Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday #26: GIRL LAST SEEN by Heather Anastasiu & Anne Greenwood Brown

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill from Breaking the Spine, which spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating!

Carmel's WoW Pick:

Genre: Mystery/Suspense
Expected Release Date: March 1, 2016
(Albert Whitman Co.) 

Goodreads Summary:

dence Mulligan's star was rising. She and her best friend, Lauren DeSanto, watched their songs go viral on YouTube, then she launched a solo career when a nasty throat infection paralyzed Lauren's vocal chords. Everyone knows Lauren and Kadence had a major falling-out over Kady's boyfriend. But Lauren knows how deceptive Kadence could be sometimes. And nobody believes Lauren when she claims she had nothing to do with the disappearance. Or the blood evidence As the town and local media condemns Lauren, she realizes the only way to clear her name is to discover the truth herself. Lauren slowly unravels the twisted life of Kadence Mulligan and sees that there was more to her than she ever knew. But will she realize she's unknowingly playing a part in an elaborate game to cover up a crime before it's too late?

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Most Anticipated 2016 Releases Part 1

It's Top 10 Tuesday again! This time I am going to share with you the books that I am anticipating the most. I have previously shared this on Twitter, but in case you missed it. Here's my list in no particular order and these are 2016 books releasing from January to June! 

  1. Seven Ways We Lie by | Adds to Goodreads |
Anything with the word "lie" I'm in!
   2. My Kind of Crazy by | Adds to Goodreads |
That title and tagline alone tell me that I have to have a copy of My Kind of Crazy!
   3. Love & Gelato by | Adds to Goodreads |
Isn't that the cutest cover ever?  Who doesn't love gelato?
4. After the Woods by | Adds to Goodreads |
Psychological thrillers? OH YES! 

  5. This Song Is (Not) for You by | Adds to Goodreads |
This one is very special to me because the MC is asexual. I think asexuals are underrepresented in literature so this one will a must buy for me!
   6. The First Time She Drowned by | Adds to Goodreads |
 I have a thing for dark and emotional reads. I think this one fits the bill!


  7.  Map of Fates by | Adds to Goodreads |
I love The Conspiracy of Us! I HAVE TO HAVE THIS!
   8. Don't Get Caught by | Adds to Goodreads |
I'm such a prankster so I think this definitely for me.
   9. Crossing the Line by | Adds to Goodreads |
Spy thrillers are my thing! GIVE TO ME!
10. The Land of 10,000 Madonnas by | Adds to Goodreads |
I love road trips! This seems to be a perfect road trip book next year! 

What do you think of my top picks? Are they on your list too?
Link up your Top 10 on the comments below!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Top Ten Books I Read in 2015

Welcome to my Top 10 books of the year 2015! This going to be so hard to just include 10 books, but I will try my very best. I have divided the list: a) books published in 2015 b) not published in 2015, but I feel like they should be included! I hope you find something interesting in my list of books read in 2015!

Liars, Inc.

For fans of Gone Girl, I Hunt Killers, and TV's How to Get Away with Murder.

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

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

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

Saturday, December 12, 2015

The Violinist of Venice by Alyssa Palombo (Interview + Giveaway)

The Violinist of Venice
by Alyssa Palombo

Adult - Historical Fiction, Romance, Music
Publication Date: December 15th 2015
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin (imprint of SMP)

Like most 18th century Venetians, Adriana d'Amato adores music-except her strict merchant father has forbidden her to cultivate her gift for the violin. But she refuses to let that stop her from living her dreams and begins sneaking out of her family's palazzo under the cover of night to take violin lessons from virtuoso violinist and composer Antonio Vivaldi. However, what begins as secret lessons swiftly evolves into a passionate, consuming love affair.

Adriana's father is intent on seeing her married to a wealthy, prominent member of Venice's patrician class-and a handsome, charming suitor, whom she knows she could love, only complicates matters-but Vivaldi is a priest, making their relationship forbidden in the eyes of the Church and of society. They both know their affair will end upon Adriana's marriage, but she cannot anticipate the events that will force Vivaldi to choose between her and his music. The repercussions of his choice-and of Adriana's own choices-will haunt both of their lives in ways they never imagined.

