Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Guest Post: Avery Olive (and Giveaway)

Death always hits Xylia Morana too close to home, but she likes it that way. She hangs out with the terminally ill, attends random funerals, and every so often, when the weather is right, she sleeps in open graves. But after Landon Phoenix, the high school hottie, dies in Xylia's arms, she sneaks into the morgue to say goodbye. How could she know stealing a kiss from his corpse would wake him up? With Landon returned to the living and suddenly interested in Xylia, life has new meaning. But what Xylia doesn't realize is that by kissing Landon back to life, she's thrown Life and Death off balance. The underworld demands a body, and it might just have to be Xylia's this time. 

Today, I'd like to welcome Avery Olive, fellow Canadian and author of A Stiff Kiss, to my blog. For today's stop on the blog tour for A Stiff Kiss, Avery will be listing the ten things she wants to do before she dies. 

Okay, this was extremely hard! I mean like, I spent weeks mulling over the question, coming up with answers and then scratching them off the list. Partly because I’m content with how my life is going and partly because I’m mildly afraid of death, and didn’t want to think about all the things I want to do before death knocks at my door. 

Then again, putting it all down puts things into perspective, showing me there are some really great things on my list that I must do!

So, without further adieu ... My top ten things I’d like to do ... in life and in no particular order - cause that would just make the list that much harder.
  1. Visit a Castle. Sadly, Cinderella’s castle at Disney Land just won’t cut it. I’d like to go to Scotland or Ireland and see one up close, with its history, charm and dungeons.
  2. See the Sistine Chapel. It’s just one of those things that should be on everyone’s list!
  3. Have at least 5 novels published. This one hopefully now has become more attainable. I’ve got one under my belt.
  4. Celebrate a 20th Wedding Anniversary. I know that seems silly but every day you read about someone, or hear about someone that’s had a failed marriage. I took my vows seriously, and truly hope for my own Happily Ever After. I figure after 20 years, we’ve made an honest go of it, so if it fails after that, I won’t feel so bad.
  5. Have one of my novels turned into a major motion picture. I know, right, that’s probably on everyone’s list. But seriously, how cool would that be!
  6. Win the lottery? Is that too cliché? Cause, what I wouldn’t give to have some extra dough lying around. And I’m not talking about million, just a little extra nest egg.
  7. Meet all the wonderful Authors I’ve befriended. It’s amazing that Author hood is like its own little cult. I’ve met (through Twitter, Facebook and the like) some really amazing people and I’d love, love to meet some of them!
  8. Get a tattoo. I know, not anything WOW or exciting but I’m a chicken, a big fat fraidy-cat! But I have a design that I would love to have inked on my body forever. I just have to work up the nerve.
  9. Become a Grandma. I know. Most people aren’t concerned about that. I gave the world one child, and what happens if he doesn’t have any kids? I’d better put down my want for grandchildren just to be sure it happens.
  10. See the Northern Lights. I live in place that yes, you can see them. They faintly dance about the sky in flickering hues of greens and purples. But if you go further North - almost to the top of the world apparently they are freaking amazing.
Thanks for stopping by, Avery!

A bit about Avery: Avery Olive is Canadian.  She is married and has one child. When she’s not helping raise her very energetic and inquisitive son, she can be found working on her latest novel--where she devilishly adds U’s into every word she can. When she is looking for a break Avery enjoys cake decorating, losing herself in a good book, or heading out to the lake to go camping. The release of Avery’s first novel proves to her it won’t be the last. As long as her family continues to be supportive, she can find the time, and people want to read, Avery vows to keep on writing.

Avery can be found on: [her blog] [Twitter] [Facebook] [Goodreads]
A Stiff Kiss can be bought from: [Amazon] [Barnes and Noble] [The Book Depository]

Besides the grand prize being offered on her blog, Avery has generously offered to give away some swag to one lucky winner. Here's what she's offering: mousepad, signed bookmark and collector card.
To enter, read the rules below and then fill out this FORM:
  1. You do not have to be a follower to enter.
  2. You must be over the age of 13.
  3. This giveaway is open internationally and will end on Tuesday, April 10 at 11:59 PM. 

