Sunday, May 31, 2015

Siren's Fury (Storm Siren #2) by Mary Weber

Siren's Fury (Storm Siren, #2)Series: The Storm Siren Trilogy #2
Author: Mary Weber
Publication: June 2, 2015
By: Thomas Nelson/Harper Collins
Amazon | B&N | Goodreads
4.5 Stars!

"I thrust my hand toward the sky as my voice begs the Elemental inside me to waken and rise. But it's no use. The curse I've spent my entire life abhorring—the thing I trained so hard to control—no longer exists."

Nym has saved Faelen only to discover that Draewulf stole everything she valued. Now he’s destroyed her Elemental storm-summoning ability as well.

When Nym sneaks off with a host of delegates to Bron, Lord Myles offers her the chance for a new kind of power and the whispered hope that it may do more than simply defeat the monster she loathes. But the secrets the Bron people have kept concealed, along with the horrors Draewulf has developed, may require more than simply harnessing a darker ability.

They may require who she is.

Set against the stark metallic backdrop of the Bron kingdom, Nym is faced with the chance to change the future.

Or was that Draewulf’s plan for her all along?

I'll be honest, after the SOUL CRUSHING END TO STORM SIREN, I was more than a little bit scared to read this one. And rightly so. Siren's Fury picks up where Storm Siren ends--actually, a few minutes prior, and we get to experience the RIP YOUR HEART OUT AND SERVE IT TO YOU ON A SILVER PLATTER FEELING ALL OVER AGAIN THANK SO MUCH FOR THAT, MARY WEBER.

It's cool though.

As with book one, this story is fast-paced, action packed and stuffed full of good things. Magical, healing and romantical things. Nym's journey is not easy by any means, but she continues to grow and change, discovering more about herself, her friends, and what true love--REAL love--is.

FANTASTIC sequel. I can't wait for the final book! Read it. 

{photo courtesy of Sarah Kathleen Photography}
Mary Weber is a ridiculously uncoordinated girl plotting to take over make-believe worlds through books, handstands, and imaginary throwing knives. In her spare time, she feeds unicorns, sings 80’s hairband songs to her three muggle children, and ogles her husband who looks strikingly like Wolverine. They live in California, which is perfect for stalking L.A. bands, Joss Whedon, and the ocean. 

Her debut YA fantasy novel, STORM SIREN, is available now in bookstores and online, and SIREN'S FURY (book 2 in the trilogy) will be out June, 2015 from TN HarperCollins. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

BLOG TOUR + INTERVIEW + GIVEAWAY: Nowhere But Here by Katie McGarry

Welcome to my stop on the NOWHERE BUT HERE Blog Tour!
I'm so excited to be able to share the start of Katie McGarry's brand new THUNDER ROAD series with you. 


~ Author Q+A ~


1) I'm really excited about your new series, Thunder Road! Who was the most difficult character to write?

In Nowhere But Here, Oz was the most difficult character for me to write. In this book, someone he loves dearly, someone who is like a mother to him, is dying.  

Growing up, I had the most epic friendship. Tiffany and I had been a duo our entire lives. It’s rare for me to have a memory that doesn’t include her. I loved her…like a best friend, like my sister, like a part of my soul.

She had a genetic disease that unfortunately took her life. I watched her battle this disease for years and losing her was like losing a part of my soul. I gave Oz my sadness, frustration, grief, and then appreciation for the amazing life I had because I had been blessed, if even for a short time, to have someone so incredibly special in my life. I also gave him the hope that after experiencing such a loss that we can still find happiness.

2) I've read where you like to have a hands-on research experience when working on your books. You've been to a race, taken kickboxing, etc. for your Pushing The Limits series. What kind of research did you do for Nowhere But Here?

I LOVE doing hands on research for my books.  For Nowhere But Here, I asked then received permission to hang out with a motorcycle club. The experience was unreal. I was expecting the hardcore biker guys and the parties, but I was blown away by the sense of loyalty, love of family and community, and the brotherhood ever present with this group.

These were men were brought together over their love of motorcycles and the need to belong to this family. The club I visited was a legit club, meaning they don’t participate in illegal activities, and they were absolutely awe-inspiring with their love of family. I took this part of the club and used it as inspiration in Oz and Emily’s story.

3) If Emily and Oz had their own themes songs, what would they be? 
I love this question! I’m heavily influenced by music and have a playlist in the back of Nowhere But Here. The song for Oz would be “Hey Brother” by Avicii. This song is a personal favorite of mine, but the entire song represents the motorcycle club that Oz wants to be a part of—the Reign of Terror. They are a close group of men who are like a family to each other.  The lyric: “If they sky comes falling down, for you, there’s nothing in this world I wouldn’t do.” That sums up Oz and the Reign of Terror perfectly.

For Emily I choose Jewel’s “Standing Still.” The song, to me, represents someone who is going through a particularly rough life journey and they are questioning everything they have been taught to believe up to this point. This is exactly what Emily is going through. Once she’s in Kentucky and surrounded by the men of the Reign of Terror, she learns that what she believes is the truth regarding her past is a lie and that is a devastating blow to Emily as this rocks her relationship with her mother.

