Review: SNOW LIKE ASHES by Sara Raasch

A heartbroken girl. A fierce warrior. A hero in the making.

Sixteen years ago the Kingdom of Winter was conquered and its citizens enslaved, leaving them without magic or a monarch. Now, the Winterians’ only hope for freedom is the eight survivors who managed to escape, and who have been waiting for the opportunity to steal back Winter’s magic and rebuild the kingdom ever since.

Orphaned as an infant during Winter’s defeat, Meira has lived her whole life as a refugee, raised by the Winterians’ general, Sir. Training to be a warrior—and desperately in love with her best friend, and future king, Mather — she would do anything to help her kingdom rise to power again.

So when scouts discover the location of the ancient locket that can restore Winter’s magic, Meira decides to go after it herself. Finally, she’s scaling towers, fighting enemy soldiers, and serving her kingdom just as she’s always dreamed she would. But the mission doesn’t go as planned, and Meira soon finds herself thrust into a world of evil magic and dangerous politics – and ultimately comes to realize that her destiny is not, never has been, her own.

Oh, SNA, how ever am I going to give you a rating? You’re such a prickly mix of good elements and not-so-good elements, pieces that kept me hanging on every word and pieces that made me roll my eyes, fantastic moments and scoff-inducing scenes. WHAT AM I TO DO WITH YOU?! I’ll admit, I had a great time mocking parts of you, and yet I’m looking forward to your sequel.

Continue Reading →

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#RBWL Fall 2014 Recap

RBWL copy

Whoosh! Hallelujah, praise the Lord, it’s over. #RBWL was this past Friday. To tell the truth, I was dragging my feet over this round of the Wishlist. I didn’t want to do it, I didn’t want to let it suck up my day, I didn’t want to promote it… I think a big part of the problem was I was concerned that people were getting tired of the hashtag. I didn’t want to bore anyone or bother their timelines, but after several people asked me specifically when #RBWL was coming back, well…

And you know what? I can’t speak for you all, but I had a blast. Old faces and new faces joined in and seemed to enjoy themselves, and several people said they were gleaning NaNo inspiration, which is just what I wanted.

Here are just a few of some of my favorite tweets (not including my own):

In case any of you were wondering, yes, the #RBWL Archives are still a thing, even though they haven’t been updated for ages. That’s part of my “Need to do someday” list. Sigh.

Also, I’ve decided that #RBWL will be scaled down to an annual event rather than a semi-annual event. I’m worried that people will just regurgitate old wishes if we keep to the October/April format, and #RBWL seems more useful just before NaNoWriMo anyways.

So thank you all for turning out on Friday, thank you for celebrating books and the wonderful stories and characters inside them, and thank you for continuing to strive for something more. See you all next year!

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Rewind & Review (68)

Rewind & Review

 

Blog Posts You Might Have Missed

Sparse week post-wise this week, but that’s okay. This Friday was #RBWL and I had to gird my loins for that.

Stuff I Received

  • I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios (from Macmillan)

Thanks, Macmillan! I’m super-excited for this one!

Stuff I Bought

  • Ignite Me by Tahereh Mafi
  • Dust Girl by Sarah Zettel

What I Read

  • Front and Center by Catherine Gilbert Murdock audiobook – So good. SO. GOOD. I love DJ and the Schwenks and Bryan and Beaner and ugggh. I’m so sad this series is over. Please, Murdock, more?
  • H2O by Virginia Bergin – FANTASTIC. Was wary going in but oh my word, I couldn’t put it down. Review to come.
  • Exquisite Captive by Heather Demetrios – Haven’t decided how I feel about this one. Review to come.

Event of the Week

There were actually two big events this week—one happy and one really, really not.

The happy event was #RBWL on Friday, which was fantastic and fun and refreshing. I didn’t do much pre-hype at all, so I wasn’t sure what the turnout would be like, but I loved the number of people who jumped in with new ideas. Also, several people said they gleaned some NaNo inspiration, which is doubly exciting!

