always read fantasy.  I love the optimism and sense of hope in so much fantasy.  (You know, little guy conquers the massive evil.  Love conquers all.  Etc.)  My favorites then remain my favorites now: Tamora Pierce, Diana Wynne Jones, Charles de Lint, Robin McKinley, Patricia C. Wrede, Mercedes Lackey, Anne McCaffrey, Bruce Coville, and others.

Favorite snack while writing?

Favorite movie?
Star Wars (the original trilogy), followed by the Princess Bride, Labyrinth, and the Dark Crystal.

Favorite color?

Favorite band and song right now?
I’m currently obsessed with that Cups song from the movie Pitch Perfect.

And everyone who visits Stories & Sweeties answers this one:  Do you like cupcakes? :)  Frosting or cake better?
Yes, absolutely, I like cupcakes!  As for frosting versus cake…  It really depends on the baker.  I prefer the cake light and fluffy, and the frosting light, airy, and not too sweet.
Thanks so much for interviewing me!

Thanks for much for the interview, Sarah!

Sarah has very generously offered up a signed copy of Conjured to one lucky reader!
Enter below!
US mailing address only • Must be 13 or older • Ends 9/13/13 

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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday

"Waiting on Wednesday" is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. It lets us all gush about what soon-to-be released books we are jumping-up-and-down excited for.
The Screaming Staircase
by Jonathan Stroud

hitting shelves September 17, 2013 from Disney-Hyperion
(August 29th from Random House UK)

Hauntings are our business . . .

Ghosts crowd the streets and houses of London. Anthony Lockwood, with his slightly grumpy deputy George, and his junior field operative Lucy, make up LOCKWOOD & CO, the small, shabby yet talented ghost-hunting agency.

After a series of calamitous investigations into the supernatural go awry, the team are desperate to prove themselves. Their opportunity comes in the form of a terrifying ghost, the Red Duke. But little do they know what perils lie in store for them at the haunted Bliss Hall . . .

My thoughts:  Until recently I overlooked this one, because there's not alot of middle grade that catches my eye right off the bat.  However, after seeing the absolutely spine-tingling trailer, I'm super excited to read this.  Personally, going by the trailer, I think this actually looks a little creepy for the MG audience, but perfect for meeeee! :D

Check out the trailer: 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Amy's View: Formerly Shark Girl by Kelly Bingham

Formerly Shark Girl by Kelly Bingham
♦publisher:  Candlewick Press
♦release date: May 14, 2013
♦hardcover, 304 pages
♦intended audience: Young adult

♦source: from publisher for honest review
It’s been a year since the shark attack that took Jane’s arm, and with it, everything she used to take for granted. Her dream of becoming an artist is in the line, and everything now seems out of reach, including her gorgeous, kind tutor, Max Shannon. While perfectly nice guy from her science class is clearly interested in Jane- removing her hear that no on ever would want a one–armed girl. Jane can’t stop thinking about Max. But is he interested romantic? Or does her just feel sorry for her? Formerly Shark Girl picks up where Kelly Bingham’s artful, honest debut left off.

Gripping and poetic in its realism and honesty, Formerly Shark Girl grabs onto you and doesn’t let go.

It’s been little over a year since Jane lost her arm in a shark attack. Refusing to been seen as “shark girl”, Jane battles to be seen to as just Jane, proving that what couldn’t be taken from her is the tenacity and vivacious way she has taken on life since the attack. Determined to find a way to give back, Jane turns her focus on finding a way to make her life count by taking on the inner battle between her old love of art and her new desire of nursing, hoping that through her choice she will be able to give her life purpose.

Letters and offers continue to pour in asking Jane to share her story, promising that through her spared life, she does have purpose.  This leaves Jane to replace her arm with a new weight, filled of expectations and the need to find meaning to her second chance on life.

While learning to paint with her left hand, Jane struggles to rediscover her passion for art, while trying to pass science and wondering if she will ever receive her first kiss, only adding to the normal pressures of any 17 year old high school girl. Will painting murals and art for the competition or volunteering at the hospital help her choose between going to Art College or Nursing School? All the while, the form of giving back can only be discovered by Jane herself.

