Friday, October 31, 2014

NaNoWriMo: Opening Post, Some Useful Links & a Giveaway!!

 As many of you know, November is National Novel Writing Month! This year, for the first time, I'm participating in NaNoWriMo, and I'm so pumped to get going.  I know that life tends to creep up during the onset of the holidays, but I'm hoping to really make a go of achieving my goal!

It's all in good fun, though---if I reach the finish line or not, I think if I reach even a quarter of the way to 50k, I'll just be super proud that I got back to writing.  I've always loved it, since I was just a tiny third grader and I had this wonderful teacher that saw something in my storytelling and gave me such wonderful encouragement.  I've had a few more amazing writing teachers throughout my life since then, and I have all of them to thank for instilling the love of the written word in me!  I also have to give a shout out to my sometimes-co-blogger Amy. She is the one who pushed me to get off my butt and take on the challenge this year!  She is participating, too---so wish us both luck! :D

So obviously, I'm going to be throwing myself into this full force---and that means the blog will be a bit quieter for the month of November.  I don't plan on reading or reviewing this month so that I can really focus on my own story.  I do have one review that is already scheduled, and the November release list tomorrow, oh and I will probably pop in once in a while with a book haul or WoW post, but other than that, I'll be a bit scarce!

If you're taking on NaNoWriMo this year as well, I wish you the absolute best of luck and lots and lots of WORDS and beautiful PROSE flowing fast and freely from your fingertips! :D
I've started a Pinterest board with lots of great links and writerly quotes but here's a direct link to one great resource that I especially love:
Her blog has pages and pages of fantastic writing wisdom.

Also, I've teamed up with Sourcebooks to offer a giveaway of the newly updated version of this great book!

•US/CAN address only please
•Ends 11/10/14
a Rafflecopter giveaway
The author, Regina Brooks, is also running a YA Discovery Contest during November!  Those who submit the first 250 words of their novel can win the chance to have their manuscript read by her literary agency, and top YA editors in the industry.  Find out more here!

Here are two more books I love for great writing tips and sparking creativity:

 And lastly!! If you are participating this year, I'd love to be one of your writing buddies!
Let's cheer each other on! :D

Happy Halloween!!

Happy Halloween everyone!!
It's always a busy day at my house, but I wanted to stop in and wish everyone a fun and safe and SPOOKY day!!  

Here's a few ideas if you want to get in the mood with some spooky reading!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

They All Fall Down by Roxanne St. Claire {review & giveaway}

Hello, all! Today, as part of the They All Fall Down Blog Tour, I'll be sharing my thoughts on the book and giving away a finished copy! 

They All Fall Down
by Roxanne St. Claire
♦publisher: Delacorte Press
♦release date: October 14, 2014
♦harcover, 339 pages
♦intended audience: Young adult
♦source: from publisher for honest review
Every year, the lives of ten girls at Vienna High are transformed.

All because of the list.

Kenzie Summerall can't imagine how she's been voted onto a list of the hottest girls in school, but when she lands at number five, her average life becomes dazzling. Doors open to the best parties, new friends surround her, the cutest jock in school is after her.

This is the power of the list. If you're on it, your life changes.

If you're on it this year? Your life ends.

The girls on the list have started to die, one by one. Is it a coincidence? A curse? Or is the list in the hands of a killer?

Time is running out for Kenzie, but she’s determined to uncover the deadly secret of the list...before her number’s up.

Review: In a story as fun and entertaining as it is dark and murderous, They All Fall Down delivers a smart heroine, a bullet-fast pace, and a murder mystery that just keeps coming with the surprises. 

Kenzie has a good head on her shoulders and every determination to get through high school unscathed and into Cambridge. Her big brother, Connor, was in a freak accident two years ago, leaving his sister grieving, their parents unable to see eye to eye, and their mother terrified of danger in even the most unlikely scenarios.  Kenzie rails against her to get a little bit of freedom—this is her biggest daily problem, until one day she makes it on “The Hottie List”.  It’s a secret list that every boy in school votes on, but every year it puts ten girls at the top. As cheesily named as it is sexist, Kenzie can’t help but roll her eyes at this supposed “honor”.  Her best friend, Molly, can’t believe their luck and plans to ride Kenzie’s coat tails into popularity, something the two of them have never had.

