Thursday, March 28, 2013

Prophecy Girl: Author Spotlight and Giveaway

Amelie Bennett. ... Ending the world, one prophecy at a time.
I was born to slay Crossworld demons.
Big black flappy ones, little green squirmy ones. Unfortunately, the only thing getting slain these days is my social life. With my high school under attack, combat classes intensifying, and Academy instructors dropping right and left, I can barely get my homework done, let alone score a bondmate before prom.
Then he shows up.
Jackson Smith-Hailey. Unspeakably hot, hopelessly unattainable, and dangerous in all the right ways. Sure, he’s my trainer. And okay, maybe he hates me. Doesn’t mean I’ll ignore the wicked Guardian chemistry between us. It’s crazy! Every time I’m with him, my powers explode. Awesome, right?
Now my teachers think I’m the murderous Graymason destined to bring down our whole race of angelbloods. Everyone in New Orleans is hunting me. The people I trusted want me dead. Jack and I have five days to solve the murders, prevent a vampire uprising, and thwart the pesky prophecy foretelling his death by my hand. Shouldn’t be too difficult.
Getting it done without falling in love. . . that might take a miracle.

As part of the Prophecy Girl blog tour, I'd like to spotlight Cecily White, the author of Prophecy Girl. 

Cecily Cornelius-White, Psy.D. makes a habit of avoiding boredom whenever possible. She has enjoyed careers as a hand model, GAP salesgirl, movie projectionist, psychotherapist, yoga instructor, university professor, artist, dance choreographer, eating disorders specialist, psych diagnostician, book reviewer and copy editor. None of which are as much fun as writing novels.

She currently lives in Springfield, MO with two FABULOUS kids, and a schizophrenic yet well-mannered cat. She can swear in Klingon, take down an alien aggressor using only her mind (or a pair of chopsticks), and kill giant spiders without getting schmutz on her shirt.

When not singing to herself, she spends time creating new worlds and thinking up ways to make this one better  

Thanks for letting us know more about yourself, Cecily! Cecily can be found on: her website, Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads. 

Prophecy Girl can be bought from: [Amazon] [Barnes and Noble] [The Book Depository] 
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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday: The Book of Broken Hearts

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme held by Jill at Breaking the Spine to feature upcoming books that we can't wait to get our hands on. 

Title: The Book of Broken Hearts
Author: Sarah Ockler
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Date of Release: May 21, 2013

Goodreads Description: Jude has learned a lot from her older sisters, but the most important thing is this: The Vargas brothers are notorious heartbreakers. She’s seen the tears and disasters that dating a Vargas boy can cause, and she swore an oath - with candles and a contract and everything - to never have anything to do with one. Now Jude is the only sister still living at home, and she’s spending the summer helping her ailing father restore his vintage motorcycle - which means hiring a mechanic to help out. Is it Jude’s fault he happens to be cute? And surprisingly sweet? And a Vargas? Jude tells herself it’s strictly bike business with Emilio. Her sisters will never find out, and Jude can spot those flirty little Vargas tricks a mile away - no way would she fall for them. But Jude’s defenses are crumbling, and if history is destined to repeat itself, she’s speeding toward some serious heartbreak ... unless her sisters were wrong? Jude may have taken an oath, but she’s beginning to think that when it comes to love, some promises might be worth breaking.

Why am I waiting? I enjoyed both Twenty Boy Summer and Bittersweet, and am currently reading (and liking) Fixing Delilah. So, it just makes sense that I'd be excited about The Book of Broken Hearts. It looks as if Ockler will continue to emphasize familial relationships, which I love. And, of course, there's going to be a cute guy to swoon over :) 

Monday, March 25, 2013

Mini Reviews: Poison by Bridget Zinn and The Nightmare Affair by Mindee Arnett

From Goodreads: Sixteen-year-old Kyra, a highly-skilled potions master, is the only one who knows her kingdom is on the verge of destruction - which means she’s the only one who can save it. Faced with no other choice, Kyra decides to do what she does best: poison the kingdom’s future ruler, who also happens to be her former best friend. But, for the first time ever, her poisoned dart ... misses. Now a fugitive instead of a hero, Kyra is caught in a game of hide-and-seek with the king’s army and her potioner ex-boyfriend, Hal. At least she’s not alone. She’s armed with her vital potions, a too-cute pig, and Fred, the charming adventurer she can’t stop thinking about. Kyra is determined to get herself a second chance (at murder), but will she be able to find and defeat the princess before Hal and the army find her? 

