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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Review: The Unseen by J.L. Bryan

Be sure to stop by my The Unseen Blitz post to enter to win an ebook copy or awesome prize pack!

The Unseen

by J.L. Bryan
Format: eARC
Source: author

Cassidy is a young tattoo artist living in the Little Five Points neighborhood of Atlanta. She’s always suffered terrible nightmares, and sometimes the hideous creatures seem to follow her out of her dreams and into her waking life, though she’s the only one who can see them. Drugs and alcohol can blot them out, but never entirely chase them away.
When a demonic cult begins to take control of the people in her life, including her younger brother, Cassidy discovers that the unseen world of monsters is very real. She can no longer avoid it. To protect those she loves, she must accept her own hidden supernatural talents and face the forces of evil before the sinister cult achieves its twisted goals and casts the world into darkness.
                          Find the book: Goodreads Amazon B&N / Author's Site

Today is the last day you can get the ebook for 99 cents!

I received an eARC of this title in exchange for my honest review

J.L. Bryan does creepy and dark well…really well! The Unseen is a creeptastically dark, gritty read full of the macabre and the unexpected. The Unseen’s heroine, Cassidy, is a young tattoo artist, drug enthusiast, and, as she discovers, surrounded by the supernatural. Cassidy finds herself and her loved ones caught up in the deadly doings of a demonic cult and its dangerous disciples. Cassidy must learn to trust and tap into her own supernatural powers to save the people she loves.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, J.L. Bryan is an enthralling and talented storyteller, and in The Unseen he weaves a scary awesome story! At times it seems like everything supernatural has been done, but Bryan has infused his world of demons, angels, and paranormal elements with invigorating originality and thrilling twists. As usual, Bryan’s world-building skills are excellent and he creates an atmosphere that is alluring, addicting, and creepy in the best way possible. The unseen world Cassidy finds herself unwillingly immersed in is full of both the familiar (demonic possession, astral projection, witches) and the sometimes startlingly and imaginatively new (spirit sucking hellbugs, tattoos that come to life). I love how smartly crafted the history and layers of this demonic and supernatural world is; this is a richly developed and complex world that feels very real.

The Unseen starts off a bit slow, with some superfluous character description, but quickly finds its flow, and once the action and real story-building begin, they don’t slow down for a second! Another thing I’ve come to expect from J.L. Bryan is relatable and well-developed characters, and he didn’t disappoint in The Unseen. I love how un-heroine like Cassidy is! She’s incredibly flawed- she drinks too much, does too many drugs, and can be quite selfish and thoughtless- and is perfectly content with ignoring the supernatural world around her and her place in…but this is what makes her feel so real and relatable. I like her rough, jagged edges and how she’s an unconventional heroine. There’s an eclectic cast of supporting characters, all of whom are well-developed, but I think my favorite is Ibis. Sweet, funny, dorkily charming Ibis *swoon*. And Bryan really brings the awesomeness with his nasty, nefarious demonic characters, which made me delightfully shiver!

MY FINAL THOUGHTS: The Unseen, with its originality, great characters, and captivatingly creepy, dark atmosphere, is the perfect Halloween read and it thoroughly entertained me! 


J.L. Bryan

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Champion (Legend #3) Trailer and Giveaway

I'm so thrilled to share the trailer for Champion, the final book in Marie Lu's Legend Trilogy, today! Plus, I have an awesome giveaway for y'all...

Watch The Champion Trailer

The explosive finale to Marie Lu’s New York Times bestselling LEGEND trilogy—perfect for fans of THE HUNGER GAMES and DIVERGENT!

He is a Legend.
She is a Prodigy.
Who will be Champion? 

June and Day have sacrificed so much for the people of the Republic—and each other—and now their country is on the brink of a new existence. June is back in the good graces of the Republic, working within the government’s elite circles as Princeps Elect while Day has been assigned a high level military position. But neither could have predicted the circumstances that will reunite them once again. Just when a peace treaty is imminent, a plague outbreak causes panic in the Colonies, and war threatens the Republic’s border cities. This new strain of plague is deadlier than ever, and June is the only one who knows the key to her country’s defense. But saving the lives of thousands will mean asking the one she loves to give up everything he has. With heart-pounding action and suspense, Marie Lu’s bestselling trilogy draws to a stunning conclusion.

Releasing November 5, 2013

the first two books in the trilogy
(click each book to learn more)

And connect with Penguin Teen:

Thanks to the awesome people at Penguin Teen, I have one poster and a set of cool tattoos (pictured above) to give away to one winner! 
To enter to win all you have to do is share the Champion trailer. You can share the link on Twitter or Facebook or other social media places: 

Or you can follow the link and get the embedded code to post on your blog! After you've shared the trailer, be sure to fill out the Rafflecopter form, which also has ways to earn bonus points.

