Friday, September 30, 2016

INTERVIEW & COVER REVEAL | Cursed by the Fountain of Youth by Holly Kelly (Unnatural States of America)

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For centuries, countless adventurers have searched for the Fountain of Youth. Those who found it thought they would gain eternal life. Instead, they find themselves murdered by its guardians. There was, however, one, lone survivor—Fae Miller. As an infant, she not only survived the Fountain, she took its power.

Twenty-two years later, Fae is hiding in plain sight at a local college. She’s is determined to leave the past behind her and live a normal life. But for one dying man, the search for the Fountain of Youth continues, and he is leaving a trail of blood and mutilated bodies in his wake. Unfortunately, that trail leads directly to Fae. Her only hope is a young, new college professor, also known as Special Agent Nick Chase of the FBI. Nick is determined to do two things: keep Fae alive, and keep his relationship with his student professional. Both of these jobs prove difficult—especially when love and magic get involved.


They ate their dinner in silence. Fae realized in those quiet moments that she had a major problem.
She’d not only kissed her professor, she desperately wanted to kiss him again. No. Desperate was not a strong enough word. It took supreme effort not to jump out of her seat and throw her arms around him.
“Um,” she said and cleared her throat, “that probably shouldn’t happen again.”
Nick didn’t answer. A scowl settled on his face.
“I mean,” Fae continued, “This could complicate things. I don’t want you to feel you need to give me a good grade, just because you might…”
“Might what?” he asked when she didn’t’ continue.
“I don’t want to put words in your mouth,” she said.
“Right,” he said. He seemed want to say something, but paused to consider his words. “How about I tell you how I feel? That way you won’t be putting words into my mouth.”
He looked her directly in the eyes. “I think you’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever laid eyes on. So it goes without saying that I’m attracted to you. And I’ve had enough experience with women to know you’ve had little experience with men. Rules aside, I’d still move slowly with you.”
Fae swallowed and gave a shaky nod.
“But the truth is I am your professor. So this relationship cannot move further than what it is now. That is until the end of the term. And no, I won’t be giving you any grade you don’t deserve.”
“But, once the term ends,” he continued, “all bets are off. I intend to pursue a relationship with you. I expect keeping my hands off you will be difficult in the meantime. I think we are both reasonable adults and have enough self-control to keep things at a professional level. Right?”
Fae nodded, feeling a bit relieved. “I do have one question,” she said.
“You said our relationship couldn’t go farther than it is.”
“Right,” he said.
“And we’ve already kissed.”
A frown settled on his face. It looked like he could guess what she was about to say. Warmth flooded her cheeks. She asked in a small voice, “So, can I kiss you again?”
He closed his eyes and shook his head as he groaned and gave a weak chuckle. “You’re going to make things difficult, aren’t you?” When he opened his eyes, he stood up, pulled her out of her seat, and wrapped his arms around her. Her eyes widened and heart pounded as her body melded against his. He looked down and gave her a smoldering look as the scent of his cologne teased her senses and made her mouth water.
 “I can’t think of any alternate reality where I would ever say no when you ask me that question.” With that said, he leaned forward and kissed her so thoroughly, she could scarcely remember her own name.

I had the chance to ask Holly a few fun questions, so here goes!

Amanda: I adore the idea of 'The Unnatural States of America'; what inspired it? 

Holly: It sprang from the ideas I had for a couple books. I began to write Cursed by the Fountain of Youth after the close of the last book of my latest series—The Rising Series. And then in midst of writing, I got an idea I absolutely loved about a twist for the Legend of Sleepy Hollow story too. And then I got to thinking, that there are a lot of amazing legends right here in the US. So, why don’t I write books about those legends?

A: There are several theories on the location of the Fountain of Youth; which is your favorite? 

H: I love the thought, that in some cultures, it isn’t just a vague legend, they have an absolute belief that they have the fountain of youth. In my book, I actually took a couple of different legends and connect them. In Ethiopia, there is a pool that supposedly will return vitality and strength to a person. The pool is real, people use it, and my guess is it has minerals and properties that do have some benefits. Then there’s the power of belief at work there that can be a powerful thing. Then I use the Fountain of Youth that Ponce de Leon supposedly searched for in Florida (around the St. Augustine area). There are also legends about a secret society of guardians that protect the fountain. It’s so secrets that no one knows the name of it, and of course, where it is located. When I found this out, I thought, “This is so going in my book!”

