Top Books of 2014

Since today is New Years Eve (!?!?!?), I thought I would share my favourite books that I've read this year. I read some really fantastic books and I loved them for various reasons and honestly there was no way I was going to get it narrowed down to just ten. So here are my thirteen favourite books I read in 2014 and four 2014 releases that I read and loved in 2013. This post is me officially vouching for all of them. 

2014 Releases:

A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller

Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman

Maid of Deception by Jennifer McGowan

The Young Elites by Marie Lu

Nil by Lynne Matson

Rites of Passage by Joy N. Hensley

The Unbound by Victoria Schwab

The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson

A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray

Previously Released:

Vicious by V.E. Schwab

Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers

2015 Release:

Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee

Most Unique, Unexpected Love of the Year: 

Fave 2014 Releases Read in 2013:

Cress by Marissa Meyer

Starling by Fiona Paul

The Art of Lainey by Paula Stokes

Brazen by Katherine Longshore


2015 Feature: The Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker

On the last day of Christmas -- I mean, my 2015 feature -- the book gods gave to us...... a preview of a super exciting historical fantasy that I am DYING to read! Virginia Boecker, author of The Witch Hunter, was kind enough to agree to be interviewed about the book. But first, here's a little intro:

The Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker.

To be published June 2, 2015 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

The magic and suspense of Graceling meet the political intrigue and unrest of Game of Thrones in this riveting fantasy debut.

Elizabeth Grey is one of the king's best witch hunters, devoted to rooting out witchcraft and doling out justice. When she's accused of being a witch herself, Elizabeth is arrested and sentenced to die at the stake. Salvation comes from a man she thought was her enemy. Nicholas Perevil, the most powerful wizard in the kingdom, offers her a deal: he will save her from execution if she can track down the person who laid a deadly curse on him.

As she's thrust into the world of witches, ghosts, pirates, and all-too-handsome healers, Elizabeth is forced to redefine her ideas of right and wrong, of friends and enemies, and of love and hate.
Virginia is here to answer a few questions I had about some of the things we can get excited about for when The Witch Hunter comes out this summer! Welcome, Virginia!

Jess: Describe The Witch Hunter in 5 words or less.

Virginia: The hunter becomes the hunted.

J: What would you say is your main character Elizabeth's best quality? What is her worst?

V: Elizabeth’s best quality: Fortitude. She’s got a great deal of courage and mental strength, and that sees her through the conflicts she finds (and puts) herself in. She’s also fiercely determined: she never gives up.

Elizabeth’s worst quality: She’s self-absorbed! She has a tendency to be preoccupied with herself and her own drama, so much so that she can sometimes miss things that are happening right in front of her.

J: Which of your characters besides Elizabeth are you most excited for readers to meet?

V: Fifer Birch. She’s a witch, and she’s irreverent, smart and smart-mouthed, but she’s also fiercely loyal. I also like John Raleigh. He’s a healer, and he’s studious, quiet, and self-possessed. He’s also very conflicted, and very attractive. :)

J: They definitely sound like people I'm interested in meeting... especially Raleigh!
Say I wake up in the middle of your story's world. What do I experience when I first awaken?

V: That would depend on where you woke up! At one end of the spectrum, you could wake up in prison on a cold stone floor strewn with straw and rat-droppings, waiting for the king’s guards to take you to the square to be chained to a post and burned alive. On the other, you could wake up in a nobleman’s house on a feather-mattressed tester bed, waiting for a servant to feed you, bathe you, and dress you. Obviously, the latter is better.

J: What was the strangest thing you came across in your research for The Witch Hunter? What was the most interesting?

V: I was living in London at the time I researched, and really, I didn’t think of it as research! I was fascinated with British royalty, and I read everything I could get my hands on, from the 1100s to early 1600s. From Eleanor to Elizabeth, I like to say. I read biographies and historical fiction about kings,
queens, knights, wars, and wives, then I’d hop on a train and go visit whatever towns, castles, cathedrals, prisons, museums I could reasonably get to. Seeing in person the places where history took place really set them firmly in my mind, and made details easier to recall once I sat down to write.

The most interesting thing? Castles and palaces are a lot smaller than you’d think. The great hall at Hampton Court, for example. It looks huge in pictures but in truth, it’s really not that big--or at least, not as big as I had envisioned it to be.

I think the most amazing (if not strange) thing to me, in everything I’ve read, is that Henry VIII created his own religion in order to divorce Katherine of Aragon and marry Anne Boleyn. You’ve really got to unpack the euphemisms to get to that, though: it’s always he “initiated the English Reformation” or he “appointed himself Head of the Church of England.” But let’s not mince words: he created his own religion. That act would seem insane today, imagine how it must have seemed then! And all that, only for him to execute the very wife he upended his country over just two years later. The turmoil of those times, both politically and socially, it’s endlessly fascinating to me.

J: Henry VIII was indeed, ahem, unique. I'm very fascinated by those times as well. There's so much to explore there!
How did you work at coming up with your rules for the magic that takes place in the world of The Witch Hunter?

V: To create the magic in this book, I borrowed a bit from the Buddhist principle of the middle way: the idea that magic is a reconciliation of extreme opposites, that there are consequences to every action. That in order to create magic, you must achieve balance. Of course, much of what happens in the story are consequences of not maintaining that balance.

J: Ooh, that's intriguing! 
Can you share a favourite quote from the book?

V: “Your greatest enemy isn’t what you fight, but what you fear.”

J: Can you share any secrets or fun facts about the book?

V: Many of the names of towns, villages, palaces, harbors, even people, are borrowed from the names of stops on the London Underground.

J: That's so cool! I'll definitely be on the lookout for those. Thank you so much, Virginia, for answering my burning questions about the book! 