Monday, March 26, 2012

Review: Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

From Inside Jacket: Escaping from the brutality of an arranged marriage, seventeen-year-old Ismae finds sanctuary at the convent of St. Mortain, where the sisters still serve the gods of old. Here she learns that the god of Death Himself has blessed her with dangerous gifts - and a violent destiny. If she chooses to stay at the convent, she will be trained as an assassin and serve as a handmaiden to Death. To claim her new life, she must destroy the lives of others. Ismae's most important assignment takes her straight into the high court of Brittany, where she must pose as mistress to the darkly mysterious Gavriel Duval, who has fallen under a cloud of suspicion. Once there, she finds herself woefully under prepared - not only for the deadly games of love and intrigue, but for the impossible choices she must make. For how can she deliver Death’s vengeance upon a target who, against her will, has stolen her heart? 

My Rating: 5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: One of the books I’d been eagerly waiting for to be released this year was Robin LaFevers’ Grave Mercy. Regardless of the genre, in my opinion, any novel which involves an assassin is worth at least checking out. Having read Grave Mercy, I can now say that the wait was totally worthwhile because this historical fantasy not only has a protagonist who’s an assassin, but also contains political intrigue, mystery, Death as a character (which you just can’t go wrong with), a sexy romantic lead and a great romance.

I loved that Ismae was such a kick-ass heroine. She’s smart, strong, and knows how to inflict pain and kill people using all kinds of weapons and poisons. LaFevers also makes you care for Ismae right away because we’re told within the first five pages that Ismae bears a scar left by the poison her mother used to try to get rid of her from her womb, and that her father is physically abusive as is her new husband. When given the chance to either become one of Death's handmaidens or be married to another man, it’s not surprising that Ismae chooses to learn how to kill men.

The secondary characters in Grave Mercy were also well-characterized; and LaFevers does a good job of showing the complexity of her characters. People’s actions are motivated by different things and when circumstances change, who the reader defines as “good” and who they define as “bad” changes as well.

Of course my love for Duval was unwavering. I mean, the guy is a handsome noble who’s loyal (although that’s in question), persistent, and always plotting something! Come on, admit he’s irresistible! Oh, and that last quote of his … *swoon*

What I really loved about Duval however was that he was good for Ismae’s character development. Although their relationship starts off rocky since neither of them is thrilled to have to work together on their separate missions, it blossoms gradually; and in the process, causes Ismae to open herself up to the possibility of love and the idea that people can redeem themselves. By spending time with Duval, Ismae learns to follow her own instincts rather than just blindly obeying the orders of the abbess of St. Mortain.     
A novel sure to appeal to fantasy lovers and those who enjoyed Lisa T. Bergren’s River of Time series; Grave Mercy will be released by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on April 3, 2012.  

Comments About the Cover: It’s perfect for Grave Mercy! The castle and brewing storm in the background captures Anne of Brittany’s tumultuous situation. I also love that the model is holding a crossbow and wearing a long dress that’s not only appropriate for the time period but can easily conceal a number of smaller weapons.  

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher (Thomas Allen & Son) for free.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Review: Allegiance by Cayla Kluver

From Goodreads: Bound to a man she cannot love, Queen Alera of Hytanica must forget Narian, the young man who holds her heart. For Narian is destined to conquer Hytanica at the behest of his master, the powerful magic-user known as the Overlord. Alera doesn't truly believe Narian will fight against Hytanica - until Cokyrian troops attack with Narian commanding the charge. Faced with the greatest betrayal a heart can know, Alera must set aside personal feelings and lead her kingdom through its darkest time. And when all hope, will and courage seem lost, she must find strength and remember that even the blackest night must have a dawn ...

My Rating: 3.5 hearts

Thoughts on the Novel: With the prospect of war looming between Hytanica and Cokyri, Cayla Kluver's Allegiance raises the stakes for its characters and has a darker feel than Legacy, the first book in the Legacy series. That said, Allegiance can kind of be divided into two parts: the slow first half which goes into excessive detail about Alera's daily life as queen – the writing still hasn't been tightened – and a more intense, exciting second half.

remains as annoying as ever in Allegiance and makes me so happy that I'm not a Hytanican subject under her rule. The other characters in the book seem to think she's so great, but I have no idea what they see in her. I mean, even though war is brewing and she's the queen, Alera just seems to mope about losing Narian or attempting to meet him in secret, thus putting herself and her country in jeopardy. Talk about selfish! Narian may have sworn to never harm her but he is on the enemy's side.