-open INT
-will end 11/8
-must be 13+
-winner will be emailed and must claim prize within 48 hours
-I am NOT responsible for lost, damaged, or stolen prizes in the mail
You must enter via the Rafflecopter form:

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Unseen Blitz {Giveaway, Excerpt, Guest Post}

I'm thrilled to be participating in The Unseen Book Blitz! I adore J.L. Bryan's writing (and he's a pretty awesome dude as well!) and am so excited that he's written another spooky, spine-tingling read. Below you can find out more about this book, read an informative and entertaining guest post, check out an excerpt from The Unseen, and win some wicked prizes...

The Unseen
by J.L. Bryan
Find the book: Goodreads / Amazon / B&N / Author's Site

Cassidy is a young tattoo artist living in the Little Five Points neighborhood of Atlanta. She’s always suffered terrible nightmares, and sometimes the hideous creatures seem to follow her out of her dreams and into her waking life, though she’s the only one who can see them. Drugs and alcohol can blot them out, but never entirely chase them away.

When a demonic cult begins to take control of the people in her life, including her younger brother, Cassidy discovers that the unseen world of monsters is very real. She can no longer avoid it. To protect those she loves, she must accept her own hidden supernatural talents and face the forces of evil before the sinister cult achieves its twisted goals and casts the world into darkness.

The Unseen will have a special release price of 99 cents through Halloween!

Demon-Summoning Do’s and Don’ts

So you’ve cast a circle and you’re ready to bring an infernal spirit into your home for a visit.  Or are you?  Summoning demons takes care and consideration—it’s nothing to jam in between doing the dishes and catching the new episode of Walking Dead.

These simple tips will help you put together an exciting evocation, without all the messy embarrassment of getting your soul ripped from your flesh and devoured.

DO offer a blood sacrifice.  Your guest has traveled across endless darkness from the lower pits of Hell and will be expecting a snack.  Chicken or lizard blood will do nicely for a lesser spirit.  For an archdemon, you’ll want to sacrifice a human being instead—anything less is considered rude.  Virgins are still preferred, but no longer expected by more modern demons.  Finally, an activity you can do with that annoying neighbor you’ve always wanted to eliminate from the earth!

DON’T call up the wrong kind of demon.  Incubi and succubi will arrive with certain expectations, because these unholy hornballs only have one thing on their evil minds at all times.  If you’re not ready for a swingers’ sabbat, avoid them.  If you do summon them, you’re going to need a little more protection that the typical enchanted circle provides—the beasties get around.  Also avoid gluttony demons, because these corpulent creatures not only look like disgusting mountains of flab with enormous mouths, they’ll also destroy your snack bar and leave an unpleasant flatulent odor that takes weeks to remove from your carpet.

DO be polite.  Powerful demons resent being summoned by mere mortals, but minding your manners can go a long way towards creating a more pleasant evening.  When you say, “I bind thee and summon thee, foul Mephistopheles!” and the enraged horned demon appears in a flash of fire and brimstone, don’t forget to add, “Thank you!”

DON’T expect them to bring wine or a hot dish.  Again, they’ve come a long way and can’t be expected to carry host gifts up from the abyss.  Also, demon food tends to be rotten and vermin-infested, so how badly did you really want that casserole, anyway?

DO remember to take pictures!  Remember, the only reason to do anything extraordinary in life is so you can brag to your friends on Facebook.  A picture of you and Beelzebub with his host of flesh-eating flies will totally shut up that one friend who’s always bragging about the time she met Colin Farrell on an airplane.

DON’T forget to banish!  If you don’t send that demon right back to Hell when you’re done, it may move onto your couch and stay there for months.  Demons don’t pay rent, they don’t do chores, and they never, ever give up control of the remote.  They will, however, watch home shopping channels twenty-four hours a day and max out your credit card to ordering useless knickknacks.  They won’t take subtle hints to go home, either, no matter how many you drop—you have to order them out.  Exercise your right to excorsize!

Following this list is sure to make your demonic encounter a more successful one!  When you summon horrific spirits from the fiery underworld into your living room, you don’t want it to ruin the rest of your weekend.

3 excerpts from Chapter 1 of The Unseen

from the beginning of chapter one...

