Two New Year’s Releases I Adore

Two amazing things are happening on January 1st that I cannot WAIT to share with you guys. First, Justin Levinson is releasing an EP that’s crazy good. His previous album (with The Valcours) was in constant rotation while I was writing and revising my last book so you know it’s good good good. Justin is definitely a wordsmith worth checking out.

Secondly, A.G. Howard’s debut, SPLINTERED, is hitting shelves everywhere. I swear my heart is growing wings and flapping against my ribcage because it’s THAT excited about this novel.

Justin and Anita are so darn awesome both creatively (and personally) that I wanted to do a little review of each of their projects. That way when you’re looking at those holiday gift cards wondering what you should get, these items are already at the top of your list. If this is how the year is going to start, 2013 is going to be AMAZING. Just you wait.

Justin Levinson Take My Time EP CoverArtist: Justin Levinson

EP: Take My Time

Genre: Folk / Folk Rock

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

There are few things I love more than reading and writing. One of those things is baseball, the other is music. I especially have a soft spot in my heart for folk/folk rock, and Vermont based singer/songwriter Justin Levinson’s latest EP, Take My Time is an exceptionally delicious snack to sink your teeth into.

The three song EP consists of ‘Take My Time,’ ‘Give It One More Try,’ and ‘Bid The Rest Goodbye.’ The overall feeling is moody and atmospheric in the very best of ways. It’s full of lyrics with richly imagined themes of coping with life after love and picking up the pieces of a shattered heart and coming out stronger in the end. Exhibit A:

“Cos’ I will just take my time, go round and round on this ferris wheel ride with my stomach in knots like a mime in a box, I keep singing alone through the gloom.”

Justin writes in a universal language that allows listeners to really connect with the songs because at one point in time, we’ve all had our hearts broken. We’ve all dealt with the aftermath of a love gone wrong, we’ve all been confused about whether or not a relationship can be saved, and most importantly, we’ve all found the inner strength to move on and try again.

“It takes everything within, not to go back to where I’ve been. It’s takes everything within cause I get so lonesome, forget what’s right and the facts they get distorted and I think to myself we could give it one more try.”

The song that best shows this graduation from heartbreak to finding your way through the darkness is the title track, ‘Take My Time’. The lyrics are evocative of someone who is determined to make their dreams come true. Whether it’s love, career, or a personal journey, the person in the song is willing to push themselves — even if they’re afraid. That’s something everyone can aspire towards…being brave even when we don’t feel so sure anymore. It’s a pretty great message.

“I keep myself steady though I fear what’s ahead. I’m set in the moment it’s the best way to live.” 

The composition of these songs is SO good my meager words won’t do them justice. There are violins and acoustic guitars and MORE wonderful backing instruments, and Justin’s vocals are the perfect lighthouse to guide you through the storm. If you’re looking for music that’s got smart lyrics, infectious melodies, and atmosphere for days, this EP is so for you. I know I’m going to be listening to it over and over again.

Check out this video of ‘I Was So Wrong’ off his last album, This Side of Me, This Side of You for a hint of what Justin Levinson offers:

I Was So Wrong Official Music Video – Justin Levinson & The Valcours

Here’s where you can keep up with Justin Levinson online: 

Website: JustinLevinson.com

Twitter: @jxlevinson

Facebook: Justin Levinson Music

9781419704284_p0_v1_s260x420Author: A.G. Howard

Book: SPLINTERED

Genre: YA Fantasy

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads Book Blurb:

This stunning debut captures the grotesque madness of a mystical under-land, as well as a girl’s pangs of first love and independence. Alyssa Gardner hears the whispers of bugs and flowers—precisely the affliction that landed her mother in a mental hospital years before. This family curse stretches back to her ancestor Alice Liddell, the real-life inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alyssa might be crazy, but she manages to keep it together. For now.

