Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Burn Bright by Bethany Frenette {Review}

Burn Bright by Bethany Frenette
♦publisher: Disney Hyperion
♦release date: February 25th, 2014
♦hardcover, 352 pages
♦intended audience: Young adult
♦ series: Dark Star, book 2
              review of book 1
♦source: from publisher for honest review

*Fair warning: description and review may contain slight spoilers for book 1.*
Audrey Whitticomb saved her entire city.

Well, kind of. The superhero Morning Star (who just happens to be Audrey's mom) might have played a small part, and her sidekick, Leon—Audrey's sort-of boyfriend, who is gorgeous... and frustrating—maybe helped, too.

But after two peaceful months, there is a vicious new threat in Minneapolis. Her name is Susannah, and she's a Harrower, a demon hell-bent on destroying people like Morning Star, Leon, and Audrey—the Kin. Like others before her, she seeks the Remnant, a Kin girl who has the power to unleash the inhabitants of the Beneath. But to what end?

Audrey already has a ton on her plate: dealing with her best friend Tink's boy drama, helping her other best friend Gideon figure out his nightmares, and exploring the highs and lows of "dating" Leon. But when she develops a powerful new ability, Audrey seizes on the chance to fight, despite her mother's protests and Leon's pleas.

As Audrey gets closer to figuring out Susannah's motives and tracking down the Remnant, she'll uncover more than she bargained for. The terrible truth is staring Audrey in the face. But knowing the truth and accepting it are very different things.

Review: Though I readily admit that it may have been a timing issue, I had a hard time getting into Burn Bright.  I recall that the very beginning of Dark Star was kind of slow for me as well, but this one didn’t really grab me until over halfway into the book. 

There were many things about the plot that felt like a “middle book”, lots of little details that are building up to a big battle between Harrower and Kin in book three. Still, it did have its own exciting story arc and some really great shocking moments and reveals, even a few touching moments that had me tearing up a little. It centers, however, around a Harrower trying to find the Remnant to bring down the Kin---which is much the same as the first book.  There is a new scary demon running amok, taking out Kin, but there is also a new rogue guardian on the scene carelessly taking out all demons, even the ones that live peacefully in the human world. Though he was far from being a likable character, I was captivated by his backstory.

The budding romance between Leon and Audrey takes an interesting turn.  They are still cautious with each other since they are unsure how their romance will affect Leon being her Guardian---which it does. Not in a good way.  They’ve gone from playful bickering in book one, to romance, to full-blown arguing through this book, so don’t expect a lot of warm-fuzzy romance.  Well, a little bit…but not a lot. :)

My favorite part of the story is still the dynamic between Audrey and her mother. They have such a complex relationship. Even with such outlandish situations all around them, the two of them, as mother and daughter, still ring true.

Despite a few issues, all the little details and twists that popped up in this installment definitely will have me picking up book three---I have the feeling that what we find out about Gideon is going to lead to a frenzy of excitement and heartbreak. 
Find Bethany Frenette online:  Website  •  Twitter

Purchase Dark Star: Amazon  •  BookDepository  •  Indiebound

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

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.
by Kat Rosenfield
hitting shelves June 12, 2014 from Dutton Juvenile

The psychological labyrinth of a young woman’s insidious connection to the sea, from the Edgar Award nominated author of Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone.

Callie Morgan has long lived choked by the failure of her own lungs, the result of an elusive pulmonary illness that has plagued her since childhood. A childhood marked early by the drowning death of her mother—a death to which Callie was the sole witness. Her father has moved them inland, away from the memories of the California coast her mother loved so much and toward promises of recovery—and the escape of denial—in arid, landlocked air.