Narian actually isn't present much in the book and so there's not a lot of romance. However, Kluver does give Steldor a chance to make more of a lasting impression on the reader. I wasn't really a fan of Steldor in Legacy and at the beginning of Allegiance because he was smug and cocky, but he matures so much over the course of the novel that it’s hard not to be in love with him by the end. It doesn't hurt that while
Alera is trying to learn more about Steldor, she gets to spend time with his dad Cannan and his uncle Baelic, two characters I liked.

As well,
I was really pleased with the way Kluver ended Allegiance. Unlike a lot of books which end on massive cliffhangers because they're part of a series, the ending of Allegiance wrapped things up very nicely. It was so satisfactory in fact that I was actually planning on not reading the final book in the trilogy since I thought Kluver wouldn't have much more of a story left to tell (aside from what happens with the romance between Narian and Alera of course). That is, until I read the excerpt of Sacrifice. It looks like I was wrong!

Allegiance was released in February 2012 by HarlequinTeen.

Comments About the Cover: Although it’s gorgeous, it’s not very accurate. Alera is capable of riding on a horse by herself and when she does so, she wears breeches.

In exchange for an honest review, this ARC was received from the publisher (Harlequin Teen) for free via NetGalley. 

Friday, March 16, 2012

Review: Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard

From Goodreads: It all begins with a stupid question: Are you a Global Vagabond? No, but 18-year-old Bria Sandoval wants to be. In a quest for independence, her neglected art, and no-strings-attached hookups, she signs up for a guided tour of Central America - the wrong one. Middle-aged tourists with fanny packs are hardly the key to self-rediscovery. When Bria meets Rowan, devoted backpacker and dive instructor, and his outspokenly humanitarian sister Starling, she seizes the chance to ditch her group and join them off the beaten path. Bria's a good girl trying to go bad. Rowan's a bad boy trying to stay good. As they travel across a panorama of Mayan villages, remote Belizean islands, and hostels plagued with jungle beasties, they discover what they've got in common: both seek to leave behind the old versions of themselves. And the secret to escaping the past, Rowan’s found, is to keep moving forward. But Bria comes to realize she can't run forever, no matter what Rowan says. If she ever wants the courage to fall for someone worthwhile, she has to start looking back. 

My Rating: 5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Lately I’ve been reading a lot of books that have I’ve been feeling pretty ‘meh’ about. So when I picked up Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard, little did I expect to fall in love with it. Since I’m now having a hard time trying to describe how I feel about Wanderlove, here are five reasons why you should read it immediately:
  1. The setting: I’ve never been to Central America, but Hubbard conveys the culture and vibe of the places Bria visits so vividly that I felt as if I had. After reading Wanderlove, I wanted to drop everything, board a plane and backpack through all the places mentioned just so I could actually see them in person! 
  2. The characters: Every single character, regardless of how big or small their role, played an important part in Bria’s travel experience. Hubbard’s characters felt like real people, and I could easily imagine encountering someone similar abroad. 
  3. The journey to self-rediscovery: As much as Wanderlove involves a physical journey, there’s also a mental journey. After defining herself through her horrible boyfriend and being dumped by him, Bria wants to discover who she is without him and regain her passion for art. Meanwhile, Rowan – he’s a bibliophile! – is trying to forget about his past and become a better person. The two grew so much as characters, and I loved watching them open themselves up to each other and to new experiences. 
  4. The subtle romance: Neither Bria nor Rowan are each other’s type, but they do manage to forge a friendship. Despite some flirting early on, I really liked that the two came up with a list of subjects off-limits and clearly defined themselves as friends and nothing more because it gave them a chance to learn about each other through meaningful conversations, without any sort of underlying awkwardness about their relationship or what topics they could broach. Of course setting parameters on their relationship creates some delightful tension later on. 
  5. The drawings: How could I not talk about the drawings drawn by Hubbard herself?! They’re simply amazing!
A contemporary that will easily be among my favourite books of this year, Wanderlove was released on March 13, 2012 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers. 

Comments About the Cover: I like the simplicity of the cover. But, it gives you absolutely no clues as to what the story is about.

