Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Stitch by Samantha Durante, Author Interview + GIVEAWAY!

I'm happy to welcome Samantha Durante to my blog today to promote her novel Stitch and she has also kindly agreed to an ebook giveaway!  Check out the Rafflecopter below after checking out the interview.

1.  Thanks for stopping by my blog today, Samantha!  Why don't you start out by telling us a bit about yourself?

Thanks so much for hosting me, Sandra!  I’m a young adult author, though I’m still getting used to this whole “author” thing as Stitch was my very first book!  It’s been a really amazing adventure sharing my story with readers and getting to know the book blogging community, and I feel very lucky to have become part of such a supportive and welcoming group of people!

2.  What inspired you to leave Microsoft and get writing?

Writing was what I always loved to do, so when I decided to leave Microsoft and move back to New York, I knew I had to give it a shot professionally.  I started my own company doing freelance business writing, and once I got established, I found I had enough flexibility in my schedule to try my hand at fiction.  That’s when I started working on the Stitch Trilogy!

3.  What's your writing process like?

I’m a big planner when it comes to anything, and writing is no different.  With Stitch, I started by planning out the history of the world and the characters so that I had a deep understanding of where everything was at when the book started.  Then I plotted out the major points of the story, and next I broke it down further into a detailed chapter outline.  That way, when it came time to actually write the story, I could focus *just* on the writing.  I did a few chapters a weekend for about three months, then I took couple weeks off before I revised, and once I had the final draft I turned my focus to all the formatting and marketing.  That process seemed to work well for me, so I’m doing the same thing now with the second book, though on a slightly more compressed timeline since I know readers are waiting for the sequel!

4.  The time travel/wormhole aspect of Stitch was fascinating.  How much research did you have to do for Stitch?

The thing that’s most amazing about that stuff is that it’s actually true – or at least, those are the most accepted current scientific theories.  I actually didn’t have to do a ton of additional research, because I find that stuff fascinating too, so I’ve done a good amount of Stephen Hawking reading and that sort of stuff in the past.  When it came time for Stitch, I just drew on what I knew and used articles online to refresh my memory and make sure I was explaining things as accurately as possible.  In terms of new research for this series, I actually did a lot more about viral epidemics and how easy it would be for a biological outbreak to really decimate our planet – let me tell you, it’s scary!!

5.  What can you tell us about the rest of the series?  Do you already know how the trilogy is going to end?

I’m working on the second book now, so I know exactly where that one is going, and I’m really excited about it.  This one is more dystopian-focused now that the characters (and readers) know what’s going on, and I was able to jump right in to the action and romance, basically picking up right where we left off in Stitch.  I’m also introducing some new paranormal elements and some frightening, mysterious creatures, both of which will play a bigger role in the final book.  As for the third one, I have an idea of where it’s going, but I’m trying to give the story an opportunity to evolve organically before I lock it down.  So we’ll see!

6.  What do you like to do in your free time?

In my *abundant* free time (not! lol) I like to read and keep up with the million TV shows I like to watch (my DVR is my friend!), and generally just spend time with friends and family.  I also just moved into my first house, so I’ve been learning how to be a homeowner and trying to keep up with the maintenance – it’s a lot more work than I thought it would be!  But it’s also been a lot of fun.  :-)

7.   Anything else you want to add?

Anyone who’s interested can keep up with my progress on Book 2, Shudder, on my website here.  I’ve been keeping the “Shudder-o-Meter” up-to-date with my percent complete, along with teaser comments from the beta readers.  I’m aiming to release the second part of the trilogy this summer, so there won’t be too much more of a wait, promise!

Author Bio:
Samantha Durante lives in Westchester County, New York with her husband, Sudeep, and her cat, Gio. Formerly an engineer at Microsoft, Samantha left the world of software in 2010 to pursue her entrepreneurial dreams and a lifelong love of writing. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s Jerome Fisher Program in Management & Technology, Samantha is currently working full time for her company Medley Media Associates as a freelance business writer and communications consultant. Stitch is her first novel. Learn more about Samantha at

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Stitch (Stitch Trilogy, #1)

Samantha Durante
304 pages
Released: August 1, 2012
Publisher: the author
Source: the author

You can read the Goodreads summary here.

I'd been seeing Stitch around the YA blogosphere for a while when Samantha contacted me to review her book.  Naturally I jumped right on that and I'm so, so glad I did. 

