Review, Excerpt, Q + A, & Giveaway: Freeks by Amanda Hocking

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Welcome to Gideon Davorin’s Traveling Sideshow, where necromancy, magical visions, and pyrokinesis are more than just part of the act…

Mara has always longed for a normal life in a normal town where no one has the ability to levitate or predict the future. Instead, she roams from place to place, cleaning the tiger cage while her friends perform supernatural feats every night.

When the struggling sideshow is miraculously offered the money they need if they set up camp in Caudry, Louisiana, Mara meets local-boy Gabe…and a normal life has never been more appealing.

But before long, performers begin disappearing and bodes are found mauled by an invisible beast. Mara realizes that there’s a sinister presence lurking in the town with its sights set on getting rid of the sideshow freeks. In order to unravel the truth before the attacker kills everyone Mara holds dear, she has seven days to take control of a power she didn’t know she was capable of—one that could change her future forever.

Excerpt

5. Carnival

Unlike many of the other members of the sideshow, I didn’t have a specific job. My mom was a fortune- teller, Gideon did a magic show, Zeke had his tigers, Brendon and his family did acrobatics, Seth was a strongman. My best friend Roxie Smith was in two acts— she helped out Zeke, and did a peepshow revue with two other girls.

I had no talent. No special ability, making me essentially a roadie. I did what was needed of me, which usually involved helping set up and take down, and various menial tasks. I cleaned the tiger cages and emptied out latrines when I had to. It wasn’t a glamorous job, but it was crucial to our way of life.

Since Roxie worked with the tigers, Mahilā actually tolerated her. Roxie was helping me clean out the tiger cage they traveled in. The cage was open to a fenced-in enclosure Seth had built, so the tigers could roam as they pleased.

Safēda lounged in the grass, the sun shining brightly on her white fur. Whenever we stopped, Safēda seemed content to just lay in the sun, sleeping the entire time, but as the older tiger, it made sense.

Mahilā paced along the fence, occasionally emitting an irritated guttural noise in between casting furtive glances back toward Roxie and me. Her golden fur was mottled with scars from her past life in the abusive circus, including a nasty one that ran across her nose.

“So where did you go last night?” Roxie asked, her voice lilting in a sing song playful way. She was out in the run, using a hose to fill up a blue plastic kiddie pool so the tigers could play in it, while I was on my hands and knees scrubbing dung off the cage floor.

Her bleached blond hair was pulled back in a ponytail, and the sleeves of her white T- shirt were rolled up, revealing her well-toned arms. The cut- off jean shorts she wore barely covered her bum, and her old cowboy boots went up to her knees— her chosen footwear anytime she was at risk of stepping in tiger poop.

With fair skin, full lips, large blue eyes, and a dainty nose, Roxie was pretty and deceptively tough. Being a beautiful carnie was not an easy job, and dancing in the revue under the stage name “Foxy Roxie” didn’t help that. But she made decent money doing it, and Roxie never put up with anybody’s crap. I’d seen her deck guys much bigger than her and lay them out flat on their backs.

“I was just at a party,” I said as I rinsed the brush off in a bucket of bleach and warm water.

“A party?” Roxie looked over at me with a hand on her hip.

 “How’d you get invited to a party so fast?”

I shrugged. “I was just exploring town, and I saw some people hanging outside of this big house party, and they invited me in.”

“So what are the people like here? Are they nice?”

Safēda had gotten up and climbed into the pool, and then she flopped down in it, splashing Roxie as she did. Roxie took a step back, but kept looking at me.

“I don’t know. The people I met last night seemed nice, and they were superrich, so that bodes well for the town, I guess.”

“Like how rich?” Roxie asked.

“Like their house is practically a mansion.” I dropped the brush in the water and sat back on my knees, taking a break to talk to her. “It was the nicest house I’ve ever been in, hands down.”

“Is that why you spent the night there?”

Roxie understood my fascination with houses. Well, “understood” wasn’t the right word. It was more like she knew of it, but didn’t understand it all. She’d grown up in an upper- middleclass family, in nice houses with basements, and thought they were about as boring and lame as she could imagine.

“Partly.” I nodded. “It was a really amazing house. There were pillars out front, and the front hall was bigger than my trailer.”

“It’s just a house, Mara.” Roxie shook her head.

“I know but . . .” I trailed off, trying to think of how to explain it to her. “You know how you felt when you first joined the sideshow two years ago? How everything seemed so exciting and fun, and I was like, ‘We live in cramped trailers. It kinda sucks.’”

Roxie nodded. “Yeah. But I still think this life is a million times better than my old life. I get to see everything. I get to decide things for myself. I can leave whenever I want. There’s nothing to hold me back or tie me down.”

She’d finished filling up the pool, so she twisted the nozzle on the hose to shut it off. Stepping carefully over an old tire and a large branch that the tigers used as toys, she went to the edge of the run and tossed the hose over the fence, before Mahilā decided to play with it and tore it up.

She walked over to the cage and scraped her boots on the edge, to be sure she didn’t track any poop inside, before climbing up inside it.

“So what was the other reason?” Roxie asked.

I kept scrubbing for a moment and didn’t look up at her when I said, “Gabe.”

Gabe?” Roxie asked. “That sounds like a boy’s name.”

“That’s because it is.”

“Did you have sex with him?”

“No.” I shot her a look. “We just made out a little.”

“What what what?” Luka Zajiček happened to be walking by just in time to hear that, and he changed his course to walk over to the tiger cage. “Is that what you were up to last night?”

“That’s what sucks about living in a community so small. Whenever anything happens, everybody knows about it right away,” I muttered.

Luka put his arms through the cage bars and leaned against it, in the area I’d cleaned already. Since he was rather short, the floor came up to his chest, and his black hair fell into his eyes.

His eyes were the same shade of gray as mine, but his olive skin was slightly lighter than mine. We first met him when he joined the carnival four years ago, and the first thing my mom said was that she was certain that we were related somehow.