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

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Review: Pretty Crooked by Elisa Ludwig

From Goodreads: Willa’s secret plan seems all too simple: take from the rich kids at Valley Prep and give to the poor ones. Yet Willa’s turn as Robin Hood at her ultra-exclusive high school is anything but. Bilking her “friends”-known to everyone as the Glitterati-without them suspecting a thing, is far from easy. Learning how to pick pockets and break into lockers is as difficult as she’d thought it’d be. Delivering care packages to the scholarship girls, who are ostracized just for being from the “wrong” side of town, is way more fun than she’d expected. The complication Willa didn’t expect, though, is Aidan Murphy, Valley Prep’s most notorious (and gorgeous) ace-degenerate. His mere existence is distracting Willa from what matters most to her-evening the social playing field between the have and have-nots. There’s no time for crushes and flirting with boys, especially conceited and obnoxious trust-funders like Aidan. But when the cops start investigating the string of burglaries at Valley Prep and the Glitterati begin to seek revenge, could he wind up being the person that Willa trusts most?

My Rating: 3 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: Elisa Ludwig’s Pretty Crooked was an entertaining story that I thought was relatively good while reading it. After reflecting upon it however, I realized that perhaps I overestimated how great it was.

The Robin Hood connection was what made me request Pretty Crooked; but I didn’t like how Willa chose to help the scholarship kids (aka the Busteds because they’re bussed in from a poorer neighbourhood) or her motivations for stealing from the Glitterati. Instead of standing up to her so-called friends, Willa steals from them and justifies it by saying they’re getting what they deserve for cyberbullying. She then buys outfits – yes, this is her way of helping the less fortunate! – for the Busteds and leaves them on their doorstep. Sure, having a flattering outfit can boost your confidence; but at the end of the day, it doesn’t solve the underlying problem of bullying. Also, considering that Willa only manages to buy one outfit for each person that she helps before she gets caught, her method of helping really doesn’t help in the grand scheme of things because I doubt the Busteds plan on wearing the same outfit every single day for the rest of the school year. (Personally, if someone bought me something fabulous to wear, the last place I’d be wearing it is to school.)

Although Willa was a bit stupid for thinking that she could help the Busteds by stealing rather than by not being a passive bystander, I can kind of see where she’s coming from. I think it would be easy for a lot of people to get sucked into the lifestyle that the Glitterati maintain and not want to give it up if they grow up poor and suddenly find themselves as one of the affluent.

Despite the outrageous plot, I actually got annoyed with Pretty Crooked near the end when there was just too much going on and not enough resolution. For example, throughout the book, Willa’s crush Aidan (who came off as a spoiled rich kid) is trying to get expelled and Willa's mom is secretly seeing a man. By the end, Aidan achieves his goal but how he does so remains a mystery – much like the role of the man Willa’s mom is seeing. I understand that Pretty Crooked is the beginning of a series, but it would have been nice if Ludwig had tied up some of those loose ends.  

A book that you can enjoy as long as you don't think about it too much, Pretty Crooked is released by Katherine Tegen Books today! 

Comments About the Cover: It doesn’t really give off a Robin Hood feel, but I still kind of like it because it represents a part in the book. The girl however should be disguised covertly rather than being dressed fashionably. 

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

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Mini Reviews: The Butterfly Clues by Kate Ellison and The Other Elizabeth by Kathleen Bradford

From Goodreads: Penelope (Lo) Marin has always loved to collect beautiful things. Her dad's consulting job means she's grown up moving from one rundown city to the next, and she's learned to cope by collecting (sometimes even stealing) quirky trinkets and souvenirs in each new place - possessions that allow her to feel at least some semblance of home. But in the year since her brother Oren's death, Lo's hoarding has blossomed into a full-blown, potentially dangerous obsession. She discovers a beautiful, antique butterfly pendant during a routine scour at a weekend flea market, and recognizes it as having been stolen from the home of a recently murdered girl known only as "Sapphire" - a girl just a few years older than Lo. As usual when Lo begins to obsess over something, she can't get the murder out of her mind. As she attempts to piece together the mysterious "butterfly clues," with the unlikely help of a street artist named Flynt, Lo quickly finds herself caught up in a seedy, violent underworld much closer to home than she ever imagined - a world, she'll ultimately discover, that could hold the key to her brother's tragic death. 