4) What 2015 book (that is not your own) are you most excited to read? 

Can I pick more than one? I’m very excited for Jennifer Armentrout’s Every Last Breath and Huntley Fitzpatrick’s The Boy Next Door.  

5) What is the best piece of writing advice you've been given?
I was once told that if I don’t hurt or laugh while I’m writing, then I’m not writing the right thing. This has been priceless advice for me. 
6) All of my blog guests are asked this one...brownies, cupcakes or pie? Yes, it's totally cool to say all three. This is a judgment-free zone. ;) 
Love all three, but I do enjoy a fantastic key lime pie!

Thanks Katie!

~ About the Book ~

Nowhere But Here (Thunder Road, #1)
An unforgettable new series from acclaimed author Katie McGarry about taking risks, opening your heart and ending up in a place you never imagined possible.

Seventeen-year-old Emily likes her life the way it is: doting parents, good friends, good school in a safe neighborhood. Sure, she's curious about her biological father—the one who chose life in a motorcycle club, the Reign of Terror, over being a parent—but that doesn't mean she wants to be a part of his world. But when a reluctant visit turns to an extended summer vacation among relatives she never knew she had, one thing becomes clear: nothing is what it seems. Not the club, not her secret-keeping father and not Oz, a guy with suck-me-in blue eyes who can help her understand them both.

Oz wants one thing: to join the Reign of Terror. They're the good guys. They protect people. They're…family. And while Emily—the gorgeous and sheltered daughter of the club's most respected member—is in town, he's gonna prove it to her. So when her father asks him to keep her safe from a rival club with a score to settle, Oz knows it's his shot at his dream. What he doesn't count on is that Emily just might turn that dream upside down.

No one wants them to be together. But sometimes the right person is the one you least expect, and the road you fear the most is the one that leads you home.



~ About the Author~


KATIE MCGARRY was a teenager during the age of grunge and boy bands and remembers those years as the best and worst of her life. She is a lover of music, happy endings, and reality television, and is a secret University of Kentucky basketball fan.







~ Giveaway ~

One finished copy of NOWHERE BUT HERE by Katie McGarry provided by HarlequinTEEN. 




~ Blog Tour ~

Week 1:
5/20 - Novel Ink
5/21 - Mundie Moms

Week 2:
5/29 - Fiction Fare


Monday, May 25, 2015

Last Year's Mistake by Gina Ciocca

Last Year's Mistake
Author: Gina Ciocca
Publication: June 9, 2015
By: Simon Pulse
Amazon | B&N | Goodreads
4 Stars

Kelsey and David became best friends the summer before freshman year and were inseparable ever after. Until the night a misunderstanding turned Kelsey into the school joke, and everything around her crumbled—including her friendship with David. So when Kelsey's parents decided to move away, she couldn't wait to start over and leave the past behind. Except, David wasn't ready to let her go...

Now it's senior year and Kelsey has a new group of friends, genuine popularity, and a hot boyfriend. Her life is perfect. That is, until David's family moves to town and he shakes up everything. Soon old feelings bubble to the surface and threaten to destroy Kelsey's second chance at happiness. The more time she spends with David, the more she realizes she never truly let him go. And maybe she never wants to.

Told in alternating sections, LAST YEAR'S MISTAKE is a charming and romantic debut about loving, leaving, and letting go.

*I received this eARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

I'll admit, based on that cover (which I LOVE) and that synopsis, I was expecting an edgy story about love, loss and second chances. And in a way that's what this was, but it was much lighter in tone. 

Kelsey and David--both of whom I liked AND wanted to shake some sense into---are relateable characters. In fact, Gina Ciocca gives readers an accurate representation of teenagers being teenagers and doing very teenagery things. Things like, making mistakes, misunderstanding intentions, reacting before thinking, and freaking out over things that really aren't as bad as they seem. But that's okay. Teenagers aren't supposed to have it all figured out yet. And Kesley and David sure don't. 

Kelsey's eagerness to give David "a pass" on their past bugged me a little. In all honesty, he was just as responsible for what happened in the moments before their communication breakdown as she was. If he really felt the way he did, why didn't he try harder? Pull out all the stops? Simple answer: He's a teenage boy. They aren't mind readers, much to the chagrin of every teenager girl in the history of ever.
This may not have been exactly what I was expecting, but I really enjoyed it. It's well written, fast paced and the underlying themes of friendship, forgiveness and new beginnings made me smile. Read it.

Fans of Sarah Dessan, Lauren Morrill and Lauren Barnhodlt will enjoy this.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

#VMafia: TITANS by Victoria Scott

Coming soon from Victoria Scott 

Releasing: February 23, 2015
By: Scholastic Press


Astrid Sullivan's family can't catch a break. Her grandfather played cards and her dad bet on the Titans--half-horse, half-car that race around impossible tracks. They've lost their home, their savings, and each other.