I think this will give people plenty to look forward to as we patiently (or not so patiently, in some cases *cough* me *cough*) wait for June and the release of this exciting fantasy!

Preorder The Witch Hunter here: Amazon Canada // Amazon US // Barnes & Noble // Chapters Indigo // The Book Depository

Find Virginia here: Twitter // Website


2015 Feature: Liars, Inc. by Paula Stokes

Today I have a beloved author and all-around kick-butt person joining me on the blog, the wonderful Paula Stokes. She's here to share a little peek at her upcoming release and I think you're going to want to hear what she has to say. It's basically Liars, Inc.'s list of awesome.

Liars, Inc. by Paula Stokes.

To be published March 24, 2015 by HarperTeen.

It all starts with one little lie…

Max Cantrell has never been a big fan of the truth, so when the opportunity arises to sell lies to his classmates, it sounds like a good way to make a little money and liven up a boring senior year. With the help of his friends Preston and Parvati, Max starts a business providing forged permission slips and cover stories for the students of Vista Palisades High. Liars, Inc. they call it. Suddenly everybody needs something and the cash starts pouring in. Who knew lying could be so lucrative?

When Preston wants his own cover story to go visit a girl he met online, Max doesn’t think twice about hooking him up. Until Preston never comes home. Then the evidence starts to pile up—terrifying clues that lead the cops to Preston’s body. Terrifying clues that point to Max as the murderer.

Can Max find the real killer before he goes to prison for a crime he didn’t commit? In a story that Kirkus Reviews called "Captivating to the very end," Paula Stokes starts with one single white lie and weaves a twisted tale that will have readers guessing until the explosive final chapters.

I think that synopsis covers it pretty well but Paula is here to give you a little more detail on why you should pick this one up come March. Take it away, Paula!

Paula: Hi everyone :-) I’m so excited to be here on Read My Breath Away talking about my next book, LIARS, INC. It’s a complete departure from THE ART OF LAINEY—darker, less romantic, less predictable, but loads of delicious, malicious fun.

One of the things I was asked to do to promote books in the past was to make a “Love List” of my favorite things about the story. This gives me an opportunity to share some of my reasoning behind choices I made and highlight the big and little things that make me proud to call LIARS, INC. my book.

So without further rambling, I present to you, in no particular order

* The fake band name Kittens of Mass Destruction. I would so listen to them if they were real.
* The idea of selling forged permission slips, alibis, etc. I missed out on so many lucrative business opportunities when I was in high school! ;-) Just kidding—don’t do this. It doesn’t end well.
* The fact that the FBI agents are looking for Preston’s killer independently of Max and Parvati, but aren’t portrayed as inefficient or inept. We don’t know exactly what they’re doing since the book is in Max’s POV, but I have every confidence they would have solved the case on their own if needed.
* The white sari that Parvati wears to Preston’s funeral
* Max running into the woods at night and reminding himself that Mother Nature isn’t nearly as scary as human nature
* The middle-beginning-end structure. I’m a very traditional sort of storyteller so for me this represented a new narrative path that felt both risky and exciting.
* The flawed characters. Max has issues trusting people and this often comes out as sarcasm directed at his family. Parvati seems basically perfect to Max, but readers will sense she’s got a lot of issues hiding beneath her false bravado. Preston is a senator’s son who feels more like a chess piece in a campaign game than an actual human. All of these flaws lead organically to the major conflict of the book. They’re not the most likable group, but they’re interesting and they feel real.
* What Max thinks about right before he’s going to be shot
* Max and Parvati’s character development—both individually and with respect to their relationship
* The secret hidden compartment in the hollowed-out Trigonometry book
* Max’s little sis Amanda using toilet paper for tissue paper around his birthday gift
* Max’s shark’s tooth pendant
* Parvati. Half-Indian, CIA wannabe, expert liar, girl with a lot of issues and a lot of walls to hide behind. She might be messed up, but she’s my favorite. I’m hoping to write a companion novel from her POV.
* The Korean twins. A last-minute name change means that one of them is actually named after my cousin.
* The presence of many strong women in both major and minor roles
* The way Parvati uses things she’s learned from researching the CIA and reading her dad’s Air Force survival manuals to help Max evade the feds and solve the murder
* The settings—from deserted beaches to creepy cabins to cemeteries to the Las Vegas Strip
* Max comparing Parvati’s love to a dog that’s been hit by a car, just lying out in the street, waiting for you to come scoop it up in your arms
* The mini food fight (complete with salt shaker catapult :D) Max has with his little sister Amanda near the end of the book
* Parvati is portrayed as highly sexual, but no one ever judges her for it, and when she tries to judge herself, Max defends her even though he is angry with her at that moment.
* The reasoning behind the crime. The culprit has a very specific reason for committing murder and then setting up Max to take the fall, a reason that will surprise most people while at the same time feeling almost inevitable.

Thanks Paula! I think that if all of those reasons don't convince you that you're in for a great read with this one, you're just totally out to lunch. Especially with so many strong and smart women, like Parvati, to look forward to! Plus, who doesn't love a good mystery? Basically what I'm saying is go preorder this one right now.

You can do that here: Amazon Canada // Amazon US // Barnes & Noble // Chapters Indigo // Indiebound // The Book Depository

Make sure you enter Paula's 10 Days of Chrismas Giveaway while you're here!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

About Paula:
Paula Stokes writes stories about flawed characters with good hearts who sometimes make bad decisions. When she's not writing, she's kayaking, hiking, reading, or seeking out new adventures in faraway lands. Paula is the author of THE ART OF LAINEY, INFINITE REPEAT, LIARS INC., and several other forthcoming YA novels. She loves interacting with readers. Find her online at authorpaulastokes.com or on twitter as @pstokesbooks.