The really, really unhappy event was Kathleen Hale’s article in The Guardian [this link is a Do Not Link, so it won't give traffic to The Guardian] where she essentially brags shamelessly about how she engaged with, obsessed over, and stalked a blogger over a negative review, culminating where she visited the blogger at home and at work. I spent the majority of Saturday in complete and utter RAGE. You can still find all my tweets in my timeline, but basically there is zero excuse for what Hale did, and I sincerely hopes Harper drops her like a bad penny. (Because if she had a “normal” job and reacted to someone like this, do you really think she’d still be employed?)

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Cover Love #76

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Sam and Lizzie are freezing and hungry on the streets of Victorian London. When Sam asks a wealthy man for some coins, he is rudely turned away. Months of struggle suddenly find their focus, and Sam resolves to kill the man. Huddling in a graveyard for warmth, Sam and Lizzie are horrified to see the earth around one of the tombs begin to shift, shortly followed by the wraithlike figure of a ghostly man. He warns Sam about the future which awaits such a bitter heart, and so begins Sam’s journey led by terrifying spirits through the past, present and future, after which Sam must decide whether to take the man, Scrooge’s, life or not.

A perfectly layered, tense and supremely satisfying twist on one of Dickens’ most popular books, cleverly reinvented to entice a younger readership.

I can’t. I CAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN’T. I know I order you all to look at the pretty cover every week, but FOR REAL. LOOK AT IT. It’s so beautifully Burton-y. I don’t even think I can break everything down, because it’s all so wonderful TOGETHER. Look at the skeleton figures! Look at the spooky graveyard! Look at the chains! Look at the bright London lights! Look at the full moon! Look at the beautiful colors and the frost around the edges!

A Christmas Carol, the Dickens story this book is retelling, is practically in my blood. Y’all don’t even know. The combination of the description and the cover is too much for me to handle. I need to prostrate myself before my Bloomsbury people now.

What do you think of this cover?

 

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Sarah Beth Durst Talks Inspiration For CHASING POWER

Lies, secrets, and magic — three things that define Kayla’s life.

Sixteen-year-old Kayla plans to spend her summer hanging out on the beach in Santa Barbara and stealing whatever she wants, whenever she wants it. Born with the ability to move things with her mind — things like credit cards, diamond rings, and buttons on cash registers — she has become a master shoplifter. She steals to build up a safety net, enough money for her and her mom to be able to flee if her dad finds them again. Well, that, and the thrill of using her secret talents.

But her summer plans change when she’s caught stealing by a boy named Daniel — a boy who needs her help and is willing to blackmail her to get it. Daniel has a talent of his own. He can teleport, appearing anywhere in the world in an instant, but he lies as easily as he travels. 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.

The idea for my new YA novel CHASING POWER came from one of those questions that you ask your friends late at night after you’ve finished dissecting everyone’s personal lives, speculating on the future of various relationships, and musing over the awesomeness of avocados.  Namely: “If you could have any superpower, what would you choose?”

My standard answer for years has been telekinesis.

(This is, of course, assuming that I can’t choose the power to end world hunger, cure all diseases, or other world-improving ability.)

So that’s where I began this novel: a girl with telekinesis.  But I didn’t want her too powerful, because then she could just rely on magic to solve her problems.  I wanted my girl to be clever. So I made it that Kayla can only lift very, very light things with her mind.

One idea is not a novel, though.  Novels need a whole lot more.

I’m convinced that novels aren’t born from a lightning strike Idea-with-a-capital-I, but are instead grown from lots of little sparks that stick together to create a blaze.  Here are a couple of the sparks that went into creating CHASING POWER:

1. Telekinesis — I’ve loved this power ever since I first read THE GIRL WITH THE SILVER EYES by Willo Davis Roberts and watching the movie Escape to Witch Mountain.

2. My mom — She has a Ph.D. in Mayan archaeology, and this inspired me to turn toward Guatemala for several key plot points.

3. My mom, again — She and I are close, and I know that inspired Kayla’s close relationship with her mother, even though character-wise Kayla and Moonbeam are nothing like my mom and me.

4. The year I spent living in Santa Barbara — Kayla lives in Santa Barbara, and all the State Street scenes are sprinkled with images from my memory.