When her mother’s mental health takes a turn for the worse, Alyssa learns that what she thought was fiction is based in terrifying reality. The real Wonderland is a place far darker and more twisted than Lewis Carroll ever let on. There, Alyssa must pass a series of tests, including draining an ocean of Alice’s tears, waking the slumbering tea party, and subduing a vicious bandersnatch, to fix Alice’s mistakes and save her family. She must also decide whom to trust: Jeb, her gorgeous best friend and secret crush, or the sexy but suspicious Morpheus, her guide through Wonderland, who may have dark motives of his own.

Praise for Splintered:

“Attention to costume and setting render this a visually rich read…”–Kirkus Reviews

“SPLINTERED is simply a delicious, disturbing, mad, wonderful read. I can’t recommend it highly enough.” –Melissa Marr, New York Times Bestselling author of the Wicked Lovely series.

I will *try* to contain myself and not openly gush like the inner fangirl inside of me is dying to do. A.G. Howard is very dear to my little heart for multiple reasons. (One of them being she was in the query trenches with me when we were both looking for literary representation.)

Over the summer I had the privilege of reading SPLINTERED and even if I didn’t know Ms. Howard, I’d be obsessed with this book. It’s unlike any retelling I’ve read because it’s not really a retelling as much as a re-imagining. Howard has completely transformed the Alice In Wonderland story you remember into something much much much darker. If you think you’re getting anywhere CLOSE to the Wonderland you knew, oh my oh my oh my, you are WRONG. So very, very wrong. This book comes alive with new characters. I ADORED the setting, fast-paced plot, and Howard’s beautiful writing style. SPLINTERED has got voice for miles, with unexpected plot twists and turns that will keep you turning pages, and a slew of crazy/mad/wonderful characters that you’ll immediately fall in love with.

This unique take on the sinister side of Wonderland is delightful and I can’t encourage you enough to run to the bookstore on January 1st and buy a copy. TRUST me, you won’t regret it. It’s got action, adventure, mystery, fantasy, and two swoon-worthy guys that you’ll have a tough time choosing between. I don’t want to say too much and spoil it, so I’ll leave you with a taste of A.G. Howard’s sweet prose to whet your appetite.

Reading the opening is all you need to get sucked down the rabbit hole:

“I’ve been collecting bugs since I was ten; it’s the only way I can stop their whispers. Sticking a pin through the gut of an insect shuts it up pretty quick.

Some of my victims line the walls in shadow boxes, while others get sorted into mason jars and placed on a bookshelf for later use. Crickets, beetles, spiders…bees and butterflies…” Oh, you want to read more? Oopsie. You’re going to have to grab a copy on January 1st!

Keep up with A.G. Howard online by visiting the following places:

Website: Author A.G. Howard

Twitter: @aghowardwrites

Blog: A Still and Quiet Madness

Facebook: Author AG Howard

Goodreads: A.G. Howard

Summer, summer, summertime reading

You may have noticed that it’s been pretty quiet over here the last few weeks, and I’m really sorry to leave you guys hanging. But there are a few reasons for my neglect silence…

One: I’m getting that old familiar NEED to write my next book. It’s starts out quietly, then all hell breaks loose and all I can think about is my WIP, WIP, WIP, WIP. So yeah, that’s happening and I can’t fight it. Right now I’m plotting and letting the creative process do its thing. Know that I love you, but it’s going to be quieter than normal around here. At least until September-ish.

Two: I’ve been reading like a complete maniac. Like, lockdown, no leaving the house, my eyes are crossing and bleeding from the abuse, I haven’t eaten a decent meal in days, my friends hate me for being aloof, reading. Why? Because I think there’s no better way to know the market than to read everything you can get your grubby little paws on. And let me tell you, I’ve been LOVING this part of my research. Sometimes this writing gig isn’t bad 🙂

Here are the books I’ve read over the last two weeks (if you’re into summer reading lists):

ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD by Kendare Blake

STARCROSSED by Josephine Angelini 

DREAMLESS by Josephine Angelini

DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE by Laini Taylor

FALSE MEMORY by Dan Krokos

DIE FOR ME by Amy Plum

UNTIL I DIE by Amy Plum

CARRIER OF THE MARK by Leigh Fallon

GRACELING by Kristin Cashore

FIRE by Kristin Cashore

BITTERBLUE by Kristin Cashore

PARANORMALCY by Kiersten White

SUPERNATURALLY by Kiersten White

ENDLESSLY by Kiersten White

POSSESS by Gretchen McNeil

ONCE by Anna Carey

INCARCERON by Catherine Fisher

SAPPHIQUE by Catherine Fisher

THE SCORPIO RACES by Maggie Stiefvater

BORN WICKED by Jessica Spotswood 

Aaaaaaand here’s the next batch of books that I’m getting ready to dig into:

WICKED LOVELY by Melissa Marr

CITY of BONES by Cassandra Clare

SOMETHING STRANGE and DEADLY by Susan Dennard

SHADOW and BONE by Leigh Bardugo

THE BODY FINDER by Kimberly Derting

THE FORSAKEN by Lisa M. Stasse

MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH by Bethany Griffin

FALLEN by Lauren Kate

THE DEMON KING by Cinda Williams Chima

So what’s on your summer reading list?

(FYI: All the books above are links, so feel free to click on them to read their descriptions.)

Ten Books I can’t get enough of in 2012

I’ve been asked by one of my lovely blog friends for a list of books that I’ve read (and recommend) so far this year. Well, I aim to please – so here’s ten of my favorite reads of 2012. I’m sure this list will continue to expand and grow with all the terrific books coming out the second half of the year.

(Please note some of the books aren’t new releases, they’re just books I’ve read since January and adore! Also, they’re listed in no particular order.)

THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS – Rae Carson

I’ll admit to being hesitant at first, since I’m not normally a fan of high fantasy – but this book took me by surprise in the best way. I LOVED it.

FRACTURE – Megan Miranda

This was a fun, fast paced thriller and I can’t recommend it enough. I definitely didn’t see this ending coming, and I’d reread it again in a heartbeat.

FEVER – Lauren Destefano

I know I raved about WITHER in my best books of 2011 and FEVER did not disappoint. It’s amazing. And I’m not just saying that because she’s my agent sister. I can’t WAIT to get my grubby little hands on SEVER, the final book in the Chemical Garden Trilogy. HIGHLY RECOMMEND.

CINDER – Marissa Meyer

Again, this was something I was worried might not be my thing – but I was WRONG, WRONG, WRONG. I devoured it in one sitting and am anxiously awaiting the next book. Get yourself a copy of this and be amazed by the excellently told story of Cinder.

UNDER THE NEVER SKY – Veronica Rossi

Oh my gosh, where to start? I could gush forever and a day about how much I loved this book. It might be one of my ALL-TIME favorites. Just sayin’.

THE WAKE TRILOGY – Lisa McMann

I started with the first book (WAKE) and immediately bought the second two (FADE and GONE). This is a fast read filled with lots of twists and memorable characters.

TIMEPIECE – Myra McEntire

I just finished this book two days ago and I love it. The ending will make you scream for book three. Thank goodness there’s a continuation because I’m not ready to let go of these characters just yet. If you haven’t read the first book HOURGLASS, do so immediately!!!

THE STATISTICAL PROBABILITY OF LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT – Jennifer E. Smith

I was skeptical that this might be too slow (or too fast) paced because it takes place over 24 hours, but (once again) I was dead wrong. This was definitely a fun read.

STARTERS – Lissa Price

I can’t even begin to describe how awesome this was, if you haven’t gotten a copy yet – drop everything you’re doing and run to your local bookstore. Lissa is another one of my agent sisters, but I’d devour it even if she wasn’t. (What can I say? My agent has fabulous taste :)) If you liked the HUNGER GAMES, you’ll love it. SO GOOD.

EVERNEATH – Brodi Ashton

This is a book GoodReads recommended I try and I’m super glad I did. It’s one of the best mythology retellings I’ve read. It’s fresh and clever and I could go one for days. LOVED IT.

*    *    *

That was hard picking just ten! There are soooooo many other great books I’ve read recently. (One of them being UNRAVELING by Elizabeth Norris, and INSURGENT by Veronica Roth.) If you’d like to see what else I’ve been reading (and suggest your favorite reads to me) friend me on GoodReads by clicking here.