Formerly Shark Girl, is a deeply poetic read that takes you throughout the struggle of a teenage girl caught between two worlds- one strained of obligation, verses one that is filled with passion. Struggle, determination, and the strength of one girl who defies the obstacles set against her to forge her own path. The story resonates that by losing part of her arm she didn’t lose part of who she is. It's a story teaching the valuable lesson that in life there are, “no promises, just lots of hope.”

Kelly Bingham brilliantly captures the essence of  Jane , in a way that makes you believe that she herself could be “ shark girl”. Even with its short verse prose, there is still a depth and intensity that gives strength to Jane’s story, allowing for her character to shine. However, with the short verse style, in which this book was written, I yearn for the extra details and storyline that comes from a traditionally written book. 
Find Kelly Bingham online: Website  •  Twitter  •  Facebook

Purchase Formerly Shark Girl:  Amazon  •  BookDepository  •  Indiebound

Monday, August 26, 2013

Becky's View: Conjured by Sarah Beth Durst

Conjured by Sarah Beth Durst
♦publisher: Bloomsbury
♦release date: September 3rd, 2013
♦hardcover, 368 pages
♦intended audience: Young adult
♦source: ARC from publisher for honest review
Eve has a new home, a new face, and a new name—but no memories of her past. She’s been told that she's in a witness protection program. That she escaped a dangerous magic-wielding serial killer who still hunts her. The only thing she knows for sure is that there is something horrifying in her memories the people hiding her want to access—and there is nothing they won’t say—or do—to her to get her to remember.

At night she dreams of a tattered carnival tent and buttons being sewn into her skin. But during the day, she shelves books at the local library, trying to not let anyone know that she can do things—things like change the color of her eyes or walk through walls. When she does use her strange powers, she blacks out and is drawn into terrifying visions, returning to find that days or weeks have passed—and she’s lost all short-term memories. Eve must find out who and what she really is before the killer finds her—but the truth may be more dangerous than anyone could have ever imagined.

Review: In Conjured, Sarah Beth Durst once again gives us a story full of haunting imagery that defies imagination.  After reading Vessel last year, and being left in wonder at the glass snakes in the sky and treacherous sandworms, I knew if anyone could bring the weird and whimsical to a carnival setting, it was this author.  

The story surrounds Eve, a girl who has no memory of her past, but also frequently loses what little short term memory she has gained.  While that has it's place in the story, it also made it somewhat difficult to get a grasp on Eve's character at first, as well as the other characters.  It starts off a bit confusing while trying to figure out who these people are that are with Eve and if they are good or bad---one was very serious and protective and the other was just plain mean. More characters pop up throughout and it was just as hard to guess their intentions. We get little glimpses of a peculiar carnival and of the powers that Eve has and it's all very cryptic.  It definitely keeps you guessing, but also left me a bit bewildered for the first 70 pages or so.  This was where the story really started to grab me and didn't let go until the end. Eve's visions start to take on more meaning, she starts to stand up to her protectors/captors (she's really not sure which they are!), and best of all, things start to happen with the charming and slightly geeky Zach.  One of my favorite love interests in a long time---Zach was a sweetheart and full of all this quirky energy and off-the-wall information, with personal dilemmas of his own and bravery where it really counts.   

The last part bursts into an unexpected and exhilarating  dose of sci-fi fantasy adventure as they race to track down the carnival that will give Eve the answers she needs.  It builds into an increasingly twisted and dark resolution that a reader may have gotten inklings of through Eve's early visions, but I don't think anyone could of guessed what was actually coming. 

Make your way past the slightly slow beginning and you'll find an extraordinary and wildly creative tale of a girl's journey to find out where she comes from and what she's made of. 