Unfortunately, Mom knew next to nothing about our family tree to be able to prove it. All she could really tell me was that we were a mixture of Egyptian, Turkish, and Filipino, with a bit of German thrown in for good measure.

Luka had been born in Czechoslovakia, but he’d moved here with his family when he was young, so he’d lost his accent.

He had recently roped me into helping him with a trick. He’d stand with his back against a wall, while I fired a crossbow around him. Originally, Blossom had been the one to help him, but she kept missing and shooting him in the leg or arm, so he’d asked me to do it because I had a steadier hand.

“So you made out with some local guy last night?” Luka asked, smirking at me. “Are you gonna see him again?”

“He’s a local guy. What do you think?” I asked, and gave him a hard look.

Luka shrugged. “Sometimes you bump into them again.”

“And that goes so well when they find out that I work and live with a traveling sideshow,” I said.

The floor was spotless, or at least as spotless as tiger cages can get, and I tossed my brush in the bucket and took off my yellow rubber gloves.

“We can’t all meet our boyfriends in the sideshow,” I reminded Luka as I stood up, and it only made him grin wider. He’d been dating Tim— one of the Flying Phoenixes— for the past three months.

“But you didn’t see Blossom anywhere in town last night?” Roxie asked, and Luka’s smile instantly fell away.

A sour feeling stirred in my stomach, and I looked out around camp through the bars of the cage, as if Blossom would suddenly appear standing beside a trailer. As I’d been doing my chores all morning, I kept scanning the campsite for her, expecting her to return at any moment with a funny story about how she’d gotten lost in town.

But so far, she hadn’t. And the longer she went without coming back, the worse the feeling in my stomach got. I shook my head. “No. I didn’t see her at all last night.”

“She’s gotta turn up, though, right?” Luka asked. “I mean, it’s not like there are really that many places she could’ve gone considering she has no money or car and she’s in a small town.”

The tigers were still down in the run, so I opened the side gate and hopped down out of the cage. Roxie got out behind me, then we closed the door.

“I should talk to Gideon,” I decided as Roxie locked the cage up behind me. “It’s not like Blossom to do this.”

“It’s not totally unlike her, though,” Roxie pointed out.

“When we were in Toledo six months ago, she dis appeared for a few days with that weird commune, and came back just before we were leaving, totally baked out of her mind.”

Blossom had grown up with parents who pretended to be hippies but were really just a couple of drug addicts. That— along with her unexplainable telekinesis— led to her dabbling with drugs and alcohol at a young age, before the state intervened and shipped her off to a group home.

My mom tried to keep her clean of her bad habits, but sometimes Blossom just liked to run off and do her own thing. That wasn’t that unusual for people who lived in the carnival.

“But if you’re worried, you should talk to Gideon,” Roxie suggested. “Luka’s right in that Blossom really couldn’t have gone far. Maybe you can scope out Caudry.”

“Since that sounds like a mission that may take a bit of time, can you help me and Hutch with the museum before you talk to Gideon?” Luka asked. “The exit door is jammed, and we can’t get it open, and Seth is busy helping set up the tents.”

“Sure. Between me and Mara, I’m sure the two of us can get the door unstuck,” Roxie said.

I dropped off the bucket with the other tiger supplies, and then followed Roxie and Luka away from our campsite to the fairgrounds on the other side of a chain- link fence. We always stayed close to the rides, the midway, and the circus tent, but we didn’t actually sleep there. It was much better for every one if we kept our private lives separate from the crowds.

Many of the games were already set up, and the Ferris wheel was in the process of being erected as we passed. Near the end of the midway was a long black trailer painted with all kinds of frightening images of werewolves and specters, along with happier pictures of mermaids and unicorns, and the sign was written in bloodred:

Beneath that were several smaller signs warning “Enter at your own risk. The creatures inside can be DISTURBING and cause NIGHTMARES.”

The entrance to the left was open, but the exit door at the other end was still shut. Wearing a pair of workman’s gloves, Hutch was pulling at the door with all his might. His neon green tank showed that his muscles were flexed and straining in effort. The bandana kept his dark brown hair off his face, but sweat was dripping down his brow.

“Let me have a try, Hutch,” Roxie said.

“What?” He turned to look back at her. “Door’s stuck.”

“I can see that. That’s why I said let me have a try.”

“Okay.” Hutch shrugged and stepped back.

Hutch’s real name was Donald Hutchence, but nobody ever called him anything but Hutch. He didn’t have any special powers, unless you considered being really agreeable and easygoing a super power, so, like me, he was left doing whatever else needed to be done.

Roxie grabbed the door and started pulling on it, and when it didn’t budge, I joined her.

“Luka, go and push from the inside,” Roxie commanded through gritted teeth.

Both Luka and Hutch went inside, pushing as Roxie and I pulled. And then all at once, the door gave way, and we all fell back on the gravel. I landed on my back, scraping my elbow on the rocks.

Roxie made it out unscathed, and Hutch fell painfully on top of me, so he’d avoided injury. Luka crashed right on the gravel, though, and the rocks tore through his jeans and ripped up his knees and the palms of his hands pretty badly.

“Do you need me to get a Band- Aid or anything?” Hutch asked as he helped me to my feet.

“No, I’ll be okay.” I glanced over at Luka and the blood dripping down his knees. “What about you? Do you want anything?”

“Nah. Just give it a few minutes.” Luka waved it off and sat down on the steps leading up to the museum door.

No matter how many times I saw it, I couldn’t help but watch. His knee was shredded, with bits of gravel sticking in the skin. Right before my eyes, the bleeding stopped, and the rocks started falling out, as if pushed by his flesh, and the skin grew back, reattaching itself where it had been little mangled flaps.

Within a few minutes, Luka’s knee was healed completely.

Copyright © 2017 by Amanda Hocking and reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Griffin.

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  1.     Your characters are sent into the Hunger Games. Who wins?

If it’s just the characters from FREEKS, and only one could win, I would put my money on Luka or maybe Roxie. Luka because he can heal from injuries, which gives him a crazy advantage, but Roxie is smart and she’s a survivor. Plus, she has the power of pyrokinesis, which I think I would come in handy in a battle to the death.