Find Paula here: Facebook // Instagram // Twitter // Website


2015 Feature: The Storyspinner by Becky Wallace

Today, thanks to Becky Wallace, I get to share some secrets about an upcoming fantasy that really caught my attention when I first read the synopsis: The Storyspinner!

The Storyspinner by Becky Wallace.
To be published March 3, 2015 by Margaret K. McElderry.

In a world where dukes plot their way to the throne, a Performer’s life can get tricky. And in Johanna Von Arlo’s case, it can be fatal. Expelled from her troupe after her father’s death, Johanna is forced to work for the handsome Lord Rafael DeSilva. Too bad they don’t get along. But while Johanna’s father’s death was deemed an accident, the Keepers aren’t so sure.

The Keepers, a race of people with magical abilities, are on a quest to find the princess—the same princess who is supposed to be dead and whose throne the dukes are fighting over. But they aren’t the only ones looking for her. And in the wake of their search, murdered girls keep turning up—girls who look exactly like the princess, and exactly like Johanna.

With dukes, Keepers, and a killer all after the princess, Johanna finds herself caught up in political machinations for the throne, threats on her life, and an unexpected romance that could change everything.

I think The Storyspinner is going to be one of many fantasies that will make 2015 a banner year for the genre and Becky is here to share why this one should definitely be on your list! Welcome, Becky!


Secret #1: Judge a book by its cover.
The cover for THE STORYSPINNER incorporates some really cool elements that give it a sense of action and movement—a definite trend for YA covers. But what makes the cover extra special are the details. The girl pictured is supposed to be the main character, Johanna, and the model is a perfect fit! Her bow and arrow were handmade for the photo shoot. Including the feather fletching! The picture itself was taken in an off-limits area in Central Park. The cover designer said that the park ranger kicked them out soon after this photo was taken!

Secret #2: Life imitates art. Or vice versa.
Soccer is a beautiful sport, folks. It’s intense and precise and tactical. If none of that interests you, may I suggest you watch World Cup for the eye candy? Now you’re wondering what Soccer and THE STORYSPINNER have in common. The answer is simple: Cristiano Ronaldo.


I remember watching the World Cup and thinking, “Man, he would make an incredible character in a novel. The good looks, the attitude, the intensity. Yes. That.” And so, Rafael DeSilva, my fictional crush, was born. Tall, dark, handsome, a little cocky, and incredibly devoted, loyal, and honorable.
Yes. THAT.

Secret #3: The beginning is not always the beginning.
The first chapter of THE STORYSPINNER was written during my second round of editorial revisions. The third chapter was the original first chapter, and it came after a prologue that got cut completely. I hope to someday share those chapters with the world! ;)

Secret #4: Truth in nightmares.
I have an unrealistic, over-powering fear of water creatures with big teeth. Sharks, crocodiles, alligators with their silent approaches and chomping attacks are the fodder of my nightmares. I live in Texas and will never, ever get in a lake here and will only get in the ocean if the water is clear.
And in case you were wondering, writing about these nasty beasties did not help my nightmares. It made them worse!


Secret #5: Good things take time. Sometimes.
I wrote the first three chapters of THE STORYSPINNER in December of 2011 and then ignored it for more than a year, certain it was too big of a story for a little newbie writer like me to handle. So I wrote lots of other things (two thrillers and a contemporary) before circling back to those measly little chapters. When I opened them back up, I realized I had something and decided to give it a shot. I’m a notoriously slow writer, but I finished the first draft in less than six weeks, and six weeks later it was pre-empted by Simon & Schuster. It was the longest—and shortest—amount of time I’d ever worked on any one project. And I’m so happy with how it turned out!

Thank you, Becky! Those are some pretty great secrets and that picture of Ronaldo right in the middle certainly doesn't hurt anything. ;)

If you're excited about this fantasy (which you should be!), preorder The Storyspinner here: Amazon US // Amazon Canada // Barnes & Noble // Chapters Indigo // The Book Depository

About Becky Wallace:  
In second grade, Becky Wallace had to sit in the corner because she refused to write anything besides princess stories and fairy tales (and because she talked too much). Her time in isolation gave her plenty of opportunities to dream up the fantasy worlds she's been dabbling with ever since. She was lucky enough to find her own, real-life prince charming. They have four munchkins and live in a happy little town outside Houston, Texas.  

Find Becky here: Facebook // Goodreads // Pinterest // Twitter // Website


2015 Feature: Dead To Me by Mary McCoy

Today I get to share a little bit about another one of the books I'm most excited for next year and this post is going to get you on board with this story SO FAST, trust me.

First, here's the book:

Dead To Me by Mary McCoy.
To be published March 3, 2015 by Disney-Hyperion.

Synopsis (from the author):
LA Confidential for the YA audience. This alluring noir YA mystery with a Golden Age Hollywood backdrop will keep you guessing until the last page.

"Don't believe anything they say."

Those were the last words that Annie spoke to Alice before turning her back on their family and vanishing without a trace. Alice spent four years waiting and wondering when the impossibly glamorous sister she idolized would return to her--and what their Hollywood-insider parents had done to drive her away.

When Annie does turn up, the blond, broken stranger lying in a coma has no answers for her. But Alice isn't a kid anymore, and this time she won't let anything stand between her and the truth, no matter how ugly. The search for those who beat Annie and left her for dead leads Alice into a treacherous world of tough-talking private eyes, psychopathic movie stars, and troubled starlets--and onto the trail of a young runaway who is the sole witness to an unspeakable crime. What this girl knows could shut down a criminal syndicate and put Annie's attacker behind bars--if Alice can find her first. And she isn't the only one looking

Evoking classic film noir, debut novelist Mary McCoy brings the dangerous glamour of Hollywood's Golden Age to life, where the most decadent parties can be the deadliest, and no drive into the sunset can erase the crimes of past.