The deaths start piling up as each girl on the list gets picked off in order, and rumors of a curse are flying, but Kenzie’s not buying it.  I loved her sharp humor and her cynical attitude toward the ridiculous things that people around her were taking at face value, including the list itself.  Sure, she’s pulled along into it all, but she quickly confirms for herself that popularity and its perks may not be what she wants at all. She takes it on herself to figure out exactly what is going on before her number is up. I felt for her vulnerability that came from her grief and I loved the fact that she was willing to let someone in that everyone else had written off.

Even the romance proved to be edge-of-your-seat: falling for the bad boy is definitely frowned upon by her “list sisters”, especially when he turns up as suspect #1 in the murders.  No love triangle here---of the two main male characters, it’s pretty clear which one Kenzie will fall for…and which one will turn out to be not only a jerk, but one scary disaster.  Best friend Molly’s likability was off and on for me, as were many of the characters, but all of them made for an interesting mix.

It’s a crazy twist of an end that sets these characters up for possible future adventures, though I found it a little far-fetched, especially concerning the mother’s very severe change of heart and the likelihood of the FBI asking a bunch of teens to take on a very deadly mission---but it was a really fun story and had me wildly entertained from beginning to end. This is definitely something I can see turning into a show or movie along the lines of Pretty Little Liars!

Find Roxanne St. Claire online: Website  •  Twitter  •  Facebook

Purchase the book:  •  Bookdepository  •  Indiebound

The awesome folks at Delacorte are allowing me to give one finished copy to one very lucky blog visitor! Enter below!
•US mailing addresses only please
• Must be 13 or older
•Ends  November 13, 2014
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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Opal Crown Blog Tour: Guest Post & Giveaway!

Today, I'm excited to host Jenny Lundquist, author of one of my favorite duologies, Princess in the Opal Mask and The Opal Crown!  She's here to talk about her top ten Fairy Tale movies!

Top Ten Fairy Tale Movies

I have pretty eclectic taste when it comes to fairy tale inspired movies. In no particular order, the following ten are my favorites:

1. Hook- Because I love Robin Williams, and was saddened by his death. Also, I love the premise of this movie.

2. Labyrinth- David Bowie. Need I say more?

3. Cinderella- Magic, Mystery and Midnight! And giant pumpkin carriages!

4. The Princess Bride- As…You…Wish!

5. Tangled- Beautiful Animation. Also, I want these lanterns. 

6. The Matrix- I know, that might sound strange as a fairy tale. But I once read an article that argued that The Matrix is basically a scifi retelling of Alice in Wonderland. After thinking about it, I have to agree. And I dig those fight scenes.

7. Edward Scissorhands- Best ice sculptures ever.

8. The Wizard of Oz- This might be slightly influenced by my deep, DEEP, love for the musical WICKED. Also, is it shallow if I say I really want a pair of these ruby slippers?

9. Disney’s Snow White- The witch still scares me to this day.

And finally…

10. Frozen!

This is hands down one of my favorites. I love how it turns some of the fairy tale tropes on its head (“Who marries someone they just met?!!?”). I love the fact that Elsa is a queen, not just a princess. And I love the point the movie makes that true love can exist between siblings, not just romantic partners. For those of you who have already read The Opal Mask series, I think you can see why that appeals to me. Also, I may or may not have listened to Let It Go a bazillion times while I revised The Opal Crown.

About Jenny:
Jenny Lundquist grew up in Huntington Beach, California, wearing glasses and wishing they had magic powers. They didn't, but they did help her earn a degree in intercultural studies at Biola University. Jenny has painted an orphanage in Mexico, taught English at a university in Russia, and hopes one day to write a book at a café in Paris. Jenny and her husband live in northern California with their two sons and Rambo, the world's whiniest cat.