  1.     What do you listen to while you write? Or do you prefer silence?

I almost always listen to music when I write, unless I’m writing a really difficult scene. Sometimes the silence helps me focus, but most of the time, I prefer music. For FREEKS, I got to make a really fun 80s playlist, so I especially enjoyed working to that.

  1. What is the most embarrassing thing you’ve looked up in the name of research – or what do you think the government has maybe flagged you for?

There are sooo many things. For FREEKS, I had to do fun stuff like, “What does a dead body smell like?” and “How much blood can a human lose?” And then after those macabre questions, I did a bunch of googling on fireflies and tarot cards. My search history when I’m working can be pretty exciting like that.

  1. What was your favorite part of writing FREEKS?

I love Southern Gothics and I love pulpy 80s horror movies, so I was excited to be able incorporate those things in FREEKS. But my favorite part was actually Mara and Gabe. I think they complement each other well, and it was fun writing their banter and flirtations.

  1. Which actor/actress would you like to see playing your main characters from FREEKS?

For Mara, I envisioned Cassie Steele from the start. I used to be a hardcore Degrassi fan, and I loved Cassie Steele on that. For Gabe, I like Ryan Guzman. I saw him in a Jennifer Lopez movie, and I was like, “Yep. That could be Gabe.”

  1.  Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?

I usually write between 11 am and 7 pm. I’ve tried to write earlier in the day and have more of a 8-5 type schedule, but I am not a morning person. My brain just doesn’t want to work much before noon.

  1.   Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day?

I usually have a goal in mind before I start writing, but it varies. Some days, it’s slow going and I hope to get at least 500 words out. Other days, I fly through with thousands of words. So it depends on where I’m at in the book, when it’s due, and how I’m feeling about the whole thing.

  1. When you develop your characters, do you already have an idea of who they are before you write or do you let them develop as you go?

With all my main characters, I have a really good idea of who they are, and it’s just a matter of showing that to the readers. With the side characters, they tend to be rather one-dimensional, and they grow into the story as they’re needed.

  1. How did writing Freeks differ from your writing your previous novels?

FREEKS was the first thing I had written in awhile that was started out just for me. For most of the past ten years, I have been writing my books with the intention of publishing them, with the audience and readers and trends in mind. I think I had gotten a little burnt out on trying to make everyone happy (mostly because it is impossible to please all readers all the time), and I just wanted to write something that for the sake of writing it.

And that turned out to be a gothic love story about a teenage girl travelling with a band of misfits in the 1980s. It was a very cathartic writing experience for me, and it reminded me of exactly why I loved writing in the first place – I love getting lost in the world, with the characters.

  1. If Freeks had a theme song what would it be?

Either “Hush” by Limousines or “Head Over Heels” by Tears For Fears.

  1.   Can you please tell us a little bit about Freeks and where you got the inspiration to write it?

I was going through a rough patch, creatively speaking, and so I just sat back and tried to think of my favorite and what I loved most that I would want to write about.

When I was a kid, I used to get old books at garage sales all the time, and I distinctly remember getting Cycle of the Werewolf by Stephen King and a few old V. C. Andrews novels, which are pulpy Southern Gothic-esque novels. I also watched The Lost Boys and Pretty in Pink over and over again (I think I literally ruined the old VHS of The Lost Boys from watching it too much).

So I basically threw all those things together in a soup, and I picked apart the things I liked and wanted to explore more. That became a travelling sideshow in the 80s stopping Louisiana, where a supernatural monster is afoot, and a girl from the wrong side of the tracks who is smith with a local boy with secrets of his own.

  1.   Freeks is full of many amazingly talented characters and I imagine it was really fun to create some of them, but which one was your favorite and why?

Mara and Gabe are my obvious favorites, since they’re the main characters because I was drawn to them and their story the most. Both of them of them have complex feelings about family and personal identity, and their instant chemistry was fun to write.

But I think Gideon – the namesake and head of sideshow – was actually the biggest surprise, which made him fun in a different way. In the original outlines of the story, he was much a different character – very one-note and cruel – but he completely changed and evolved as I was writing.  

  1.   The book is based off of a type of traveling circus that is full of many mysterious acts. If you were to attend a Freekshow, which act would you want to see most?

My favorites are usually the acrobatics, but I think if I attended Gideon Davorin’s Traveling Sideshow, I would be most excited to see Gideon’s magic act. With his skills and knowledge, I think it would be a really amazing show.

  1.   What do you hope readers will take away from FREEKS after reading it?

With some of my other novels, I deal with heavy themes like life and death, identity, honor, mortality, classism, and family. And while I do definitely touch on those themes in FREEKS, I mostly wrote it as an escape for myself, and that’s what I hope it is for other readers. Life can be hard and frustrating, and I just wanted to write a fun book that readers could get lost in for awhile.

  1. What is something people would be surprised to know about you?

Probably how chronically shy I am. Writing is a weird profession, because a good 90% of it is perfect for introverts – you sit alone by yourself and make up imaginary friends to go on adventures. But the last 10% – which involves introducing the whole word to your imaginary friends – is the most exciting and rewarding part, but it’s also the most difficult when you’re as shy as I am.

review3.5/5 Stars

***I received this eARC via NetGalley, St. Martins, and with participation in this tour in exchange for an honest review 

PROS:

  • Mara is spontaneous, responsible, and terrified to get too close because she knows with her lifestyle love can’t last and once they find out that she lives with a traveling show it’s all over. Mara has grown up fast and loves her eclectic bunch-they’re family. She’s got secrets, she’s completely calm and collected about the supernatural, it’s her life. Mara does more than anyone to find out what’s going on at their camp. She’s likable, thoughtful, and so brave. As a heroine, she’s not particularly special in the typical YA way, she just uses her head, makes connections, and is determined to beat this invisible enemy. 
  • What Amanda Hocking is particularly skilled at is making her secondary characters memorable and unique. You might not like them, but you certainly will not forget them. Each member of the sideshow has a great back story and tons of personality. Roxie is a fiery (she’s has the gift of pyrokinesis), flirty, and sassy little thing. She’s a real minx. I adored her character, I only wish there had been more of her. Her story is made of fierce survival and overcoming her horrific past. Gideon is just as intriguing. From the scars on his back, his past, everything about his is suspect, but at the same time full of a heroic desperation to save his army of misfits. 
  • The concept is AMAZING. I mean super creepy and gory attacks on a sideshow. There’s an abundance of just not right, chilling things that you can’t put your finger on that will keep you on edge about what’s really going on. 
  • I usually loathe instalove, but I didn’t mind this one. Gabe is sexy, sensual, and just the right amount of mysterious/brooding. The chemistry is spot on and you’ll definitely crave more of them, even if they have very few conversations with substance. Lots of hot make out scenes though. 