A:  What did you edit out of this book?

H: I really didn’t edit much out; I did change some things though. The character of Fae really changed for me as I wrote the story. I started out wanting to write a character who was strong, opinionated, and tough (kind of like Gretchen in my second Rising book), but the chemistry wasn’t working between her and Nick. So I had to rewrite some of the beginning. I seem to prefer women characters who have insecurities and fears, but rise to meet challenges and find an inner strength they didn’t know they had. I guess I can relate more to these women.

A: What was your hardest scene to write? 

H; The scenes where there is action, heart break, and suffering are the easiest for me to write. What’s a little more difficult for me is the day to day scenes—the ones where you get to know the characters. Action scenes have to be balanced with character building scenes, so I do it. And if I’m doing it right, I really enjoy the low-down scenes.  But, I love writing action. As for one difficult scene, I can’t think of any in this book that was hard to write.

A: What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?

H: I have a friend who wrote a book I thought was brilliant. I was swallowed up in the story as I read it, and I absolutely loved it. I was sure it would be a big seller but, although it’s had okay sales, it never really caught on as big as I thought it would. It’s called Reluctant Guardian by Melissa J. Cunningham. If you want to find a gem that not many have read, pick up this book!

About the Author:

Holly Kelly is a mom who writes books in her spare time: translation--she hides in the bathroom with her laptop and locks the door while the kids destroy the house and smear peanut butter on the walls. She was born in Utah but moved around a bit, living in Kansas, Texas, and Hawaii where she studied marine biology. She's now back in Utah--"happy valley". She's married to a wonderful husband, James, and they are currently raising 6 rambunctious children. Her interests are reading, writing (or course), martial arts, visual arts, creating Halloween props, and spending time with family. 

Find Holly at:


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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Shelf Control #4 | The Fire Rose by Mercedes Lackey

Shelf Control
hosted by Lisa @ Bookshelf Fantasies
Shelf Control is all about the books we want to read — and already own! Consider this a variation of a Wishing & Waiting post… but looking at books already available, and in most cases, sitting right there on our shelves and e-readers.

The Fire Rose by Mercedes Lackey

Synopsis (via Goodreads):
San Francisco, 1905: Rosalind, a medieval scholar, is hired by Jason, a powerful sorcerer. Jason's enemy offers to restore Rosalind's family fortune if she will betray Jason. And then the earthquake strikes. . . .

How I got it:
I picked this up at a thrift store. For $1. I loooooove thrift stores, you guys.

When I got it:
A couple weeks ago, maybe August 2016. Definitely not the unread book I've owned the longest, but one I'm eager to read.

Why I want to read it:
I've been very intrigued by the idea of Lackey's Elemental Masters series, so I really hoped this was one of them -after the fact I found out this is basically ground zero for the series, the beginning if not technically 'book one'- but mostly I got it because it's a re-telling of Beauty and the Beast. As I mentioned in yesterday's Top Ten Tuesday, I'm trying to read ALL OF THE RE-TELLINGS before the live-action version hits theaters in March. (Wish me luck!) Plus, I've never read anything by Lackey before and, for a girl whose first love is fantasy, that seems like something it needs to be remedied, poste haste.

What series is on your To Read list that you seem to keep putting off?

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

TTT: Books on My Fall TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is a blog meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

Some (well, one) of these are new releases and some (er, most) are age-old TBRs from my shelf or Goodreads. All of them WILL BE READ this fall. (I know I've said that before, but this time I'm serious!)

Iron Man: The Gauntlet by Eoin Colfer
Yeah. No brainer. I haven't shut up about this book since it was announced and it releases on October 25th. LET THE COUNTDOWN COMMENCE! And I've already pre-ordered it. (You can too! We're talking a $9.65 hardcover pre-order from Barnes and Noble, people; don't think, just do it.)