Years later, Cassidy would remember the night of the party as her first encounter with the unseen world.  It began with broken glass, blood, and a homemade Ouija board.
The day after Cassidy’s seventeenth birthday, her mother was away at work for the night, inadvertently giving Cassidy the best possible present: a Saturday night alone at the apartment.  Her younger brother Kieran was staying at a friend’s house for the weekend.  Cassidy’s mother had forbidden her to have any guests except for her best friend, Barb.  Boys, as always, were doubly forbidden while Cassidy’s mother was working the night shift at the hotel.  Her mother called her on the land line to make sure she was home—never Cassidy’s cell, always the land line.
The night started out calmly, with no sign of the horror to come.
from the middle of chapter one...
“Sh!  It’s moving,” Cassidy told them.
The wine glass shuddered again, and this time it began to slide over the poster board, the lip scraping and smearing a few of the still-wet letters, gathering glowing paint around its rim.
The glass moved across the alphabet to the word YES in the upper left corner of the poster, scraping up glue and glitter from a sparkly red pentagram along the way.  
“Who’s doing that?  Are you doing that?” Reese asked Tamila, who shook her head, her wide eyes fixed on the board.
“Hello?  Are you a spirit?” Barb asked.
The glass slid half an inch, then right back into place.  YES again.
“Who are you?” Barb asked. “I mean, to whom do we have the pleasure of speaking?”
The wineglass lay still for a moment, then vibrated and hummed as if someone had plinked it with a fingernail.  The glass slid over the alphabet.
Cassidy felt her heart racing.  She hadn’t expected it to work at all, and it was starting to freak her out.  She wished they hadn’t turned off the lights.
from the end of chapter one...
The glass flew back to the top row of letters.
It moved faster, back and forth, never leaving the top row.
Cassidy watched in horror, spellbound as the glass raced back and forth, smearing the top row of letters into an illegible green streak, but still sliding back and forth, back and forth, touching the spots where the three letters D, I, and E had been.
She wanted to let go and pull away, but her fingertips felt glued to the wine glass.  The glass became icy, burning cold under her fingertips, a crust of smoking frost forming inside the bowl and along the stem.
J.L. Bryan studied English literature at the University of Georgia and at Oxford, with a focus on the English Renaissance and the Romantic period. He also studied screenwriting at UCLA. He enjoys remixing elements of paranormal, supernatural, fantasy, horror and science fiction into new kinds of stories.He is the author of The Paranormals series (starting with Jenny Pox), The Songs of Magic series, Nomad, and other books. He lives in Atlanta with his wife Christina, his son John, and some dogs and cats.
Twitter: @jlbryanbooks

There are two ways to win some awesome prizes during this blitz:

Win an ebook copy of The Unseen!
To enter, just leave a comment on this post letting me know you want to win an ebook copy and leave your name and a way to contact you (email address or Twitter handle). Giveaway ends on Nov. 3 at 12:00 pm EST

This is a tour wide giveaway for a signed copy of The Unseen and the following-

a Rafflecopter giveaway

this blitz brought to you by:

Monday, October 28, 2013

Book Spotlight {Excerpt and Giveaway}-- Horse Sense by Lapo Melzi

Today I am spotlighting Lapo Melzi's middle-grade book, Horse Sense. Below you can read more about this book, including an excerpt, and enter to win a copy...

Horse Sense
by Lapo Melzi
Irbis Books

There’s nothing easy about being an eleven year old boy, especially for Jamie. As he takes the unsteady steps into adolescence, his days of knowing who his friends are and trusting the adults in his life are numbered. The only thing Jamie can really count on in this changing world is the love of his best friend, a horse named Acorn. Jamie and Acorn’s friendship has a magic that comes once in a lifetime—but the bullies around them want to rip that to shreds. Can their kindred connection survive as Jamie strives to carve out his identity?

Find the book: Goodreads / Amazon


Now it was time to do justice to his brilliant idea. He reached the edge of the paddock and stopped in front of a trough filled with water and dead leaves that lay in the shade of tall black locust trees.

He cast a quick glance back and his wild, ash-brown hair swung back with him. Seeing Acorn hadn’t spotted him, he sat down on the brim of the trough. He hesitated a second, then he propped himself up and sank his feet into the water. A chilling stream gushed through the holes in his shoes’ soles and soaked his socks almost instantly. Goose bumps ran from his legs all the way up to his arms and he shivered, breathing quickly—it was just May after all and the trough stood all day in the shade. There was no time to waste on second thoughts. Jamie willed himself to withstand the cold and slowly lowered his body into the trough. He winced as the chilly water licked the whole length of his back, shooting prickling shivers up to his ears, but he didn’t make any sudden movement. He didn’t want to spill any water and give away his whereabouts. His heart was beating fast. It was awesome!