So when Astrid makes some new friends who give her the chance to participate in this year's Titan races, she wonders if it's worth risking everything. She never thought she'd even touch a Titan, and this one is first gen when the models racing now are Titan 3.0s. There's no way for her to win...but with her family slipping away and her dad without work, Astrid can't help but feel like the only person she can bet on is herself.

Titans delivers Victoria Scott's signature blend of incredible action and impossible odds, and will leave readers' hearts racing.


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Friday, May 22, 2015

BLOG TOUR + Q&A + GIVEAWAY: The Girl At Midnight by Melissa Grey

The Girl At Midnight by Melissa Grey
Publication: April 28, 2015
By: Delacorte Press

The Girl at Midnight (The Girl at Midnight, #1)

Beneath the streets of New York City live the Avicen, an ancient race of people with feathers for hair and magic running through their veins. Age-old enchantments keep them hidden from humans. All but one. Echo is a runaway pickpocket who survives by selling stolen treasures on the black market, and the Avicen are the only family she's ever known.

Echo is clever and daring, and at times she can be brash, but above all else she's fiercely loyal. So when a centuries-old war crests on the borders of her home, she decides it's time to act.

Legend has it that there is a way to end the conflict once and for all: find the Firebird, a mythical entity believed to possess power the likes of which the world has never seen. It will be no easy task, though if life as a thief has taught Echo anything, it's how to hunt down what she wants . . . and how to take it.

But some jobs aren't as straightforward as they seem. And this one might just set the world on fire.

"Sparks fly...This first novel will please fans of Cassandra Clare and Game of Thrones watchers with its remarkable world building; richly developed characters...[and] a breathtaking climax that...cannot come soon enough!"—Booklist, Starred

"Grey's energetic debut offers a strong protagonist... [this] well-built world, vivid characters, and perfect blend of action and amour should have readers eagerly seeking the sequel."—Kirkus, Starred

~ About the Author~

MELISSA GREY was born and raised in New York City. She wrote her first short story at the age of twelve and hasn't stopped writing since. After earning a degree in fine arts at Yale University, she traveled the world, then returned to New York City where she currently works as a freelance journalist. To learn more about Melissa visit and follow @meligrey on Twitter.





~ Q&A with Melissa Grey ~

Describe in a couple of sentences THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT.
In THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT, Echo, a runaway human girl, is taken in by a magical race of creatures who live beneath the streets of New York. She’s trying to figure out where she belongs, and it’s the kind of journey everyone experiences in their late teens, but hers is complicated by a subterranean society nestled beneath Manhattan, otherworldly races at war, and a prophecy about a mysterious being—the firebird—that might be the only thing that can bring that war to an end and save the people Echo loves.

How did the idea for your book originate? What was your inspiration? Was there a particular event, circumstance, or something else that spurred you to write your first book?
There were two distinct seeds planted in my brain that grew into THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT. The first was Echo. She’d been organically blossoming in my head as a character for a while, and I knew the basics about her: She was a pickpocket turned career thief who was always ready with a timely quip. I just needed a story for her to occupy.
And then there was the firebird. Stravinsky’s Firebird is a fantastic piece of music, and I’ve been a fan of the ballet for years, so I started exploring the folklore behind the firebird and eventually discovered the story where Echo would live.

Please describe the greatest challenge you faced in writing this book, why it was difficult, and how you resolved it.
Figuring out the narration was the hardest part of writing the book. The first draft of the first chapter was in first-person present tense and that wasn’t quite working. First-person past wasn’t right either. I then realized that it couldn’t be a first-person narrative. In order to fully develop the world and the mythology of THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT, I needed to tell the story from different perspectives so that you would see it from different angles. Once I started writing it with multiple narrators, everything just kind of fell into place.

How much and what kind of research went into writing this book?
I researched a ton of mythology. I started with the firebird in Slavic folklore and branched out from there. There are two magical species in the book: the Avicen and the Drakharin. As their names would suggest, they’re related to birds and dragons respectively, so I broadened my area of research to cover bird and dragon mythologies from all over the world. I also had some logistical concerns, like how one would go about breaking into the best-guarded museums in the world. My search history is full of incriminating information. I really hope the FBI doesn’t come knocking on my door.

If you could create a sound track for THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT, what songs would you pick and why?
THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT playlist kept me company when writing the book, and most of the songs on it are ones I think Echo would like or ones that have lyrics that are relevant to the plot or characters.
“When I’m Small” by Phantogram
“Before” by Amanda Mair
“Bones” by MS MR
“Come Come” by Hot As Sun
“Wolves” by The Good Natured
“I Wrote in Blood” by Still Corners
“Better Off Dead” by The Sounds
“Keep It Low” by The Hundred in the Hands
“Black and Blue” by Uh Huh Her

Any words of wisdom and advice to aspiring writers?