The Fire Rose by Mercedes Lackey
I'd never heard of this, but I picked it up at a thrift store. It's a Beauty and the Beast retelling and I've got a list of those I want to read before March. (Gee, wonder why...)
Double bonus! I've been hearing recently about Lackey's Elemental Masters series, which sounds phenomenal. Turns out this is the beginning of that. Score.
Aftermath and Aftermath: Life Debt by Chuck Wendig
These are from my shelf and I'm rather ashamed I haven't gotten around to them yet. But seeing as the final book is due out in February, I ought to get them into my system. Also, I'm hoping it gives a good transition from Empire to First Order. *fingers crossed*

Vicious by V.E. Schwab
If you've lost count on how many times this has popped up on one of these season TBRs, you're not alone. I have too. But the next time this title pops up on my blog, it will be in sidebar 'What I'm Reading' section and then in a review because, come on, this is getting ridiculous.

Marvel's Original Sin and Civil War
Before Captain America: Civil War hit theaters, I planned to read the comic, but the comic was actually the last in a grand story arc so I had to read the rest of them. I got through the rest of them, but never actually made it to Civil War. Huzzah.
Original Sin made the list because I went to read the next issue of the Loki: Agent of Asgard and had no bloody clue what was going on.

Pwned by Shannen Crane Camp
Another title that's been on my TBR for a while, which turns a few cliches on their heads. Beautiful, popular, cheerleader co-captain Reagan West has a dark secret: she's a die-hard gamer, which is basically Loser Central.

Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman
The sequel just hit the new book display at my library and it looks and sounds like a library lover's dream.

Dead Girls Detective Agency by Suzy Cox, Desolate Angel by Chaz McGee and Wicked Autumn by G.M. Malliet
October is always 'murder mystery' month for me, born of the annual theme at the library where I grew up and the fact that my family didn't celebrate Halloween, so every year about this time I try to read some nice good murders and these three are already on the list. We'll see if I can make it through any of them. Murder mysteries are notoriously sticky for me to explore; I tend to like stuff a little grittier than cozies, but that usually means they're nowhere near clean, either.

Crap. I think I put too many books on the TBR again. :P

What are you reading this fall?
And are you any better at finishing TBR lists than I am?

Monday, September 19, 2016

#BookmarkMonday (8) -Confucius

"No matter how busy you are, you must find time for reading or surrender yourself to self-chosen ignorance." -Confucius

My library has a constant flow of weird and wonderful cardstock bookmarks and this is just one of many I've picked up from work.


Tuesday, September 6, 2016

TTT: Ten Books I Wish Were TV Shows

Top Ten Tuesday is a blog meme hosted by the ladies at The Broke and the Bookish

This week's TTT is TV themed in honor of the fall season start up (woohoo!). There were so many possible lists to choose from. So I wound up doing two. My second -Favorite Cancelled Shows- can be found here.

I knew I had to do a list of Books I Wish Were TV Shows but when I sat down to write it up, the weirdest thing happened. I drew a complete blank.
It was bad. And I knew I could write a really, really good list for it too. I'm almost as obsessive in my TV watching as with my reading. (Okay. YES. Occasionally more so. Occasionally.) I figured I just needed some brainstorming help, so I posed the question to my aunt and my sister to kick-start my brain. It totally worked, too.

Then I basically wound up with three lists, instead of one. Buckle up.