My Rating: 3 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: As a murder mystery, I thought The Butterfly Clues by Kate Ellison was rather predictable and far-fetched. Lo stumbling upon clues that the police miss; Lo disguising herself to appear older so that she can try to get hired at Tens, a strip club, in order to talk to the other strippers about Sapphire; the connection between Bird and Oren … all of it was just hard to believe.

The Butterfly Clues does a much better job of capturing the thoughts and behaviours of someone with OCD. Lo’s disorder begins at a young age and has gotten much worse since Oren’s death – to the point where she’s now also a kleptomaniac and hoarder. This information is shown in such a natural way that you come to accept it as part of Lo’s personality. As a reader, you can see how severe Lo’s disorder is; yet through Lo’s eyes, it’s just who she is.    

The Butterfly Clues was released in February 2012 by Egmont USA. 

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

From Back Cover: It was a lovely day in June. Elizabeth was enjoying a visit to Upper Canada Village with her Grade Seven class when a strange compulsion urged her toward Cook 's Tavern. Curious, she walked into the old building, and stepped into the past. A fire burns in the fireplace ... men in buckskins sit around the tables ... she is wearing a long dress of grey homespun ... "Why, it's young Elizabeth Frobisher," said one of the men. "But I'm not," Elizabeth wanted to say, "I'm not Elizabeth Frobisher! I'm Elizabeth Duncan!" 

My Rating: 2.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: With its attention to historical detail, The Other Elizabeth by Karleen Bradford takes you back to October 1813, just as the Canadians are about to engage in war against the Americans in the Battle of Crysler’s Farm. Although I love historical fiction, The Other Elizabeth seemed really dry because before Elizabeth goes home, there was very little action and just a lot of day-to-day stuff so you got an accurate feel for how the pioneers lived. As well, there was no explanation for why Elizabeth travels back into the past when she enters Cook’s Tavern or why she soon enough starts acting like Elizabeth Frobisher and forgets her life as Elizabeth Duncan. I normally love MG books, but The Other Elizabeth, sadly, wasn’t for me. 

The Other Elizabeth was released by Starburst Digital Rights International Inc. in September 2011.

In exchange for an honest review, this book was received from the publisher.
original image from thegate.ca

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Author Interview: A&E Kirk (and Giveaway)

Today, I'd like to welcome A&E Kirk, the authors of Demons at Deadnight to my blog. They'll actually be answering my questions in video format so enjoy their fun video below. Alyssa and Eileen have also made a video to show how to bake Jayden's Triple Chocolate Cookies which you can check out as well.

I think watching Supernatural is a great way to get some research done, you two. And Jake pimping himself was way too funny!

My sister actually watched this video with me and laughed because I have problems simply microwaving food sometimes. Oh, and the other day I burned the kettle really badly trying to make tea for myself. I did like seeing the cookies being made though, Alyssa and Eileen. Now if only you could somehow transfer those cookies to me ... 

A huge thank you to A&E Kirk for taking the time to answer my questions and make the cooking video! 

A bit about A&E Kirk: Anyone who says this mother-daughter team doesn’t mesh has only seen them trying to put out the fire from the stupid wires behind the television that should’ve been more clearly labeled. Alyssa, the A in A&E, has gone from mucking out horse stalls and taping her eyes open during college lectures, to writing novels. When she’s not writing, reading, or running down the halls flapping her coat while singing the Batman theme song, she’s either dancing or immersed in anime. Eileen has much more class. Even a degree. Fancy. Mother of three lovably peculiar children - all of which like to point out how short she is. Even though she really isn’t - they’re just freaking giants. Happily married, she enjoys escaping like a bat out of hell horseback riding at a leisurely speed around the mountains surrounding their home.

A&E Kirk can be found on: [their website] [Alyssa's Twitter] [Eileen's Twitter] [Facebook] [Goodreads]
Demons at Deadnight can be bought from: [Amazon] [Barnes and Noble] 

A&E Kirk have generously offered to give away some awesome swag to one lucky winner. Here's what they're offering: handcuffs key chain, Bubbles and a poster of either the cover of Demons at Deadnight or the Hex Boys.
To enter, read the rules below and then fill out this FORM:
  1. You do not have to be a follower to enter.
  2. You must be over the age of 13.
  3. This giveaway is open internationally and will end on Tuesday, March 27 at 11:59 PM.
  4. Make sure your entries are tallied correctly (or else you won't win).