Don’t aspire to write. Just write. You don’t need to be published or have an agent to be a writer. Writing is an activity, not necessarily an identity. Always put the writing first. Write anything. Write little poems on napkins while you wait for your chicken nuggets at McDonald’s. Write songs no one will ever sing but you. Write stories starring your favorite characters from Disney movies as baristas at Starbucks. Start writing anything that gets you excited, and then finish it. That last part is super important. Finishing can be hard but you’ll be really proud of yourself when you type “The End.”

~ Giveaway ~ 

U.S/Canada Only  
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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Loving Dallas (Neon Dreams #2) by Caisey Quinn

Loving Dallas (Neon Dreams, #2)Series: Neon Dreams #2
Author: Caisey Quinn
Publication: June 16, 2015 
By: William Morrow & Company  
Amazon | B&N | Goodreads  
4.5 Stars!

In the second novel in bestselling author Caisey Quinn’s Neon Dreams series, a country rock band and its members embark on the rocky road to fame and find love along the way.

Dallas Lark is so close to achieving his dream of making it big in country music that he can taste it. Arriving in Nashville after signing with sexy, successful manager Mandy Lantram, his life goes from tragedy and turmoil to one lucky break after another—except it isn’t really luck because Dallas has sacrificed everything for his career, leaving behind his band, sister, best friend, and high school sweetheart, Robyn, in the pursuit of fame.

Robyn Breeland is a successful marketing coordinator and promotions specialist for a thriving liquor distributor out of Texas. She loves every aspect of her job: coming up with new ideas, traveling, hosting promotional parties and exclusive events—until it brings her face-to-face with the man who broke her heart, prompting her to erect a steel cage around it.

When their paths collide and they’re forced to work together, Dallas and Robyn realize that the old spark they thought they’d extinguished might still be a burning flame.

*I received an ARC of this from the publisher in exchange for an honest review* 

My WORD these books need to come with a fan.
I really like how these books are companions and not necessary sequels, OR the same story told from different POVs. Each one has it's own voice and unique storyline. I'm a sucker for second-chance-at-love stories, and LOVING DALLAS did not disappoint! Both Robyn and Dallas are strong-willed characters determined not to let anything or anyone stand in the way of achieving their dreams.

And then they run into each other again. 


They try to set boundaries; no PDA, no commitments, etc., but quickly find themselves unable to resist the pull of their shared past or each other. One pancake date leads to another and before they know it, this causal relationship is anything but. Caisey Quinn knows how to pull at my heart-strings while kicking me in the feels in the best way!

LOVING DALLAS has all of the elements I love in a NA; witty banter, romantic tension and a good story with an abundance of steam. It makes for a FANTASTIC addition to the NEON DREAMS series and I CAN.NOT.WAIT for Gavin's story now!

Monday, May 18, 2015

YOLO Juliet by William Shakespeare & Brett Wright + srsly Hamlet by William Shakespeare & Courtney Carbone

YOLO JulietPublication: May 26th 2015 
By: Random House Books for Young Readers
Amazon | B&N | Goodreads 
4 Stars!

Romeo and Juliet, one of the greatest love stories ever told . . . in texts?!
Imagine: What if those star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet had smartphones? A classic is reborn in this fun and funny adaptation of one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays!
Two families at war.
A boy and a girl in love.
A secret marriage gone oh-so-wrong.
and h8. The classics just got a whole lot more interesting. ;)
tl;dr A Shakespeare play told through its characters texting with emojis, checking in at certain locations, and updating their relationship statuses. The perfect gift for hip theater lovers and teens.

A glossary and cast of characters are included for those who need it. For example: tl;dr means
too long; didn’t read. 

srsly Hamlet Author(s):
Publication: May 26th 2015 
By: Random House Books for Young Readers

Hamlet, one of the greatest stories ever told . . . in texts?!
Imagine: What if Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark, and the tragic Ophelia had smartphones? A classic is reborn in this fun and funny adaptation of one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays!
A kingdom on the brink of war.
A stolen throne.
A boy seeking revenge.

and h8. The classics just got a whole lot more interesting. ;)
tl;dr A Shakespeare play told through its characters texting with emojis, checking in at certain locations, and updating their relationship statuses. The perfect gift for hip theater lovers and teens.

A glossary and cast of characters are included for those who need it. For example: tl;dr means too long; didn’t read.

* I received copies of these from the publisher in excahnge for honest reviews* 
These were both hilarious and so much fun to read! Even my 10 year old enjoyed them. For me, reading and understanding Shakespeare has always felt like trying to read and understand a foreign language. What these two books offer is a fresh, fun and modern take on the classics. I can't wait to share them!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

BLOG TOUR + GIVEAWAY: A Matter Of Heart by Amy Fellner Dominy

A Matter of HeartAuthor:
Publication: May 12th 2015
By: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Amazon | B&N | Goodreads
4.5 Stars!