Visit Sarah Beth Durst: Website  •  Twitter  •  Facebook
Purchase Conjured:  Amazon  •  BookDepository  •  Indiebound

Saturday, August 24, 2013

New Shelf Goodies & The Weekly Nutshell {59}

For New Shelf Goodies, I'll be showing you what lovely books I acquired this week, whether from publishers, or the library, or from whatever half-crazed book-buying binge I happened to go on. :D (Inspired by Tynga's Stacking the Shelves) The Weekly Nutshell will be just week here at Stories & Sweeties, in a nutshell. (inspired by Ginger @ GReads and her recaps at the end of the TGIF posts)

Wasn't expecting anything this week, but I got a few unsolicited surprises :) 
 For review:
Loved Every Day, and the POV in this sounds really interesting. 
I'm hearing good things about this one, but I usually shy away from cult books. 
This one has been so hyped up, so I hope it lives up to it!
I love Armentrout's Half-Blood series, but I haven't really gotten into NA as of yet.  I may be passing this on---I know how many big fans she has that would love this!

Thanks to Random House, Harper Teen, & William Morrow for these!

The Weekly Nutshell:
  {Monday} Cover Story
  It seems my blog this week was all about the cover loveliness.   I guess I was all wrapped up in reading Conjured and Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea (reviews coming this week).
 Now I need your HELP!! 
These were both dark and eerie, both a bit on the gruesome side and so so serious...anyone have any great recommendations for FUN reads? Something not too heavy or doom-and-gloom, something where I might actually laugh out loud a few times.  I need that right now. Please? :D  

Friday, August 23, 2013

My New Favorite Cover of 2014 (so far)... not YA.

It's MG.
As in, Mesmerizingly Gorgeous.


Reasons I will definitely be reading this:
A doorway to an alternate Steampunk London.
That "crack" in the wall very much reminds me of Dr. Who. 
And this most of all: CLOCKWORK DRAGONS. 

YES :)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday

"Waiting on Wednesday" is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. It lets us all gush about what soon-to-be released books we are jumping-up-and-down excited for.

The Winner's Curse
by Marie Rutkoski

hitting shelves March 4th, 2014 from
Farrar, Straus, & Giroux

Seventeen-year-old Kestrel is an aristocratic citizen of Valoria, a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers. Here, a girl like Kestrel has two choices: join the military or get married. Despite her skills in military strategy, Kestrel’s real passion is music.Which is why she feels compelled to buy Arin, a slave with a talent for singing, at auction. It’s not long before she finds herself falling in love with Arin, and he seems to feel the same for her. But Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for Arin is much higher than she ever could have imagined.

Set in a new world, The Winner’s Curse is a story of wicked rumors, dirty secrets, and games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.

 My thoughts: THE COVER. OMG.  This will undoubtedly end up being one of the most gorgeous covers of 2014, truly I don't see how many could top it. It's stunning.  Aside from that, some of my favorite book bloggers have already been lucky enough to read this one and given it glowing, 5 star reviews, so I'm definitely on board.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Cover Story

New cover eye-candy!

by Jennifer E. Smith
Little, Brown
 April 15th, 2014

Love Letters to the Dead
by Ava Dellaira
Farrar, Straus & Giroux
April 1st, 2014

by Mindee Arnett
Tor Teen
March 4th, 2014

The Queen's Choice
by Cayla Kluver
Harlequin Teen
January 28th, 2014

by Delilah S. Dawson
Simon Pulse

Such Sweet Sorrow
by Jenny Trout
Entangled Teen
February 4th, 2014

Ok, cover lovers...see any new favorites among these?  I pretty much love them all! Jennifer E. Smith always gets such cute covers. Love the Such Sweet Sorrow cover---and that author's name and the fact that it's Entangled has me curious: could this be another Jennifer L. Armentrout pen name?  Queen's Choice is gorgeous and the fae story sounds awesome. Love the big font on Love Letters to the Dead. And I am SO thrilled that they stayed with the original cover style for the Nightmare Affair books!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

New Shelf Goodies & The Weekly Nutshell {58}

For New Shelf Goodies, I'll be showing you what lovely books I acquired this week, whether from publishers, or the library, or from whatever half-crazed book-buying binge I happened to go on. :D (Inspired by Tynga's Stacking the Shelves) The Weekly Nutshell will be just week here at Stories & Sweeties, in a nutshell. (inspired by Ginger @ GReads and her recaps at the end of the TGIF posts)