Amanda's Top Picks:
-Surprising no one, my top series of all time would make a fantastic television series. It's got it all: action, humor, magic, secret civilizations, and 12-year-old criminal masterminds.
-Again, surprising no one.
-Seriously, skip the movie talk and go straight to a TV series! Really, anything by Brandon Sanderson could be used.
-Whether a reboot of the Harry Potter series as a TV show or a completely new story BASICALLY ANY TV SHOW THAT TAKES PLACE IN THE WIZARDING WORLD WOULD BE ABSOLUTELY AMAZING. But especially the Marauders. Right?
-One of my favorite series and it would work so well as a TV show
-Okay. So I still haven't read the entire series. But even I know this would be amazing.
-I understand there's a film currently in the works, but a TV show would be equally fantastic. More opportunity for character development and more time to spend in the setting and universe.
-Simple. Just carry on from the I, Robot movie, throw in more details true to this trilogy, and voila! I mean, you already have an audience set up in the fans of FOX's prematurely cancelled Almost Human starring Karl Urban and Michael Ealy (albeit that's a while back now).
Bonus points if Chi McBride is recast as the precinct's lieutenant. Because Chi McBride.
And Mr. McBride totally ties into my other TTT list for the day. Because you can only get so far Googling Chi McBride before the Pushing Daisies images taking over.
-I adore the book and the movie was great. But wouldn't it be hilarious to do a 'Fantasy Island' or 'Loveboat' type show based in Austenland, with new characters and stories every week from an ever-changing celebrity cast? Seriously, why isn't this a thing yet?
-I didn't love the ending of this series (I've been wondering if I'd feel differently about it now), but I always remember thinking it would make an amazing TV show, with each book treated as a season.
-Nuff said.
-Come on! It's like the perfect holiday special wrapped up with a bow!

The Aunt
Jo-D's Top Picks:
Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan (and Brandon Sanderson)
Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
Dragon Riders of Pern by Anne McCaffrey
Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins 
-but a prequel dealing with the first rebellion, back when there were 13 districts, when Mag and Snow were children.
Little Women & Little Men by Louisa May Alcott
Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier
Wizard of Oz by Frank L. Baum

The Sister
Stephanie's Top Picks:
Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy
Fablehaven by Brandon Mull
-Fabulous idea!
Dead City by James Ponti
Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson
-See what I mean? Literally any Brandon Sanderson series.
The Last Apprentice by Joseph DeLaney
-She can't even talk about the movie. It's too painful. She feels a TV series would give it the proper treatment it deserves.
Ella Enchanted/Princess series by Gail Carson Levine
Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede
-Could not agree with this more!
Lockwood & Company by Jonathan Stroud
Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket
-Don't let us down, Netflix!
Edge Chronicles by Chris Riddle and Paul Stewart
Nightmare Academy by Dean Lorey

The aunt and sister put together such good lists I might have to rope them into all my Top Ten Tuesday posts!
What are you dying to see on the small screen?

TTT: Favorite Cancelled Shows

Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is a weekly book meme. Today's theme is TV shows and I couldn't make up my mind whether to list Favorite Cancelled Shows or Books I Wish Were TV Shows. So I did both.

Top Ten Tuesday is a blog meme hosted by the ladies at The Broke and the Bookish
Gone too soon applies to everything on this list. EVERYTHING.

Battle Creek (CBS)
This show really deserved a second chance. (Ironic, considering #2 on this list). My Worth Watching review basically sums up what an amazing show it was -writing, execution, cast, crew- but it's a crying shame this show didn't survive its first season. It racked up good review ratings and die-hard fanbase, but the viewership odds were not in its favor.

Second Chance (Fox)
I fell in love with this show and I fell hard, as my Worth Watching review/spotlight can attest. Much as I love it, at least I can see why it was cancelled.

A rare and beautiful gem among television shows, it ran one season in 1993-94. Starring Bruce Campbell as a Harvard-educated-lawayer-turned-bounty-hunter, Brisco County Jr. made the western/science fiction show a thing long before Firefly. (Sorry, Joss Whedon.)
And I'm laughing now because I just found out this was on Fox.

The Middleman (ABC Family)
This one's hard to describe, so I'll let the internet do that: Struggling female artist Wendy Watson, recruited by a secret agency, struggles to wrap her head around her bizarre new job -- fighting dangers humanity isn't prepared to face -- under the guidance of a handsome and relentlessly wholesome hero who calls himself "The Middleman" in this tongue-in-cheek adventure series.

The funny thing is, the series was literally one episode away from a satisfactory ending. It ran 12 episodes when the 13th would have connected everything together, answered questions we didn't even know we were asking, and finished off the series nicely. While we never did get this elusive missing episode -we did get the next best thing. After the fact, almost the entire cast sat on a Middleman panel at SDCC for a live reading of the episode 13 script, with show creator Javier Grillo-Marxuach acting as moderator and narrator. It was beautiful. It's also on YouTube.
Also, this guy:

And speaking of Mark Sheppard...
Firefly (Fox)
You knew it had to be coming. And no, Universe; we will never get over this.