A novel that will make your heart pound--anxiously, joyfully, triumphantly."
--New York TimesBestselling author, Lauren Myracle

Sixteen-year-old Abby Lipman is on track to win the state swim championships and qualify for the Olympic trials when a fainting incident at a swim meet leads to the diagnosis of a deadly heart condition. Now Abby is forced to discover who she is without the one thing that's defined her entire life.

*I received an eARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review* 

When I opened this book, I only meant to read a few pages. I ended up finishing it in one sitting because I could not put it down. Abby's story is not only well-written and fast-paced, it's also a compelling blend of sports, romance and learning how to make tough choices. I thoroughly enjoyed it! 

~ About the Author ~

Amy Fellner Dominy worked as a copywriter in the advertising business before leaving to earn her MFA in playwriting. Her plays for adults and children have been staged in various cities around the country. Amy's novels for teens include OyMG (Walker, 2011) and AUDITION & SUBTRACTION (Walker, 2012.) Amy's next book is a contemporary YA coming May 12, 2015 from Random House/Delacorte. It's called A MATTER OF HEART



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Saturday, May 16, 2015

BLOG TOUR: All Played Out by Cora Carmack

All Played Out (Rusk University, #3)Series: Rusk University #3
Author: Cora Carmack
Publication: May 12, 2015
By: William Morrow & Company
Amazon | B&N | Goodreads

First person in her family to go to college? CHECK.
Straight A’s? CHECK.
On track to graduate early? CHECK.
Social life? …..yeah, about that….

With just a few weeks until she graduates, Antonella DeLuca’s beginning to worry that maybe she hasn’t had the full college experience. (Okay... Scratch that. She knows she hasn't had the full college experience).

So Nell does what a smart, dedicated girl like herself does best. She makes a "to do" list of normal college activities.

Item #1? Hook up with a jock.

Rusk University wide receiver Mateo Torres practically wrote the playbook for normal college living. When he’s not on the field, he excels at partying, girls, and more partying. As long as he keeps things light and easy, it's impossible to get hurt... again. But something about the quiet, shy, sexy-as-hell Nell gets under his skin, and when he learns about her list, he makes it his mission to help her complete it.

Torres is the definition of confident (And sexy. And wild), and he opens up a side of Nell that she's never known. But as they begin to check off each crazy, exciting, normal item, Nell finds that her frivolous list leads to something more serious than she bargained for. And while Torres is used to taking risks on the field, he has to decide if he's willing to take the chance when it's more than just a game.

Together they will have to decide if what they have is just part of the experiment or a chance at something real.

5 Books you should read before you’re 30
I didn't start reading until I was past 30, but you should definitely check these out.

1. The Rusk University series, because DUH. ;)

You're welcome

2. ME BEFORE YOU by JoJo Moyes

Me Before You
Heart-achingly beautiful love story that will challenge you and maybe even change the way you see the world and the people in it.

3. LANDLINE by Rainbow Rowell

I've given this as a wedding gift on more than one occasion with a note that says, "Read this once every 5 years." Marriage is HARD, y'all, and sometimes we need to go back and remember the how's and why's we married the person we did. 

4. DIVERGENT by Veronica Roth

Divergent (Divergent, #1)
The book is always better than the movie. Always. This remains one of the most favorite books, ever. I read all 487 pages in a 24 hours period and it really resonated with me personally. I wish I hadn't read the final book though. It totally ruined all of the good feels this one gave me.


This Song Will Save Your Life 
This is a MUST read for music lovers as well as anyone who has ever felt like an outcast. 


And don’t forget to grab your copy of ALL LINED UP and ALL BROKE DOWN Today!


~ About Cora Carmack ~ 

Cora Carmack is a twenty-something writer who likes to write about twenty-something characters. She's done a multitude of things in her life-- boring jobs (like working retail), Fun jobs (like working in a theatre), stressful jobs (like teaching), and dream jobs (like writing). She enjoys placing her characters in the most awkward situations possible, and then trying to help them get a boyfriend out of it. Awkward people need love, too. Her first book, LOSING IT, was a New York Times and USA Today bestseller.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Author Goodreads |ALL PLAYED OUT Goodreads




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~ Follow The Bucket List Tour~

May 15-5 Things you should do before you graduate college
Emilie’s Book World

In Between the Pages

Shelf Life

May 16-5 Books you should read before you’re 30
Desert Divas Book Addiction

Jenuine Cupcakes

The Book Hoarders

May 17-5 places you should visit before you die
Novel Grounds


Til The Last Page Book Blog

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May 19-5 TV Shows to binge-watch
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May 21-5 Foods everyone should try at least once
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The Cover Contessa

May 22-5 Things to do on your next girls night
GenGen’s Book Blog

Literati Literature Lovers

May 23-5 Board/Family games everyone should play
Keep It Fictional

Smart & Savvy with Stephanie

The Unofficial Addiction Book Fan Club

May 24-5 Crazy things you should do by 30
Mary Had A Little Book Blog

The Shadow Realm

Worn Down Glories



Friday, May 15, 2015

BLOG TOUR: THIS or THAT + GIVEAWAY: Hold Me Like A Breath by Tiffany Schmidt

Hold Me Like a Breath (Once Upon a Crime Family #1)
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Release Date: May 19th 2015

Penelope Landlow has grown up with the knowledge that almost anything can be bought or sold—including body parts. She’s the daughter of one of the three crime families that control the black market for organ transplants.

