Cover Reveal: Witch Hearts by Liz Long (@LizCLong)

Today I’m happy to participate in the cover reveal for Witch Hearts, the upcoming adult paranormal thriller from Liz Long. I enjoyed Liz’s first book, Gifted: A Donovan Circus Novel, and I also find Liz to be an absolutely delightful person. So when she asked for help promoting her new book, I was happy to do it!

I’ll let Liz take it from here!

Hi everyone! I want to thank the amazing authors and bloggers who volunteered to help with today’s cover reveal. Indies wouldn’t be here without their help and of course, you guys. I am so excited to show off the cover for my new book – I’ve been looking forward to this for weeks!

Witch Hearts is my second novel, an adult paranormal thriller meant for those who liked to be a little creeped out and also enjoy a murder mystery. My first book, Gifted, A Donovan Circus Novel, is about a murder at a supernatural circus, and is available at Amazon on Kindle and paperback. Now without further ado, the cover for Witch Hearts!

Witch Hearts Synopsis:

How does a witch stay safe if a killer can get through her protection spells?

Witches like Ruby and Courtney can take care of themselves. So when Courtney is murdered, Ruby’s world crashes to a halt. The only thing keeping her grounded is the return of Courtney’s brother, Cooper. He seeks revenge, but Ruby wants to help other witches stay alive. To do that, she’ll have to reunite with her old coven’s High Priest, who also happens to be her cheating ex-boyfriend.

If that wasn’t awkward enough, when the killer gets too close, Cooper temporarily moves into Ruby’s place while a police officer tails her every move. Cooper’s presence distracts Ruby as they fight their desire against their need to stay safe. Then Courtney begins to haunt Ruby’s dreams and secrets are spilled, things from Cooper’s past that could get them both killed. The killer continues to stalk Ruby and the more she discovers, the more she fears she won’t be able to keep her heart in her chest.

About the Author:

Liz Long is lucky enough to have a dream career in magazine publishing as an editor and writer, yet still have time to create adventures on the side. If you catch her staring off into space or talking to herself, don’t worry – it’s just her imagination at work.

Liz graduated from Longwood University with a BA in English, though her professors might be disappointed to hear she reads more fantasy fiction than literary novels. She also loves action and thriller genres. This book probably won’t change your life, but she hopes it steals you away from reality for a while.

Her first book, Gifted, a Donovan Circus Novel, is also available for paperback and Kindle on Amazon.

To learn more about Liz, visit her website:

Well, what do we think of the Witch Hearts cover? I told Liz it was going to give me nightmares. She said that was the goal. So. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.

Review: Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys (@RutaSepetys)

Ruta, if you’re reading this, prepare to blush. I’m about to fangirl just a bit.

Ruta Sepetys is, hands down, one of the sweetest, most thoughtful authors I’ve had the pleasure of meeting (and that’s saying something, because all of them have been amazingly wonderful people). She came to a multi-author panel I attended in the fall — not as a panelist, but as an audience member — and we got to talking afterwards. After she asked all about me and humbly deflected praise (from herself onto the tragic period of history that her book highlights) from several awed readers who came up to gush about how much they loved Between Shades of GrayI mentioned that I was looking forward to her upcoming book, Out of the Easy. “Oh, do you not have a copy yet?” she asked. “Well, email me your address and I’ll be sure you get one!” And four days later, there was a thick envelope containing an ARC of her lovely new book in my mailbox. Because Ruta is awesome and all about her readers.

The Plot (from Goodreads)

It’s 1950, and as the French Quarter of New Orleans simmers with secrets, seventeen-year-old Josie Moraine is silently stirring a pot of her own. Known among locals as the daughter of a brothel prostitute, Josie wants more out of life than the Big Easy has to offer. She devises a plan get out, but a mysterious death in the Quarter leaves Josie tangled in an investigation that will challenge her allegiance to her mother, her conscience, and Willie Woodley, the brusque madam on Conti Street.

Josie is caught between the dream of an elite college and a clandestine underworld. New Orleans lures her in her quest for truth, dangling temptation at every turn, and escalating to the ultimate test.

With characters as captivating as those in her internationally bestselling novel Between Shades of Gray, Ruta Sepetys skillfully creates a rich story of secrets, lies, and the haunting reminder that decisions can shape our destiny.