 The New Book:
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.


(1)  Winner will receive a $25 Amazon or Barnes &Noble Gift card and a set of THE PRINCESS IN THE OPAL MASK and THE OPAL CROWN. US Only.

(4) Winners will receive a set of THE PRINCESS IN THE OPAL MASK and THE OPAL CROWN. US Only.
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Monday, October 27, 2014

The Fall by Bethany Griffin: Guest Post + Giveaway

Today I'm honored to host a guest post by one my favorite authors, Bethany Griffin.  One of the things that I mentioned in my recent review of The Fall was how she cleverly kept the heart of Poe's story, The Fall of the House of Usher, but shifted the POV to Madeline to give us a first hand perspective on the madness setting in, the fear of the house, and the desperation to both appease it and escape it.  I asked her to tell us a bit more about her decision to put the focus on Madeline and what she wanted from her heroine!

Welcome Bethany Griffin!

Building Madeline’s Character

I’d guess that all writers build characters in slightly different (or perhaps vastly different) ways, and we sometimes build them differently from story to story. I think that I generally come up with some of the plot first, and then as the plot develops, the characters, particularly the main characters, take form, and from that point character and plot develop organically together…

In the case of Madeline Usher, we have a character from a story by Edgar Allan Poe, whose only purpose (within her brother’s story) is to create horror and show us the suffering and madness of Roderick Usher. She is mute, and without her own sense of purpose (within Poe’s story) but she isn’t a completely blank slate.

There are three things I knew about Madeline from the beginning.
1. She is a twin/has a twin
2. She lives in a creepy mansion
3. She has catatonic fits

But who is Madeline? What does she want and dream of? As I develop a character, I always ask myself questions about her, and the most important question is always: What makes this character get up in the morning? This is what separates characters from real people in my mind. Many people don’t have a reason for getting up in the morning (real people can be annoyingly random), but characters must have a reason. They should be driven, particularly my female characters (who are always trapped in some way). But they can’t just be trying to escape from whatever is trapping them, they must also have a personality of their own.

So, in order to begin The Fall, I figured out what makes Madeline get up in the morning. (The hope that Roderick will return at first, the drive to bring down the house, later.) I determined what makes her happy (her garden). I determined what lengths she is willing to go to for her goals and to protect the people she loves. And more than anything, I determined how the person she might have been, the person she was meant to be, was warped by the three facts above, as well as by her isolation and the genetic predispositions of the Usher family.

What I ended up with was a determined, loving, impossibly brave young woman, who is terribly naïve, borderline insane, and in every possible way, a hero. She isn’t strong physically, in fact she is the very opposite, but she endures terrible hardship despite her physical weaknesses. She is clever despite being borderline mad. She is kind when no one has ever been kind to her, and she is hopeful when her world gives her no reason to feel even the slightest inkling of hope. As you can probably tell, I love Madeline, and I hope readers will, too!

 Thanks, Bethany! I love seeing how authors go about creating their characters!

 I have an extra ARC copy of The Fall that I'd love to pass into the hands of one lucky reader!
 Ends Nov. 10, 2014; US mailing addresses only please.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Cure for Dreaming by Cat Winters {Review & Giveaway}

The Cure for Dreaming
by Cat Winters
♦publisher: Amulet Books
♦release date: October 14th, 2014
♦hardcover, 368 pages
♦intended audience: Young adult
♦source: ALA

Olivia Mead is a headstrong, independent girl—a suffragist—in an age that prefers its girls to be docile. It’s 1900 in Oregon, and Olivia’s father, concerned that she’s headed for trouble, convinces a stage mesmerist to try to hypnotize the rebellion out of her. But the hypnotist, an intriguing young man named Henri Reverie, gives her a terrible gift instead: she’s able to see people’s true natures, manifesting as visions of darkness and goodness, while also unable to speak her true thoughts out loud. These supernatural challenges only make Olivia more determined to speak her mind, and so she’s drawn into a dangerous relationship with the hypnotist and his mysterious motives, all while secretly fighting for the rights of women. Winters breathes new life into history once again with an atmospheric, vividly real story, including archival photos and art from the period throughout.