CONS:

  • The story is set in the 1980s; while there are some randomly inserted references, there weren’t enough of them to feel fully cemented in the time period. The book could have been set in any time range, but maybe because the prevalence of “freak shows” has gone way down since the 1950s. Because there are a limited number of references, they feel like you’re being hit over the head with them whenever they do come up. A more fleshed out setting would have helped with total immersion in the story. 
  • Pacing lagged despite the disappearances, murders, and general supernatural encounters. Some sections were more everyday monotony than working to solve the crimes and harassment against the sideshow members. A ton of focus was placed on the instalove portion of the story, while I didn’t mind the romance, a whole lot of making out some conversation made scenes longer than they actually were. 

authoramanda-hocking-new-credit-mariah-paaverud-with-chimera-photographyAuthor Website/Twitter /Facebook/Author Blog/Pinterest/GoodReads

Amanda Hocking is a lifelong Minnesotan obsessed with Batman and Jim Henson. In between watching cooking shows, taking care of her menagerie of pets, and drinking too much Red Bull Zero, she writes young adult urban fantasy and paranormal romance.

Several of her books have made the New York Times Bestsellers list, including the Trylle trilogy and Kanin Chronicles.  Her zombie series, The Hollows, has been adapted into a graphic novel by Dynamite. She has published over fifteen novels, including the Watersong quartet and My Blood Approves series. Frostfire, Ice Kissed, and Crystal Kingdom  – all three books in her latest trilogy, The Kanin Chronicles – are out now.

Her next book will be Swear, the final book in the My Blood Approves series, and it will be out November 9, 2016. After that, her next book is Freeks – a standalone YA paranormal romance novel set in the 1980s that follows a traveling sideshow. It will be out sometime in early 2017, with the St. Martin’s Griffin.

-via Goodreads

giveaway

For your chance to win a hardcover copy of FREEKS comment with your favorite Amanda Hocking book or encounter either on this blog post, via Twitter @jw08k, or on the Facebook blog page 

U.S. ONLY. Ends 11:59 p.m. EST on 12/28 

Fantastic reading, 

Jordan

Cover Reveal: Fading Frost by Alicia Rades

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Where do you turn when you lose a piece of yourself?
 
CRYSTAL FROST has known for a year that she’s psychic, but a car accident leaves her sixth sense weaker than ever. When she begins sensing a ghost she can’t actually see, Crystal isn’t sure if she has what it takes to help. Meanwhile, her friend Derek is going through something personal, only Crystal doesn’t know what’s wrong. Will she be able to help this ghost cross over, help Derek find peace, and save her own life in the process?
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author
Alicia Rades is an award-winning young adult paranormal author with a love for supernatural stories set in the modern world. When she’s not plotting out fiction novels, she’s running her own professional writing business, plowing her way through her never-ending reading list, or preparing for the backpacking trips she takes every summer. In college, Alicia majored in communications with an emphasis on professional writing. She currently lives in Wisconsin with her husband and two cats.
Don’t miss a thing related to Alicia’s books. Sign up for her newsletter at http://www.aliciaradesauthor.com/newsletter/
Magical reading, 
Jordan

Guest Post & Giveaway: Illusion by Martina Boone

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Pub. Date: October 25, 2016

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Barrie must rescue her beloved and her family from evil spirits in the masterful conclusion to the Heirs of Watson Island trilogy.

Caged by secrets all around her and haunted by mistakes that have estranged her from Eight Beaufort, Barrie Watson is desperate to break the curse that puts her family in danger—without breaking the beautiful magic that protects Watson’s Landing. To do that, she must heal the rifts that have split the families of the island apart for three hundred years, unravel the mystery of the Fire Carrier and the spirits he guards, and take control of forces so deadly and awe-inspiring they threaten to overwhelm her.

With the spirits that cursed Watson Island centuries ago awake and more dangerous than ever, she finds an unlikely ally in the haunting and enigmatic Obadiah, whose motivations and power she still can’t read—or trust. His help comes at a price, however, plunging Barrie into a deadly maze of magic and wonder, mystery and intrigue that leads through history to places she never imagined she could go.guestI like to say that the Heirs of Watson Island series contains a lot of kitchen magic. Not just the kind that sets fire to the river around Watson Island, keeps the magical garden cared for, and gives the founding families their special gifts, but also the magic of family and friendship that centers around the kitchen table.

Food is important in the South, and it’s a core part of the Heirs of Watson Island series. Not only is the tea room at Watson’s Landing a big draw for the public in the first book, but Pru and Barrie and Mary open a full scale restaurant in the later books. Cooking was also one of the rituals that was important to Barrie and Mark. From the moment that Barrie arrives at Watson Island, she is immersed in the food of the lowcountry, from cakes to pastries shrimp and grits—and of course, the amazing hot dogs at the Beach Dogs shack in town.

Here’s the recipe for the first food mentioned in COMPULSION. The amazing Jamie Arnold of Two Chicks on Books was kind enough to do a Pinterest board for the series that contains all the various recipes for anyone who’s interested!