But after years of running away, the promise of a life-changing job for her father brings Callie and him back to the coast, to Florida, where Callie’s symptoms miraculously disappear. For once, life seems delightfully normal. But the ocean’s edge offers more than healing air … it holds a magnetic pull, drawing Callie closer and closer to the chilly, watery embrace that claimed her mother. Returned to the ocean, Callie comes of age and comes into a family destiny that holds generations of secrets and very few happy endings.
My thoughts: After the bizarre tale that was Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone, I couldn't wait to read more from this author.  Now it's almost here...and it looks even more up my alley.  Cool cover, too. :)


Monday, April 28, 2014

New Feature: Meet You on Monday :)

Hello, all!  So…new thing today! For a while now, I’ve wanted to do something a little more personal and a little more discussion-friendly.  I’ve also often thought how fun it is that we interview all the wonderful authors---wouldn’t it be fun to know more about each other, too! So I’m starting Meet You on Monday.  I’m going to be posting a fun question or subject (sometimes book related, sometimes not!) and of course, answer it myself here.  Feel free to answer in the comments or grab the banner and do your own post! If you do, be sure to link me in the comments so I can come “meet” you, too!

To kick it off, here’s a little about me in one of my favorite ways to interview the authors I have visiting Stories & Sweeties:

10 Random Facts About Me! :)

I may love YA books, but I’m no teenager. Far from..we’ll just leave it at that. :)

My dream is to someday have my own children’s bookstore and cupcake shop and call it…what else?...Stories & Sweeties.

Happily married for years and years and forever. 3 kids, 2 dogs, 1 super fuzzy kitty.

I love tea, especially when it’s with cream and scones at a fancy tea house.

Before book blogging, I designed digital scrapbooking supplies. Most of the designs on my blog (the background, the cupcake button, etc) carries over from that hobby!
I hate spiders.  HATE. THEM.  Can't even look at the books with the close-up photographs of them without shaking.

I love purple.  Probably 80% of my wardrobe is purple in some way.  And I can't even tell you how many shades of purple nailpolish I own. 

A year and a half ago, my husband told me not to watch Doctor Who because he didn’t think I’d like it. Wrong. I adored it. Even went as the Tardis last Halloween. It's snowballed into a general obsession with British television: Sherlock, Catherine Tate show, Top Gear, it all. My son's teacher told us he often breaks into a pretty convincing British accent.  Oops :) 

5 years ago I was diagnosed with CML, a chronic form of leukemia.  And every day, I kick it's arse. ;)
I am quite possibly the world's worst gardener.  But I never give up.  My hubby has taken to apologizing to plants when I put them in my store cart.

SO that's all pretty random :D  What about you?  Have any random facts you'd like to share about YOU?

Sunday, April 27, 2014

New Shelf Goodies & The Weekly Nutshell {86}

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)

The lovely haul this week: 
For review: 
Read this one last year, so I'll be giving this away close to the release of the next book in July!
Need to get cracking on this series, it looks really good!
YES, excited about this one!
One of my fave covers of the year! Plus, time travel, steampunk, clockwork dragons???
Girl who is half-dragon must reclaim her throne. This sounds awesome. 
Spies, pre-WWII, mistaken identities---sounds fun!

 I also won this awesome Violet Hour prize back with a copy of the book, a Vision Crest mug (which has to do with the story), hair chalk, a Sex Pistols tee, and a $25 BN gift card! 

Many thanks to HMH books, Flux, and Simon & Schuster for all this fun stuff!!

The Weekly Nutshell: 
{Monday} Cover Story

This week I'm reading Don't You Forget About Me and it is so bizarre from the get-go! Enjoying it now that I've wrapped my head around what's going on! LOL  I'm liking Kate Karyus Quinn's writing style, it reminds me a little of Alice Hoffman, whose books I love. Also planning to start Flights and Chimes this week---guys, I am SO excited to dive into this one. It looks so fun.
Hope everyone had a great week!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

LIV, FOREVER by Amy Talkington {Review}

Liv, Forever by Amy Talkington
♦publisher: Soho Teen
♦release date: March 11, 2014
♦hardcover, 280 pages
♦intended audience: Young adult
♦stand-alone (?)
♦source: from publisher for honest review
When Liv Bloom lands an art scholarship at Wickham Hall, it’s her ticket out of the foster system. Liv isn’t sure what to make of the school’s weird traditions and rituals, but she couldn’t be happier. For the first time ever, she has her own studio, her own supply of paints. Everything she could want.