Already intrigued, right? Well Mary is going to draw you in completely with her post. Welcome, Mary!

Dead To Me is a book that’s about lost girls, murder, movie stars, and long-buried family secrets. It’s also about Los Angeles in 1948.

Los Angeles in 1948 was a boomtown. People moved out to the West Coast in droves for the weather, the jobs, and the cheap land. It looked like the American Dream, and on top of that, it was glamorous, too. If you were lucky, you might get discovered, get a screen test, and become a star.

Of course, for a lot of people, it didn’t turn out like that, and Dead To Me is about them, too.

There were three real-life women whose stories are particularly important in the book: Elizabeth Short, Lila Leeds, and Jean Spangler. A murder victim, a disgraced starlet, and a movie extra who went out one night and never came home. They’re not exactly household names like Bette Davis and Katharine Hepburn, but all three loomed large in my imagination while I was writing Dead To Me.

In 1947, the year before Dead To Me takes place, Elizabeth Short was murdered, her body cut in half, drained of blood, and dumped in a vacant lot. The murderer was never found, though people have written many, many insane books and articles claiming to have solved the case. The local tabloid paper, the Herald-Examiner tried nicknaming the case “the Werewolf Murder,” but the name that stuck was “the Black Dahlia.”

Alice, the main character in Dead To Me, is drawn to the case for a few reasons. She’s obsessed with crime and detective stories and film noir, of course. But on top of that, her sister runs away from home a few years before the Black Dahlia was murdered. Even before the events that kick off the book, Alice knows Los Angeles is a city where girls get lost all the time, and what happened to Elizabeth Short could have happened to her sister.

The next person from Hollywood history who inspired Dead To Me actually inspired a major character in the book. Lila Leeds was a stunning blond starlet who seemed poised for great things. She’d received good notices for her performance in Lady in the Lake (the film adaptation of the Raymond Chandler novel), but then in 1948, police raided her Laurel Canyon cottage, busting up what the papers called a “marijuana party” and arresting her and leading actor of the day Robert Mitchum.

Both were sentenced to 60 days in prison, but while Mitchum’s studio rallied behind him, Leeds was abandoned by everyone. Her own agent told the papers, “She had a promising career and was headed for success, if she had only behaved differently. It looks now as though she's blown her chances sky high."

Lila Leeds did get one starring role after getting out of prison, the lead in an anti-marijuana exploitation film called Wild Weed (and later retitled She Shoulda Said No!). You can watch it on Amazon Prime. It’s horrible, but Lila Leeds is terrific in it. She’s acting her heart out, like she believes that if she turns in a master performance, the whole smoking-pot-with-Robert-Mitchum thing will be forgiven, and she’ll get her career back.

Today, it’s difficult to believe that someone would have been so thoroughly disgraced over a small possession charge. In Dead To Me, I actually changed what the starlet character is arrested for because I wasn’t sure modern readers would believe it was possible to be totally thrown out of Hollywood over a couple of joints.

After even the roles in exploitation films dried up, things got terrible for Lila Leeds. Still, things turned out better for her than for the next unfortunate woman from Hollywood history who figures, in a way, into Dead To Me. The case of Jean Spangler’s disappearance is less well known than the Black Dahlia murder, yet just as vexing.

Jean Spangler was a 27-year-old dancer and bit player in Hollywood. On the evening of October 7, 1949, she went out to meet her ex-husband to discuss his child support payments. Afterwards, she said she was going to a night shoot for the movie she was working on, only there was no night shoot and Jean Spangler was never seen again. A few days later, police found her purse in Griffith Park. Inside was a note that read, “Kirk – Can’t wait any longer. Going to see Dr. Scott. It will work out best this way while mother is away…"

The plot thickens. One of Jean Spangler’s close friends claimed that she was pregnant when she disappeared, which led to speculation that the note alluded to a then-illegal abortion. She’d recently been a bit player in a movie that starred Kirk Douglas, though he claimed not to remember who Jean was. She’d been romantically linked with a gangster who ran with Mickey Cohen. She had a violent ex-lover, and the custody battle with her ex-husband had been nasty.

There was no shortage of suspects or motives, and then, there was the possibility that Jean Spangler wasn’t dead at all. Four months after she disappeared, police received a tip that she’d been spotted in El Paso. There were other reported sightings, too, though none was ever confirmed. The case remains unsolved.

It doesn’t sound like a real story. It sounds like something out of a movie, and it has inspired two excellent novels that I know of (The Song Is You by Megan Abbott and The Last Embrace by Denise Hamilton). And yet, it was real. This is something that happened to a real person who had a life filled with things she loved and people who cared about her.

That’s the main thing all these three stories have to do with Dead To Me.

A murder victim, a disgraced starlet, and a movie extra who went out one night and never came home.

When I first heard about them, I was drawn in by the Hollywood Babylon-esque details, but eventually, I dug deeper, and I started thinking about these women as real people, not just lurid stories. Even though Dead To Me isn’t specifically based on any of these stories, I think readers will be able to see shades of Elizabeth Short and Lila Leeds and Jean Spangler in the characters in the book. And if I did my job, they’ll seem like real people, too.

Wow. That's pretty incredible. Thank you, Mary, for sharing all that! It's so interesting to hear about all the behind-the-scenes inspiration for the novel, especially when they're all such intriguing stories in and of themselves! I definitely can't wait to meet your characters now!

If you don't want Dead To Me after reading that, you're totally insane, so here are your preorder links to just go for it: Amazon US // Amazon Canada // Barnes & Noble // Chapters Indigo // The Book Depository

And here's where you can find Mary so that you can tell her how cool her book sounds: Goodreads // Twitter // Website


2015 Feature: Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman

The 2015 feature continues with another Fall release that doesn't have a cover yet but which is already on my must-have list. Check out what Erin has to say about the new story she is embarking on and I'm sure you'll see why!

Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman.

To be published Fall 2015 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Goodreads Synopsis:
Pitched as True Grit meets Blood Red Road and set in 1877 Arizona, Vengeance Road follows Kate Thompson as she tracks the gang who hung her father, only to find herself entangled in a bloody search for lost gold in the Superstition Mountains.

Sounds pretty fantastic, right? To share a little more info, here's Erin!

Jess: Thanks for joining me, Erin! To start us off, please describe Vengeance Road in 5 words or less. 
Erin: Girl seeks revenge in 1877 Arizona. (That's five words + a year. Am I in trouble? ;) )

J: I suppose I can let you get away with that one. ;)
Where did the idea for Vengeance Road come from?
E: Over dinner one night, my husband was talking about one of his favorite places in Arizona: the Superstition Mountains. Talk turned to the legend of the Lost Dutchman—a rich gold mine supposedly hidden in the mountains and first found by a German immigrant, Jacob Waltz. On his deathbed the miner allegedly left a map in the care of his nurse, but she never managed to find the gold. To this day, people still search for the mine, but the mountains (or something more ominous) claims life after life; many gold-seekers go missing and are found dead years later.

While my husband rambled about the mine, my muse exploded. I was hit with the image of a girl out for revenge, tracking the men that killed her father across Arizona Territory and into the Superstition Mountains. As I brainstormed more, I realized I wanted to play with the source of the Lost Dutchman myth in the process of telling this girl’s story, and the two tales became intertwined.

J: Okay, if that whole concept doesn't get people's attention, I don't know what will. I am so intrigued!
What would you say is your main character Kate's best quality throughout the book? Her worst? 
E: I think Kate's best trait is also her worst; sort of a double-edged sword. She's fiercely independent, which is great because she can take care of herself and face challenges head-on. At the same time, this means she can also be very closed-off. For better or worse, she keeps people at a distance, even those who can help her and/or make her life easier.

J: Which of the other characters are you most excited for readers to meet?
E: I'm going to cheat again and name two: Jesse and Will Colton, two cowboys who cross paths with Kate early in her travels. Will's laid back and a joker. Jesse has a habit of always offering his advice, even when it's not asked for. They mean well, but Kate can't wait to ditch them. She's disguised as a boy to stay safer on the plains, and keeping up her act in the Coltons' presence is, as Kate would say, "a rutting pain".

J: Two cute cowboys, huh? (I'm just inferring the "cute" part for now, but let a girl dream). This book is sounding better and better with every answer! ;)
What were the coolest and strangest things you had to research for this one?
E: Oh gosh, where do I even begin? The myth of the Lost Dutchman Mine is fascinating in itself--full of various versions and speculations. I also had a lot of fun researching cowboy culture and the general dialect of the time. But perhaps the most enlightening research I did focused on the Apache Native Americans. My favorite book that I read was called Indeh, an oral history comprised of transcripts of the author's interviews with numerous Apaches. I learned so much about their culture and history through this intimate text. In the majority of books I picked up, I felt that the history of western expansion was supported mainly by military reports or accounts, so it was really refreshing to hear the other side of the story.

J: Oh, that does sound really interesting. And it's great to get a more balanced perspective, too. I'm looking forward to seeing how your fun research comes up in the story! 
Thank you, Erin!

So in case this is a book that you are now also needing immediately, well, I'm sorry to break your heart but you're going to have to wait a little longer. In the meantime, though, you can follow Erin here:
Goodreads // Instagram // Pinterest // Tumblr // Twitter // Website


2015 Feature: Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

This next book in my 2015 feature doesn't even have a cover yet but that doesn't mean I'm not already super pumped about it. Once you read the synopsis and the interview Susan and I have lined up for you, you'll be all over this one and cursing its Fall release date as well.

Truthwitch by Susan Dennard.

First in the Witchlands series.
To be published Fall 2015 by Tor.

Goodreads Synopsis:
Garth Nix meets Avatar: The Last Airbender.
The series is set in a world where three empires rule and every member of the population is born with a magical skill set, known as a “witchery.

Now, as the Twenty Year Truce in a centuries-long war is about to end, the balance of power will fall on the shoulders of two young women, who must accept their fate, and themselves, to survive.

Here's my interview with Susan wherein she shares more then enough amazing reasons why you will want to dive into Truthwitch right now:

Jess: Welcome, Susan, thanks for joining me! Can you start by describing Truthwitch in 5 words or less.
Susan: Epic, sweeping, swashbuckling fantasy.

J: Some of my favourite words! 
Truthwitch is being pitched as Garth Nix meets Avatar: The Last Airbender. Can you explain that a little?
S: Well, I didn't come up with that comparison--my agent did. I actually usually say, "Avatar meets Assassin's Creed." But that's only because I would never deign to compare myself to the King of YA Fantasy, Garth Nix. ;)

The reference to Avatar is because the magics (called witcheries) are linked to six different elements--Earth, Water, Air, Fire, Aether, and Void--and so many of the epic battle scenes played out in my head like an Avatar episode. ;)

The Garth Nix comparison is because there are swords and sorcery, monsters and magical creatures, darkness and alternate worlds, and strong--like, amazingly strong yet still feminine--heroines.

And then I always say Assassin's Creed because the world is renaissance-like set in an alternate Venetian empire. Plus, there might be assassins involved. ;)

J: I don't think you could have sold me any faster once you started elaborating on those. That all sounds AMAZING.
What would you say is your main character Safiya's best quality? What is her worst? What about Iseult?
S: Safiya's best quality is that she's deeply emotional and driven to act now--no waiting or waffling. This is also her worst quality, though, since she can be hot-headed and prone toward stupid decisions—all because she didn't plan ahead.