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Peanut Butter Whoopie Pie Cake from Compulsion

INGREDIENTS:

Cake:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 3/4 cups granulated sugar

3/4 cup Dutch processed cocoa

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup unsalted butter, lightly softened

4 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups milk or water

Frosting:

3 cups confectioners’ sugar

1 1/3 cups butter, softened

2 cups marshmallow fluff

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Ganache:

1/4 cup heavy cream

1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate

1/4 to 1/2 cup finely chopped Reeses Peanut Butter Cups — or substitute chocolate or mint chips.

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans.
  3. Combine dry ingredients: flour, cocoa, and baking powder.
  4. Combine milk and vanilla in a small, separate bowl.
  5. Cream butter in a separate large bowl, then add sugar and salt and beat on medium for five minutes or until light and fluffy.
  6. One at a time, beat eggs into the butter mixture.
  7. Beating continuously on low speed, alternate adding milk mixture and dry mixture into the creamed butter mixture until smooth. Scrape sides and remove lumps.
  8. Divide the batter evenly between the two cake pans.
  9. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely on cooling rack before frosting.

For Frosting

  1. Beat butter in a large bowl for 2 minutes on medium. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy.
  2. On low speed, add vanilla and marshmallow fluff until combined and smooth.
  3. Frost cake and refrigerate until cold before pouring the ganache on top.

For Ganache

  1. On medium heat, bring whipping cream to a simmer, stirring continuously.
  2. Pour hot cream over Dutch processed chocolate in a heat-resistant bowl, cover with foil. Let sit 3 to 4 minutes. Whisk until smooth.
  3. Let mixture cool until lukewarm and pour over the frosted cake, letting it drip down the sides.
  4. Sprinkle chopped Reeses Peanut Butter Cups on top, or sprinkles, or chopped candy canes, or whatever you like.

Recipe adapted from Cinnamon Spice and Everything Nice

ABOUT COMPULSION

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synThree plantations. Two wishes. One ancient curse.

All her life, Barrie Watson has been a virtual prisoner in the house where she lives with her shut-in mother. When her mother dies, Barrie promises to put some mileage on her stiletto heels. But she finds a new kind of prison at her aunt’s South Carolina plantation instead—a prison guarded by an ancient spirit who long ago cursed one of the three founding families of Watson Island and gave the others magical gifts that became compulsions.

Stuck with the ghosts of a generations-old feud and hunted by forces she cannot see, Barrie must find a way to break free of the family legacy. With the help of sun-kissed Eight Beaufort, who knows what Barrie wants before she knows herself, the last Watson heir starts to unravel her family’s twisted secrets. What she finds is dangerous: a love she never expected, a river that turns to fire at midnight, a gorgeous cousin who isn’t what she seems, and very real enemies who want both Eight and Barrie dead.

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Martina Boone was born in Prague and spoke several languages before learning English. She fell in love with words and never stopped delighting in them. She’s the author of SIBA Book Award nominated Compulsion, book one in the romantic Southern Gothic trilogy, the Heirs of Watson Island, which was an Okra Pick by the Southern Independent Bookstores Alliance, a Kansas State Reading Circle selection, a Goodreads Best Book of the Month and YA Best Book of the Month, and an RT Magazine Best of 2014 Editor’s Pick. The second book in the trilogy, Persuasion, will be published in October 2015.

She’s also the founder of AdventuresInYAPublishing.com, a three-time Writer’s Digest 101 Best Websites for Writers site, the CompulsionForReading.com book drive campaign for underfunded schools and libraries, and YASeriesInsiders.com, a site devoted to the discovery and celebration of young adult literature and encouraging literacy through YA series. She is also a founder and permanent mentor at 1st5PagesWritingWorkshop.com, helping to shepherd aspiring writers into the publication process and help them find the right starting point for their novels in progress, Locally in her home state of Virginia, she is on the board of the

Literacy Council of Northern Virginia, helping to promote literacy and adult education initiatives.

She lives with her husband, children, and a lopsided cat, she enjoys writing contemporary fantasy set in the kinds of magical places she’d love to visit. When she isn’t writing, she’s addicted to travel, horses, skiing, chocolate flavored tea, and anything with Nutella on it.

giveaway2 winners will receive hardcover sets of COMPULSION, PERSUASION, & ILLUSION, US Only.

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Tour Schedule:

Week One:

10/17/2016- Just Commonly- Review-Compulsion

10/18/2016- Kayl’s Krazy Obsession- Guest Post

10/19/2016- Always Me- Review-Compulsion

10/20/2016- YA Book Madness- Guest Post

10/21/2016- The Young Folks- Review-Compulsion

Week Two:

10/24/2016- The Cover Contessa- Review-Persuasion (repost)

10/25/2016- Good Choice Reading- Guest Post

10/26/2016- Curling Up With A Good Book- Review-Persuasion

10/27/2016- Tales of the Ravenous Reader- Guest Post

10/28/2016- A Dream Within A Dream- Review-Persuasion (repost)

Week Three:

 10/31/2016- Here’s to Happy Endings- Review-Illusion

11/1/2016- Two Chicks on Books- Guest Post

11/2/2016- Bookish Lifestyle- Review-Illusion

11/3/2016- Dark Faerie Tales- Guest Post

11/4/2016- Book Briefs- Review-Illusion

Epic reading, 

Jordan

Review: My Soul to Keep by Jackie Sonnenberg

my soul to keepGoodreads/Amazon

syn

Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep,
If I shall die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take…

When thirteen-year-old Sky Monroe arrives at her new boarding school, all she can think about is death and connecting with the afterlife. Soon she discovers her school’s spirituality group called Guardians of Light—and they have a secret.
The Guardians of Light can speak with the dead…

When Mitchell Brooks, the teacher and leader of the group, reveals this unnerving secret to Sky—though this is exactly what she believed she wanted—she learns the organization is rapidly becoming a cult. Now she’s concerned she and her friend Damien will not be permitted to walk away.