My Thoughts 

Out of the Easy is a very different type of book than Between Shades of Gray, but they do have some similarities. Much as Between Shades of Gray did not shy away from describing the horrors of labor camps, Out of the Easy doesn’t sugarcoat the seedy world that Josie lives in, and it makes no apologies. Josie was raised in a brothel until she was twelve, and while she wishes for more, her life is a revolving door of prostitutes, mobsters and criminals. And much like Gray, there’s very few clear-cut good and bad guys in this story. One of the strongest characters in the story is Willie Woodley, the brothel madam. One of the most despicable is a successful and “upstanding” businessman.  And there’s a whole myriad of characters in between. Like her first book, Ruta has written a book that makes you think, really examine the hearts of the characters even when you may not agree with their actions. She takes tough situations and examines them through a new lens.

As expected, Ruta’s prose is gorgeous. Even when she’s describing some very unpleasant things, I just want to luxuriate in her writing. She has a way of drawing a reader into her world, and the way she described the sights and smells and sounds of Josie’s New Orleans was visceral and real. Everything from the bookstore to the brothel was beautifully described. New Orleans was the perfect setting for the story, and the city itself was a character, not just a backdrop.

Getting into the characters themselves, Josie was a fabulous protagonist. She was tough but also vulnerable, disenchanted yet hopeful. I wanted her to succeed, but understood all the things holding her back. Some of them were external, and others were of her own doing. Ruta excels at writing nuanced characters, with all their strengths and flaws and shining moments and rough edges, and Josie was a prime example of that.

Other strong characters were Willie, who despite her profession and calloused demeanor, has a soft spot for Josie; and Patrick, the son of man who owns the bookshop where Josie lives and works. My heart hurt for Patrick every time I saw him interacting with his deteriorating father, and I think their relationship alone could have filled a novel. And if there was an award for best supporting character in a novel, Willie would get it.

Some of the others weren’t quite as fleshed out as I would have liked. Jesse, one of Josie’s potential love interests, was one. I wish I knew more about him, because he seemed like a guy with an interesting story to tell. And Josie never really understands her wayward mother, which means I never did either. It’s probably for the best; knowing her better may have made me too angry to keep going. The truly bad guys — the mobsters and criminals — stuck to the shadows of the book, and always remained more ominous threats than actual characters. The more grayscale characters, like the businessman Josie blackmails into giving her a college recommendation, got under my skin far more than the black-and-white bad guys.

The plot in Out of the Easy moves gradually, propelled more by Josie and her journey of self-discovery than action or the murder mystery. If you’re looking for an action-packed thriller, this isn’t it. Out of the Easy has its moments of excitement, but it’s mostly quiet and introspective. It has touches of many things — danger, suspense, romance — but the real essence of the story is Josie’s growth as a person, why she wants to get out of New Orleans, who she hopes to become, and the things holding her back.  It’s emotional and exhausting and lovely, and I hope you get a chance to experience it for yourself.

Review: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater (@Scholastic)

Read and reviewed as part of the Southern Book Bloggers ARC Tour

I’ll be honest. I had absolutely no idea what The Raven Boys was about when I requested to be part of the ARC tour. I just knew a bunch of other bloggers had been raving about how excited they were for it, and about what a great writer Maggie Stiefvater is, so I threw my hat in the ring. And then it arrived in the mail and it was thick, and I had just been in a mini-slump and thought “Oh no. I’ll never finish this in a week.”

And then I finished it in three days (which for some book bloggers is still slow, but with the way my life has been lately, let me assure you that three days is about as fast as it gets). If that tells you anything.

The Plot (from Goodreads)

“There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve,” Neeve said. “Either you’re his true love . . . or you killed him.”

It is freezing in the churchyard, even before the dead arrive.

Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her.

His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He has it all—family money, good looks, devoted friends—but he’s looking for much more than that. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little.

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.

From Maggie Stiefvater, the bestselling and acclaimed author of the Shiver trilogy and The Scorpio Races, comes a spellbinding new series where the inevitability of death and the nature of love lead us to a place we’ve never been before.

My Thoughts

First of all, the synopsis is misleading. It implies that there is a romance in this book between Blue and Gansey, and there is not. There is a hint of romance between Blue and one of the other Raven Boys, but not Gansey. Now, I’m pretty sure that if all the foreshadowing is to be believed, the Blue-Gansey romance will come later in the series, but in this first book, there’s actually very little romance at all.

This book does really well on a few fronts. First, the story itself is really interesting. The complex relationships between the boys and Blue, the intricate supernatural element that they’re exploring, and the interwoven mysteries that play out all kept the narrative moving and my attention occupied.

I also really liked several of the characters, particularly Blue, Adam, and strangely enough, Ronan. I’m not even sure if I was supposed to like Ronan, but I did. Adam was definitely my favorite of the Raven Boys, and I thought the best developed. And Blue was feisty and quirky in a way that let me see how she would really fit in well with the odd group of friends.