Iseult, Safi's Threadsister (a.k.a. best friend in the whole world), is the perfect balance to Safi: she's cool under pressure and excellent at planning. Of course, Iseult's strengths are also her greatest flaws because her logic and stoicism keep her at a constant distance from other people, and she is often too slow to act when split-second decisions are needed.

J: Which of your other characters are you most excited for readers to meet?
S: I'm really excited for readers to meet Merik, another POV character. He's a Windwitch and the prince of Nubrevna--one of the few nations that has managed to maintain its autonomy in the face of the three empires.

I'm also SUPER excited to introduce Aeduan to everyone. He's a Bloodwitch, and he's hell-bent on claiming the bounty out on Safi's and Iseult's heads.

J: Sure sounds like we're in for a fantastic cast with this series! 
Can you share a bit about the three empires that rule Truthwitch's world? Will we experience one more than the others in this first installment of the series?
S: The three empires, Cartorra, Dalmotti, and Marstok, are loosely (very loosely!) based on the Austrian, Venetian, and Ottoman empires. In book 1, Truthwitch, we'll see a lot of the Dalmotti Empire as well as glimpses of Merik's homeland, Nubrevna. In later books, readers will get to explore the other empires as well as other still-independent nations too.

J: What was the strangest thing you came across in your research for Truthwitch? What was the most interesting?
S: While I was researching, I found this thing called the Twelve Year's Truce -and I thought it was AWESOME. The idea that everyone would just put their wars on hold and intentionally resume 12 years later? I knew right away that I had to use that in the book. Hence, the Twenty Year Truce was born! In Truthwitch, the Twenty Year Truce is about to end, and the empires are preparing to return to their war-mongering ways.

J: Can you share any secrets or fun facts about the book?

S: Hmmmm, secrets or fun facts? Well, I suppose it's not a secret really, but the book is very, very, VERY much focused on friendship, and the reason I wanted to write about friends is because of my very, very, VERY close BFF-ship with Sarah J. Maas (author of the Throne of Glass series). We're like sisters, and it was from that relationship that the term "Threadsisters" arose. :)

J: I love that! Thank you very much, Susan, for joining me and for your exciting answers! 

To say I'm excited to read Truthwitch is a major understatement. I think this one will be on a lot of people's must-have lists for next year... and with good reason! It's definitely on yours, right?

Follow Susan here: Facebook // Pinterest // Tumblr // Twitter // Website


2015 Feature: Monstrous by MarcyKate Connolly

Today's 2015 post is focusing on the only middle-grade novel in the whole feature, which I am extremely excited about for many reasons. One of which is the presence of dragons. Because DRAGONS.

Anyway, first here's a bit about the book:

Monstrous by MarcyKate Connolly.

To be published: February 10, 2015
by: HarperCollins Children's Books.

Goodreads Synopsis:
The city of Bryre suffers under the magic of an evil wizard. Because of his curse, girls sicken and disappear without a trace, and Bryre’s inhabitants live in fear. No one is allowed outside after dark.

Yet night is the only time that Kymera can enter this dangerous city, for she must not be seen by humans. Her father says they would not understand her wings, the bolts in her neck, or her spiky tail—they would kill her. They would not understand that she was created for a purpose: to rescue the girls of Bryre.

Despite her caution, a boy named Ren sees Kym and begins to leave a perfect red rose for her every evening. As they become friends, Kym learns that Ren knows about the missing girls, the wizard, and the evil magic that haunts Bryre.

And what he knows will change Kym’s life.

Reminiscent of Frankenstein and the tales of the Brothers Grimm, this debut novel by MarcyKate Connolly stands out as a compelling, original story that has the feel of a classic.

MarcyKate is here to share with us some of the most exciting elements of her debut novel. Welcome, MarcyKate!

My debut novel Monstrous is often described as Frankenstein meets the Brothers Grimm. It draws much inspiration from both of those books, but it is by no means a retelling, so while you will see some recognizable elements, the plot is a whole new adventure.
If you’re a fan of all things Frankenstein and fairy tale, what should you expect? Here are some of my favorite (non-spoilery) highlights to look forward to:

* The main character, Kymera. She is a monster girl, remade by her father with giant raven wings, the claws and eyes of a cat, and a snake’s tail. Her name is also a play on the word chimera, a mythological creature made up of several animal parts.

* Hybrid creatures. Kymera is not the only franken-creation in the book. Her father also created a flock of goat-chickens and a pet sperrier (a terrier with sparrow wings).

* Dragon! Enough said, right?

* Classic fairy tale setting. Monstrous is set in a fairy tale world that has a dark, dangerous forest, and a briar patch that is slowly devouring a castle.

* Monstrous people and things. Like Frankenstein, one of the main themes is: what makes a monster? Kymera may be monstrous in appearance, but she is kind and sweet and loyal. Other characters in the book may seem human and good, but underneath are terrible plans and deeds. At the heart of Kymera’s character is the question of whether she should suppress the things that make her different or embrace them. And yes, she may have to deal with a few pitchforks and torches before she figures that out.

* Inspiration from a classic fairy tale. While again Monstrous is definitely not a retelling, you could characterize it as “Rumpelstiltskin’s revenge.” What happened after he was denied his agreed upon reward? What if he were more powerful? Rumpelstiltskin himself is not a character in Monstrous, but his situation and the potential consequences play a role in this book.

* Did I mention there’s a dragon? Because there is, and I hope readers love him as much as I do!

Thanks, MarcyKate! I think that if that list doesn't speak for itself, I don't know what else you could possibly be looking for in a book! Everyone, please tell me you're as excited about this one as I am! Dragons? As MarcyKate put it: enough said!