Then she meets Malcolm Astor, a legacy student, a fellow artist, and the one person who’s ever been able to melt her defenses. Liv’s only friend at Wickham, fellow scholarship kid Gabe Nichols, warns her not to get involved, but life is finally going Liv’s way, and all she wants to do is enjoy the ride.

But Liv’s bliss is doomed. Weeks after arriving, she is viciously murdered and, in death, she discovers that she’s the latest victim of a dark conspiracy that has claimed many lives. Cursed with the ability to see the many ghosts on Wickham’s campus, Gabe is now Liv’s only link to the world of the living. To Malcolm.

Together, Liv, Gabe, and Malcolm fight to expose the terrible truth that haunts the halls of Wickham. But Liv must fight alone to come to grips with the ultimate star-crossed love.

Review:  A little bit Ghost and a little bit Lovely Bones, Liv, Forever sets itself apart with some really fun voices and a cleverly twisting mystery.

Liv Bloom is excited to go to Wickham Hall because of their great art program, but she’s having a rough time fitting in.  She’s there on scholarship and everyone seems to know it.  She was raised in foster homes most of her life and she wears a pretty tough exterior. She definitely approaches love with some caution.  She loves art, often using it to express herself and relate to the world. Still her voice is casual and authentic and sometimes funny.

The cliché of the popular boy immediately setting his sights on the new girl was very nearly forgiven because David turns out to be such a unique and heart-strong character himself.  We’re given moments of doubt in his integrity and his sincerity, but he proves himself again and again.  Gabe is also great in that he is just himself, no pretenses or fronts. He’s a bit standoffish, because, like Liv, he doesn’t quite fit in at Windham and he carries a pretty heavy weight on his shoulders with his “gift”, but he and Liv come together to make a great team.

There is a huge cast of intriguing characters, especially the occasional chapters in the voices of the murdered girls.  Each girl comes from a different time period and the author did a wonderful job giving each girl a voice that was true to her era (I personally thought the 70’s hippie was just a tad over-done, but still good). Each tells the story of her death and each little glimpse brings us closer to the truth.

Quite a few emotions and visuals are depicted through art and poetry references, some well-known, some maybe a little more obscure, so unless you know your art or want to take the time to look up a few references on the internet, a few things get lost in translation.  Still, Talkington has a wonderfully engaging writing style and has created a fast-paced story full of lots of creepy moments and imagery.  All the twists kept me guessing about who the killer was, if the killer was a live person or one of the restless spirits.  The greatest mystery is why the murders are happening and to what end. 

Full of art, friendship and first love, secret societies, and a dark, suspenseful mystery, this debut is definitely worth a read.  Can’t wait to see what comes next from this author.

Find Amy Talkington online:  Website  •  Twitter  •  Facebook

Purchase Liv, Forever:  Amazon  •  BookDepository  •  Indiebound

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

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.

by Brynn Chapman

hitting shelves June 17th, 2014 from Month9Books

description: Arabella Holmes was born different and raised different. After it became apparent she wouldn't fit the role of a proper 1900's lady, her father, Sherlock, called in some lingering favors, and landed her a position at the Mutter Museum. The museum was Arabella's dream; she was to become a purveyor of abnormal science. What her father called a BoneSeeker.

Henry Watson arrives at the Mutter Museum with a double assignment--to become a finder of abnormal antiquities and to watch over and keep Arabella Holmes. An easy task, if he could only get her to speak to him instead of throwing knives in his general direction.

But this is no time for child's play. The two teens are assigned to a most secret exploration, when the hand of a Nephilim is unearthed in upstate New York. Soon, Arabella and Henry are caught in a fight for their lives as scientific debate swirls around them. Are the bones from a Neanderthal ... or are they living proof of fallen angels, who supposedly mated with humans according to ancient scrolls?