5. Whatever National Geographic issue had pictures of old catacombs in Europe filled with displays of skills — There’s this one scene where… well, you’ll see

6. Another National Geographic issue that had an article on the People of the Clouds in Peru — See, hoarding magazines can be useful!

I could probably pick another half dozen things that filtered into my mind and came out into the novel, and there are probably at least a half dozen more that I’m not even aware of.

Whenever anyone asks, “Where do your ideas come from?” or “What’s your inspiration?” I always feel so cheesy answering, “Everywhere and everything.”  But I think that is actually the truest answer.

Sarah Beth Durst is the author of nine fantasy novels for children, teens, and adults, including Conjured, Vessel, and Ice. Her most recent YA novel, Chasing Power, came out in October 2014 from Bloomsbury, and her next middle-grade novel, The Girl Who Could Not Dream, is scheduled for release in fall 2015 from HMH/Clarion Books. Sarah was awarded the 2013 Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature and has been a finalist for SFWA’s Andre Norton Award three times.

Sarah was born in Northboro, Massachusetts, a small town that later became the setting for her debut novel. At the age of ten, she decided she wanted to be a writer. (Before that, she wanted to be Wonder Woman, except with real flying ability instead of an invisible jet. She also would have accepted a career as a unicorn princess.) And she began writing fantasy stories. She attended Princeton University, where she spent four years studying English, writing about dragons, and wondering what the campus gargoyles would say if they could talk. Sarah lives in Stony Brook, New York, with her husband and two children.

BUY Chasing Power: Books-A-Million |Barnes & Noble |The Book Depository |Chapters |Amazon

FOLLOW Sarah Beth Durst: Twitter |Pinterest |Facebook |Blog

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When You Wish Upon A…

Step aside, Jiminy. Wishing on a star is all well and good, but when it comes to wishing for the perfect story, there’s nothing like wishing on a hashtag.

RBWL copy

Tadaaaa! That’s right, ladies and gents, it’s time once again for #RBWL to take over Twitter! The October round is always my favorite, because it’s a great way for readers and writers to get pumped for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), which is just around the corner.

Now for those of you who either have no idea what #RBWL is or have forgotten the details, allow me to plagiarize my post from last time.

What’s #RBWL?

#RBWL is a hashtag that stands for Reader/Blogger Wishlist. It’s a way for readers on Twitter to discuss what they want to see in their books.

What’s the point? 

There are four great benefits to #RBWL.

1. It’s super-cathartic. Honestly, once you start, it’s hard to stop. All these things you didn’t even consciously know you wanted start pouring out of your head and onto the screen. Dragons! More hate-to-love romances! Skinwalkers in ancient Carthage! Space operas!

2. It’s comforting. Not only are you pouring your readerly heart out, but others are, too, and some of them want the same things you do. You’re not crazy, hooray! Even better, some of them have already read books that match that special something you’re seeking, so they can recommend books.

3. It’s proactive. I’m not saying that the industry leaps to attention when #RBWL speaks. We’re not that special. But agents, editors, and authors do want to know what will entice readers. So let them know!

4. It’s great NaNo fodder. I can’t tell you the number of people during the last October #RBWL that said they would be using something from the hashtag to get them started. Whether it’s an idea shared by someone else or something jumpstarted by your own creative juices, #RBWL just might give you the head start that you need.

When is it?

RBWL is coming back October 17th at 12 PM EST/9 AM PST, so mark your calendars and set your alarms!

How do I participate? 

Go on Twitter at the time and date mentioned above and tweet what you, as a reader, are wishing for. Be sure to add the hashtag #RBWL at the end so others can see it, too! And be sure to tell your friends, because the more people we have, the more fun it will be!

See? Nothing too fancy. Your wishes can be genre- or age-specific or just a general wish. They can be about different kinds of tropes, stories, plot twists, formats, narrative styles, settings, you name it! If you want it, you can tweet it.

Is this just a YA thing?

Nope. We heard this one a lot last year, but #RBWL is for ALL readers. It tends to swing toward the YA end of the spectrum just because a lot of us who participate are YA bloggers, but we’ve had wishes for YA, adult lit, MG lit, NA lit, and even picture books! Again, tweet what you want, and if you feel that your age category or genre is underrepresented, then pull some like-minded friends to tweet their wishes as well!