After the untimely death of her parents, Alessa decides she needs to find the strength to face life head-on by attending college and being around her peers.  Unfortunately, Alessa gets more than she bargained for when she starts seeing a ghost apparition in her sorority house's halls and having reoccurring dreams about being locked up.  Soon she finds herself trying to save the life of her ghostly friend while grappling with how messing with the past will affect the future.

I enjoyed Stitch from the get-go.  Alessa was an endearing character and while I couldn't understand her decision to live in a sorority house her freshman year of college, I have to give her huge props for putting herself out there after a time of tragedy.  She's a very strong character you can't help but want to see succeed.  Meanwhile, her ghostly boyfriend was fun to read about (I found the bathtub scene particularly schmexy) and I was excited when Alessa got involved with wormholes... maybe she and her mystery man could somehow meet!  Talk about a YA dream come true!

So, I was happily reading along about Alessa and her run in with her mysterious ghost-boyfriend and her goings-on with her sorority when about halfway through her roommate and best friend Janie dropped a bombshell on Alessa... and me!  Things were definitely not what they seemed.  Alessa wasn't the student she thought she was and her ghost-boyfriend wasn't actually a ghost at all.  Things quickly went from paranormal to science fiction and I loved every second of it.  I literally started turning the pages fast so I could absorb it all.

Samantha Durante does something spectacular in Stitch, welding together different genres seamlessly.  YA, new adult, paranormal, science fiction, a hint of romance and a dash of post-apocalytpic.  They all meshed together wonderfully and created a world I still want to read about.  I really recommend this one, folks.

Four stars!  This is one self-published novelist who deserves a publishing contract.  Stitch was a great first book and I will definitely be looking into the following novels when the time comes.  If you haven't gotten a copy of Stitch yet, please do, you won't regret it.  Um, hello, the ebook is only $2.99! 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


Bridget Zinn
276 pages
Releases: March 12, 2013
Publisher: Hyperion
Source: Southern ARC Tours

You can read the Goodreads summary here.

Kyra is a skilled potion master on a mission - she must kill the princess before it's too late, before the kingdom is destroyed.  But she missed the first time she tried, so now on the run with her pig and Fred, she must search for the princess before she herself is captured.

Here's what was interesting about Poison - as the reader you don't know right away why Kyra must kill the princess.  As the book goes on things become clearer, but it's not until the last couple chapters that we learn who Kyra is and what her real place in the kingdom is.  Learning these significant facts along the way was actually fun and I appreciated how Bridget Zinn wrote the novel.  I also was a huge fan of the pig, Rosie.  She was an adorable addition to Poison.

Poison read just like a Disney movie.  I appreciated the spunky, young heroine, though she did find herself in need of saving a couple times.  Thankfully there was a stereotypically handsome young adventurer, reading to save her from drowning.  Of course, said young man has some secrets of his own as we find out later on.  Their romance was cute, but stereotypical.

However, the book ultimately fell a little flat to me.  By the end I was skimming a little bit, just waiting to see how it would end so I could write the review and move on.  Two stars.  This book didn't wow me and honestly the highlight for me was the pig.  However, if you're a fan of lite fantasy and traditional Disney movies, I think you would really enjoy Poison and it's worth a look.  If Poison ever was made into a movie, I would probably see it.

2/12 read!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Paper Valentine

Paper Valentine
Brenna Yovanoff
304 pages 
Released: January 8, 2012
Publisher: Razorbill
Source: Paperbackswap

You can read the Goodreads summary here.

This is the first book by Brenna Yovanoff I've ever read, but it won't be the last!  In fact, I've got The Replacement right here next to me and I can't wait to read it because, let's face it, Brenna Yovanoff is a pretty great author who can write some creepy YA.  I've had my eye on Paper Valentine since first seeing the cover and I'm so happy I was able to swap for this ARC.

It's July and Hannah's town of Ludlow is experiencing a terrible heat wave and a grotesque crime wave... someone has been murdering young girls at and alarming rate, despite the plea of officials for everyone to stay safely away from the park at night.  Hannah finds herself shuttling her younger sister and her friend to and from summer school in the melting heat, all while dealing with the ghost of her best friend, who died of anorexia six months ago.