Maggie Stiefvater’s prose is engaging and flows nicely. I can see why her books are so popular (and now I’m motivated to actually go read the Shiver trilogy, which has been sitting unread on my shelf for months).

One warning: This book asks some pretty big questions that are not answered in this book. One in particular that I thought for sure would be addressed before the end of the book, isn’t. It’s not a cliffhanger per se, just big questions that remain unresolved. Now I’m thinking that it will probably take the entire trilogy to get answers to some of these, but it took the entire book for me to realize the answers weren’t coming.  It didn’t really bother me, but I just want you to be aware.

I did have a few problems with the book that kept me from completely loving it. The first is the shifting POVs. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good multiple-POV book, when it’s done right. And for the most part, this book did it right, with one exception. The villain (of sorts) gets a voice, and while part of me loves the idea of a villain getting to tell his side of the story, I don’t think it worked in this book. It all comes back to my whole hangup with “is this voice necessary?” and his POV was used so infrequently, I didn’t think it was necessary. Interesting? Kinda. Necessary? Probably not. Yes, he lets us in on a few pieces of information we wouldn’t have had otherwise, but I don’t think the story would have suffered without them, or if we had learned them through another method.

Then there’s the fact that I just didn’t really feel connected to Noah or Gansey, and I’m not sure why, but this story really needed me to have a connection with both of those characters to fully succeed. This just might be a problem with my brain, because I haven’t heard of anyone else having this problem. But bottom line, I felt like I really should care about these characters, and I didn’t. Not too much. I didn’t dislike them; I was just sort of apathetic towards them.

Now, will that apathy keep me from picking up the sequel? Definitely not. As I mentioned before, I loved some of the other characters, and the story is fascinating. So while I may not have thought the book was perfect, I still thoroughly enjoyed it. I will be eager to pick up the next one when it comes out to see what happens next with Blue and the Raven Boys.

Content Guide: Contains profanity and some violence

Review: Perception by Kim Harrington (@Scholastic)

Received from Scholastic for the purpose of review

Perception, by Kim Harrington, is the sequel to Clarity, which I reviewed (and enjoyed) hereClarity was a quick, fun read, and I jumped right into Perception the moment I put it down, anxious to hear about more of Clare’s psychic mystery-solving shenanigans.

The Plot

Clarity “Clare” Fern, teen psychic, is adjusting to her newfound social acceptance after using her powers to help solve the murder of a teenage tourist over the summer. Her ex-boyfriend, Justin, has made it clear he’d like to start over, and she’s also being pursued by the dark and smoldering new detective’s son, Gabriel. In addition, the girls who previously shunned her at school are now clamoring to be her friends, with the glaring exception of arch-nemesis mean girl, Tiffany.

But as the school year starts, the air is abuzz with gossip about the recent disappearance of a girl no one really knew. Did she run away? Or was she taken?

Meanwhile, Clare starts receiving notes from a secret admirer, and Justin and Gabriel swear it’s neither of them.

Clare decides to dust off her detective skills again: to discover not only what’s happened to the missing girl, but to unveil the identity of her mysterious suitor.

My Thoughts

Much like Clarity, Perception is an exciting, fast-paced teen mystery channeling the essence of Veronica Mars, but with psychic powers. (P.S. If you’ve never watched Veronica Mars, you really, really should).

The love triangle between Clare, Justin, and Gabriel is still a huge part of the story, even moreso than in Clarity, since the secret admirer plot line obviously places a lot of attention on Clare’s love life. I still see why she’s torn between the two of them and why the choice isn’t obvious, but I am happy to report that she does make a decision by the end of the book, and that it makes sense.

Clare was still smart and sassy, although occasionally painfully oblivious. She suffers from severe tunnel vision in some instances and misses some pretty big clues, but overall she was still an enjoyable character. And after all, she’s not really a trained detective, so it actually makes sense that she wasn’t picking up on everything.

Justin and Gabriel didn’t grow a whole lot from the first book. I still liked them both, but didn’t gain a lot of new insight into either of them. Yes, we learn a couple new things, but my opinion on both of them remained pretty much unchanged. It would have been nice to peel back a few more layers. But since I liked them in Clarity, I still liked them here.

The character who changes the most is Clare’s brother, Perry. The events of Clarity hit him the hardest, and it’s sad to see what has become of his character. While on the one hand, he is no longer the flippant womanizer of the first book (which is a bonus, in my eyes), his new personality isn’t much of an improvement. I still like him, in spite of his flaws, but he wasn’t a “fun” character in this book (and he wasn’t supposed to be). I actually really appreciated that the huge developments in Clarity didn’t just roll off his back, and that he needs to take time to process and overcome them.