Life (NBC)
Life was his sentence.
Life was what he got back.
Life is what they cancelled.
If you want to see the bottom lip wobble on any of my family members, just intone that little gem. We all loved this show.
Homicide detective Charlie Crews served 12 years for a crime he didn't commit, but now he's back on the job with a few new quirks -prison habits, a Zen philosophy, and an insatiable craving for fresh fruit. The show is equal parts zany and poignant.
Fun fact? Created by Rand Ravich, who also created my #2 heartbreak, Second Chance.
My dad and I fell in love with this show about an immortal medical examiner. It was fun and I always thought it was pretty clever; what's a crime show without a good quirk now a days? 

Young Justice (CN)
Another show that just shouldn't have been cancelled. But hey -those Netflix season 3 rumors just started up again, so here's hoping.

Agent Carter (ABC)
Admittedly, I haven't finished season 2 yet, but I was disappointed when this wasn't renewed. It had everything -the time period, the snark, so much Marvel origins potential, and Peggy Carter.

Pushing Daisies (ABC)
If you haven't heard of Pushing Daisies, you're hanging out with the wrong crowds. Lee Pace, Chi McBride, Kristin Chenoweth, AND NARRATED BY JIM DALE. (Yes, narrator-of-the-Harry-Potter-audiobooks, THAT JIM DALE.)
With a single touch, Ned can bring the dead back to life. But one more touch will kill them again. Permanently. It's a zany mystery series and love story with fantasy elements, beautiful cinematography, wonderful wordplay, and the occasional musical number. (Because yes, THAT Kristen Chenoweth, too!)

And if you thought the early 90s were as far back as I'd go -you were wrong! It had four season running from 83-87. I've just been introduced to this show and I LOVE it. While it had four great seasons, and they did give us as satisfactory an ending as they could swing with the cancellation, I would have loved to see more of this show.

Don't miss my Ten Books I Wish Were TV Shows!
I understand the pain. Share some of your favorite cancelled shows.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

ARC REVIEW: Gears of Revolution by J. Scott Savage (Mysteries of Cove #2)

by J. Scott Savage
Mysteries of Cove #2
Shadow Mountain Publishing
Available: September 20

4/5 stars
PG for some fantasy violence
Recommend for anyone who likes steampunk or dragons or steampunk dragons

The Review
[There will be SPOILERS of the events from the first book, Fires of Invention.]

When last we left Cove, super-mechanics Trenton Coleman and Kallista Babbage showed their underground civilization that the outside world wasn't a poisonous death trap of technological pollution. They proved they had been lied to for years. They also proved that inventing wasn't a sin and that machines could be used for great and wondrous things. They learned the true name of Cove -Discovery, once a haven for scientists and inventors. They even killed the dragon that attacked their city.



That was the other little secret they uncovered.

Then they managed to kill the dragon that attacked their city.

Now, Kallista is determined to find her father, the eccentric and brilliant inventor Leo Babbage, who escaped the city and left another puzzle of clues behind for her to follow. With Trenton's help, they follow Leo's path aboard their majestic mechanical dragon Ladon to a far off city called 'Seattle', dodging dragons of the scales and blood variety along the way.

You're sold on this already, aren't you? I don't blame you. I love, love, LOVE this premise so. freaking. much.

While just as much of an adventure as Fires of Invention, the intrigue for Gears of Revolution really kicked it up a notch. Plus, Savage delves even deeper into the 'steampunk' culture with the introduction of the Whipjacks -technological superior social outcasts with fantastic accents and slang- and their charismatic leader, the 'dimber damber' Cochrane. (Oh yep. Loving it.)

And once again, Savage regales us with new inventions and throws in some political and social discord for Trenton and Kallista to contend with -because obviously dragons aren't enough of a challenge for them. Gears also takes the world on a darker turn, because the city Trenton and Kallista find next is more brutal, more savage. (No pun intended*) This Seattle has a survival-of-the-fittest mentality unseen in the peaceful Discovery and it's interesting watching Kallista and Trenton deal with this unpleasant jolt of reality. It adds a new angle for them and I like the affect it has on their characters, coming from a city where everyone has enough to eat to seeing a place where some have to resort to desperate methods just to keep from starving.