My Rating: 4 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Bridget Zinn’s Poison had a much younger tone than I was expecting it to have. That said, I was still entertained by the lovable characters, charming world and Zinn’s easy writhing style. All in all, I’d recommend Poison to MG readers looking for a light fantasy with unexpected twists and to YA readers who want a story that’ll leave them with a smile.

Poison was released on March 12, 2013 by Disney Hyperion. 

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Disney Book Group) for free via NetGalley. 

From Goodreads: Sixteen-year-old Dusty Everhart breaks into houses late at night, but not because she’s a criminal. No, she’s a Nightmare. Literally. Being the only Nightmare at Arkwell Academy, a boarding school for magickind, and living in the shadow of her mother’s infamy, is hard enough. But when Dusty sneaks into Eli Booker’s house, things get a whole lot more complicated. He’s hot, which means sitting on his chest and invading his dreams couldn’t get much more embarrassing. But it does. Eli is dreaming of a murder. Then Eli’s dream comes true. Now Dusty has to follow the clues - both within Eli’s dreams and out of them - to stop the killer before more people turn up dead. And before the killer learns what she’s up to and marks her as the next target. 

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: The Nightmare Affair by Mindee Arnett had a rather predictable mystery. However, I did have fun reading it, and give points to Arnett for coming up with a unique paranormal being – Nightmares. While the secondary characters could have been better developed, I liked Dusty, who I found to be witty and down-to-earth. A solid debut overall, I look forward to seeing what happens with Dusty and her friends in the sequel.

The Nightmare Affair was released by Tor Teen on March 5, 2013. 

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Macmillan) for free via NetGalley.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Charming Canucks: Interview and Giveaway with Jane Nickerson

Charming Canucks is a feature I’ve created that will be posted every other month or so in an effort to spotlight more Canadian YA authors and their books. 
Today, I'd like to welcome Jane Nickerson.
A bit about Jane (as found on Goodreads): For many years Jane Nickerson and her family lived in a big old house in Aberdeen, Mississippi, where she was also the children’s librarian. She has always loved the South, “the olden days,” gothic tales, houses, kids, writing, and interesting villains. She and her husband now make their home in Ontario, Canada. 

Strands of Bronze and Gold, your debut novel, was released on March 12 by Random House Children’s Books. Give three reasons why everyone should read it. 
First off, Strands of Bronze and Gold is a retelling of a traditional fairytale that is not at all fairy-tale-esque. Really it’s more gothic than magical, so if you’re a fan of Rebecca or Jane Eyre (but without the annoying/boring parts) this is the book for you. Second, Strands has a villain-to-die-for (literally for some), who (like the heroine, Sophie) you alternately fall for, pity, hate, and are creeped-out by. Third, Strands has a valuable modern message – that someone, against all odds, however outwardly helpless, can exercise her agency with integrity, courage, and a pure heart, in order to stand against and defeat evil. 

Strands of Bronze and Gold is a historical fiction with gothic elements based on the folktale of Bluebeard. Is there another genre you’d love to try your hand at someday? Is there a genre you could never see yourself writing? 
I really love high fantasy, and thought that the first book I had published would be full of wizards and mysticism and magic. Eventually I hope to do that. I can’t see myself ever writing contemporary realistic fiction, particularly the kind that involves a lot of brand-name dropping. There’s certainly a place for that, but I can’t get interested in it. 

What is your writing process like? Are you a pantser or a planner? 
For short stories I’m a pantser – I leap into it and just write it into a story. For long books I start out with everything neatly planned and outlined in a notebook with carefully-marked sections. It’s sort of like a skeleton to hang the flesh on. Then, as I go along, the notebook becomes crammed with bits and pieces of paper I’ve scribbled notes on, and I’m allowed to change anything I want to change as the ideas strike me and as the characters demand. 