Sent to recover the skeleton, they discover they are the second team to have been deployed and the entire first team is dead. And now they must trust their instincts and rely on one another in order to survive and uncover the truth.

My thoughts:  WHAT??? OH my gosh, this sounds awesome.   The daughter of Sherlock and the son of Watson, fallen angels, creepy I don't think that cover could be more gorgeous.  Automatic and immediate pre-order for me, seriously. 

Monday, April 21, 2014

Cover Story

For all of us who just spent the day munching on Peeps and chocolate bunnies, I thought some eye candy was in order :)

And for everyone else, too :D

by Meg Wolitzer
Dutton Juvenile, September 30th, 2014

by Holly Black
Little Brown BYR, January 15th, 2015

by Avery Hastings
St. Martin's Griffin, September 2nd, 2014

by Daisy Whitney
Bloomsbury, October 14th, 2014

The Girl on a Wire 
by Gwenda Bond
Skyscape, October 14th, 2014

by Melissa Marr
HarperCollins, September 16th, 2014

Some Boys 
by Patty Blount
Sourcebooks Fire, August 1st, 2014

by Kate A. Boorman
Amulet Books, September 9th, 2014

See any new favorites here?  I'm kind of in love with...well, ALL OF THEM.  :D

Sunday, April 20, 2014

New Shelf Goodies & The Weekly Nutshell {85}

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 what's been sneaking into my mailbox lately! 
For review:
This looks really cute and hopefully has a good message about body issues.
Love this author, so accepting this one was a given :)
This was my WoW a few weeks back...such a lovely cover and I love books about dreams/nightmares.
Looks just like Merida from Brave! :D  
This says its a second and I don't think I've heard of the first book---I'll have to seek it out!
Witches, demons, and ancient battles. I'm hoping this one will be good!

Many thanks to Running Press Kids, Harlequin Mira, Scholastic, Random House, and Mink Publishing for these! 

The Weekly Nutshell: 
{Monday} Deep Blue Giveaway
{Tuesday} Waiting on Wednesday: The Opal Crown 
{Wednesday} Review: Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins
{Thursday} Rachel Hawkins Event Recap + Signed ARC Giveaway

Hope everyone had a fabulous week.  I've been doing lots of family stuff lately so I've been crawling through my reading so slowly.  LOL Been beautiful weather outside though, so it'd be a shame not to enjoy it! Before I know it, it will be too hot and I will be hiding indoors again!  On a side note, I very nearly had a heart attack this weekend when my computer went down and when I restarted it, it was just a blank screen that said "Missing Operating System".  Yikes!! If you ever see this, try this before you panic: unplug anything you have hooked up to USB connections and restart again.  Luckily this time, that did the trick. But uuuuugh.

Here I go, back to the safety of my very non-electronic books, sweeties! :)  
Oh and Happy Easter to those who celebrate it!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Rachel Hawkins Event Recap & Signed Rebel Belle Giveaway!

In an adorable little bookshop called Face in a Book, I was fortunate enough to meet one of my very favorite YA authors.  She was glowing and witty, there was lots of giggling around the whole room.  Yes, dear readers, Rachel Hawkins is just as funny in person (funnier, actually!) as the hilarious personalities she instilled in her characters. 

There was lots of  excitement in the air as this was the actual kick-off tour stop for her newest book, Rebel Belle.  Her entire sitting area was adorned in pink lollipops, tiaras, and pearls. She actually brought long strands of lovely pearls for her guests (making a hilarious crack about being surprised she made it through airline security with them without having an officer try to break one open in suspicion of finding drugs), which was such a fun idea, as her character often wears them in the book.  She answered a few quick question about all of her titles, the Hex Hall series, School Spirits (she assured us that there are no sequels in the works for this one), and Rebel Belle. She talked about cliffhangers, wild train adventures with Allie Carter, and being taught to smile for the camera by Maya Angelou.

She graciously signed all of our books, also stamping each copy of Rebel Belle with a cute little pink high heel shoe.  She was very casual with the crowd, upbeat, and animated and we all had a fantastic time!

