Top Ten Tuesday: Exciting New Book Releases

Today is Tuesday, and that means another installment of a top-ten list! Today’s list, prompted by The Broke and the Bookish, is: Top Ten Books On My Fall 2013 TBR List (you could do top ten fall releases you plan on reading or just your planned reading list).

Well, with that kind of freedom, I will do a meld of the two. I will list my top 10 want-to-read books that have been released recently/will be released soon. (As with last week’s list, all images are courtesy of Barnes & Noble. Click them to buy the books.)

1. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

If you’ve read any other posts on this blog, you know that I am a HUGE Neil Gaiman fan. This is Neil Gaiman’s newest adult novel, and the first (adult novel) he’s written since 2006. I actually started listening to this audiobook, but as you can imagine, the waiting list for this at the library is pretty long, so I had to return it before I could finish it. Boo! I was really loving it so far, and I can’t wait to find out what happens. That’s why this is definitely #1 on my list, although technically, it’s only half. 😉

2. Allegiant/Insurgent by Veronica Roth

Allegiant (Divergent Series #3) (B&N Exclusive Edition)

The final book in this trilogy will be out on October 22nd. I have no good reason why I haven’t read the 2nd one (Insurgent) in this trilogy yet. Honestly, my reason is that I know the book is buried in my tiny college bookshelf (different from my overstocked MAIN bookshelf, you see) in the basement under piles and piles of other books and other things. I’ll need to get a hard hat with a light to unearth it. And I have this thing about not listening to an audiobook version of a book I have a physical copy of, unless I’ve already read the physical copy. It’s weird, I know. But Divergent was an AMAZING book, a 9.5/10. It’s a thrilling, innovative dystopia that has great writing and engaging characters. And Veronica Roth is SO sweet and humble; I got the opportunity to meet her at her first book launch, before her popularity exploded (which it did a few days later, literally). She deserves all her success.

3. The Fault in Our Stars, John Green

The Fault in Our Stars (B&N Exclusive Edition)

I’ve been hearing nothing but praise for this book. It’s earned top critical and everyday reader praise. From what I’ve seen, it’s an important book–and it will ultimately rip my heart out when I get around to it. I’m thinking of it like medicine–it will be good for me, but it might be a bit hard to bear on the way down. I’ve heard it’s beautiful, and I do love books that grab my heart, so I know I just HAVE to read this. It’ll be a race to read it before the movie comes out.

4. Lament by Maggie Stiefvater

Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception

I’ve been hearing about this YA author for years, but somehow, I haven’t read her work yet. She’s got several best-selling series out (and some new releases soon), so I’m not sure where to start. This one about faerie musicians looks right up my ally, though, so I think I’ll start here. 🙂

5. Ruin and Rising/Shadow and Bone (The Grisha Trilogy) by Leigh Bardugo

Shadow and Bone

The last book of this acclaimed trilogy is on the 2014 release list. I have the first book, but I haven’t gotten around to reading it yet. I’ve read that Russian fairy tales play into the story, and that the main character is a Strong Female Character. I don’t see how I couldn’t love it! (By the way, I love how my favorite authors are rooting for each other. Note Veronica Roth’s blurb on the front of this cover. Tamora Pierce also wrote a blurb for Lament, above, though it’s not pictured.)

6. The Iron Fey Series by Julie Kagawa

The Iron King (Iron Fey Series #1)

It looks like the last book of this series was out last year, but I started hearing lots of buzz about this only recently. Perhaps it’s because I only joined Twitter recently, and I get a lot of my publishing info from news sources on there…at any rate, I’ve been hearing great things about this series, and it looks really interesting.

7. Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Tiger Lily

Until I recently read the classic J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, I never realized how heartbreaking and beautiful the story was. I’ve heard great things about this book, and I think it’d be so interesting to see the story through Tiger Lily’s eyes. She’s an often-forgotten secondary character, but I’d bet she’s an SFC.

8. Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi

Under the Never Sky

Several of my bookish friends have suggested this one, but I haven’t gotten around to it yet. I believe the last one in the trilogy hasn’t been released yet. I’ve just noticed how I’ve been letting the YA romances stack up in my to-read pile (#3, 4, 7, & 8, from what I can tell). In the pure YA romance genre (that is, YA books where the love story is the main story), I’ve been somewhat disappointed in what I’ve read. I think a good love story needs a lot of surrounding plot to make it whole, just like real life. I do have high hopes for these, though, so I should probably stop procrastinating. 😉

9. The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

The Snow Child

I first read about this one in a Costco catalogue/newsletter, of all places. The title struck my eye as romantic (in the old-lore sense) and mystical, and the author’s name charmed me into reading the interview (my favorite LOTR character is a shieldmaiden AND an author?!). Then, the interview made me cry, but it also put this on my to-read list, where it’s been since 2012 when it came out. I need to stock up on tissues before I invest my emotions into this one. It will be another good-for-me-sobby one, I believe.