Kallista and Trenton are still awkwardly adorable, since they both relate far better to machines than people (especially each other). They are learning to interact better (which, again, is adorable) but they still need some work on their dealings with others. Which is part of the fun!

Kallista comes a little into her own in this sequel. Up to now, she has been dutifully following the clues left behind by her father, but I like that we see a touch of perhaps not exactly resentment, but the idea that these games her father loved to play aren't exactly her cup of tea. I like seeing this side of Kallista and I'm excited to see where it takes her from here.

One thing I mentioned specifically in my review for Fires of Invention was the portrayal of Trenton's mother, who disapproves of the machines Trenton loves so much, and of the complicated relationship between them, and I have to say, I love it even more in the sequel. Since they reached a better understanding of each other last book, Savage successfully starts deepening their relationship and I love watching every minute -even though there aren't very many! (Next book, maybe. Next book...)

Fires floored me with the reveal of dragons, and Gears wowed me with the further depth of this world. Whereas Discovery had hidden away from the reality of dragons, the city built from the remains of Seattle designed a religion around them. (Whoa is right.) The Order of the Beast is exactly what it sounds like. The core of the religion is a worship of the 'holy beasts' and its role in society is basically the peace they claim to have brokered with the dragons.

I would have loved to see The Order of the Beast explored more within the story; I'm a worldbuilding nerd like that. We do get one of these 'Red Robes' as a prominent character and I devoured the tidbits of this whacked out religion he fed us. He also raised some very interesting -and uncomfortable- questions about the nature of dragons. And Kallista is uncovering questions about the dragons on her own. The deeper Savage takes us into his world, the deeper we see the story go and I love this progression!

There a couple of great new characters in this book. Aside from the aforementioned Cochrane, head of the motley eccentric Whipjacks, we also get Ander -a member of the dragon-worshiping Order of the Beast who has questionable motives- and Plucky -a young Whipjack with awesome mechanical leg braces who has questionable motives. You might be sensing a theme here.

But even with all this fantastic new content, one of my very favorite moments in this book actually involves old faces, specifically Mr. Darrow and his son, Angus. It's not much of a spoiler. So I'm going to tell you about it.

As you might recall, Angus isn't much of a fan of Trenton and Kallista. He's actually a bit of a bully, just like his father. Angus has always intrigued me, though, and he's one of the characters who really stuck in the back of my mind. There is a moment in Gears when Trenton finds his path blocked by Mr. Darrow and this happens:
"You're a coward and a fool," Trenton yelled as he ran past. "And one day, your son is going to realize it."
Remember that Trenton isn't much of a people person; I don't feel like this line is spoken out of spite or even that Trenton is lashing out. This is just the truth as Trenton sees it.

So why am I so hung up on this? It's a tiny moment. A single line. It's never addressed again and, to be honest, Angus and his father are barely in this story, so it's not that important in the grand scheme of things. But I'm really excited to see the aftermath of this single line. Because it makes me realize WHY I'm so interested in Angus Darrow. This kid has a great core. He has good instincts and qualities -like wanting to protect his people at all costs and vehemently opposing any threat- he just has a bad example in his bully father and has been taught too many lies.

What Trenton says here is painfully true. It's exactly why I'm chomping the bit for book 3. Because some day Angus IS going to realize it and that might very well be the day a Great Character is born. That's a day I want to see.
So, Angus:
I loved how Savage ended this book. It's an epic finale and I cannot wait to get my hands on book 3. Gears of Revolution, with its new setting, new characters, and whole plethora of dragons has been a blast. But it's also a build up. The deeper we dive into the world of this series, the closer we get to the really meaty question, and it is waiting for the answer to that that has me on the edge of my seat.

Overall, it's a fantastic continuation to the series and even more fascinating than its predecessor. The whole time I was reading this, my big recurring thought was: I can't wait to see how that unfold next time!

Oh, right. Did I mention that blessedly beautiful AIRSHIP?

An ARC of this ebook was provided courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review

*Okay. Pun totally intended.