As for the mysteries, I was a little less satisfied in this book than in the prior one. I felt like the clues were more obvious, and I’d figured out who the bad guy was really early in the story, despite a red herring that practically jumped up and down and screamed, “LOOK AT ME! I’M A RED HERRING!” It was still engaging and entertaining to solve the mystery alongside Clare, but didn’t have the same impact that the first book did, in my opinion.

Overall, I really enjoyed this follow-up to Clarity, and would be interested to continue reading about the mysteries that Clare solves.

Content guide: Contains violence, profanity.

Review: Clarity by Kim Harrington (@Scholastic)

Received from Scholastic for review purposes.

I’ve had Clarity by Kim Harrington sitting on my shelf for a few months now. Scholastic was awesome and sent it to me, along with its sequel, Perception, very shortly after I started blogging. While I was intrigued by the summary and the covers are gorgeous*, I hadn’t gotten around to reading them yet. I like mysteries, but I need to be in the right mindset. However, I finally got “there” recently, and read them both back-to-back.

It was a lot of fun.

The Plot

Clarity “Clare” Fern has always been different. She is a psychic, and through touch, she can sometimes pick up on memories associated with objects. Her gift wasn’t a big shock – her mother is a telepath (can read people’s thoughts), and her brother Periwinkle, “Perry”, is a medium (can speak to  the dead). Their supernatural gifts are just something inherited through their genes, and they use them to make a living in the family business: doing “readings” in the tourist town of Eastport, Massachusetts.

Clare has always been a bit of an outcast because of her gift, but one day she gets thrust into the spotlight when a teenage tourist is killed, and the police reluctantly enlist her help to solve the crime. Now Clare finds herself at the center of a mysterious and dangerous web of secrets, while forced to work alongside her ex-boyfriend, Justin, and Gabriel, the skeptical son of the new town detective.

My Thoughts

Clarity was kind of like Veronica Mars, if Veronica was raised by her mom instead of her dad, wasn’t actually a trained detective, and was psychic. Which kind of sounds not at all like Veronica Mars, but just bear with me here. They’re both social outcasts, sassy and sarcastic, and solve crimes by tying lots of seemingly insignificant details together (although Veronica uses her razor-sharp intelligence to do this, while Clare mostly uses her psychic powers). And although both have significant trouble fitting in at school, they seem to have absolutely no problems getting all the town’s most eligible bachelors to go gaga over them.

So that said, this book appealed to the part of me that loves (loves) Veronica Mars. I enjoy reading about a sassy teen girl solving crimes, and I even enjoy the far-fetched lovey-dovey angst (normally I am heavily anti-love-triangle, but I felt like it worked in this book, even though I still fail to see how the town outcast gets all the most desirable boys in town swooning over her).

I liked how the mystery was presented. Clues were dropped throughout the narrative, making it possible (but difficult) for me to guess who the killer was, and what their motives were. I had it narrowed down to a couple options by the time the book hit its culmination, and while I can smugly say “I was right,” I was also wrong. And I definitely changed my mind a few times throughout the course of the story. I felt like the story had great pacing and the momentum built nicely all the way through to the climax. And while the ending was certainly open to sequels, it was satisfying.

The characters were enjoyable, and I liked how most of them actually served a purpose. There were very few filler characters, which means if someone was mentioned, it was relevant (at least in a minor way). I really enjoyed Clare’s brother Perry, as well as her mom, even though both characters had major flaws. And although there was a love triangle, it wasn’t terrible, and you could actually see why she would be conflicted over these two guys (as opposed to many books where one choice is obviously wrong).

There were parts of the plot that were far-fetched. For some reason, although Clare can’t seem to make friends to save her life because of her psychic ability, her brother (the medium) is described as being popular. There were times when the police allowed her and her family to do things and go places that I don’t think would ever be allowed by the real police. And as far as I know, “son of a detective” isn’t actually anything, and would not entitle Gabriel to any rights or privileges whatsoever in real life; but in the book, he seems to have been practically deputized. So if it’s going to bother you that stuff happens in this book that would not happen in real life (supernatural abilities aside), then you may want to skip this one. A healthy suspension of disbelief is necessary.

However, as far as I’m concerned, Clarity was a fun, exciting, entertaining read that kept me guessing until the end and left me satisfied once it was over. And that’s really all I wanted, so I was happy.

Content guide: Contains violence, some talk of sex, and occasional profanity

*Disclaimer: The original cover art for Clarity, which is what I have, is actually this. But I’ve shown the updated cover on this post, because it matches the sequel cover art, and because I think it matches the story better.