Spanning more than 30 years of Adriana's life, Alyssa Palombo's The Violinist of Venice is a story of passion, music, ambition, and finding the strength to both fall in love and to carry on when it ends.

I got the chance to interview the lovely, Alyssa Palombo, about her novel The Violinist of Venice. Check out the interview below! P.S. Don't forget about the giveaway at the end of the post!!!

1. Hello, Miss Alyssa! Welcome to the blog, it's an honor to have you. So, could you please tell us more about your novel [The Violinist of Venice]?
Thanks so much for having me!  The Violinist of Venice is a “what if?” sort of novel that imagines an affair between virtuoso violinist and composer Antonio Vivaldi (who was also a priest) and a promising violin student named Adriana d’Amato, who is a fictional character. The novel follows their affair and Adriana’s life afterwards, examining its effect – as well as the effect of music – throughout her whole life. The decadent world of 18th century Venice provides the backdrop, and as I found in doing my research it was a very colorful and interesting place and time in history.

2. How did you come up with the idea of The Violinist of Venice?
It actually came from a dream that I had. The dream itself was what became the first chapter of the novel, when Adriana goes to Vivaldi’s house to ask him to give her violin lessons. The dream was so vivid that when I woke up I couldn’t stop thinking about it, and throughout the day I kept daydreaming about the characters and their lives and all the things that I thought might happen to them and between them. As a musician and music fan myself, the idea of writing about music was instantly attractive as well. So I started there and did the research as I went.

3. Could you please tell us more about the main character [Adriana d'Amato] of this novel?
What's the best thing about her?
As I mentioned above, she is a fictional character, which gave me the freedom to have her life take whatever course I wanted – although, quite frankly, once she was on the page she pretty much had a mind of her own! She’s very passionate – foolishly so at times – and also very determined. She goes after what she wants, even if she doesn’t always think through the consequences. She’s only eighteen years old when the novel begins, but as it spans about thirty years of her life, I got to see her go through a lot of changes as she grew older and definitely wiser.

I do think that her passionate nature is the best thing about her, though. She wants to live the life of her choosing to the extent that she can in a time and society in which women’s choices were very limited, and she isn’t afraid to take matters into her own hands when she’s able. I think that ultimately she succeeds in shaping her own life much more so than she realizes at first.

4. What was the best part in writing The Violinist of Venice?
As I mentioned, I’m a musician and music lover myself, so getting to write about music, and to describe certain pieces of music, and to describe what music feels like as both a listener and a performer – that was all just such a joy. The passages in which I was able to get a bit poetic about music are some of my favorite parts.

Of course, I also loved going to Venice for research purposes! I had never been, and I got to a point where I knew that I couldn’t write about Venice anymore without seeing it for myself. It’s truly a place like no other, and going there was absolutely wonderful (I’ve been back again once since that initial trip). While I was there I went to a concert in which an orchestra performed Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, and hearing that music in the city in which it was written was one of the coolest experiences of my life (not to mention that the orchestra was phenomenal!).

5. Lastly, what is your message to those aspiring writers?
If you are serious about writing and publishing, you’ll definitely need to make a lot of time to write – I’ve noticed that people seem to think they’ll reach a point in their lives where they “have time” to do the things they’ve always wanted to do, and I don’t think that day ever comes; I think that if you want to do something you need to make the time to do it now, as soon as possible. And if you really love writing and are serious about it, I would guess that you’re probably already doing that.

With that said, though, make the time however it works best for you. There’s that old adage that you have to write every day, and if that works for you then great, but if it doesn’t, feel free to ignore it. I used to feel guilty because I thought I “had” to write every day and I didn’t, but what I found was that writing every day doesn’t work for me. When I’m really rolling on a project and working on it a lot, I’ll get burned out here and there and will need to take a day or two off to recharge so that I can come back to it with more of a fresh gaze. And to be honest, much as I love writing, some days I just don’t feel like it, and I would guess that every writer has those days. Sometimes I just want to spend an afternoon on the couch reading or watching TV, and that’s okay too. I still struggle with giving myself permission for those days, but I think that ultimately it’s beneficial and that I’m more productive when I give my brain a rest from time to time. So carve out the time whenever and wherever it works for you. Some writers (I am not one of them) get up super early and write before their day jobs; some stay up late (that’s me, I’m a night owl). Write on a free weekend day or on your lunchbreak or before dinner or in between errands; be flexible and grab the time when you can, even if it’s only a little bit at a time. There is no one right way to do it; whatever works best for you is the right way for you.