SO excited for everything that landed on my doorstep this week. I may have gotten a bit swoony over a couple of these!
For review:
Anyone read The Thirteenth Tale?  I LOVED that book, and I've been waiting years for the author to write again!
It's Rachel Hawkins--that's really all I need to know.
It's Jackson Pearce---again, all I needed to know.
Ditto again.  I've never been disappointed with this author's work. 
This story looks cool and the cover? Love it, and it gives you a perfect idea of what the story's about. 
My friend thought this might not be her cup of tea---so I gladly took it off her hands! :D 

 Huge thanks to Atria Books and Penguin for the lovely goodies!

The Weekly Nutshell:

So, this week, I had a real bummer happen.  I missed a book signing with the fabulous Stacey Jay, whose new book Of Beast & Beauty is my new favorite book of this year.  It was an hour and 20 minute drive away already, and then we got stuck in STOPPED traffic about a quarter of the way there. We checked reports and found there was nearly solid traffic almost all the way there. We would have been so late that we decided to just turn around.  I was so bummed because I was hoping to get my copy signed and get another copy signed to give away. But it just wasn't meant to be, I guess. 
On the bright side---we were stuck in Napa for awhile, as there was traffic both ways, so we decided to seek out Sift Cupcakes and cheer ourselves up with these lovelies:
These were so YUMMY.  The cakes were just a little more dense than I like, but the frostings (my favorite part, anyhow), OH, the frostings were AMAZING.  I can see why they serve tiny frosting shots of just the frostings alone!  There is an almond cupcake with blueberry tequila filling (and wooo, you can definitely taste that tequila!), a raspberry cupcake with champagne frosting, a pina colada cupcake with the BEST strawberry buttercream I have every experienced, and a beer cupcake with a brown sugar buttercream that I am now completely obsessed with.  If you're ever in the Napa Valley area---Sift Cupcakes.  GO.  And another plus: there is the cutest little indie bookstore right across the way from it.  Ironically, it's another branch of Copperfield's Books, the store we didn't make it to *sigh*.

Have a great week, everyone!


Friday, August 16, 2013

Amy & Becky chat with Teri Brown: interview with the author of Born of Illusion + Giveaway!

Hello, all!  Amy & I recently had the opportunity to do a joint interview with Teri Brown, author of Born of Illusion.  If you haven't checked this book out yet, I highly recommend it! It easily became one of my favorite reads of this year! Check out my review here.

Because I loved this book so much, I want to spread the joy! :)  I've giving away a copy of Born of Illusion---be sure to enter at the bottom of this post!

~Interview with Teri Brown~
Did you have a love for stage magic before writing Born of Illusion, or is this a new knowledge you acquired while writing this book?
Who doesn't love magic? I've always enjoyed watching stage magic, but I guess  I didn't have the appreciation for it before that I do now. Writing the book definitely opened my eyes as far as how much time, effort and thought actually goes into it.

Was Harry Houdini always a character you wanted immersed in the storyline? If so, which character came first Harry or Anna? 
 I guess I would have to say Harry--in a way.  I first thought of doing a book about Harry Houdini's illegitimate daughter, but I didn't know Anna at all when I first thought of the  concept. She developed along with the plot. So Harry came first.

Your inventions were perfectly described for the readers mind, were they your own creations?
The magnetic invention was  completely mine… I needed something that would add atmosphere to Anna's séance. The levitation table is a real  prop that is used now, though I think it would have been very new back in the twenties.

What helped you stay immersed with the 1920’s?  Was there a certain movie, book or music?  
I surrounded myself with research books. I  may do a lot of my research on the web, but I really like having hard copies. It makes the time period more visceral for me. I also listened to a lot of old time jazz while writing Born of Illusion and Born of Deception. It set the mood for me, I guess.