Penelope’s surrounded by all the suffocating privilege and protection her family can provide, but they can't protect her from the autoimmune disorder that causes her to bruise so easily.

And in her family's line of work no one can be safe forever.

All Penelope has ever wanted is freedom and independence. But when she’s caught in the crossfire as rival families scramble for prominence, she learns that her wishes come with casualties, that betrayal hurts worse than bruises, that love is a risk worth taking . . . and maybe she’s not as fragile as everyone thinks.

by Tiffany Schmidt

There was always a moment as I rolled down the long driveway toward the high fence surrounding the estate when my breath caught in my chest and I doubted my decision to leave. Anything could happen to me outside the perimeter of our property.
Carter interrupted my thoughts. “I told Mother we’re going to see a musical. You know what’s playing and can pick one, right?”
Of course I did. I spent hours on NYC websites, blogs, and forums. Someday I’d go into a long remission. Someday I’d live there and walk the streets of promise, freedom, and opportunity they sang about in Annie, a play I’d seen with Father on Broadway right before my life turned purple and red.
“Really?” It made sense that Mother would agree to a play. It would be safe, a seated activity. The chairs would mark out defined personal space, and I’d be perfectly cocooned between my brother and his best friend/guard, Garrett Ward. It made a whole lot less sense that Carter would voluntarily attend the theater.
He lowered his window and called a greeting to Ian, the guard on gate duty. Once his window was closed and the gate was shutting behind us, he snorted. “No, not really. That’s just what I said to buy you some extra time.”
“You should at least listen to the score then,” I countered. “You know she’s going to want to discuss it. Or, if she doesn’t, Father will. He’ll probably perform it if I ask.”
“Then don’t ask,” said Carter. “Fine. Pick a show and Garrett can download the soundtrack. We’ll listen to it once, then I get the radio for the rest of the drive—no complaints.”
It was more than I’d expected; he truly felt guilty about being so MIA. “There’s a revival of Once Upon a Mattress that’s getting great reviews.”
They snickered.
Once Upon a Mattress? That sounds like—”
I cut my brother off. “Don’t go there! It’s a fairy tale, gutterbrain.”
“Of course it is,” laughed Garrett.
I’m pretty sure the subtext of that laugh was you’re such a child. I swallowed a retort. Freedom was too rare a thing to waste arguing. And I’d never had Korean barbecue. I’d never even heard of it. There were so many things I’d never seen, tasted, experienced . . . Tension melted into giddy anticipation, bubbling in my stomach like giggles waiting to escape.
“So, how’d your super-secret errand go?” I asked. “Was it something exciting? Something illegal?”
Garrett met my gaze in the rearview mirror and shook his head.
But it was too late. Carter’s expression darkened. “Everything we do is illegal. It’s not a game where you get to pick and choose which crimes you’re okay with.”
“So it didn’t go well,” I muttered under my breath.
I knew it wasn’t a game, and I knew the Family Business was against the law. I’d known it for so long it was easy to forget. Or remember only in a vague way, like knowing the sky is blue without paying any attention to its blueness.
Only in those moments when things went wrong—when lazy clouds were replaced by threats and storms, when someone got hurt or killed—only then did I stare down the reality of the Business through a haze of grief and funeral black. My fingers tensed on the edge of the seat.
“Ignore him,” said Garrett. “He’s just pissy because the people we were supposed to meet with stood us up.”
“Someone dared to no-show for a meeting with the mighty Carter Landlow?” I teased, hoping to break the gloom settling in the car like an unwelcome passenger. “I assumed it was a Business errand, but if someone stood you up, it must be a girl.”
“No offense, Pen, but you don’t have a clue what’s going on in the Business.”
No offense, Carter, but you’re being a—”
“Who wants to hear some songs about mattresses?” interrupted Garrett. He reached for the stereo, but Carter swatted his hand away.
“I’m not an idiot,” I said. And wishing for things that had been denied for so long was idiotic. No less so than repeatedly bashing your head against a wall or touching a hot iron. I knew the answer was no, was always going to be no, so asking to be included in Family matters was like volunteering to be a punch line for one of the Ward brothers’ jokes.
But I knew the basics. It wouldn’t be possible to live on the estate, spend so much time in the clinic, and not know. The first person to explain it to me had been my grandfather; fitting, since he was the man who’d reacted to the formation of FOTA—the Federal Organ and Tissue Association—by founding our Family.
The same day I’d demanded a kidney for Kelly Forman, he’d sat me down and demonstrated using a plate of crackers and cheese. “When donation regulation was moved from the FDA to FOTA, they added more restrictions and testing.” He ate a few of the Ritz-brand “organs” on his plate, shuffled the empty cheese slices that represented humans who needed transplants. “This, combined with a population that’s living longer than ever
before”—he plunked down several more slices of cheese—“created a smaller, slower supply and greater demand.” He built me an inside-out cheese-cracker-cheese sandwich. “It was a moment of opportunity, and when you see those in life, you take them.”
This felt like a moment of opportunity. And not to prove that I wasn’t an idiot by listing all the facts I knew—about how the Families provided illegal transplants for the many, many people rejected from or buried at the bottom of the government lists. How more than two-thirds of those who made it through all the protocols to qualify for a spot on the official transplant list died before receiving an organ. Or to recite the unofficial Family motto: Landlows help people who can’t afford to wait, but can afford to pay.
“Fine, tell me what I don’t know,” I said. “Tell me what’s going on, why you and Father are fighting, and what’s keeping you so busy. Tell me everything.”
Garrett muttered something that sounded suspiciously like “Don’t do this,” but since my brother ignored him, I did too.