Review: For the second time, Cat Winters has astounded me with her breathtaking, spine-chilling writing, her ability to create a cast full of engaging characters, and her absolute death grip of a grasp on how to make a reader feel like they’ve been plopped right down into important moments in history.  In The Cure for Dreaming, she completely immerses us into the chaos and frustrations of the woman’s suffrage movement through the eyes of a young woman named Olivia.  The story opens on Halloween night, Olivia’s birthday, and she and her friends are attending a show where gifted hypnotist Henrie Reverie is about to give her an amazing mystical experience and make her the talk of the town.   At home, Olivia is in constant battle with her backward-thinking father, a horrible man who thinks woman are only good for serving their husbands and takes a little too much pleasure in the pain he inflicts as a dentist. 

What most impresses me is how terrifying this story is. In an effort to get his “wild daughter” under control, Olivia’s father hires Henrie to hypnotize her into “seeing the world the way it truly is” and the shock of what that means sinks in when she first opens her eyes and sees her father as a gaunt, red-eyed, long-fanged beast.  She sees the cruelty in people as a monstrous manifestation. She envisions downtrodden women as so drained of life you can see right through them.  It gives the story an incredibly chilling paranormal feel without anything but a psychological manipulation actually happening! Brilliantly done!
While her new way of seeing things scares her beyond words, Olivia also becomes an even stronger woman because of it.  I loved the part she played in the suffrage movement, I loved the twisting and unpredictable, not-so-much love story, but attraction and fascination that Henrie and Olivia had toward each other.  And I love that at the end, she is standing strong, following no one’s influence but her own.

So much to recommend about this addictive, mesmerizing, psychological horror story. Read it. For those of you that loved In the Shadow of Blackbirds, I dare say this was even more captivating. 

Find Cat Winters online:  Website  •  Twitter  •  Facebook
Purchase the book:  •  BookDepository  •  Indiebound

Halloween Giveaway!!
This book makes such a perfect Halloween read, I want to get it into the hands of one lucky reader by Halloween night!
Contest ends 10/27/14---Just a quick one! 
US addresses only please.
*OK, not sure why my rafflecopter was being nutty before, but it appears to be working now! Sorry about that!*
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, October 21, 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.  Though someday I need to change the title that I post this under---I almost never post it on Wednesday! :D

Siren's Fury
by Mary Weber

hitting shelves June 2nd, 2015 
from Thomas Nelson 

description: "I thrust my hand toward the sky as my voice begs the Elemental inside me to waken and rise. But it's no use. The curse I've spent my entire life abhorring—the thing I trained so hard to control—no longer exists."

Nym has saved Faelen only to discover that Draewulf stole everything she valued. Now he’s destroyed her Elemental storm-summoning ability as well.

When Nym sneaks off with a host of delegates to Bron, Lord Myles offers her the chance for a new kind of power and the whispered hope that it may do more than simply defeat the monster she loathes. But the secrets the Bron people have kept concealed, along with the horrors Draewulf has developed, may require more than simply harnessing a darker ability.

They may require who she is.

Set against the stark metallic backdrop of the Bron kingdom, Nym is faced with the chance to change the future.

Or was that Draewulf’s plan for her all along?

My thoughts: SO, I haven't yet had a chance to read book 1 in this series, but I have it on good authority (I'm looking at you, Rachel!) that it was an awesome beginning. But I just had to feature this one now---I mean...LOOK at that cover!  How many times can you say that a sequel cover is even more gorgeous that the first book?  First one was pretty, this one is stunning!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

New Shelf Goodies & The Weekly Nutshell {107}

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)

New stuff this week:
 For review: 
Looks so interesting! A girl gets mistaken for her dead twin sister!
So excited to get this one! Very excited to see Holly Black return to writing Fairies! :)

I've loved this series so far, so when this came across my desk today, I had to bring it home!
Many thanks to Macmillan and Little Brown for the review copies!