I’m a writer/editor/agent/other professional person. May I participate, too?

Absolutely! All readers are welcome. We do ask, however, that you refrain from spam-promoting the thread. Just use common sense. If you’re a nuisance, you’ll turn people off, not only on your book but also on you. If you have any questions, just ask. I’ll be bumming around the hashtag all day if anyone has any concerns. And, of course, you’re more than welcome to add wishlist items if your own!

What if I can’t think of anything to wish for?

Believe me, you will. But if, for some reason, your brain juices stop flowing, explore the hashtag and see what other people are wishing for. Odds are you’ll see something that you agree with or makes you think of something else you’ve been hungering for. You can also check out the #RBWL archives to see what people have wished for in past sessions.

~~*~~

Okay, so repeat after me. #RBWL on Twitter, October 17th, 12 PM EST/9 AM PST.

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Rewind & Review (67)

Rewind & Review

 

Blog Posts You Might Have Missed

I’m rather pleased with that BLLB review, if I do say so myself.

Stuff I Bought

  • The Savage Damsel and the Dwarf (Squire’s Tale #3) by Gerald Morris
  • The Princess, the Crone, and the Dung-Cart Knight (Squire’s Tale #6) by Gerald Morris
  • The Princess Bride by William Goldman
  • The Buck Stops Here by Mindy Starnes Clark
  • Nzingha: Warrior Queen of Matamba by Patricia McKissack
  • Mary, Queen of Scots: Queen without a Country by Kathryn Lasky
  • Lady of Ch’iao Kuo: Warrior of the South by Laurence Yep
  • Eleanor: Crown Jewel of Aquitaine by Kristina Gregory
  • This Night So Dark by

What can I say? There was a sale at Better World Books.

Stuff I Received

  • The Boy Next Door by Katie Van Ark (from Macmillan)
  • The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski (both from Macmillan)

Bless your face, Macmillan!

What I Read

  • How To Twist a Dragon’s Tale by Cressida Cowell audiobook –
  • Loop by Karen Akins – Total banterfluff! Such fun! Review to come.
  • An internship MS
  • H2O by Virginia Bergin – Just started this one on Saturday and am TEARING through it. Can’t wait to finish!

Event of the Week

Nothing really happened this week. I still can’t hear out of my left ear, which is annoying and really messes with my productivity. Ooh, wait! I started Victoria Schwab’s sticker system! So hopefully that will balance out my productivity issues nicely.

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DNF Review: Oh Yeah Audrey + Adrenaline Crush

It’s 5:00 a.m. on Fifth Avenue, and 16-year-old Gemma Beasley is standing in front of Tiffany & Co. wearing the perfect black dress with her coffee in hand—just like Holly Golightly. As the cofounder of a successful Tumblr blog—Oh Yeah Audrey!—devoted to all things Audrey Hepburn, Gemma has traveled to New York in order to meet up with her fellow bloggers for the first time. She has meticulously planned out a 24-hour adventure in homage to Breakfast at Tiffany’s; however, her plans are derailed when a glamorous boy sweeps in and offers her the New York experience she’s always dreamed of. Gemma soon learns who her true friends are and that, sometimes, no matter where you go, you just end up finding yourself. Filled with hip and sparkling prose, Oh Yeah, Audrey! is as much a story of friendship as it is a love letter to New York, Audrey Hepburn, and the character she made famous: Holly Golightly.

This DNF makes me sad, sad, sad. I wanted to love this book but just couldn’t get into it. The beginning wasn’t awful, just slow. Gemma, our protagonist, is the only on-page character for seventy pages. Seventy! Literally the first seventy pages is Gemma thinking about Audrey Hepburn, Gemma describing scenes from Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Gemma flashing back to conversations she’s had with her dad/Tumblr buddies, and Gemma walking up and down the sidewalk in front of the store.