Carter’s eyes met mine in the rearview mirror. “None of this leaves the car, Pen. I’m trusting you.”
“I understand.” I sat a little straighter. “And I promise.”
A phone beeped with a text alert, almost immediately followed by a ringtone that made them jump. Carter picked up his cell, swore, showed the screen to Garrett, then swore again. All the buoyancy of freedom seemed to evaporate from the car.
“Now? They blow us off earlier and expect us to answer now?” said Garrett.
“Well, it’s not like these things can be scheduled,” replied Carter, jabbing the screen of his cell. “Hello?”
He muttered low and furious into the phone, then hung up, still cursing. “We have to do the pickup.”
Garrett’s frowned. “No one else can do it?”
He shook his head.
“Pick up what?” I asked.
Carter opened his mouth, but Garrett put a hand on his arm. “She’s seventeen. Let her be seventeen. There’s plenty of time to get her involved later.”
“When we were seventeen we were already sitting on council, visiting the clinics, meeting with patients. She can’t even tell a kidney scar from a skin graft—she needs to catch up.”
She can make her own decisions, she is sitting right here, and she is coming along to what ever this mysterious pickup is, so she’s already involved,” I snapped.
“You are not coming,” said Garrett.
“We don’t have a choice, unless you want me to leave her on the side of the highway. This is our exit.” Carter was clutching his cell phone, shaking it as if that could erase what ever the text instructed him to do.
Garrett groaned. “You’re staying in the car.”
I hid my smile by looking out the window. It had gotten dark while we were driving, the dusky purple of summer evenings. On the estate these nights buzzed with a soundtrack of cicadas and crickets, but there was no nature outside the car. Nothing but concrete and pavement and cinder-block industrial construction. We pulled into a parking lot. A poorly lit, empty parking lot.
“Where are we? What are we picking up?” I examined Garrett’s stiff posture and the bright gleam in my brother’s eyes. “Does Father know about this Business errand?”
“No, and you’re not going to tell him,” Carter answered.
“Oh, really? So what am I going to do?”
“Stay in the car. Lock the doors. Keep the windows up.” Carter turned around to look me in the eye. “This isn’t a joke, Pen. If I’d known this was going to come up, I would’ve left you at home.”
“Please, princess,” added Garrett in a soft voice, but his eyes didn’t leave the windshield, didn’t stop their scan of the parking lot.
“Fine, but when you’re done, you’re filling me in. Then I can decide if I want to be part of it or not.” It was all false bravado. Each one of Carter’s statements tied another knot in my stomach; Garrett’s plea pulled them tighter.
Carter dumped a half dozen mints from the plastic container in his cup holder into his mouth—like his breath mattered, like this was a date not a disaster. He waved the container at us, but we shook our heads. He crunched the candies and said, “Gare,
you’re hot, right?”
I blurted out, “You can turn on the A/C, I’m not cold,” before I caught on: Garrett pulled a gun from a holster below the back of his shirt.
They laughed, but it wasn’t funny to me. I’d been to too many funerals—they’d been to more. I wanted to ask how long he’d been “hot.” If he always had a gun on him. Had he when we went mini golfing at Easter? Or the time last summer when I slipped on the pool deck and he’d carried me to the clinic? No. He couldn’t have then. He’d been wearing a swimsuit too—there’s no way he could’ve hidden a gun.
So what had happened in the past year, and why was he carrying one now?
Garrett was Family, he was a Ward, but he wasn’t supposed to follow his brothers’ footsteps. Or his father’s. They were enforcers, but he didn’t belong in their grim-faced, split knuckles ranks. That was why he was in college with Carter—Garrett was going to be his right-hand man when my brother took over the Business.
Not a thug with a gun.
“Stay here, Pen,” Carter said again, then slipped out into the night. His keys still dangled from the ignition, the engine still hummed.
Garrett lingered an extra moment. “This shouldn’t take long. And everything’s okay. I don’t want you to worry.”
“I’m not.” I would’ve sounded believable if my voice wasn’t quivering. If I weren’t clutching fistfuls of my dress.
“You’re cute when you’re worried.” Garrett winked, and then he too was out in the darkness and humidity and I was alone.
I tried to lower my window—just a crack, enough to let in voices but not even mosquitoes—except Carter must’ve engaged some sort of child lock. I stared out the tinted glass, watched as their shadows grew gigantic on the wall as they approached the
ware house, then disappeared around its corner.
No matter how hard I concentrated, my eyes couldn’t adjust enough to make sense of the dark. Maybe it was the placement of the parking lot lights—how I had to peer through them to see the warehouse beyond.
After they’d left this afternoon, I’d rushed to the clinic to model different outfits for Caroline. She’d teased. We’d laughed. I’d blushed and daydreamed about the lovely combination of me, Garrett, and NYC.
But in my daydreams, Garrett hadn’t been wearing a gun.
And now we were parked somewhere made of shadows and secrets and fear that sat on my tongue like a bitter hard candy that wouldn’t dissolve.
The car still smelled like them. Their seats were still warm when I leaned forward and pressed my hands against the leather. But I couldn’t see them. What if the dark decided never to spit them back out again?
This wasn’t the Business as I knew it: secret transplant surgeries that took place at our six “Bed and Breakfasts” and “Spas” in Connecticut, Vermont, Maryland, Maine, Massachusetts, and South Carolina, where we saved people like Kelly Forman. She’d been ten when she needed a kidney transplant, but her chromosomal mutation—unrelated to her renal impairment—earned her a rejection from the Federal Organ and Tissue Agency’s lists. According to them, Down syndrome made her a “poor medical investment.” FOTA wrote her a death warrant. We saved her life.
She graduated from high school a few weeks ago. The past nine years since we’d met—she wouldn’t have had those without the Family Business.
That was enough. That was all I needed to know. Illegal or not, that was good.
I heard something. A crack so sharp it echoed and seemed to fill the spaces between my bones, making me shiver. I prayed it was a car backfiring.