Now, as I always try to do when I get to go to signings, I bought myself a finished copy, so I'm giving away my ARC---and, of course I got that signed for you, too!  Plus, LOOK at the adorable Rebel Belle posters that were handed out! Had one signed and I'm giving that away, too! :D
Enter below! One winner gets the signed ARC and signed poster of Rebel Belle!
•US addresses only
•must be 13+ or have parent permission
•Ends 5/1/14

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Becky's View: Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins

Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins
♦publisher: Putnam Juvenile
♦release date: April 8th, 2014
♦hardcover, 384 pages
♦intended audience: Young adult
♦series: Rebel Belle, book 1
♦source: from publisher for honest review
Harper Price, peerless Southern belle, was born ready for a Homecoming tiara. But after a strange run-in at the dance imbues her with incredible abilities, Harper's destiny takes a turn for the seriously weird. She becomes a Paladin, one of an ancient line of guardians with agility, super strength and lethal fighting instincts.

Just when life can't get any more disastrously crazy, Harper finds out who she's charged to protect: David Stark, school reporter, subject of a mysterious prophecy and possibly Harper's least favorite person. But things get complicated when Harper starts falling for him--and discovers that David's own fate could very well be to destroy Earth.

With snappy banter, cotillion dresses, non-stop action and a touch of magic, this new young adult series from bestseller Rachel Hawkins is going to make y'all beg for more.

Review: With Rebel Belle, Rachel Hawkins kicks off another fantastic series full of kick-butt action and characters to completely win me over.  I was so sad when the Hex Hall series ended and even sadder when we were teased with School Spirits, only to discover it would be a stand-alone.  So Rebel Belle has been at the top of my anticipation list for what seems like forever now.  And I can giddily say that there was not even the tiniest bit of disappointment.

At her recent book signing, Hawkins admitted to wanting these new characters to be as far from Hex Hall’s Sophie and Archer as possible…and she definitely accomplished that.  Rebel Belle introduces us to Harper Price, homecoming queen and over-achieving valedictorian hopeful, and also to David Stark, seemingly ruthless school reporter, constantly disheveled without a lick of fashion sense, and Harper’s biggest academic competition.  They’ve been at each other’s throats since grade school, never a kind word between them.  Suddenly Harper has the powers of a Paladin literally “thrust” upon her, which involve crazy ninja fighting skills and an undeniable instinct to protect one being, an Oracle…who just happens to be David.

Mostly the story deals with Harper’s challenge in facing this new crazy life while trying not to lose the whole life she’d built for herself before.  She has great friends, a sweet romantic boyfriend, loves her family (especially her rambunctious aunts) and her town.  She fears putting her life in danger because her parents have already suffered the loss of one child.   How can she be willing to lay down her life as a Paladin without losing everything else she holds dear?

One more thing Rachel Hawkins just seems to excel at is giving her main character the most awesome best friends.  This time around, we have Bee---I seriously wanted to hug this girl a few times throughout the story.   There was one moment where Harper gets cruelly “kicked while she’s down” and Bee is right there, not with fists but with her sharp Southern sass and a look that could kill, putting Harper’s attacker right back in her place, and I literally wanted to cry out of love.

This story takes mythology, assassins, tiaras, southern manners, head-butting, cotillions, and romance and mashes it up into one big fun, action-packed, sometimes hilarious, sometimes heartfelt read. I can’t recommend it, or any other of Rachel Hawkins’ books, enough!