The first few pages of Paper Valentine really drew me in.  Not only were they sufficiently creepy to hold my attention, but I could tell Hannah was a character who was going to be very involved with the murders, one way or another.  Sure enough, Hannah, who works at a photo shop where the police develop their crime scene photos, becomes amateur sleuth with the help of her sadly deceased friend Lillian.

Lillian's a kick.  It was sad to read about her experience with her eating disorder and even though she wasn't the softest character ever, there was something spunky about her that made me like her.  She was a good person who deserved better and I was happy to see what happened to her at the end of the novel.

Meanwhile, with all the murdering and haunting going on, Hannah somehow still manages to find sometime for a little romance, even if it is with bad-boy Finny, who actually turned out to be a genuinely likeable character.

Lillian and Finny... so far my review sounds pretty fluffy, but don't doubt for a minute that Paper Valentine isn't creeptacular.  There's something about the tone of the novel, the way it was set in hundred degree weather, the way bodies kept turning up immediately followed by those little memorials, that made the whole thing feel foreboding.  I practically could hear the sound of the cicadas humming in the heat.  Of course, the murderer is never who we think it is and those last three chapters were on the edge of your seat, hold your breath crazy.

Four stars!  That's some "What I did this summer," essay Hannah will be able to write when she goes back to school in the fall.  The only complaint I have was the book felt too short; not rushed, but short.  I would have liked to have spent more time with Hannah.

Small changes...

It's with a bit of a heavy heart that I write this today.  Over the past few weeks I've been faced with a decision that plenty of book bloggers face... how to go on.  When I started my blog I had significantly more free time than I do now, and recently more real-life obligations have been piling up.  It's pretty obvious from my blog...  I never posted a January recap and I've reviewed a grand total of two books in February so far and the month is almost over.  Appalling.

So what's a blogger gal to do?  The last thing I want to do is shut this down.  Despite my lack of time, I freaking love reading, my blog, and everything about it.  But at the same time, I find myself with a full schedule of book review requests and while I only accept books I really do want to read, at the same time I find myself staring longingly at my bookshelves and the literally hundreds of books I've acquired over the past two years that I want to read, but don't have the time for.  Books like The Selection, Shadow of Night, Article 5, Frost... and that's just a handful!

Look at that mess... this pic is about a month old and things have been rearranged, but nevertheless that's about half of it.  I want to read these books, not just look at them!

My goal last year was to read 200 books, though I was fully expecting to reach closer to 300.  I set my goal for 2013 at 200 books again, but I'm already thirteen behind.  I want to read what I want when I want.  So yesterday I made the decision.  I will be finishing up the requests I've accepted thus far, but I will no longer be taking requests from independent authors, or publishers whose books do not fit in with the exact theme of my blog.  I'll be updating my "Review Policy" tab to reflect that in the next couple days.

Bottom line, I love blogging, I love the community, and I love you guys.  I'm going to keep doing it, but I'm going to do it on my own terms now.  :)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

For the Love of Swoon Blog Hop!

Yay, another giveaway!  You know that feeling when you meet someone and your heart is in your throat?  The chemistry is so thick you can feel it?  Who doesn't love that feeling once in a while?  The prize is a YA book of your choice that's swoon-worthy.  Need some help on deciding what that is?  Here are some of my suggestions: 

Anna and the French KissLola and the Boy Next DoorDie for Me (Revenants, #1)EasyJust One Day (Just One Day, #1)Darker Still (Magic Most Foul, #1)The Girl in the WallVelveteen

So enter via the Rafflecopter below and then check out the other giveaways in the hop.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Book Spotlight & Author Interview: Christina Daley

Today I'm happy to welcome Christina Daley to my blog to promote her new YA novel, Radiant.  Radiant is out today!

Book Blurb

Mary is part Vietnamese. Carter is a complete jerk. Normally, they don't talk much.

But when Mary's in an accident on the way to school one morning, Carter nearly dies saving her life. The doctors say his chances of living are slim, and Mary's feeling the full weight of survivor's guilt.

However, Carter's back at school in a matter of days, as if nothing had happened. Although, he is a little "glitchy," and he's developed a sudden and intense interest in Mary. She thinks he's suffering from major brain trauma from the accident. Or that he's been possessed.

As it so happens, Carter really is possessed. And the thing controlling him is having the time of its life learning to be human.