He took two big breaths, pinched his nose shut between his fingers and sank his head underwater, then he pressed his feet and hands against the inner walls of the trough to keep himself from floating up. Inside this shell of wood and water, the calm was eerie, even if the cold was so intense that it felt like entombing yourself in ice. Nevertheless, Jamie felt his mind relax—it was cozy in there. He pondered that perhaps that’s how Acorn had felt in his mom’s belly—apart from the cold, of course. Above him, through the settling water, the tree branches swayed dreamily in the breeze. Cast against the bright sky, they looked like giant feelers carefully searching the air.

Jamie stretched his ears, listening for any signs of Acorn approaching. Holding his breath underwater, still as a statue, he looked like a weird submarine stick-bug ready to pounce. His ash-brown hair fanned out around his face like wild thoughts, while his grass-green eyes gleamed with anticipation. His hiding spot was perfect! Acorn would never think of that. He really wanted to burst into an evil chuckle, but kept himself in check—he didn’t want to blow his cover.

A sliver of froth drifted lazily on the surface of the water. Jamie wondered whether it was Acorn’s saliva or the sheep’s and he realized that he was probably lying in a tub of spit. He grinned, thinking himself daring, even though he knew that most kids at school would likely consider him disgusting. Well, who cared what they thought; they didn’t know anything about adventure. Spit you just washed away, but adventure staid for the rest of your life! 
A constricting sensation, as of a belt tightening steadily around his chest, made his head lighter. His lungs started screaming for air, but he was resolved to stay put. He fidgeted at the bottom of the trough, worried that Acorn wouldn’t show up. Where the heck was that knucklehead? What if he didn’t turn up and ruined his awesome ambush? 

A wave of fretting panic seized him. Maybe he should have left a string of Menthos leading to the trough. Man! That’s exactly what he should have done! Why hadn’t he thought about that before? Why would Acorn come straight into the paddock? He could easily walk into the school instead. He hadn’t planned this thing properly—that was going to be his downfall!

Dark thoughts of failure clouded his brain as the air in his lungs quickly expired. He reckoned he had no more than a dozen seconds left in him, then he’d have to take a breath or die in his watery tomb. Another five seconds elapsed. It was over…

Presently, a shadow draped across the trough. The temperature dropped a couple of degrees. Jamie wondered how on Earth he could feel colder than he already was, but apparently he could. The shadow moved in a little closer. He saw the darkness break up at the fringes, drawing the rough outline of a mane. Excitement fired through his skin—Acorn had come at last! He let go of his supports and kicked hard toward the surface. 

He exploded out of the water in a huge splash, flailing his arms like a madman, roaring, “Raaaaugh!!”
 Acorn shied back, flaring his nostrils in shock.
“Got you! I got you!” Jamie taunted. “Spoooky!”
Acorn bared his teeth and snapped at him, outraged.
Jamie plunged his hand into the frigid water and splashed him treacherously.
Acorn let out a grunt and bucked away, kicking and neighing. He shook his head around to show his disapproval for the scandalous treatment.

Jamie watched him with satisfaction, overjoyed by the result of his ambush. Best! Prank! Ever! He jumped out of the trough and romped around the paddock.

With his tail high, Acorn trotted about jerkily, wheeling his head in quick bursts, flaring his nostrils noisily at anything he laid his eyes on, as if purposefully looking for something else to get scared by. It seemed like he was actually enjoying the rush of adrenaline running wild in his veins. Jamie ran beside him, roaring and laughing, his sneakers squeaking and sloshing loudly.

At the ruckus, a few sheep poked their heads out of their shed, while the horses in the stables pricked up their ears, wondering what it was all about.

Find the Author

Win a copy of Horse Sense!
Lapo has generously offered two copies of his book (one paperback, one ebook) for two winners.
-open int
-one US/CAN winner will win the paperback
-one INT winner will win the ebook
-will end 11/8
-must be 13+, one main entry per person
-winners will be emailed and must claim prize within 48 hours
Fill out the Rafflecopter form:

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Snatchabook Blog Tour {Review and Interview}

I'm so so excited to have The Snatchabook Blog Tour stopping by today with my review* of this adorable picture book and my interview with author Helen Docherty...

The Snatchabook
by Helen & Thomas Docherty
Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Where have all the bedtime stories gone?

One dark, dark night in Burrow Down, a rabbit named Eliza Brown found a book and settled down...when a Snatchabook flew into town.