Then it happened again.


Ebook or Hardback – Both! Ebooks for in the bathtub and after lights-out bedtime reading. Hardback for every other time. (and, yes, I do annotate and make notes in my hardbacks). I also own many, many books in both formats. (Don’t tell my husband, St.Matt!)

Plotting or Pantsing – I’m a bit of a hybrid. I generally have a pretty coherent vision of a book’s arc before I begin, but I don’t outline or writing it down. And if I know TOO MUCH and all the surprises are gone, I lose all motivation to write that book. For me, the greatest writing pleasures come from the scenes that surprise me.

Coffee or Tea  - Coffee! I drink it about half-coffee, half-unsweetened almond milk.  I also usually drink it half-caf. This way I can have as many cups as I want without feeling guilty (or being up all night).

Bronte or Austen –This is a TOUGH one. In college I wrote my senior honors paper on the Brontes and my honors thesis on Austen. But if I had to choose one family over the other... Sorry, Emily, Charlotte, and Anne —I’m a Janeite to the core.

Tolkien or C.S. Lewis – C.S. Lewis. My dad read The Hobbit to my sister and I when we were little. I’ve spent the decades since then having reoccurring nightmares about Smeagol. (Which my sister encouraged by leaning down from her top bunk in the middle of the night and snarling “My precious!”).  I think the worst damage C.S. Lewis caused me was a lasting curiosity about Turkish Delight (which I still haven’t tried!)
Captain Wentworth or Mr. Darcy 
-- From most swoony to yawn, my Austen heroes ranking is: Fitzwilliam Darcy, Henry Tilney, George Knightley, Frederick Wentworth, Colonel Brandon, Edward Ferrars, Edmund Bertram
Superman or Batman – Batman. Of the Christian Bale variety, please. (Though, I might really want him so he can recreate Newsies and reprise the role of Laurie in Little Women...)

Running: Road or Trail  - Trail running is one of my true joys. (Much to the dismay of all my loved ones because I’m forever getting distracted and tripping over tree roots or wiping out on wet leaves. But what’s a split knee, or sprained ankle (or, um, six), when there’s so much beauty and interesting things to see on the trails?

Sand or Snow
 – Sand, please. I like it even better if it comes with sunblock, a beach chair, an icy drink, and a good book to read.

Music: 80s or 90s  - 80’s!  I still remember wearing one piece jammies and dancing in my kitchen to the stylings of Wham!, Airsupply, Madonna, and Cyndi Lauper. Or, my childhood favorite – Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” and Deniece Williams “Let’s Hear it for the Boy.” 
And...Cupcakes or Pie. Cupcakes! Always! Especially if they’re made by YOU! <3  

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Tiffany Schmidt is the author of Send Me a Sign, Bright Before Sunrise, and Hold Me Like a Breath. She’s found her happily ever after in Pennsylvania with her saintly husband, impish twin boys, and a pair of mischievous puggles.You can find out more about her and her books at:, or by following her on Twitter @TiffanySchmidt.