Danger and death lurk around every corner…

The campus house, where Sky resides, is haunted, and the spirits have their own agenda. December 21, 2012 threatens the end of the world, and Mitchell and the spirits have special plans in store. They just might bring Sky closer to the afterlife—and possibly beyond—than she ever imagined.

Sky is looking for a connection to the afterlife, but what she finds may be more than she bargained for…because what lies after life is death.

review

3/5 Stars

***I received this book as a gift in exchange for an honest review via the author

PROS:

  • From the beginning of the story, it’s hard to tell what it will become, a cult situation, something paranormal, something ghostly, magical, hexing, who knows. The mystery of The Guardians of the Light propels the story forward, though it’s a fight when nothing much happens, you KNOW something is coming, something dark. There are subtle clues here and there that create a sinister vibe that suggests the Guardians aren’t the love and light community that they seem. The cult atmosphere is gripping and chilling. The way they parrot and how deeply they believe in the Light is enough to scare anyone. 
  • Towards the later half of the book, seriously creepy, haunting, and downright terrifying things happen. They’re graphic, grotesque, and will keep you on the edge of your seat wondering if Sky will live to see the end of the book. Read with the lights on…er…or not. 
  • Sky’s devotion and conviction are admirable. She just wants to believe in something and get a greater spiritual understanding that will bring her closer to her father. Only in the Guardian group does she feel safe, at home, and like she belongs. It’s her safe haven and that comfort is almost enough for her to overlook their sketchy behavior. Through the companionship she finds with the Guardians, she gains confidence and learns to fight for her beliefs. While she may be misguided, she learns and questions, she takes risks, and opens her mind to the possibilities of the supernatural. 

CONS:

  • Pacing is fairly slow. Nothing really happens until well into the story. It almost reads like a diary entry of daily mundane activities. 
  • Sky is initially creeped out by The Guardians of the Light, but them becomes obsessed. It’s like a light switch flipped on without any real explanation. The sudden change of heart is hard to understand. The loss of her father is prominent in the story but somehow the reader seems to be looking at it from a distance. Sky is searching for something to help her through her grief and to make her feel closer to the father she lost, but the leap from totally turned off by them to extreme lifestyle change was fast and felt off. Too much too soon. 
  • The mean girls, the gossip, the cattiness, the petty jealousy were typical and a distraction that took away from the overall story. The romantic elements were light and sporadic. It’s there, it’s not, it doesn’t feel as authentic or emotional as it could have. It felt like a random insertion instead of something that was building up. The pieces were there, they just weren’t connected. 

If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

Scary reading, 

Jordan

ARC Review: The King Slayer by Virginia Boecker

virginiaGoodreads/Amazon/B&N/iBooks

syn

An action-packed and suspenseful sequel to The Witch Hunter, perfect for fans of Graceling and the Grisha Trilogy.

“I think, in time, you’ll either be my greatest mistake or my greatest victory.”

Former witch hunter Elizabeth Grey is hiding within the magically protected village of Harrow, evading the price put on her head by Lord Blackwell, the usurper king of Anglia. Their last encounter left Blackwell ruined, but his thirst for power grows stronger every day. He’s readying for a war against those who would resist his rule–namely Elizabeth and the witches and wizards she now calls her allies.

Having lost her stigma, a magical source of protection and healing, Elizabeth’s strength is tested both physically and emotionally. War always means sacrifice, and as the lines between good and evil blur once more, Elizabeth must decide just how far she’ll go to save those she loves.

review

3/5 Stars

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley & Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

+++Note that this is a little on the mature side of YA due to graphic violence and sexual situations

Last year when I got my ARC of The Witch Hunter, I didn’t know what to expect. I opened the book and I couldn’t put it down. It was one of my favorite books of 2015. I loved the violence, the fierce way Elizabeth fought and took risks, the heartbreaking sacrifices she made, and the twists that stopped your heart and made you hold your breath. Unfortunately, The King Slayer did not have the same magical, mesmerizing quality as book 1. 

PROS:

  • The action scenes were gory and violent. Exactly the right amount of graphic and uncertainty to keep you on edge. That final battle scene, OMG terrifying and brutal and heartbreaking. Some parts will make you wince, others will tear you open and laugh at your emotions. 
  • Elizabeth is struggling to find her strength after the events of book 1. She doesn’t know who she is anymore or what she has to offer Harrow. Elizabeth fights to find  out how to be the old Elizabeth when everything was taken from her. Healing from her wounds and desperate to destroy Blackwell, Elizabeth is vulnerable, but fierce and determined to protect those she loves even at the cost of her own life. This emotional, open side of Elizabeth adds a depth to her character that is even more expansive that book 1. This Elizabeth is all the more powerful and courageous because of her scars and insecurities. 
  • Blackwell is as grotesque and monstrous as ever. His lack of regard for human life, the way he just takes and takes, the dark magic, the torture, the agony, it’s all so much. Dangerously evil. 
  • That final twist. Stab me in the heart why don’t you? Harsh. 

CONS:

  • From the first page is was like being hit with a brick. The information flies at you and there’s hardly any summary from the last book to remind the reader what happened. Maybe it is my fault for not rereading beforehand (anyone who is reading this on the blog knows I read hundreds of books a year) but for the life of me some of these characters, I had no clue who they were and it made the complicated relationships between them hard to process. I felt panicked and kept scrambling to figure out what was going on and why it was important. It took a chapter or two for me to feel more settled into the story. 
  • The in-between sections dragged a lot. The moments between action were a whole lot of angst and drama, but surprisingly slow. Nothing really happened. Sure, they were building a camp and readying for a battle, and yet, nothing was ever really exciting except for the first sparring scene. 
  • Friendships and romance were less of a focus than in book one and it felt a little lacking because of it. The relationship between Fifer and Elizabeth, her interactions with most of the characters in the first book apart from Schuyler were limited. 

If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

Keep reading, 

Jordan

ARC Review: Those We Fear by Victoria Griffith

those weGoodreads

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What do you get when you cross The Turn of the Screw and Jane Eyre with Psycho? Victoria Griffith’s latest thriller.