ALYSSA PALOMBO has published short historical fiction pieces in Black Lantern, Novelletum, and The Great Lakes Review. She is a recent a graduate of Canisius College with degrees in English and creative writing, respectively, as well as a trained classical musician. The Violinist of Venice is her first novel. She lives in Tonawanda, New York.


Wait!!! Don't go yet. :-)


  • This contest is open for US and Canada residents only. (It sucks, I know, sorry INTL peeps!)
  •  You must be 13 years or older, or have parents’ permission to enter.
  •  All your entries will be disqualified if you pickup entries for something you haven’t done. (I had to do this for so many of my last giveaways, please don’t make me do this again.)
  •  If you only use ONE account to do all these tasks and enter under different names, they will still only constitute as ONE entry. 
  • If the winner does not respond to my e-mail within 48 hours, he/she will be disqualified. Then I will have to choose another winner.
  •  I am not responsible for any items lost in the mail.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Blog Tour: HOW TO BE BRAVE by E. Katherine Kottaras (Q&A + Giveaway)

How To Be Brave
 by E. Katherine Kottaras

Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Publication Date: November 3, 2015

An emotional contemporary YA novel about love, loss, and having the courage to chase the life you truly want.

Reeling from her mother's death, Georgia has a choice: become lost in her own pain, or enjoy life right now, while she still can. She decides to start really living for the first time and makes a list of fifteen ways to be brave - all the things she's wanted to do but never had the courage to try. As she begins doing the things she's always been afraid to do - including pursuing her secret crush, she discovers that life doesn't always go according to plan. Sometimes friendships fall apart and love breaks your heart. But once in a while, the right person shows up just when you need them most - and you learn that you're stronger and braver than you ever imagined.

1. HOW TO BE BRAVE addresses issues of positive body image. Was this something you set out to address or did it spring up organically? Is body image something you struggled with?

When I was growing up in the 1980s, I didn’t have access to the amazing body of work known as “YA literature” as it exists today. I was fairly obsessed with Sweet Valley High, but Elizabeth and Jessica were suburban twins (I’m an only child) with “perfect size-six figures,” and that was totally outside the realm of my experience.

Thankfully, I did have Judy Blume, who was bravely offering characters that worried and obsessed about their growing bodies. Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret? and Blubber spoke to me about my awkward body and bullying and the need for kindness.

But for the most part, I didn’t belong in the books I read. I was the only child of a Greek father and Russian-Jewish mother who were both of peasant stock (farmers on both sides) and who owned a restaurant in downtown Chicago. I didn’t know anything about suburban high schools, about size six.

This last one was especially hard for me. When I was twelve, my pediatrician told me that I needed to lose twenty to thirty pounds, thus starting a lifelong battle with my weight. My ballet teacher told my mother I was too big too dance and she was wasting her money. I was constantly picked last in gym, alongside my BFF, who also struggled with her body. When I asked her recently what she remembered of our time as kids, she said:

“I remember our PE teachers who didn't help or guide but rather assisted with shaming by making the whole class wait for ‘free day’ until a pull-up was done (as though the situation was rooted in straight up defiance rather than inability) leading to a life-long dislike of physical activity.”

I remember those many days, feeling embarrassed and shamed by my teachers, which led to feeling more uncomfortable and awkward (as though my own self-shame wasn’t enough). By the time I was in high school, I absolutely hated my body.

I spent my twenties battling my weight. I yo-yo’d between diets and hunger and new workout trends and gyms. No matter what I did, no matter how hard I tried, I never was able to become a perfect size six – nothing even close to that – and my body retained its fullness, its roundness, its hardy, muscular, stocky, peasant stock shape. My short arms weren’t going to suddenly become lean and long. My thick thighs always remain thick. My belly likes being round, what can I say?

I fought it for so very long. And then, after giving birth to my daughter, I stopped fighting. I had to. I learned to love my body in a new way. It was life-giving. It was strong. It was mine.