10. Shadowscale (Seraphina #2) by Rachel Hartman


Last but certainly not least is the sequel to my beloved Seraphina. There’s no cover image for it yet, so I’m putting in the prequel. If you saw last week’s list or read my audiobook postyou know I’m a big fan of the first Seraphina book. From last week: “This enchanting tale speaks volumes about human nature–and how better to do that than with dragons? The characters and the world completely pull you in, almost without your realizing it until you have to close the book/pause the CD. ;) Hartman’s innovative twist on classic elements is both familiar and refreshing at the same time.” The first book was satisfying in tying up loose ends–way more than I anticipated (YAY HARTMAN), but I still can’t wait to read about what will happen next for this lovable heroine.

Excerpt & Book Trailer: Stephanie Fleshman’s “Render”

Happy Friday, everyone! I hope your weekend is off to a good start. Today, I got to do my two favorite things at the same time: write and cuddle. This made for a pretty awesome, if not stereotypically “cool” Friday.

Oreo is the ultimate writing buddy.

Today marks the last day of the Novel Publicity Blog Tour for Stephanie Fleshman’s Render, and in celebration, I’m going to share a couple of previews. I think they’re properly steamy for a Friday night. 😉 I hope you enjoy this book trailer, followed by an excerpt from the book. At the bottom, don’t forget to enter the giveaway, including Amazon gift cards and autographed books!

Please enjoy this fun, playful excerpt from Render by Stephanie Fleshman. Then read on to learn how you can win huge prizes as part of this blog tour, including a Kindle Fire, $550 in Amazon gift cards, and 5 autographed copies of the book.

Render: An Excerpt

I spin around and pull her to me, sighing as her arms lock around my neck. I lower my face to her hair, turning it into the curve of her neck to breathe her in.

Her body molds to mine, lithe and boneless, and my arms swallow her as I tighten my hold. It softens all the hard points, the tension I’d been holding onto, smoothing the muscles in my shoulders and back.

“You have great problem-solving skills, by the way,” I tell her softly in her ear.

Keeping her arms around me, she leans back against the wall to look at me, a baffled expression on her face, whether in relation to the compliment or the unexpected direction in conversation, I don’t know.

“Do I?” Her voice lifts in a flirtatious pitch.

“Mmm. It’s why I asked you out,” I tease. “You solved most of my problems just by agreeing.” Looking back, I realize just how true this is, though I doubt she’ll take me seriously.

Her lips curl in an obliging smile, and her eyes say it all, disbelieving in their beauty, corroborating what I already knew. But she’s still smiling, and I alone am responsible for that.

She curls her hand around the side of my neck, and I feel her thumb glide over the scar behind my earlobe, one I incurred at fourteen, when Lukas slammed my head into the bathroom mirror. Then I broke his collarbone. Both of us ended up in the emergency room that morning, an incident that resulted in our father leaving for work a half hour later. It’s always quieter when our father is home.

“How are you doing?” she asks, looking up to search my eyes.

I slide my hands from the small of her back to her waist, as my gaze sweeps from shoulder to shoulder. I can already feel the ground of normalcy beneath me, her presence holding the pieces of my life together, when it seems everything can come apart at any moment. “Good now that you’re here.”

This seems to make her both happy and sad. A look of gloom passes over her face even as a small smile touches her lips. Then her eyes trail down the front of my body, taking in my suit jacket and pants. “You look like a lawyer,” she comments. “Straight from the courtroom.”

I can’t remember a time when she’s ever seen me in a suit. The closest is the tux I wore to her senior prom two months ago, which is not much different than what I wear now.

“It suits you.”

I raise my eyebrows in doubt. “What? Looking like a lawyer?”

“Not just a lawyer. You look…professional.” Then, with a full smile, she adds, “I like it.”

“Ah,” I say, mirroring her smile as I grasp her meaning. “I like that you’re my biggest fan.”

Her teeth shine bright against her tan skin. She drops her arms to her sides, and I lace my fingers through hers. She smells of honeysuckle, vanilla, and lavender all at once, with soft underlying notes I can’t name, a scent that swirls inside me, tantalizing every cell in my body.

I lean forward, canting my head slightly to fit my lips to hers. I have to fight to keep the rhythm slow, to savor every second. But when her mouth opens, urgency builds within me, and I press farther. Too soon, though, she’s pulling away, leaving my blood pumping in a hot stream and my heart pounding against my chest. I place a hand on the wall behind her and lean forward, closing the narrow space she’s put between us.