 Visit Rachel Hawkins online:  Tumblr  •  Twitter •  Facebook

Purchase Rebel Belle: Amazon  •  BookDepository  •  Indiebound

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

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 Opal Crown 
by Jenny Lundquist

hitting shelves October 28th, 2014 from Running Press Kids

In the year since she was betrothed to the crown prince of Kyrenica, no one has suspected that the Masked Princess has been a decoy. That Elara, the secret twin sister, has been pretending to be Princess Wilha all along. The royal family has kept Elara’s identity hidden from the world, and for the girls, swapping lives has not been easy. Galandra is quickly declining, and the sisters continue to be a pawn in the Guardian’s ever-changing endgames.
But the stakes rise when Elara and Wilha’s younger brother, Andrei, takes the Galandrian throne after their father's death, and he reveals the girls' deception to Kyrenica’s royal family. Viewed as traitors, Elara and Wilha realize they are now fighting for their lives—and for their country. However, with only one crown and one throne to overthrow, Elara and Wilha must decide who will become queen. Or rather, the next savior for their people.
My thoughts: Princess in the Opal Mask was absolutely wonderful, one of my faves of last year.  If you haven't read it yet, READ IT!! :D  Love that they kept the same cover style, the watercolor-y close-up image, just looks so ethereal and a perfect fit for this gorgeous original fairy tale!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Win DEEP BLUE by Jennifer Donnelly + custom nail polish set!

I'm sure you've all witnessed this gorgeousness:

Well, today I'm happy to be able to host this awesome giveaway: 
TWO winners will each win a copy of DEEP BLUE and a custom nail polish set inspired by the book!! 

 Prizing & samples  courtesy of Disney Publishing

The first in a series of epic tales set in the depths of the ocean, where six mermaids seek to protect and save their hidden world.  

Deep in the ocean, in a world not so different from our own, live the merpeople. Their communities are spread throughout the oceans, seas, and freshwaters all over the globe. 

When Serafina, a mermaid of the Mediterranean Sea, awakens on the morning of her betrothal, her biggest worry should be winning the love of handsome Prince Mahdi. And yet Sera finds herself haunted by strange dreams that foretell the return of an ancient evil. Her dark premonitions are confirmed when an assassin’s arrow poisons Sera's mother. 

Now, Serafina must embark on a quest to find the assassin’s master and prevent a war between the Mer nations. Led only by her shadowy dreams, Sera searches for five other mermaid heroines who are scattered across the six seas. Together, they will form an unbreakable bond of sisterhood and uncover a conspiracy that threatens their world’s very existence.

Jennifer Donnelly is an award-winning author of both adult and young adult books, including Deep Blue, the first book in the Waterfire Saga. For adults she has written a trilogy of best-selling books that includes The Tea Rose, The Winter Rose, and The Wild Rose. Her first young adult novel, A Northern Light, received many accolades, among them the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, a Carnegie Medal in the UK, and a Michael L. Printz Honor. Her second young adult novel, Revolution, was named a Best Book of 2010 by Kirkus Reviews and School Library Journal, and the audiobook received a 2011 American Library Association Odyssey Honor. She lives in New York’s Hudson Valley.

Enter to win!!
Giveaway open to US addresses only
Contest ends 4/28/14
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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Ask Me Blog Tour: 15 Completely Random Bits of Truth about Kimberly Pauley!

Today I'm participating in the blog tour for
Ask Me by Kimberly Pauley!!

 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.

I've been excited about this one for quite some time and I'm really looking forward to diving into Aria's story of being an Oracle!!  In honor of Aria's unique gift, debut author Kimberly Pauley has stopped by with a few random truths of her own!!

15 Completely Random Bits of Truth About Kimberly Pauley
1. Like Aria, I lived in Florida and I used to walk in the woods and practice my silent forest walk. I got pretty good at it.

2. My first cat was named after Thomas Sawyer.

3. But my first pet, if I remember right, was a white mouse named Ralph. I really wanted a motorcycle for him. 

4. Also like Aria, I had really long hair when I was a teen. I could sit on it. I didn't cut it until sometime after I went to college.

5. I met my husband-to-be on my second day at university (at the University of Florida).

6. My biggest regret in life is that I can't play an instrument. But I am happy that we just bought our son an electric guitar.

7. Even though I was born in California, I lived the bulk of my life in the South (including Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, and Kentucky). That may be why the only type of music I really hate is Country (except Johnny Cash).