Describe your writing space. 
My writing space is a messy desk in a study lined with bookshelves. There’s a big window next to it, so I can gaze outside now and then, and there’s space in the middle to jump up and pace when I get fidgety. I need lots of water bottles, cashews, and quiet, haunting music like “Secret Garden” to keep me going.  I also have a few “fiddling” toys (for example, a small slinky), that I fiddle with when I’m thinking hard and not typing at all. 

I know Strands of Bronze and Gold is the first book in a trilogy. Can you give a hint of what to expect in the sequel, The Mirk and the Midnight Hour? 
The Mirk and Midnight Hour (available spring 2014) isn’t really a sequel to Strands - it's more of a companion book. It takes place in the same Mississippi County during the American Civil War, and is based on the “Ballad of Tam Lin.” The knight in the old Scottish story is a captured Union soldier in my retelling, and instead of fairies my story has voodoo practitioners. It has more fantasy/magical elements than Strands.  As for “trilogy,” I’m currently about two-thirds through the first draft of the third book. It’s unsold so far, so wish me luck. A Place of Stone and Shadow (which I think might be the title of this one), returns to Wyndriven Abbey (the house that was the setting for STRANDS), but years later, during Reconstruction after the war. The story is original - not a retelling. The abbey has been turned into a girls’ boarding school, and some of the deceased inhabitants of Wyndriven do not rest easy. As I’m now well into writing it, and I’m realizing that I have lots of good material, there may well be a fourth book. What’s the name of a series of four books? Quad-something? 

Quick Questions: 

You grew up in Mississippi but eventually moved to Canada. What was the biggest adjustment for you? 
I still feel nervous every time we cross the border back and forth, which is silly, but I have this fear, What if they won’t let me get by? 

What's the best thing about living in Bradford? 
A couple minutes from our house is an absolutely glorious nature area, where I can hike several times a week. 

You go on a cross-country trip across Canada. What is the one place you have to visit? 
I’m betting you get this answer a lot – I’m dying to visit L.M. Montgomery’s world at P.E. Island because she makes it sound like a piece of heaven in her descriptions. 

What's your favourite book by a Canadian author and why? 
I love Keturah and Lord Death, by Martine Leavitt, because of her beautiful writing and because of the fascinating character of Lord Death. 

A huge thank you to Jane for taking the time to answer my questions!

Jane can be found on: [her website] [her blog] [Twitter] [Facebook] [Goodreads]
Click here to find out more about Strands of Bronze and Gold
For this giveaway, one person will get the chance to win a copy of Strands of Bronze and Gold. To enter, fill out the Rafflecopter form below.
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Monday, March 18, 2013

Review: Strands of Bronze and Gold by Jane Nickerson

From Goodreads: When seventeen-year-old Sophia Petheram’s beloved father dies, she receives an unexpected letter. An invitation - on fine ivory paper, in bold black handwriting - from the mysterious Monsieur Bernard de Cressac, her godfather. With no money and fewer options, Sophie accepts, leaving her humble childhood home for the astonishingly lavish Wyndriven Abbey, in the heart of Mississippi. Sophie has always longed for a comfortable life, and she finds herself both attracted to and shocked by the charm and easy manners of her overgenerous guardian. But as she begins to piece together the mystery of his past, it’s as if, thread by thread, a silken net is tightening around her. And as she gathers stories and catches whispers of his former wives - all with hair as red as her own - in the forgotten corners of the abbey, Sophie knows she’s trapped in the passion and danger of de Cressac’s intoxicating world. 

My Rating: 4 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Even though Jane Nickerson’s Strands of Bronze and Gold was a retelling of the Bluebeard fairy tale, I wish the synopsis hadn’t stated so because let’s face it: if you know what the fairy tale is about, it definitely ruins the climax. Assuming you don’t know the gist of the original fairy tale, let’s just say that Strands of Bronze and Gold is a slow-paced, creepy (beware, it does take some time to become that!) tale with gothic elements, set in the South before the Civil War. Although its secondary characters were forgettable (which is too bad because most of them were POC characters), Strands of Bronze and Gold features a sympathetic protagonist, a well-developed villain, and a realistic depiction of abuse.