“I wasn’t finished,” I say.

I’m already tilting my head to kiss her again when she stops me with one word. “Wait.”

“Wait?” I mutter against her lips.

I feel her palms on my chest, easing me back. It’s hard to concentrate on anything but touching her, but I slowly resign myself to the conversation that is apparently inevitable, when my only instinct is to kiss her. I straighten and meet her eyes, which does nothing to tame my thoughts.

“I got your note,” she says.

When I started mowing Mrs. Whitney’s lawn, Elizabeth gave me a key, so I could let myself in when they weren’t home. In the beginning, I would leave Raya notes on her dresser, not knowing at the time that she’d actually keep them. When she showed me every note I’d ever written her, my first instinct was to laugh, because it seemed senseless. But then I saw how impressed she was and felt empowered that I could make her so happy. She probably has a shoebox full of notes by now.

I back her against the wall until we’re touching from hips to shoulders. Her eyes, as warm and green as summer leaves, meet mine. She’s looking at me as if I did something amazing, but just in case, I ask, “Is that all? Or is there something else you want to add, because I’d really like to kiss you right now?”

Her eyes dip momentarily to my mouth. “I was going to thank you for the note, but you distracted me.”

“You don’t need words for that.”

Render Tour BadgeAs part of this special promotional extravaganza sponsored by Novel Publicity, Render, the debut YA Paranormal novel by Stephanie Fleshman, is on sale for just 99 cents! What’s more, by purchasing this fantastic book at an incredibly low price, you can enter to win many awesome prizes.

The prizes include a Kindle Fire, $550 in Amazon gift cards, and 5 autographed copies of the book.

All the info you need to win one of these amazing prizes is RIGHT HERE. Remember, winning is as easy as clicking a button or leaving a blog comment–easy to enter; easy to win!

To win the prizes:

  1. Get Render at its discounted price of 99 cents
  2. Enter the Rafflecopter contest below
  3. Visit the featured social media events
  4. Leave a comment on my blog for a chance at a $100 prize.

About Render: A betrayal born of blood. A curse for a gift. A love worth saving… Seventeen-year-old Raya Whitney thought she knew Koldan–until a sudden turn of events threatens both their lives. Get it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or iTunes.

Stephanie Fleshman graduated with a degree in psychology and has family throughout the United States as well as in Thessaloniki and Athens, Greece. Visit Stephanie on her website, Twitter, Facebook, or GoodReads.

Memoir Preview Event, and Why I’m Writing It in the First Place

Happy Tuesday! I hope people aren’t too tired from busy Mother’s Day weekends; the beginnings of the week are hard enough, right? 😉 One coworker of mine told me she was tired from helping her mom plant 50 new flowers Sunday, buying and spreading 35 bags of mulch! And I guess 50 and 35 must have been magic numbers, because Jeremiah had to tote 35 50-lb. bags of rocks to cover a sinkhole on their farm Sunday. Holy cow!  My Sunday was comparatively laid-back–well, I suppose, laid-back, period. 😉

Thank you again to all of you who supported my memoir preview event, either with your presence or your encouragement. Jennifer and I had been invited by Marianjoy’s Auxiliary to speak at their Spring Luncheon this year. (Click here to see my initial announcement and the invitation.)

The whole event was fabulous, from the location, to the food, to the presentation itself. College of DuPage’s Waterleaf Restaurant was a gorgeous venue to choose for a spring luncheon, and apparently, this was the Marianjoy Auxiliary’s second luncheon there (the restaurant opened only a couple of years ago). With spring finally arriving here in the last few weeks, the buds around facility were in full bloom–a lovely site with the venue’s glass walls. I don’t have the photos from our event yet, but I will post some at a later time, and here is a photo from Waterleaf’s Facebook page:

The Waterleaf Restaurant at College of DuPage (courtesy of their Facebook page)

It was hard to count exactly how many people attended, but it sure seemed crowded, especially from our little spot up front. (Jennifer and I rather comically figured out how to maneuver to share the microphone meant for one.) I think there were at least 70 people there.

After raffles and a delicious lunch, Jennifer and I were up! We were incredibly nervous; no matter how many times we tell my family’s story of my TBI, it is emotional and nerve-wracking. Part of it was that “performance high” feeling I’ve gotten from being onstage since the age of five. (Having no other high to compare this to, it is an imaginary allusion. 😉 ) It’s the rush that comes from working really hard on something and imagining the best case scenario, and it feels like you’re flying–but the giddiness, too, that comes from not wanting to look down and see how far away the ground is. You’re flying, this is the moment you’ve been waiting for, and the only thing to do is focus on the act, to look ahead at where you’re going; focusing on the ground will only make you crash. There I go, inserting poetry into an entry that’s meant to be narration… 😉 Anyway, I love that feeling right before performances or speeches I’ve worked hard on, and I’m so lucky I get the opportunity to do public speaking all the time for my job at Marianjoy.