8. I was an English major but always thought the bulk of the symbolism they make you study in books is complete rubbish. I still mostly think that but I have to admit that I stuck a TON of symbolic stuff in Ask Me.  On purpose. English students everywhere are free to throw tomatoes at me. 

9. I have been playing the same character in a Dungeons and Dragons game for two and a half years now. The character is named Lirael after the Lirael in Garth Nix's books. 

10. When I moved from Florida to Mississippi between my sophomore and junior years, I wrote at least one letter a day to my friends and sometimes more. This was obviously before email...I miss writing letters like that sometimes!

11. I have never seen Titanic or Gone with the Wind.

12. One of my absolute favorite words is widdershins.

13. I kick butt at Scrabble.

14. When I was a teen, I had a phase where I would randomly talk in an English accent.  Now I live in London.  I don't think the two are connected (and I have also realized that the accent I used back then was like the Dick van Dyke one in Mary Poppins...which means it was absolute rubbish. 

15. I still have a record player and all of my records (some dating back to when I joined the Columbia Record House...ask an adult, they'll know what I'm talking about!) 

Oh gosh, I DO remember Columbia House---it was like a subscription service for records, and later on CDs.  And LOL about the Dick van Dyke accent!! xD!!

Displaying Kim Pauley_smaller.jpgABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Kimberly Pauley is the award-winning author of Sucks to Be Me, which was honored on the YALSA Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers list, and a paranormal mystery starring an oracle, called Ask Me. Born in California, she has lived everywhere from Florida to Chicago and has now gone international to live in London with her husband and son. She is also the founder of YA Books Central, one of the first and largest teen book websites in the world. Visit her online at


Displaying ASK ME Blog Tour Banner.jpg

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Becky's View: After The End by Amy Plum

After The End by Amy Plum
♦publisher: HarperTeen
♦release date: May 6th, 2014
♦hardcover, 336 pages
♦intended audience: Young adult
♦series: After the End, book 1
♦source: from publisher for honest review
"I have no idea what is truth and what is fiction. I'm all I've got now. I can't trust anyone."

World War III has left the world ravaged by nuclear radiation. A lucky few escaped to the Alaskan wilderness. They've survived for the last thirty years by living off the land, being one with nature, and hiding from whoever else might still be out there.

At least, this is what Juneau has been told her entire life.

When Juneau returns from a hunting trip to discover that everyone in her clan has vanished, she sets off to find them. Leaving the boundaries of their land for the very first time, she learns something horrifying: There never was a war. Cities were never destroyed. The world is intact. Everything was a lie.

Now Juneau is adrift in a modern-day world she never knew existed. But while she's trying to find a way to rescue her friends and family, someone else is looking for her. Someone who knows the extraordinary truth about the secrets of her past.

Review:  After the End is the start of another promising series from Amy Plum.  I honestly wasn't sure going into this one---I've lately started to cool on dystopians a bit, but to my wonderful surprise, this turned out not to be a dystopian at all!! Most of the story takes place in modern west coast America, so frankly this reads like a contemporary adventure with a touch of earthly magic thrown.  This turned out to be a story that I simply couldn't put down.  

I've seen many people liken this to the movie "The Village" (which I actually liked, sue me lol) but beyond the very basic idea of a group of adults who start a commune and pretend like the outside world doesn't exist, the similarity pretty much ends there. When Juneau returns from a hunt to find her village ravaged and her clan missing, she doesn’t hesitate to strike out on a quest to rescue them. Following clues given to her by a magical connection to the earth called the Yara, she’s led to a place that she’s been told her whole life no longer existed: the modern world. Having been taught that everything was destoryed by a third World War, Juneau is shocked to discover the truth: there was no WWIII and her whole life is built on a lie.  Her strength and determination is clear by the way she takes this all in, but still forges on, knowing she can't let this shock derail her mission to find her family.  Even knowing her father lied to her, she tells herself she can deal with that once she knows he is safe. 