Preorder Monstrous here: Amazon US // Amazon Canada // Barnes & Noble // Chapters Indigo // Indiebound // The Book Depository

Follow MarcyKate here: Facebook // Tumblr // Twitter // Website


2015 Feature: Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee

I'm very excited to kick off my Most Anticipated of 2015 feature with an upcoming release that I have already read and adored, Under a Painted Sky. I can't wait to get the chance to rave about this one to you, but for now the lovely author is here to get you in the feel of the novel.

First, here's a bit about the book:
Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee.

To be published: March 17, 2015
by: Putnam Juvenile.

Goodreads Synopsis:
A powerful story of friendship and sacrifice, for fans of Code Name Verity.

Missouri, 1849: Samantha dreams of moving back to New York to be a professional musician—not an easy thing if you’re a girl, and harder still if you’re Chinese. But a tragic accident dashes any hopes of fulfilling her dream, and instead, leaves her fearing for her life. With the help of a runaway slave named Annamae, Samantha flees town for the unknown frontier. But life on the Oregon Trail is unsafe for two girls, so they disguise themselves as Sammy and Andy, two boys headed for the California gold rush. Sammy and Andy forge a powerful bond as they each search for a link to their past, and struggle to avoid any unwanted attention. But when they cross paths with a band of cowboys, the light-hearted troupe turn out to be unexpected allies. With the law closing in on them and new setbacks coming each day, the girls quickly learn that there are not many places to hide on the open trail.

This beautifully written debut is an exciting adventure and heart-wrenching survival tale. But above all else, it’s a story about perseverance and trust that will restore your faith in the power of friendship.

Sounds pretty fantastic, doesn't it? I can vouch for it's excellence but Stacey here's to share a little taste with you herself. Welcome, Stacey!

Write What You Don't Know -Ticket To Adventure

I have a confession to make.  I never played the Oregon Trail game. This, despite UNDER A PAINTED SKY being set on the Oregon Trail.  I actually didn't even know the game existed until I started doing the research for UAPS, so the thought that a whole generation of Oregon Trail-experts might be reading my book makes me want to stick my head in a butter churner. 

To make things harder for me, I didn't study about the OT in school when I was a kid; there was no panning for gold, no corn husk dolls. You may ask, why the blazes did I want to write about it?

The conventional wisdom is to write what you know.  I always thought, if I did that, then I would be pretty limited in what I can write about.  I much prefer to write what I don't know and learn something new.  

The Trail was over 2,000 miles long and most pioneers walked those miles on foot to avoid having to pop two Tylenol after a day of head jarring bumpity bump in the wagon.  It took about six months to travel, and timing was crucial, as you wanted to arrive before it began to snow, but couldn't leave much before March or the grass wouldn't be long enough for your oxen to graze on.  The terminally sick were sometimes left on the side of the road to die, and sometimes even graves were dug for them, so they could just fall in when ready.  Cholera was a constant danger, and pioneers would devise elaborate cures for it, such as tying raw chicken to one's leg.  Now isn't all that fascinating?!

I see writing as a ticket to adventure.  I love forging new paths into areas that are foreign to me.  The great thing about researching a particular time in history is that I get to experience what it felt like to live during that time, without any of the inconveniences of actually living there.  I don't have to worry about not having a bath for months, or eating moldy corn gruel every night.  Writing UNDER A PAINTED SKY gave me an appreciation for the resilience of the human spirit.   People back then were made of strong stuff.  There were no hotels, stores, bathrooms, 24 hour pharmacies.  It was you and the open sky, and the only way you survived was by believing in yourself. I love to explore classic themes like this in ways that are new, at least to me.  I hope it brings a freshness to the page.  

Now if you'll excuse me, I have a 1906 earthquake to live through, and I don't want to miss it.

Thank you, Stacey! I can't wait to see what you do with that 1906 earthquake! And I can't wait for everyone else to read Under a Painted Sky!

Preorder Under a Painted Sky here: Amazon US // Amazon Canada // Barnes & Noble // Chapters Indigo // IndieBound // The Book Depository

Follow Stacey here: Facebook // Twitter // Website

So tell me why you're excited about Under the Painted Sky and I will confirm that those dreams will come true with this one. Trust me!


Sisterhood of the World Book Blogging Tag

I was tagged by Shae from Shae Has Left the Room to take part in this fun little questionnaire type post chain. I like doing things like this because it's fun to get to know other bloggers and to share a bit about myself as well! So thanks, Shae!

The Rules:
1. Thank the blogger that nominated you and link back to their website.
2. Post the award’s logo on your blog.
3. Answer the ten questions you have been asked.
4. Nominate ten other bloggers and ask them ten other questions.

Shae's Questions For Me:

1. What’s your favorite age category and genre?
Age category, YA, of course. Genre... historical fiction is #1, forever and always. Fantasy is way up there too, though, despite the fact that I am kind of behind on my YA fantasy right now.

2. If you could erase your memory and read one book again for the first time, which book would it be?
Can "one book" be stretched a little? Because I'm torn between the entire Harry Potter series (yes that is a valid answer), the Chaos Walking trilogy (Patrick Ness), and Code Name Verity (Elizabeth Wein). I would love to relive my first experience with all of those. 

3. If you could physically force everyone on Earth to read one book, what would it be?
Nnnnnggghhhhh that's so hard. Ummmm. Okay, I'll go with the first one that felt right to me: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I think it's a very specific book but with a lot of universality in it and it's just really well written. 

4. What was your nonfiction reading obsession as a kid?
History. All things history. Princesses? Heck yes. Ancient societies? Gimmie. Jack the Ripper and other creepy or weird historical mysteries? Dude, yes. 
And mythology? Don't even get me started on my mythology obsession. I literally once in elementary school did an entire project on Ancient Egyptian mythology and its primary gods and goddesses FOR FUN. I was that kid that sat in the library during lunch for a week straight making a poster and reading books on Isis and Ra and Set and Ancient Egyptian culture. JUST. FOR. FUN.