Sophie was a character that I found pretty easy to relate to. Having her father die, she leaves her siblings to go live with her godfather who she hopes will provide her with a better life and eventually help her siblings as well. Once at Wyndriven Abbey, Sophie forgets her beliefs for a bit as she adjusts to now living a life of luxury. Fortunately, Sophie is able to see past the glitz later on and realize that perhaps she doesn’t want the exact life that her guardian is living. Nowhere is this more evident than in Sophie’s treatment of the slaves employed by Monsieur Bernard.

Poor Sophie is unable to handle her situation with Monsieur Bernard so easily however. At first, things appear great, with Monsieur Bernard providing her with ample gifts. But, she soon starts feeling slightly uncomfortable as Monsieur Bernard occasionally begins hitting on her. Having developed a minor crush on her godfather, Sophie initially brushes this off and makes excuses for her godfather’s behaviour, but the reader quickly becomes alert to more troublesome signs in their relationship like Monsieur Bernard’s temper and Sophie’s increasing isolation. Luckily, Sophie realizes that her godfather may not be as charming as he appears to be and quickly outgrows her crush, especially once she meets the local preacher, Reverend Gideon Stone.

The romance between Sophie and Gideon was very much insta-love, and I couldn’t buy it because I think Sophie would have fallen for anybody that gave her some attention and treated her decently. As a character, Gideon paled in comparison to Monsieur Bernard, who could be charismatic in one moment and furious, dismissive and manipulative in other. You just never knew which side of his you’d see! 

Strands of Bronze and Gold was released on March 12, 2013 by Random House Children's Books. 

Comments About the Cover: It’s so pretty!

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Random House) for free via NetGalley.
original image from

Friday, March 15, 2013

Review: First Visions by Heather Topham Wood (and Giveaway)

From Goodreads: Two years ago, 21-year-old Kate Edwards became deathly ill and slipped into a coma. While unconscious, she crept into the mind of a missing boy and awoke with the knowledge of his location. Friends and family were skeptical and wary of her new ability to see into the minds of others. Their fears prompted Kate to keep her psychic powers a secret. Feeling alienated, she dropped out of college and spent most of her days holed up at her mother’s home. Now another child has been abducted. Police detective Jared Corbett seeks out Kate for her help in solving the case. Reluctantly, Kate agrees and they must work together to bring 8-year-old Cori Preston home to her family. Although attracted to one another, Jared has a girlfriend with ties to the abduction case and Kate is sarcastic and guarded since her coma. With visions she can’t control and an uncontrollable attraction to the detective, she wonders if she can leave the past behind and finally stop hiding from the world. Otherwise, Cori may be lost forever.

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: For a self-published novel, Heather Topham Wood’s First Visions was a well-written mystery. The book, however, lost some stars when it came to the main character of Kate and the romance.

After contracting meningitis, Kate emerges out of a coma with a vision about an abduction case. Having seen her family’s and friends’ reactions to her newfound ability, Kate now pretends that she can no longer see visions of people’s past. Hiding her true self though has led to Kate becoming very defensive and being more or less a loner. When Jared shows up on her doorstep asking for assistance with his case, Kate initially continues the charade, but is eventually convinced by her mother to help.

Jared was a nice guy, and I thought he and Kate would have made good friends. But, the romantic tension between them felt very forced to me. I mean, how convenient that the first guy Kate started to fall for after becoming a psychic also happened to have an eccentric aunt who brought him up and therefore was very open to ideas like people being psychic. Of course he got bonus points for being attractive and a good listener.

Another reason I wasn’t a fan of the romance was because Kate just seemed so immature in comparison to Jared. For example, Kate crosses professional boundaries soon after meeting Jared by Googling his address and showing up at his apartment after a fight with her mom. Later in the book, she gets him to pick her up from a club and tries to seduce him while drunk.

Finally, I didn’t like the romance because I didn’t approve of Kate going after a guy that was already taken (even if he was sending some mixed signals). I think Wood tried her best to convince readers that Kate was the better option for Jared, but she unfortunately did so by depicting Nikki as a stereotypical mean girl.