The story is told is alternating viewpoints between Juneau and Miles, a boy whose father is after Juneau for reasons he doesn't quite understand.  He’s desperate to be back in his father’s good graces and thinks finding Juneau will do just that. He and Juneau have a hard time seeing eye-to-eye; she’s wary of trusting him and he suspects she’s insane. There are times when I thought he was just being an ass, but then to look at it realistically, he was just having a hard time buying Juneau's story and her odd ways---it's likely the way most people in the modern world would react to a person who claims to be magical and says she was raised in what sounded very much like a cult to him.  Still, they manage to be curious enough about each other to eventually form a bond.  It made for a story that's not centered around a romance, which was fine by me in this case, as I really liked the way their relationship progressed.  The action and adventure of the plot stayed in center stage, which is what kept me turning page after page.  I also really enjoyed the nature magic the author created and how Juneau grew to believe more in herself than all the talismans and trinkets she was taught to depend on.

I definitely intend on picking up book 2; my investment in these characters demands it after that ending! The ending leaves you dangling in the worst possible way---still exciting and heart-stopping, but an utterly torturous cliffhanger.  But even with that, this thrilling story of earthly magic, determination, and a girl rediscovering the world is truly engaging. 

Find Amy Plum online: Website  •  Twitter  •  Facebook

Purchase After The End:  Amazon  •  BookDepository  •  Indiebound


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

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.
Famous Last Words
by Katie Alender
hitting shelves September 30, 2014 from Scholastic Point
Hollywood history, mystery, murder, mayhem, and delicious romance collide in this unputdownable thriller from master storyteller Katie Alender.

Willa is freaking out. It seems like she's seeing things. Like a dead body in her swimming pool. Frantic messages on her walls. A reflection that is not her own. It's almost as if someone -- or something -- is trying to send her a message.

Meanwhile, a killer is stalking Los Angeles -- a killer who reenacts famous movie murder scenes. Could Willa's strange visions have to do with these unsolved murders? Or is she going crazy? And who can she confide in? There's Marnie, her new friend who may not be totally trustworthy. And there's Reed, who's ridiculously handsome and seems to get Willa. There's also Wyatt, who's super smart but unhealthily obsessed with the Hollywood Killer.

All Willa knows is, she has to confront the possible-ghost in her house, or she just might lose her mind . . . or her life.

Acclaimed author Katie Alender puts an unforgettable twist on this spine-chilling tale of murder, mystery, mayhem -- and the movies.
My thoughts: Never met a Katie Alender book I didn't love.  She has such a great writing style with a good dose of creepy and fun.   Plus, mystery based on famous movie murder scenes?? As a fan of Katie Alender's AND of classic movies, I think this sounds awesome!!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

New Shelf Goodies & The Weekly Nutshell {84}

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 new goodies for the week:
For review:
I'm doing a giveaway for this one, check my right sidebar if you want one, too! :)
This looks super cute. MG, I think?
Excited for this one, looks like a fun story about an art school that runs a reality TV show off their campus. 
Americans in an English boarding school, uncovering all manner of secrets. 
Sounds interesting, kind of a "Pocahontas" story but with the Inuit culture of Greenland. 

I also got a fantastic surprise package from Leigh Bardugo & Macmillan:
 I believe I've said this many times before, but I will say it again and again: Macmillan does the most remarkable promotional mailings and packaging designs for their books.  Love, Love LOVE.   On the other hand...I do feel kind of guilty getting this gorgeous thing, because I'm ashamed to say I haven't read this series yet!! 

Huge lovely thanks to Random House, Macmillan, and World Weaver Press for these!

The Weekly Nutshell: 
{Monday} Blog tour: Glamour by Andrea Janes Giveaway 
{Tuesday} "What's New" April Release List & Giveaway
{Wednesday} Waiting in Wednesday: Dream Boy
{Friday} Just a quick (slightly snarky) survey...

So that was my week.  Not much going on otherwise, but this coming Tuesday I am SUPER excited to go meet one of my fave authors, Rachel Hawkins!! Her Hex Hall series is a favorite of my daughters and mine! She seems to hardly ever visit the west coast so I'm very happy! :D

Have a great week, everyone!