5. If you could live (not visit, LIVE) in any other country except for the one you live in now, which country would it be and why?
More specifically, Edinburgh, Scotland.
Edinburgh Edinburgh Edinburgh. 100%. It's my favourite city in the world. It is beautiful and charming. It feels like a small town -- you can basically walk anywhere in the whole city without too much effort -- but it has everything you need. Everywhere you go there is incredible old-world charm and architecture that makes me feel like I'm living in a historical fiction novel (which, if you know me, is MY FAVOURITE THING). The apartment I stayed in when I visited in May had a view of Edinburgh Castle out the window. I COULD SEE THE CASTLE ON THE CLIFF FROM MY WINDOW. Talk about a view. I was steps away from all kinds of restaurants and bars and shopping AND from gorgeous gardens. There are all kinds of awesome (free) museums to visit, big and small. Walking the Royal Mile (from the castle to Holyroodhouse Palace, the royal residence in Scotland) has so many cute shops to visit. AND THEY MAKE AMAZING MACARONI AND CHEESE PIE. That's right. Mac and cheese pie is a THING there. A delicious thing that I had multiple times for lunch. (Seriously, if you visit let me know and I'll tell you where to go for amazing ones). It's a train ride away from England. It's an easy enough plane ride away from the rest of Europe. Basically, it's perfect.
If I didn't have my dream career to think about, I would be moving there the second I graduated.

6. If you could meet one LIVING author, who would you choose?
The Queen. 

(JK Rowling, duh). (Maybe I'll meet her when I move to Edinburgh hahaha oh I wish).

7. If you could meet one DEAD author, who would you choose?
Hmm. I'm kind of tempted to say the Bard (Shakespeare) (I know, I know, playwright and poet, not really an "author" - whatever) so that I can be the one to know the real answer to all that speculation over whether or not he actually wrote his plays/all his works/whatever people question. Also I'd love to hear him read some of his work aloud so I can hear how it actually would have sounded back then because there's a lot of talk about how the accent has evolved and changed since his time. Plus I think it'd get such a laugh out of him if I told him how people today (especially teens, it seems) compare their love to Romeo and Juliet's. Those poor, unfortunate souls. 

8. If you could make one (ONE!) book boyfriend real, who would it be?
ONE? SHAE. YOU KNEW THIS QUESTION WOULD BE TORTURE. How am I possibly going to pick JUST ONE? Guyliner? Micah? Or maybe Daniel or Roar or Perry in anticipation of all the wonderful I know is coming when I read the rest of those two trilogies? (Oh yes, I have heard things). Duval? Beast? OR WHAT ABOUT DRILL? And that's just scratching the surface!

9. Name one weird and/or random thing that can be found in your room.
Oh, there are plenty: Girl Guide cookies. Pieces from an Arthur board game. A homemade Harry Potter Monopoly board. At least 30 pairs of shoes. Packing envelopes. A wooden board that I kicked in half back when I took Tae Kwon Do. And that's just a sampling. Gives you an idea of the state my room is in.

10. Describe an instance in which you were a reading/blogging black sheep.
Ooh. Well one in which I wasn't necessarily a black sheep with the entire blogging community (mostly because I haven't opened myself up to those opportunities yet... I haven't read your Rainbow Rowells or your Richelle Meads or your what-have-yous largely because I'm worried I won't enjoy them), I was kind of a black sheep amongst some blogging friends earlier this year/late last year. It seemed like a lot of bloggers I know read Her Dark Curiosity by Megan Shepherd (follow-up to The Madman's Daughter) and it was basically snarkbait for them because they came to despise the main character so much, largely due to her choices and the love triangle. I, while not actually a fan of the "love" triangle (love? Really? Ehhhhhh), do understand why it is the way it is, and I think that the main character made a lot of decisions that were true to her character. Bad decisions, absolutely. I yelled at her throughout the book too. But I also thought they fell very much in character with what I knew of her. Just because I don't think she's making good decisions doesn't mean they weren't valid decisions to her (even if that does reflect poorly on her intellect/decision making skills).

Whoo! Thanks again, Shae! That was fun, if not always easy! I'm going to be a terrible person and come back to the "tag and ask questions" part because currently I am absolutely drowning in final papers and exams for university and I shouldn't have even taken the time out to answer these questions but I really needed a break and I was starting to feel guilty about marathoning Full House. But I will return to this and tag some lovely bloggers just as soon as I feel like I can spare some brain power again!


Waiting on Wednesday #93: The Shadow Cabinet by Maureen Johnson

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature created by Jill at Breaking the Spine. This is where you showcase an upcoming release you're anxiously awaiting!

This week, I'm waiting on:
The Shadow Cabinet by Maureen Johnson.

Expected Publication: February 5, 2015.
by: Putnam Juvenile.

Goodreads Synopsis:
The thrilling third installment to the Edgar-nominated, bestselling series.

At the end of Maureen Johnson’s New York Times bestselling novel, The Madness Underneath, Rory, Callum and Boo are reeling from the sudden and tragic death of their friend and squad leader, Stephen. The Shadow Cabinet picks up where readers left off, and now Rory is convinced there must be a way to bring Stephen back. Meanwhile, new dangers arise: Rory's classmate Charlotte is missing, and Jane and her nefarious organization are clearly planning something big—with Rory as their most valuable asset. Time is running out as the ghost squad struggles to protect London and Rory fights to bring Stephen back.

Why I'm excited:
Honestly, after the ending of The Madness Underneath, I MUST KNOW WHAT HAPPENS TO STEPHEN. That's really my main motivation for going into this book, not going to lie. Johnson sure didn't pull any punches with what happened to him but I know there must be more going on there. I just need to know what it is!

What are you waiting on this week?