To enter to win the Kindle Fire you need to know the secret phrase given out one word at a time by each blog tour host. Put the words together in sequential order and you'll eventually have the secret phrase! Right now you can Tweet and Follow on the AEKIRK Blog Tour Page to get points but starting March 9 (at the end of the tour) you can enter the complete phrase on the AEKIRK Blog Tour Page and earn BIG entry points! Your Kindle Fire will also include your choice of a DEMONS AT DEADNIGHT Skin. Either from the cover, or a Hex Boy group shot or individual "Team" skin of your favorite Hex Hunk!
My secret word is: NEX

Monday, March 05, 2012

Charming Canucks: Interview and Giveaway with C.K. Kelly Martin

Charming Canucks is a feature I’ve created that will be posted every other month in an effort to spotlight more Canadian YA authors and their books. 
Today, I'd like to welcome C.K. Kelly Martin.

A bit about C.K. (as found on Goodreads): After graduation C.K. headed for Dublin, Ireland and spent the majority of the nineties there in forgettable jobs meeting unforgettable people and enjoying the buzz. She always thoughts she'd get around to writing in earnest eventually and began writing her first novel in a flat in Dublin and finished it in a Toronto suburb. By then she'd discovered that young adult fiction felt the freshest and most exciting to her. You have most of your life to be an adult but you only grow up once! She's currently residing near Toronto with her Dub husband, became an Irish citizen in 2001 and continues to visit Dublin often (although not as often as she'd like!) while working on teen novels.

If you had to pick one character from among all those you have created, which one would be your favourite? (I know I'm being evil ;) 
You are devilish indeed; you know we shouldn’t play favourites! Before I answer, I have to say I love being asked these questions with proper Canadian spelling. So far all my books have been published to match up with American dictionary spellings but it still doesn’t seem right to me to see words like neighbour and colour missing their U’s. Anyway, generally my favourite character is whichever one I’ve worked on most recently but overall I’m probably fondest of Finn from One Lonely Degree because she’s a lot like me right down to her introversion, fondness for music and burning desire to go to London (I’ve been six times now and am still crazy about it). 

You’re known for writing intense realistic YA contemporaries. Is there another genre you’d love to try your hand at someday? Is there a genre you could never see yourself writing? 
YA contemporary is my favourite but I enjoy variety. My upcoming YA book has some sci-fi elements and I think it could be fun to write more books with either paranormal (like My Beating Teenage Heart) or sci-fi elements sometime. Maybe even horror. I’ve also written a book with a twenty-year-old main character who is grieving for her boyfriend when she becomes physically involved with someone else (more on that later in this interview). I’m really not in traditional type mysteries so that’s something I can’t ever see myself diving into. Also, although I enjoy reading about older characters it’s difficult for me to envision writing about character over the age, say, twenty-five or so. 

What is your writing process like? Are you a pantser or a planner? 
I let the story unfold in my head in a sort of vague way first and then I usually write a chapter by chapter outline (a couple of sentences per chapter). So I usually have a pretty good idea of where the story is heading by the time I sit down to type it out, but sometimes I’m wrong and things take a different turn! 

Describe your writing space. 
The den is a mess. It’s a very small room to begin with and the bookshelf behind me is totally overcrowded. There are also notebooks and bits of paper strewn everywhere (the futon is always covered with stuff). I have a couple of Beatles posters on my wall and a Jane Austen action figure, that I can see from my computer, to inspire me. The big things I need are quiet and solitude. I’m not one of those writers who can write in a coffee shop or while listening to music (although I like to listen to music before and after writing and while working on my website and stuff). 

I know Yesterday is coming out in September 2012, but do you have any other writing projects currently planned? If so, can you give a hint of what to expect. 
I’m rewriting the first YA books I ever wrote (which were a trilogy but which will now be one book) and am also planning to release the book with the twenty-year-old main character I mentioned earlier as an e-book.