When Maria becomes a summertime au pair to the children of a Scottish lord, she discovers the family is living under the shadow of two suspicious deaths.

Vanishing portraits, cloaked figures, and bizarre shrines add up to a compelling Modern Gothic psychological mystery.

review

3/5 Stars

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via the publisher & publicist

READ THIS BOOK IF:

  • You are enchanted by all things Gothic
  • Mysteries are your kryptonite
  • You love a good twist 

PROS:

  • That darkly mysterious and cryptic feeling of foreboding that comes with not knowing if there’s a killer lurking in the literal mist or something paranormal is SPOT ON. There are spine-tingling moments of terror and subtle threats that will leave your skin crawling. One word: dolls.
  • The children. There’s nothing more horrifying than kids that say disturbing thing. Especially about their dead mother…as if she were still alive. Randomly opened doors, singing in the dead of night with no one around, getting locked in rooms, it’s all sorts of spooky. 
  • Maria is protective and compassionate. She genuinely cares. Even in her times of utter fear, she overcomes and becomes stronger for those children she hardly knows. Getting to the bottom of the mystery is everything, and the more clues she finds, the darker the truth seems.  
  • Red herrings galore. Victoria Griffith is a master at misdirection. You’ll never see it coming. 

CONS:

  • The story felt like two separate plots that didn’t mesh well. It starts with terrorism, murder, and witness protection, and evolves into a Gothic mystery. The transition wasn’t smooth, and the intrusion of the initial plot disrupts the time in Scotland. 
  • The pacing was slow. Though that’s pretty typical for a Gothic, the time span between spooky incidents was pretty large and diminished the actual creep factor. It wasn’t as scary as it could have been. Some parts are on the verge of terrifying and others fell flat.
  • This is not a romance. There’s barely chemistry. The characters are rarely together and nowhere near enough to build up the romance. When the attraction (barely a spark) does get to the next level, it feels random, fast, and unnecessary. A distraction. 

If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

Cryptic reading,

Jordan

Review & Giveaway: Eerie-C.M. McCoy

eerieGoodreads/Amazon/B&N/iBooks/BAM/Kobo/Google Play

“EERIE, full of voice and romance, is a thrilling and beautifully crafted story that had me up late, racing through the pages to get to the end.”

-Thief of Lies Author Brenda Drake

“5 stars! I felt there was a mash-up between Hogwarts, Xavier Institute for Exceptional Youngsters, and Beauty and the Beast, AND I LOVED IT! The creatures, the classes, the college, the Middle of Nowhere! How awesome!”
 - Truth About Books by A. Fae on EERIE

“I would definitely buy this series. I really loved these characters. It read very quickly, and the Alaska jokes really got me giggling.
 - Confessions of a Book Whore, Jamie S. on EERIE

“EERIE is Harry Potter meets Twilight meets the Bible with a little bit of the abusive/controlling 50 Shades male mixed in. This is a really fast-paced, exciting novel. There is plenty of drama, romance, mystical beings and mystery to keep you flipping the pages and promising yourself “just one more chapter” before bed. And then before you know it, ten o’clock turns into two in the morning…again.”
 - Amanda’s Own Little Corner Book Reviews

synBeing a ParaScience freshman is a nightmare come true.

Hailey’s dreams have always been, well…vivid. As in monsters from her nightmares follow her into her waking life vivid. When her big sister goes missing, eighteen-year-old Hailey finds the only thing keeping her safe from a murderous 3,000-year old beast is an equally terrifying creature who’s fallen “madly” in love with her. Competing to win her affection, the Dream Creature, Asher, lures her to the one place that offers safety—a ParaScience university in Alaska he calls home. There, she studies the science of the supernatural and must learn to live with a roommate from Hell, survive a tunneling earworm, extract a carnivorous splinter, evade the campus poltergeists, and hope the only creature who can save her from an evil immortal doesn’t decide to kill her himself.          

review4/5 Stars

***I received this book as a gift in exchange for an honest review via the author.

READ THIS BOOK IF:

  • You’re looking for quirky and creative paranormal creatures.
  • You’re not squeamish. 
  • You want to spend the entire day (and night) reading.

Eerie is an unexpected, delightfully charming surprise. Equal parts creepy and inventive, there’s a light-hearted vibe that will keep you going til the bitter end. Romance, murder, mystery, and all things paranormal coupled with Fringe-worthy science, this book is perfect for fans of Eureka, Haven, Supernatural, and X-Files. 

PROS:

  • Hailey. Where do I even begin? She’s accident prone, awkward, and innocent. Her blushing and foot-in-mouth comments are enough to make anyone giggle. She’s Irish, she does dancing jigs with her sister, and she’s a spur of the moment, in your face kind of gal who will speak what’s on her mind, consequences no matter. She’s probably the most genuinely kind and thoughtful character I’ve read and extremely relatable. She had NO CLUE what she’s doing, it’s a mess, and it makes her incredibly endearing.
  • I adored EVERY SINGLE CHARACTER. They were complex, funny, unique, everything you could possibly want in characters. I wanted to get to know then and discover everything they were hiding. 
  • There are a massive amount of awesome creatures. From Yetis to carnivorous trees to banshees and bookworms, each is a surprise and so intriguing. I was excited for every new discovery.
  • Giselle. The monster with hidden depth and a beautiful soul. I love her. She’s witty, sarcastic, perceptive, and deadly. She makes rude comments that you can’t help but laugh at and the more she pushes Hailey away, the more she’ll win you over. I laughed like crazy.
  • CHEMISTRY. It’s everywhere. You almost get that alien-vibe vs. the funny bff that made Twilight‘s love triangle work so well. 
  • I could not put it down. Unfortunately, I had to because life and edits, but I could not get it out of my mind. Trust me, you’ll enjoy the ride.