The relationship I did like however was that of Kate and her mother. It was just so normal, and I liked how close they were with each other.

First Visions was released in April 2012 by CreateSpace. 

Comments About the Cover: It kind of screams “self-published” and doesn’t really relate to the story.

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the author for free via Xpresso Book Tours. 

First Visions can be bought from: [Amazon] [Barnes and Noble] [Book Depository]

Monday, March 11, 2013

Mini Reviews: Pantomime by Laura Lam and Bruised by Sarah Skilton

From Goodreads: R. H. Ragona’s Circus of Magic is the greatest circus of Ellada. Nestled among the glowing blue Penglass- remnants of a mysterious civilization long gone - are wonders beyond the wildest imagination. It’s a place where anything seems possible, where if you close your eyes you can believe that the magic and knowledge of the vanished Chimaera is still there. It’s a place where anyone can hide. Iphigenia Laurus, or Gene, the daughter of a noble family, is uncomfortable in corsets and crinoline, and prefers climbing trees to debutante balls. Micah Grey, a runaway living on the streets, joins the circus as an aerialist’s apprentice and soon becomes the circus’s rising star. But Gene and Micah have balancing acts of their own to perform, and a secret in their blood that could unlock the mysteries of Ellada. 

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Laura Lam’s Pantomime wasn’t at all like what I was expecting based off the synopsis! I thought I’d be reading about two characters slowly falling love at a circus a la The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. Instead, the main characters in Pantomime have a surprising secret that leads the reader to think about gender identity and sexual orientation. I was also expecting Pantomime to be a standalone and so wasn’t prepared for the cliffhanger ending. Overall, although I really enjoyed the circus setting and the world of Ellada, I always felt somewhat disconnected from the characters and found the flashbacks in the latter half of the story to be distracting.                                

Pantomime was released in February 2013 by Strange Chemistry. 

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Angry Robot) for free via NetGalley. 

From Goodreads: When Imogen, a sixteen-year-old black belt in Tae Kwon Do, freezes during a holdup at a local diner, the gunman is shot and killed by the police, and she blames herself for his death. Before the shooting, she believed that her black belt made her stronger than everyone else - more responsible, more capable. But now her sense of self has been challenged and she must rebuild her life, a process that includes redefining her relationship with her family and navigating first love with the boy who was at the diner with her during the shootout.  

My Rating: 3 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Bruised by Sarah Skilton was a book I struggled to finish. It’s not that I didn’t like it, but I just couldn’t care about Imogen for some reason. By extension therefore, I didn’t care about Imogen’s family problems, the fact that she was suffering from PTSD, or her bland romance. While reading Bruised, I couldn’t understand why Imogen felt guilty about freezing up and hiding when someone came in the local diner with a gun. I don’t think there’s any shame in that kind of reaction – even if you know tae kwan do. 

Bruised was released by Amulet on March 5, 2013.

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (ABRAMS) for free via NetGalley.  

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Review: Dualed by Elsie Chapman

From Goodreads: The city of Kersh is a safe haven, but the price of safety is high. Everyone has a genetic Alternate - a twin raised by another family - and citizens must prove their worth by eliminating their Alts before their twentieth birthday. Survival means advanced schooling, a good job, marriage - life. Fifteen-year-old West Grayer has trained as a fighter, preparing for the day when her assignment arrives and she will have one month to hunt down and kill her Alt. But then a tragic misstep shakes West’s confidence. Stricken with grief and guilt, she’s no longer certain that she’s the best version of herself, the version worthy of a future. If she is to have any chance of winning, she must stop running not only from her Alt, but also from love ... though both have the power to destroy her. 

My Rating: 2 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: I love finding out about new Canadian authors. So, when I discovered that Elsie Chapman’s Dualed was available on NetGalley, I requested it. The synopsis sounded fantastic, and I thought that West and her Alt would become BFFs and try to bring down Kersh’s government together (or something like that). Yeah … not so much! What I got was a story with ridiculous worldbuilding, a protagonist that was hard to like, and a plot with very little substance.