So when I sat down to write my own book, I knew the character had to be several things: she had to be Greek, she had to live in Chicago, and she had to have immigrant parents who didn’t always understand her. I also knew that she would struggle with her body. BUT. I didn’t want losing weight to be central to her experience. I knew I didn’t want it to be a goal. For the longest time, it was for me. I didn’t want to do that to her.

HOW TO BE BRAVE is about a girl who has lived her life in fear and who sets out to try new things, despite her insecurities. Before her death, her mom commanded Georgia to live differently—to try everything at least once and to never be ruled by fear.

When Georgia is first creating her list, she asks her best friend, Liss:

"What about losing weight?"

And Liss responds: "You don't need to be brave to do that."

Georgia agrees, but of course, her insecurities don’t just disappear. They are always there. However, at the end Georgia finally realizes, “I’m not going to kill myself trying to achieve microscopic proportions. I’m still curvy me, and I always will be.”

Of course, there are many similarities between Georgia and me. Georgia also feels uncomfortable in her body that’s deemed “overweight” by society’s standards, and part of her storyline is that she finds confidence in her body, as it is – that losing weight does not equal being brave. This has been part of my storyline has well.

2. What's currently on your bucket list?

Here are a few things on my Do Everything Be Brave List:
  • Learn how to roller skate and/or ice skate without using the wall.
  • Ride my bike to yoga. (Bike lanes scare me!)
  • Hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon (and all the way back up, I guess...)
  • Visit every continent (I’ve only been to two.)
Here are a few brave things I've done:
  • Flown down the largest zip-line in the continental U.S. despite my fear of heights. (and gave my eight-year old permission to do so as well.)
  • Paddle-boarded during high-wind season in Hawaii.
  • Fallen in love and stayed there for more than twenty years.
  • Become a writer. I tell my students everyday: it's the scariest thing in the world.

3. How do you address body image issues with your daughter? Was that part of the drive to write this book?

Absolutely. We talk a lot about how the media often “sells” a certain body type. .” I’ve shown her Photoshopping videos like this one:

and we discuss, quite openly, how it’s unrealistic to try to change your body to meet the standards presented in magazines and on screens. I try to guide our conversation as a discussion, asking her questions about why she thinks the media represents women and girls in certain ways. We talk about how every body is beautiful, and that she is beautiful, just as she is.

4. What advice can you provide aspiring authors?

READ. A lot. Both in the genre/style you want to publish in and ABOUT writing – all aspects – the writing process, the publishing process, etc. There are hundreds of blog posts about the writing life, etc. and I read them obsessively to understand what I had to do to get published.

Also, WRITE a lot, of course. Just keep writing, no matter what, even if it’s a journal for yourself where you write a little bit everyday. And keep submitting – the rejections are difficult at first, but it gets easier.

Writing is hard and fun and frustrating and exhilirating. I can’t imagine not writing. And if you write, you understand this strange demand – it’s not a desire; it’s a necessity. Follow that call, whatever it is inside you that asks you to write - and keep writing, no matter what.

You are also a yoga instructor and practitioner. How has this influenced your writing? I am in my head, a lot. My yoga practice grounds me like nothing else. One definition of yoga is the linking of body and breath to focus the mind. I find that when I’m not doing my practice, I can’t focus and I become easily overwhelmed by my fears and my anxiety - and as a result, I can’t write. When I am doing my practice, I’m able to deal with those fears and those anxieties in a way that is healthy.

E. Katherine Kottaras is originally from Chicago, but now she writes and teaches in the Los Angeles area. She holds an M.A. in English from the University of California, Irvine and teaches writing and literature at Pasadena City College. She is at her happiest when she is either 1) at the playground with her husband and daughter and their wonderful community of friends, 2) breathing deeply in a full handstand, or 3) writing. She now lives in Los Angeles where she's hard at work on her next book.



But before you enter, please read the rules carefully.
  • This contest is open for US and Canada residents only. (It sucks, I know, sorry INTL peeps!)
  • You must be 13 years or older, or have parents’ permission to enter.
  • All your entries will be disqualified if you pickup entries for something you haven’t done. (I had to do this for so many of my last giveaways, please don’t make me do this again.)
  • If you only use ONE account to do all these tasks and enter under different names, they will still only constitute as ONE entry.
  • If the winner does not respond to my e-mail within 48 hours, he/she will be disqualified. Then I will have to choose another winner.
  • I am not responsible for any items lost in the mail.
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Big thanks to St. Martin's Griffin (imprint of St. Martin's Press) for making this possible!
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St. Martin’s Griffin

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Guest Post + Giveaway: How We Fall by Kate Brauning

Hello, readers! It's Kate here. I'm so happy to be here with Carmel and Kyla for my paperback release blog tour! I've got an international Goodreads giveaway and the first chapter you can read below, and then I'm talking about why I write (and read!) YA.