CONS:

  • The story seemed to get lost halfway through. There’s a big shift in location that completely alters the tone but that’s not the issue. The story becomes romance-centric, so much so that it distracts from the original premise. While the underlying goal is always there, there’s a substantial number of pages purely devoted to back and forth flirting and jealousy. 
  • While there are a ton of description when it comes to scenery and paranormal creatures, where it counted, particularly in details about the main characters, there was very little. I had no clue what Hailey or Asher really looked like (in Asher’s case other than a fleeting mention of his resemblance to James Dean). The description is limited to small tidbits, nothing graphic. I couldn’t get a handle on what they actually looked like other than the notion that they’re all pretty hot. 

NOTE: I’m using this as my book that deals with paranormal creatures NOT vampires, werewolves, or fae for the 2016 YA Reading Challengeteasereerie tease

Nowhere to Hide

“Judge of your natural character by what you do in your dreams.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson 

Hailey plunked her head on the desk and groaned. Why, why…why couldn’t she just tell Asher that she wanted out, that she was afraid—afraid of the others, afraid of dying, and even afraid of…of him. After all, he was planning to kill her. Only temporarily, but still.

She couldn’t believe she was even considering it, but she had no choice. If Asher didn’t kill her, one of the others would.

Permanently.

And Asher protected her. He cared about her. He loved her, right? Asher—an emotionless creature. Hailey wasn’t sure if he was even capable of love.

Oh, this made absolutely no sense. Kill her to save her? Was that love?

Freshman year at her dream college was turning into nightmare, and as she rolled her forehead on the desk, the library’s impossibly large ceiling clock echoed a thump with her heart. She simply had to pull on her big girl pants and tell Asher she was done.

That’s all.

She squeezed her eyes shut as a swarm of butterflies took flight in her stomach.

Lately, she felt an awful lot like Jekyll and Hyde: logical, rational ParaScience student by day—emotional monstrosity at night. Come to think of it, this was more like The Phantom of the Opera, and she was the naïve student who didn’t realize the secret and strange angel she’d come to know was actually a homicidal maniac…

“I’m not a maniac.”

Hailey jumped up. She didn’t mean to say that out loud.

Asher slid behind her, putting his lips next to her ear. “But I suppose I am homicidal,” he whispered, his breath on her skin sending goose bumps down her arms and legs.

She leaned into him and sighed.

So much for steadfast resolve.

Wrapping his arms around her waist, he pulled her closer.

 “How did you know I was here?” she whispered.

“You were dreaming, Hailey,” he murmured. “I’ll always find you when you’re dreaming.”

ExcerptA Guarded Girl

“Of all forms of caution, caution in love is perhaps the most fatal to true happiness.”

-Bertrand Russell

Hailey stared at the empty can on her tray, silently willing the caffeine to kick in. The last thing she needed was to fall asleep, dream of monsters, and have an “episode” in front of her 200 closest non-friends.

No way she’d let that happen.

Now if only her droopy eyelids would cooperate, because the hard plastic chair under her butt sure wasn’t. The dang thing was teasing her and feeling mighty comfy, like a puffy armchair, and she was sinking fast. Thankfully, though, just as her head bobbed, the bell rang, jolting her into a wide-eyed, full-body spasm.

Great. Real smooth, she thought, rubbing her face with both hands as a few gigglers shuffled past.

She groaned, rising with all the enthusiasm of a mushroom, not at all looking forward to another two hours inside the social torture chamber, or as everyone else referred to it, South Side High School.

She was so intent on avoiding the students there for the rest of her senior year that she rarely looked up from her books anymore, and those last two hours dragged. When three o’clock finally rolled around, she bolted outside, took the first open seat on the bus, rested her head against the window, and let it bounce there. She was just about to make it through another day of school very happily unnoticed, when Tage Adams smacked her on the back of the head.

“Ah!” she yelled, startled from sleep.

The bus was waiting at their stop, like normal, and Tage was waiting for her in the aisle, politely—not normal.

Tucking a wayward strand behind her ear, she hurried off the bus.

Tage followed.

“What’s up with you today?” he said nonchalantly, adjusting his pace to walk next to her.

He’d never done that before.

“Nothing,” Hailey said, surprised Tage was talking to her. They’d been catching the bus at the same stop for four years, and he’d never so much as looked at her.

“You’re usually not like that, that’s all.”

“Like what?”

“Nodding off in class, falling asleep on the bus…you know, slacking off. It’s just, you know, you usually have your nose in a book.”

He watches me?

“Oh,” she said, unsure.

“Guess you were working late last night…St. Paddy’s Day…”

“Yeah.” Of course she was working late. Her family owned the most popular Irish pub in Pittsburgh. Hailey pressed her lips together. Small talk was not her thing. Especially not with him.

Her mind went blank.

Searching the pavement for a thought, she chewed her lip as too many seconds stretched the silence. Finally the pressure forced her good sense aside and she opened her mouth to say…anything.

“What’s—”

“Well, see ya ‘round, Dancing Queen.”

She snapped her mouth shut and waved as he peeled off and trotted down Bridge Street. She tried to form the word, “bye,” but all that came out was “buh—”. Standing dumbfounded, she stared after him. She hadn’t realized Tage knew she existed, let alone the fact that she waitressed. And danced.

Stunned, Hailey walked, then jogged, then stopped dead to puzzle over what had just happened. Then she jogged again until she finally reached the pub.

Nobody at that school “chatted” with Hailey. Not since the fourth grade, not since the day a particularly mean girl concocted a particularly ugly rumor—that Hailey had started the fire that killed her parents. The whispers and sideways glances lasted close to a year, and in trying to defend herself, Hailey only made things worse. By the time she figured out that nobody else believed in pyromaniac-nightmare-monsters, it was too late. She’d already earned the label, “weirdo,” which, unfortunately, stuck.

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Twitter/Facebook/Website

C.M. McCoy is an Irish dancer and former Air Force officer living in the Great White North. Though B.S.’d in Chemical Engineering and German, she’s far happier writing stories involving Alaska and a body bag (with an awkward kiss in the mix.) While working emergency dispatch for Alaska State Troopers, she learned to speak in 10-codes, which she still does…but only to annoy her family.

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If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

Happy reading, 

Jordan