However, with this type of speech, there is always an inherent fear that people won’t “get” it. It’s one thing for someone to dismiss a poem you’ve written about a butterfly or an ancient Greek goddess, maybe both beautiful, but neither directly related to you. It’s another thing to pour out your entire soul, bare yourself completely naked and worry that people won’t respond well. Of course, this is a metaphorical  baring; I was, in fact, wearing a gray shift dress, black blazer, and gray pearls that I remember vividly because I spent hours agonizing over what to wear. 😉

It’s a nakedness that’s taken me years to be comfortable with. The more you can refer to something in the “past tense,” the easier it is to separate yourself from a painful memory, right? Well, that may be true in general, but the fact is, a brain injury is a permanent badge–it stays with you for life. There is great potential for recovery (like I was blessed to undergo–from <5% chance of survival to having two degrees and a great job), but it is something that will always be part of you. I’ve learned that the secret to true peace and “wholeness” comes when you embrace the very thing you’ve been trying to overcome. Always strive to surpass limitations and be the best you can be; it’s not about accepting limitations, it’s about admiring how far you’ve come and how those triumphs have defined your character.

This can be a hard place to get to when you’ve been through a traumatic event. While I’ll never remember the car accident (it happened too quickly for my brain to process it), remembering and learning anew what my family went through when they supported me is a humbling and somber process. I’ve been so blessed to have their support all along, and it felt so reassuring to have my sister by my side at this memoir event.

I’ve never ignored the TBI or recovery process, but it’s not something I really pondered over at enormous length until my graduate memoir class at DePaul with Michele Morano. That very class was the whole reason I signed up for the Writing & Publishing program there; I knew I would need help putting the muddied emotions into words. I love to write, but ironically, it had always been hard to write about myself (still is, at times). It’s much easier to imagine how a fictional character might react to a situation than to dissect how you, yourself feel–and then, you have to turn it into art! My professor was wonderfully understanding, giving me the advice and push I needed to start the process of writing my memoir about the event. Ever since the TBI happened, everyone who’s heard about what happened to me urged me to write a book about it, even before knowing I was actually a writer. I realized that while people sadly get injured all the time, the perspective, support, and beauty of what I went through was something special that needed to be shared so it could help other people going through a dark time.

When the President of the Marianjoy Auxiliary, Mimi Rose, asked Jennifer and me to share our story at the annual Spring Luncheon, we were flattered and agreed immediately. When Mimi found out I was writing a memoir about it, she encouraged me to share selections from it as part of the presentation.

Although we were excited for our presentation, it was a pretty daunting feat. I have spoken at several events for Marianjoy in the past, but this would be much longer and more comprehensive. I chose what I thought was a good array of pieces reflecting different aspects of the experience, and Jennifer helped me form an outline for the presentation. It was our mom’s idea to intersperse verbal anecdotes in between the stories, mostly from Jennifer, and we thought the idea was brilliant and went with it.

In the end, I didn’t get to read everything I’d planned within the time constraints–but that was OK. The audience was so kind and empathetic; my boss says “there wasn’t a dry eye in the room.” There was a lot of laughter, too, because so many absurd things happen when things are supposed to go a certain way in recovery–they never do, right? I think the more serious an event is, the more potential there is for little things you’d never expect to sneak in and be funny at the same time. I was so happy for the balance of reaction, because that’s the very message I want to get across, the very reason I’m writing my memoir and even this blog: when things seem sad or dark, have faith, because they just may turn out for the best. They may change your path and give you purpose; I know they did for me.

Many people came up to Jennifer and me afterwards and complimented us, thanking us for sharing our stories. We both really appreciated this, because as I said, it can be nerve-wracking being so completely candid about something so personal and deep. To top off the loveliness of the whole day, our mom won a donated raffle for a bottle of wine and a restaurant gift certificate, and each of us got to take home a transferable flower pot. While I’m not sure exactly how many people attended the event, I know each ticket was $40, so I’m sure we raised a nice amount of money for the Marianjoy Auxiliary. 🙂

I’d like to end this post with a thank-you again to everyone who made the event possible. Thank you to the Marianjoy Auxiliary for the invitation; to my sister, Jennifer, for speaking with me; to our mom as well as our family friend, Sue Ann, for attending and supporting us; to everyone who attended the event; to the doctors, nurses, firemen, therapists, friends, and family who assisted in my recovery; to my memoir teacher, Professor Morano; and to you, dear readers, for reading this post and your constant support. ❤