I did like the foundational work the author did regarding internet friendships. Gemma and her friends are real friends. They share intimate details about their lives with each other and gain the emotional support that’s lacking from “real life” friends and family. It’s really cool, and I wanted to hold on just so I could follow this thread further. Unfortunately, Gemma and her friends are freaking annoying. I physically winced while reading their argument with Telly the troll, as Gemma’s group came off far worse than Telly did. Also, they tend to rehash the same discussions over and over. This may be an accurate portrayal of a fan group, but it makes for a less than compelling read, which blended nicely with the rest of their uninspired dialogue. By the time Gemma’s too-good-to-be-true crush showed up (super-rich, dusty-haired Dusty Sant’angelo with the “slate gray” eyes), I was done. I couldn’t even hold on for Audrey, since 99% of the conversation focused on my least favorite movie. Pity.

Note: I received a digital review copy of this title from the publisher for review consideration.

Buy The Book Now at The Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

When a daredevil teen pushes herself too far, she must choose between two boys: the one who wants to keep her safe, and the one who dares her to return to her old self.

Seventeen-year-old Dyna comes from a family of risk takers and is an avid thrill-seeker herself, until the day she splinters her ankle in a terrible fall. Her whole life goes from mountain biking and rock climbing to sitting at home and attending group sessions at the bizarre alternative healing center that her hippie mother found. The boy who witnessed Dyna’s accident believes her injury is a wakeup call and he encourages her mild new lifestyle, but a young Afghanistan War veteran she meets at the healing center pushes her to start taking chances again. Forced to face the consequences of her daredevil impulses, Dyna finds herself in danger of risking the one thing she’s always treated with caution—her heart.

Gah! Another fail that I dearly wanted to love! However, I accept the full blame for not connecting with this particular title. Dyna and her world was just not for me. I don’t understand girls who look for afternoon flings and flirt with random boys on bikes. I don’t understand people who do stupid things in the name of looking cool. I don’t understand poetry. I don’t understand hippie-dippy-trippy therapy treatments. There’s nothing wrong with people who do understand these things, but I could not connect AT ALL. (Actually, I’m one of those neanderthals who physically recoils at the sight of poetry in my prose, except in very rare circumstances.)

But rather than make myself soldier on, which would only make me grumpy and earn the book a low rating, I decided to cut my loss and quit while I could. Sorry, book!

Note: I received a review copy of this title from the publisher for review consideration.

Buy The Book Now at The Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide

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Cover Love #75

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A ballerina, twirling on a wire high above the crowd. Horses, prancing like salsa dancers. Trapeze artists, flying like somersaulting falcons. And magic crackling through the air. Welcome to the Cirque American!

Sixteen-year-old Jules Maroni’s dream is to follow in her father’s footsteps as a high-wire walker. When her family is offered a prestigious role in the new Cirque American, it seems that Jules and the Amazing Maronis will finally get the spotlight they deserve. But the presence of the Flying Garcias may derail her plans. For decades, the two rival families have avoided each other as sworn enemies.

Jules ignores the drama and focuses on the wire, skyrocketing to fame as the girl in a red tutu who dances across the wire at death-defying heights. But when she discovers a peacock feather—an infamous object of bad luck—planted on her costume, Jules nearly loses her footing. She has no choice but to seek help from the unlikeliest of people: Remy Garcia, son of the Garcia clan matriarch and the best trapeze artist in the Cirque.

As more mysterious talismans believed to possess unlucky magic appear, Jules and Remy unite to find the culprit. And if they don’t figure out what’s going on soon, Jules may be the first Maroni to do the unthinkable: fall.

I know this cover is a bit older (a published book vs. the normal recent reveal), but I couldn’t ignore it. First of all, the yellow-black-red color scheme is usually one of my favorites, and this example is no exception. I like that black is used as the default background while the colors are used as accents and focal points. This way my eyes are drawn to the important parts of the cover (the girl on the wire, the creepy hands, the framing curtains) AND the black provides a deliciously creepy flavor. Like, what are those hands doing? Are they there to catch her if she falls or to snatch her up like King Kong nabbing Fay Wray? But oh, I love the way she’s framed between the curtains and caught in the spotlight/moon. And as long as I ignore those eyes, I can sleep soundly tonight!

What do you think of this cover? Have you read the book?

 

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