The mother daughter relationship only endeared you more to Anna’s character, was it challenging to write such a complicated relationship between them, or was it one that came naturally as the characters developed?  
It actually came pretty naturally. I think mother daughter relationships are always complicated no matter how strong and normal the relationship is. If it isn't normal, than the complications and issues can be endless. The relationship Anna and her mother have has a lot of nuances, partially from circumstances and partially due to differences in personality.

Was it planned from the beginning who the antagonist would be?  
Yes and no… The original conception was very flat and then the idea of including a fictionalized version of the real life group, The Ghost Club, emerged and things just grew from there.

What were you doing when the idea for the story came to you?
You know, I can't really remember the exact moment it came to me…. is that weird?

What is your favorite thing about writing a Y.A. novel over an adult novel?  
My heart belongs to YA, but I am not sure that means I enjoy one over the other… and it's hard for me to differentiate. I just tell the story as it comes to me! 

Win Born of Illusion!
Now you know the scoop on this amazing book---enter to win a copy!  
Open internationally • Must be 13 or older • Ends 8/30/13 
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Thursday, August 15, 2013

Amy's View: Forevermore by Cindy Miles

Forevermore by Cindy Miles
♦publisher: Scholastic Point
♦release date: July 1st, 2013
♦paperback, 288 pages
♦intended audience: Young adult
♦source: ALA midwinter
On a misty cliffside, mystery and romance await. . . .

Ivy Calhoun's life has been turned upside down. Her new stepdad has uprooted Ivy and her mom, bringing them to live in an actual castle in the misty Scottish countryside. There are stone-faced servants and shadowy corridors, and the ancient walls seem full of secrets. Ivy is at once frightened and intrigued.

Especially when she meets Logan, a gorgeous, elusive ghost who has haunted the castle grounds for decades. Ivy is immediately drawn to him . . . but Logan is not the only spirit around. Something dark and deadly is afoot, and soon Ivy finds herself in mortal danger.

Is Logan exactly what he seems? Could his mysterious past be tied to Ivy's present? And can Ivy stop herself from falling in love with him?

Review: Charming and engaging from the very start. Forevermore, gently whisks you away to a land of Scottish mores, creepy resounding castles and stories of old lore. Wrapping you into a short story that sweetly enraptures you, leading into a haunting tale of old ghosts and family secrets. 

 Ivy’s world couldn’t be in more of an upheaval. Her mother remarried a Laird of Scotland and suddenly they are swept off to live in his castle, but not all lives are made of fairytales. Ivy knows life will not be easy the moment they land in the cold damp sunless world of Scotland, still when they pull up to her new home her heart crumbles. Instead of a glorious fairytale castle, a cold dark eerie castle lays before her. Filled with servants, cooks, dinner times with proper etiquette and an evil grandmother whom Ivy knows is out to get her. 

However, the evil grandmother isn’t the bulk of her problems. Ivy feels that there is a presence lurking around the castle and when she goes out to discover the truth,  the truth proves to  be more than she ever thought possible. The stories aren’t old time lore of make-believe ghosts; a real ghost haunts the castle and wants Ivy out, doing anything possible to get her to leave. 

With cursed spells, her mother getting ill and a grandmother lurking in the shadows, Ivy is left to solve the mystery behind the ghost herself. Soon Ivy finds out that confronting the ghost isn’t what she thought it would be, especially when one of the ghosts is a charming, handsome ghost named Logan. As time passes, she realizes that they not only share a beautiful love of music, but of love itself. Forcing them to solve the 200 year old mystery of how Logan became trapped in the castle, and who wants to harm Ivy and her mother. 

Cindy Miles is a magical story teller, who weaves a young adult book so pure and beautiful that fans of all ages will be swept away to the Scottish castle of Glenmorrag.  I found myself unable to put down this book as its enchanting spell glimmered within its pages. I was quickly caught up within the intrigue and romance between Ivy and Logan, rooting for love to find a way for these two to be together. Characters are gently woven into the storyline where each one easily finds their own place, without distracting or overwhelming from their purpose. Cindy Miles artfully enthralls you with her story but magically creates an alternate storyline within Forevermore. It would be equally thrilling as well and I anxiously look forward to her next haunting romance that awaits us.  