It's bedtime in the woods of Burrow Down, and all the animals are ready for their bedtime story. But books are mysteriously disappearing. Eliza Brown decides to stay awake and catch the book thief. It turns out to be a little creature called the Snatchabook who has no one to read him a bedtime story. All turns out well when the books are returned and the animals take turns reading bedtime stories to the Snatchabook.

Find the book: Goodreads / Amazon / B&N / IndieBound

I received an egalley of this book in exchange for my honest review

I LOVED The Snatchabook! Helen and Thomas Docherty have woven a truly charming, utterly delightful tale about the love and pure joy of reading and books. Books start to disappear right off shelves in Burrow Down and little Eliza Brown sets out to catch the tricky thief. But what she finds is the Snatchabook!

Told in whimsical, lyrical rhymes, The Snatchabook’s story flows effortlessly and is really amusing. I found the voice and storytelling addicting and pitch-perfect for little readers. The idea of a “Snatchabook” is wonderfully imaginative and original, and this little creature will captivate readers of all ages! And I totally relate to the Snatchabook! I mean who doesn’t want to snatch up ALL the books for themselves sometimes? I also love how clever and determined Eliza Brown is in her quest to capture the book theif. The awesomeness and power of books and reading really shines through in this story.

Thomas Docherty’s illustrations capture the story beautifully. There’s something very magical and fanciful about the bright illustrations that I love. Thomas gives each character and scene such life and personality!

The Snatchabook is bound to become a bedtime favorite that little readers will want to hear again and again (and grown-ups will actually enjoy reading it over and over again!). I can’t wait to get a physical copy to read to my niece!

What three words best describe THE SNATCHABOOK?

Whodunnit with twist!

Grab a copy of THE SNATCHABOOK and answer the following:
Favorite page?
Favorite illustration?
Flip to a random page and give us a 2-4 lines teaser?
My favorite page and favorite illustration coincide: it would have to be the second spread (“In every house, in every bed, / a bedtime book was being read”). I think this is the page that sets up the rest of the story, and I love the visual contrast between the warm yellow glow of the animals’ bedrooms and the cold light of the moon, with the sad and lonely Snatchabook silhouetted against it. Our daughters love looking at all the creatures in their homes and deciding where they would choose to live.

Some of Thomas Docherty's early illustrations for The Snatchabook

My random 2 line teaser:
“I’m sorry,” came a little voice. / “I really am. I had no choice.”

What inspired this story? How did the Snatchabook creature come to life?

The idea of a book thief who steals children’s bedtime stories popped into my head at the end of a long day of trying (and failing) to think up interesting storylines. But what should I call it? A book cruncher? A book snatcher? No, a Snatchabook! Almost immediately, I saw the potential to develop the story as a mystery with plenty of suspense, a brave heroine and a twist in the tale – namely, that the Snatchabook is just a pitiful little creature, whose motivation for stealing all the books is simply that he is desperate to be read to. Of course, the Snatchabook really came to life when Tom started to draw him – we had lots of fun discussing what he should look like. Here are Tom’s earliest sketches:

If you were a Snatchabook, what three books would you snatch up?
That’s a very difficult question! But if I were a Snatchabook, I might just choose these ones:

The Bear’s Winter House by John Yeoman and Quentin Blake, which is my favorite woodland story to snuggle up with. The combination of Yeoman’s gentle humor and Blake’s pictures is unbeatable.

Out and About by Shirley Hughes, which follows the natural cycle of a year through the eyes of two young children. To me, this book is brilliantly evocative of childhood and of the passing seasons.

The Paper Dolls by Julia Donaldson and Rebecca Cobb, which is a beautiful, deceptively simple book about memory, loss, and love. It’s a new favorite in our house.

If you were to create and bake a cupcake inspired by THE SNATCHABOOK what would it look and taste like, and what would you call it?

I have to confess that I would never win any prizes in a cupcake baking (or decorating) competition. However, your question inspired me to try out a new recipe and experiment with my own topping…
I thought a Snatchabook cake should have a bit of a woodland flavour, so I adapted a Delia Smith recipe for chestnut cupcakes (using about two thirds of a tin of crème de marrons, or sweetened chestnut purée). For the topping, I melted dark chocolate, stirred in some double cream and mixed with the rest of the chestnut purée. I thought some white chocolate buttons on the top might look like Snatchabook wings, but actually they made the cupcakes look more like chocolate aliens. Oh well.  They taste nice, anyway. What would I call this cupcake? A Snatchacake – of course.

Helen's Snatchacake cupcake!

Thank you so much, Helen, for stopping by! That cupcake looks and sounds delicious!

FIND THE AUTHOR website * goodreads

*Please note that I do not rate picture books, I merely review them