In Dualed, the gated city of Kersh attempts to protect its citizens from the violence of the world outside by isolating them and making itself self-sufficient. In case the Surround does decide to attack Kersh though, the Board – which we get very little information about – ensures that every adult living in the city is capable of becoming a soldier since they’ve all been trained to kill (and have killed at least their Alt with what appears to be little remorse). Basically, that’s one of the purposes of having Alts; the other is that due to the problem of infertility, the Board wants that only the best version of two couples’ genes survives.

Though there seems to be some discontent with the Board’s system, I personally find it preposterous that most of Kersh’s citizens could be so complacent about having Alts. It’s sickening to imagine that people could be okay with the thought of ten-year-olds possibly killing each other! Also, for a city deemed to be a safe haven, the price of living in it seems awfully high what with all the violence (e.g. Alts killing Alts, Alts hiring strikers, civilians getting caught in the crossfire and becoming Peripheral Kills, etc.) occurring on a daily basis.

Then we have West herself. At the beginning of the book, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for West because she had lost her parents and siblings to violence. However, once West became an active (i.e. she has to kill her own Alt or risk being killed), it became really hard for me to understand her decisions. She freezes up when she’s initially activated (yet had earlier forced her brother’s best friend, Chord, to hunt down his Alt ASAP), pushes Chord away rather than letting him help her, and continues to work as a striker (West figured it would be a good way to get some more training) despite having a target on her back.

The only reason I finished Dualed was because Chapman’s ability to write a thriller was good enough to keep me curious about the ending. I kept waiting to see when West would run into her Alt, but eventually, all that chasing started to feel incredibly pointless. It took far too long to get to the predictable ending!

I’m not sure where the sequel will go since Dualed could have easily been a standalone, but I know I won’t be reading it. I really wanted to love Dualed, but it just ended up being a major disappointment.  

Dualed was released in February 2013 by Random House Books for Young Readers.

Comments About the Cover: I really like the thriller feel to it.

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Random House) for free via NetGalley.
original image from

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Review: Emblaze by Jessica Shirvington

From Goodreads: Violet has come to terms with the fact that being part angel, part human, means her life will never be as it was. Now Violet has something Phoenix - the exiled angel who betrayed her - will do anything for, and she has no intention of letting it fall into his hands. The only problem is that he has something she needs too. Not afraid to raise the stakes, Phoenix seemingly holds all the power, always one step ahead. And when he puts the final pieces of the prophecy together, it doesn't take him long to realize exactly who he needs in order to open the gates of Hell. With the help of surprising new allies, ancient prophecies are deciphered, a destination set and, after a shattering confrontation with her father, Violet leaves for the islands of Greece without knowing if she will have a home to return to ...

My Rating: 3.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Emblaze by Jessica Shirvington, the third book in The Violet Eden Chapters, picks up right where Entice leaves off. With only six months between releases, you’d think that I’d remember what happened in prior books better! But, for some reason, by the time a new book in this series is released, I can barely remember why Violet is so special, let alone the overarching plot. I really think having a list of major characters with their powers at the end of the book and a brief recap at the beginning would help solve my problem.

In terms of how The Violet Eden Chapters has evolved, a lot of things remain the same. For example, each book ends with a cliffhanger. As well, Violet continues to be pretty immature, having secret meetings with Phoenix and withholding information from her Grigori friends rather than letting them be a source of support. I’m also getting sort of tired of the whole wanting-to-be-with-Lincoln-but-not-being-able-to phenomenon. I love though that we still get some steamy scenes and that Shirvington remains able to smoothly incorporate her angel mythology with the historical background of the different places (e.g. Jordan, Santorini, etc.) the Grigoris travel to.

The one noticeable change in Emblaze is that Violet’s absent father suddenly starts to notice his daughter. He begins to question her whereabouts and even makes an attempt to ground her. Although it was weird to have Mr. Eden randomly acting like an actual parent, I like the development and am curious to see how this will change his relationship with his daughter. 

Emblaze will be released on March 5, 2013 by Sourcebooks Fire.
Comments About the Cover: It matches Entice’s a lot more than Embrace’s. The darker look also goes well with the darker tone of this novel. 

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Sourcebooks) for free.