Find Cindy Miles onlines:  Website  •  Twitter  •  Facebook

Purchase Forevermore:  Amazon  •  BookDepository  •  Indiebound

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday

"Waiting on Wednesday" is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. It lets us all gush about what soon-to-be released books we are jumping-up-and-down excited for.

Ask Me 
by Kimberly Pauley

hitting shelves April 8th 2014 from Soho Teen

Ask Aria Morse anything, and she must answer with the truth. Yet she rarely understands the cryptic words she‘s compelled to utter. Blessed—or cursed—with the power of an Oracle who cannot decipher her own predictions, she does her best to avoid anyone and everyone.

But Aria can no longer hide when Jade, one of the few girls at school who ever showed her any kindness, disappears. Any time Aria overhears a question about Jade, she inadvertently reveals something new, a clue or hint as to why Jade vanished. But like stray pieces from different puzzles, her words never present a clear picture.

Then there’s Alex, damaged and dangerous, but the first person other than Jade to stand up for her. And Will, who offers a bond that seems impossible for a girl who’s always been alone. Both were involved with Jade. Aria may be the only one who can find out what happened, but the closer she gets to solving the crime, the more she becomes a target. Not everyone wants the truth to come out.

My thoughts:  This sounds intense and amazing, and I love the idea of a girl with the powers of an Oracle.  I'm hoping for a unique and creepy mystery!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Becky's View: Of Beast and Beauty by Stacey Jay

Of Beast and Beauty by Stacey Jay
♦publisher: Delacorte Press
♦release date: July 16th, 2013
♦hardcover, 400 pages
♦intended audience: Young adult
♦from publisher for honest review
In the beginning was the darkness, and in the darkness was a girl, and in the girl was a secret...

In the domed city of Yuan, the blind Princess Isra, a Smooth Skin, is raised to be a human sacrifice whose death will ensure her city’s vitality. In the desert outside Yuan, Gem, a mutant beast, fights to save his people, the Monstrous, from starvation. Neither dreams that together, they could return balance to both their worlds.

Isra wants to help the city’s Banished people, second-class citizens despised for possessing Monstrous traits. But after she enlists the aid of her prisoner, Gem, who has been captured while trying to steal Yuan’s enchanted roses, she begins to care for him, and to question everything she has been brought up to believe.

As secrets are revealed and Isra’s sight, which vanished during her childhood, returned, Isra will have to choose between duty to her people and the beast she has come to love.

Review: If I was going to review this book in one word, that word would be...


Stacey Jay's latest book completely blew me away.  With it's gorgeous flow of words and undeniably creative restructuring of this classic tale, Of Beast and Beauty is truly one of the best fairytale retellings I have ever read.  These comfortably familiar characters inhabit a futuristic world of myth and dark magic, where one group of people have adapted to survive the world, and one group hides away and fears it.

The story is told in three alternating POVs, and I honestly have never seen this done quite so well.  The characters are so rich and complex that the lines between who is beastly and who is beautiful is continually blurred and crossed.  Main characters, Isra and Gem, both grow so much, not only because they are forced to grow by the situations they face, but because their new and cautious feelings for each other make them want to grow. They face so many challenges, both together and apart, and it was a thrill to be along for the ride.  Even the supporting characters are so well written.  Almost every person's part in the story constantly shifts as ugly truths are revealed.  One of my favorite characters was Needle---so kind and loyal and dignified right to the very end.  And the roses,...OH the roses.  They are a character all their own; I doubt you've ever seen the rose in Beauty and the Beast portrayed quite like this...and you may never look at a rose garden the same way again.

The story twists and weaves and tumbles, leaving the reader breathless.  Each long-held secret is uncovered in a flurry of devastation and awe.  The story shows how fear of the unknown can easily manifest into cruelty and prejudice.  While each fighting to save their own people, Gem and Isra make each other stronger. They desperately search for a way to stop the evil that has a hold on Isra's city, without sacrificing their lives in the process.  The ending is incredibly exciting, so much danger and triumph! And I won't spoil anything, but the way Stacey Jay interprets the "tranformation of the beast" scene was the perfect way to bring Isra and Gem's story to a close.