Quick Questions: 

What’s the best thing about living in Toronto? 
Often when I’m in the city (I actually live in the burbs but near enough to Toronto to take advantage of all it has to offer) it’s to go to a concert, the theatre or watch movies that don’t make it out to the suburbs so I have to say the best thing about being near Toronto is the arts scene. 

You go on a cross-country trip across Canada. What is the one place you have to visit? 
Lately I’ve been feeling really intrigued by Labrador because it seems so unspoiled, remote and breathtaking. 

What's your favourite book by a Canadian author and why? 
Crow Lake by Mary Lawson because she's amazingly perceptive about people and the complex nature of family relationships. 

A huge thank you to C.K. for taking the time to answer my questions!

C.K. can be found on: [her blog] [her website] [Twitter] [Facebook] [Goodreads]
Click here to find out more about C.K.'s books!
For this giveaway, C.K. has generously offered to give away a signed copy of My Beating Teenage Heart to Canadian readers. If you have a Canadian mailing address and are over the age of 13, you can fill out this FORM.

In addition, one person will get the chance to win one copy of any of C.K.'s books. To enter, fill out the Rafflecopter form below.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Review: Embrace by Jessica Shirvington

From Goodreads: Violet Eden dreads her seventeenth birthday. After all, it’s hard to get too excited about the day that marks the anniversary of your mother’s death. As if that wasn’t enough, disturbing dreams haunt her sleep and leave her with very real injuries. There’s a dark tattoo weaving its way up her arms that wasn’t there before. Violet is determined to get some answers, but nothing could have prepared her for the truth. The guy she thought she could fall in love with has been keeping his identity a secret: he’s only half-human - oh, and same goes for her. A centuries-old battle between fallen angels and the protectors of humanity has chosen its new warrior. It’s a fight Violet doesn’t want, but she lives her life by two rules: don’t run and don’t quit. When angels seek vengeance and humans are the warriors, you could do a lot worse than betting on Violet Eden … 

My Rating: 3.5 hearts

Thoughts on the Novel: I love books that involve angels so I was really excited about finally being able to read Jessica Shirvington’s Embrace in North America. At the same time, I was a little wary as well because I’ve read quite a bit of angel novels and many of them haven’t been particularly great. Embrace though turned out to be one of the better books even if I did have several issues with it.

My main problem with Embrace was the characterization. I liked Violet in the beginning and could easily relate to her not wanting to celebrate her birthday or pining over Lincoln but not telling him how she feels for fear of jeopardizing their friendship. Given that she went through something traumatic and told Lincoln all about it, I could also see why Violet felt so betrayed by the fact that he never told her he was a Grigori. Over the course of the book however, Violet became increasingly emotionally unstable and it became hard to understand her actions. Shirvington does provide an explanation for this at the end so I currently feel very ambivalent towards Violet.

I also didn’t fall in love with either Lincoln or Phoenix. (Griffin, Lincoln and Violet’s mentor though was a different story, and I’d love to know more about him.) When compared to Phoenix, Lincoln is simply boring. That said, I’m rooting for him because it's obvious that he really cares about Violet whereas I found Phoenix to be controlling and a total stalker. I figured Phoenix had his own motives for wanting to know Violet and spending time with her, but I never guessed his backstory! It’ll be interesting to see how the two interact with each other in Enticed, the sequel to Embrace, now that Violet knows the truth about him and it appears that he may have developed some genuine feelings for her.

Another thing I found problematic in Embrace was the lack of parental presence. You’d think that Violet’s dad would be more protective of his daughter considering what she has been through; yet he remains a workaholic and rarely appears in the book. Similarly, Violet’s best friend Steph can do whatever she wants because not only is her family rich, but her dad is constantly away for work.

Despite its issues, I ended up enjoying Embrace since Shirvington created a tight story exploring free will vs. destiny with an interesting (though at times confusing) take on angels. It’s clear that Shirvington has talent and can write, especially romantic scenes; so I think Enticed definitely has the potential to be better!  

Embrace will be released by Sourcebooks Fire on March 6, 2012.
Comments About the Cover: The bottom half of the model’s pose is a little weird but I love the background and the wispy wings that hint at Violet’s angelic side. I also really like that there are falling black feathers because it suggests that just as exiles of light will vie for Violet’s powers, so too will exiles of the dark.

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