The weekly nutshell:
{Tuesday} Waiting on Wednesday: Rook 

{Thursday} Review: Chasing Power

 I feel like such a Halloween failure! I'm usually the first on the blog to have my house decorated, but we've all been so busy lately that we just got them up yesterday! Still I love them, I have my circle of ghosts and my "fresh" graves all ready to greet trick or treaters. :)  The leaves are falling fast and the weather is finally starting to drop into the 70s. Hurrah! Next week I'm headed to another trade show, so this week will be all about sorting books out for giveaways and starting to put them aside for local donations and Toys for Tots.  Always kind of fun to go through everything and get some space cleared. :) 
Tomorrow I'm taking my first stab at making french macarons.  We visited Thomas Keller's Bouchon bakery last week and I've become obsessed with them.  I know they won't be nearly as good---their recipe is sheer culinary genius---but I'll take a crack at it and hope for the best! I've heard it's pretty tricky to get them right!
 Finished Cure for Dreaming this week.  Cat Winters blew me away with this one. Gave me a bit of book hangover, but I'm starting and enjoying They All Fall Down so far!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Chasing Power by Sarah Beth Durst {review}

Chasing Power
by Sarah Beth Durst
♦publisher: Bloomsbury USA
♦release date: October 14th, 2014
♦hardcover, 376 pages
♦intended audience: Young adult
♦source: from publisher for honest review
Sixteen-year-old Kayla was born with the ability to move things with her mind-things like credit cards and buttons on cash registers-and she has become a master shoplifter. She steals to build up enough money for her and her mom to be able to flee if her dad finds them again . . . which would mean grave danger for them both.

When she's caught stealing by a boy named Daniel-a boy with the ability to teleport-he needs her help and is willing to blackmail her to get it. Together, they embark on a quest to find and steal an ancient incantation, written on three indestructible stones and hidden millennia ago, all to rescue Daniel's kidnapped mother. But Kayla has no idea that this rescue mission will lead back to her own family-and to betrayals that she may not be able to forgive . . . or survive.

Review: Chasing Power was a great adventurous story, possibly my favorite from Sarah Beth Durst yet! Kayla whole life has become about hiding; she hides her powers of telekinesis from the world, she hides the fact that she secretly uses those powers from her mother, and most importantly she hides from her estranged father who murdered her sister.  In true angsty fashion, she takes out her frustration about living like this by using her powers to pull off small-time jewelry heists and ATM robberies. At first the details of how she pulled things off without anyone seeing was a little far-fetched, specifically when items are moving about in very public places with no one noticing but I let my disbelief suspend a bit in the name of a fantastic story. 

One day she is approached by Daniel, a guy with plenty of power of his own, but he needs her specific skill to help track down his kidnapped mother---so much that’s he’s willing to blackmail Kayla into helping him. She, of course, does not take kindly to being manipulated, so starts their very rocky relationship.  I liked Daniel’s character a lot, a scared guy trying to act tough but slowly you see his vulnerability come through. And as far as supernatural powers go, being able to teleport to any place he’s been or seen would be amazing! Their quest takes them to New Orleans to confer with a VooDoo queen and then on to so many far-off exotic places,  a thrill for Kayla who thought she would never leave their tiny home in Santa Barbara. 

The story races along, one plot-propelling scene from the next, while still allowing time to let us see into the hearts of these characters as their feelings toward each other shift and change and how their emotional struggles with their prospective families reveal themselves.  She also has a great best friend, Serena, incredibly smart, huge fun personality, super resourceful, many facets of her own that rounded out the story and Kayla’s character. Kayla’s mother is a big part of the story as well, a woman who has grown accustomed to running and living in fear, raising her daughter to do the same because it’s the only way she can conceive to keep her safe. 

The danger builds and many secrets and hidden pasts are revealed as they chase clues around the world, trying to stay one step ahead of their pursuers. Lots of twists and head-spinning surprises kept me turning page after page until the very end. 

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