Of Beast and Beauty easily wins a spot on my favorite books of 2013; don't let yourself miss out on this outstanding and beautifully told story!

Find Stacey Jay online: Website  •  Twitter  •  Facebook

Purchase Of Beast and Beauty:  Amazon  •  BookDepository  •  Indiebound

Saturday, August 10, 2013

New Shelf Goodies & The Weekly Nutshell {57}

For New Shelf Goodies, I'll be showing you what lovely books I acquired this week, whether from publishers, or the library, or from whatever half-crazed book-buying binge I happened to go on. :D (Inspired by Tynga's Stacking the Shelves) The Weekly Nutshell will be just week here at Stories & Sweeties, in a nutshell. (inspired by Ginger @ GReads and her recaps at the end of the TGIF posts)

My small but mighty haul! Super excited about all three of these!! 
 For review:
Ghosts and souls and murder mystery!! 
Loved her Wither series,  can't wait to start a new series from this author!
"...taking inspiration from Albert Einstein’s theories and the world-bending wonder of true love itself"...I'm officially intrigued!

Many thanks to Simon & Schuster and Strange Chemistry for these!

The Weekly Nutshell:

That's all for this week! Happy reading, everyone! :D

Friday, August 9, 2013

Becky's View: Neptune's Tears by Susan Waggoner

Neptune's Tears by Susan Waggoner
♦publisher: Henry Holt & Company BYR
♦release date: June 25th, 2013
♦hardcover, 224 pages
♦intended audience: Young adult
♦series: Timedance, book 1
♦source: from publisher for honest review
London, 2218 A.D. Seventeen-year-old Zee is an intern empath. She’s focused on her job, poised for a great career—until one day an attractive patient undoes her hard-earned calm. As an empath, she cannot afford such distractions, but neither can she stay away from David, even when she discovers he’s one of a mysterious alien race. As London comes under attack by anarchist bombings, and as Zee struggles to get a handle on her unusually strong psychic abilities, David starts pulling away. Although Zee’s sure he’s attracted to her, David has secrets he cannot share. But it’s too late for Zee. She’s losing her heart to the gray-eyed alien boy, and she’s determined to follow him—no matter how far it may take her.

Review: Every once in awhile, it is nice to depart from the 400-500 page epic tales and dive into something that’s a quick read.  While shorter books are a nice break, there is always a danger that the story itself will end up feeling like it’s been shorted, and unfortunately that’s the feeling I got from Neptune’s Tears.

The story was enjoyable and entertaining.  Zee is an empath with a promising career ahead of her.  She meets David and instantly feels a dangerous attraction there---dangerous because love can derail an empath’s powers and because he is of the alien race that is visiting Earth.  Despite her fears, their relationship blossoms.  After they fall in love, the idea that her powers would be compromised seemed to go by the wayside; as a matter of fact, they seemed to become even more developed. The writing has a stark quality that sets an intense mood but sometimes feels ironically cold for a story about a girl who works with feelings and emotions.

I would have loved to get to know the supporting characters a bit more; Rani, Mia, Jasmine, Mrs. Hart---there are tons of interesting people who are part of Zee and David’s story but again, they pop in and out and we barely get to know them. Especially Zee’s best friend, Rani---she ends up being such a huge part of the ending, but I think fleshing out her character and their friendship a bit more would have given that a bit more impact. I really enjoyed each subplot: Zee’s relationship with the elegant and proud Mrs. Hart, her family that she’s grown apart from, the mystery behind what David and the aliens are really on Earth for, and a futuristic London that is constantly threatened by anarchist attacks.  I just wish all of these elements had been expanded on---I felt like we really just skim the surface of the story’s potential in favor of centering it around a story of forbidden love.

With the big twist at the end, I am interested to see where this story goes next. I’ll likely pick up the second book and see if I can delve a little deeper into this mysterious futuristic world!
Find Susan Waggoner online:  Facebook

Purchase Neptune's Tears: Amazon  •  BookDepository  •  Indiebound