About the Book:

e Fall

Paperback, 304 pages
Published November 1st 2015 by Merit Press

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:                                                         
Ever since Jackie moved to her uncle's sleepy farming town, she's been flirting way too much--and with her own cousin, Marcus.

Her friendship with him has turned into something she can't control, and he's the reason Jackie lost track of her best friend, Ellie, who left one knows where. Now Ellie has been missing for months, and the police, fearing the worst, are searching for her body. Swamped with guilt and the knowledge that acting on her love for Marcus would tear their families apart, Jackie pushes her cousin away. The plan is to fall out of love, and, just as she hoped he would, Marcus falls for the new girl in town. But something isn't right about this stranger, and Jackie's suspicions about the new girl's secrets only drive the wedge deeper between Jackie and Marcus--and deepens Jackie's despair.

Then Marcus is forced to pay the price for someone else's lies as the mystery around Ellie's disappearance starts to become horribly clear. Jackie has to face terrible choices. Can she leave her first love behind, and can she go on living with the fact that she failed her best friend?

Read Chapter 1!

I’ve always had fun writing stories, and I
wrote a novel all through high school. I loved it, but it just never occurred
to me that I could write for a career. I kept on loving it, though, and in
college I decided that I loved it too much to not try. Writing YA in particularly
has really grabbed me. As an author and editor, I write, read, and edit YA books of all genres. I think the reason YA is so compelling compelling to me is that those years are a significant point of change for most of us.Teenagers are tackling adult issues for the first time—serious relationships,
jobs, shifting authority structures, new limits and opportunities—but they’re
doing it without the years of experience and often without the resources that adults may
have. It’s a vulnerable, heady, thrilling stage in someone’s life. Teens are
also adjusting to greater independence and more authority in their own lives,
but might still be dealing with limitations at odds with those things, like
curfews, not having a car, house rules, and the structures of school. YA
tackles that tension. 

The experiences we have in our young adult years are formative ones, and the mistakes and choices we make can follow us into adulthood. There’s great opportunity, uncertainty, and passion in those
years, and they leave a mark on us. I didn’t start reading YA until I reached
my twenties, and I wish I’d found it earlier—seeing so closely into the lives
of other teens who are wrestling with the same issues and struggles I was
would have been so helpful. I still find myself identifying with the characters in these stories, because people never stop struggling with change.
You don’t grow out of YA.

Since YA explores the lives of young adults, it
can cover a lot of territory. Being a teen for one person may be an entirely
different experience than being a teen is for someone else. However, dealing
with the changes and struggles that go along with being both a person and a
teenager is really what most YA explores. Independence. A changing identity. Choices that affect your future. Serious relationships. Friendships. Family. Sex. Jobs.
Those things are key to YA. And YA needs to be authentic and genuine about what it means to be that age, for that character, in that culture and situation,
because teens can identify pandering and preachy stories so easily, but also
because I think most great authors write to explore, as a way to be genuine and
interact authentically with the world. If I write a story that’s not authentic,
that doesn’t deal with real life and tough issues, I’m missing the whole point
of why I write.

A final reason I love YA is that there’s no reason not to. Teens aren’t a more simplistic or less demanding audience (I've rarely seen a more committed, involved audience), and their stories aren’t any simpler or less worthy. When I came to YA as an adult, what drew me in was the depth of these stories, and that’s what I’ve stayed for, too.

How We Fall is available through:

Author Bio:
Kate Brauning grew up in rural Missouri and fell in love with young adult books in college. She now works in publishing and pursues her lifelong dream of telling
stories she'd want to read. This is her first novel. Visit her online at or on Twitter at @KateBrauning.

 Thank you so much Kate for dropping by  and sharing the reasons 
And if you missed my review of How We Fall, you can view it here.