Featuring a diverse cast of characters, RADIANT is a funny and heartfelt story about being human, being in love, and being healed.

Author Interview

1.  Hi Christina, welcome to Panda Reads!  Why don't you start off by telling us a bit about yourself.

Thanks for having me here today Sandra!

I write novels for readers who enjoy the middle grade and young adult genres, and I like doing it very much. I also work fulltime as a web news editor at a small nonprofit in Dallas, Texas. And I'm a wannabe world traveler and an enthusiast of many, many things (Dallas Mavs, TopGear, The Big Bang Theory, OneRepublic, sushi, herbal tea, picture books, old black and white movies, shoes, etc.).

2.  What was your inspiration for Radiant?

I was actually working on another book at the time, but I ran out of ideas about 20 pages into it and set it aside. I then was reading some of these random science articles--some were about comets and others were about health and whatnot. I can't remember where the possessing idea came from, but I started to wonder what it would be like for a person to almost die and then get possessed by something that wasn't a ghost or an alien. The story grew from there, and after I wrote it and got it out of my system, I came back to that other book I had set aside and finished it as well.

3.  What do you hope readers get out of your book?

Fun! And maybe some of the heartfelt stuff, too :) Although Radiant is officially part of the paranormal romance genre, the paranormal aspect leans more towards the sci-fi side. I guess you can call it "paranormal-lite." I tried to incorporate as much humor as I could. I mean, since I have to read it a million times during the revision process, it does me no good to write stuff that bores me. Hopefully, others will enjoy it :)

4.  What's your writing process like?

It varies from project to project. I don't outline, but I like writing working synopses long hand. Sometimes I write the first few chapters long hand, too, or sometimes I go straight to the computer. I like writing on my couch because it's soft and there's a butt-shaped mark in the left cushion that I fit in pretty well.

5.  What projects are you working on now or will be starting soon?

I have a couple YA historical fiction pieces that I'm keeping under wraps for now, but one of them will be more on the epic side (battles, swords, etc.) and the other will be a complicated love story. And you remember that other book I started writing before Radiant? It's an MG fantasy called Seranfyll, and I released it a couple years ago. I also released the sequel, Eligere, last year. I know there are people patiently awaiting Book 3 in that series, so I want to get on that as well :)

Thanks again for letting me visit today, Sandra!

Author Links

Christina's blog:
Twitter:  @cdaleywrite

Monday, February 11, 2013

Winter White (Belles, #2)

Winter White
Jen Calonita
356 pages
Released: October 12, 2012
Publisher: Poppy
Source: library

You can read the Goodreads summary here.

Warning: This review contains spoilers from Belles.

Now that the truth is out - Izzie and Mirabelle are in fact sisters - they have to put on a happy face for the public in order to support their father's run for office.  Meanwhile, it's cotillion season and Izzie has been invited to join the girls prepping to make their debut.  Suddenly Izzie finds herself not only the new world she was thrust into in Belles, but a world filled with manners, gowns, and worse... cotillion initiation.

It's pretty rare to say this, but I think this is true for Winter White: the second book was better than the first!  I really enjoyed the first book, but watching Izzie adjust to her new life in the second novel was fun to read about.  I've been intrigued with cotillions since seeing it on the Gilmore Girls (remember when Rory had to make her debut?) so I was excited to see it show up in this novel.  I grew up in the North, where there's nothing fancy to do like make a debut.  That was the fluffy part of the novel that I enjoyed, but there's so much more to Winter White.

Aside from the fact that Izzie is still struggling with her move, her fondness for Harborside, and her Grandmother's worsening condition, she is also struggling with a love interest.  More importantly however, is her relationship with her biological father.  She obviously holds a little contempt at him for keeping their relationship secret for so long, but to add insult to injury, she must appear at several public events smiling and acting like they are one big happy family for the sake of his political campaign.  That's a lot of stuff to deal with, but I think Izzie did a fantastic job of handling herself.

If you're a fan of contemporaries, this would be a great series for you to pick up.  They're a little fluffy, but there's also substance underneath.  Definitely worth a read!

Four stars!  I really liked this installment in the Belle's trilogy, and I'm really looking forward to reading the third book, due out this April!


Sunday, February 10, 2013

In My Mailbox (70)

IMM is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi @ The Story Siren.

Good haul this week, let's take a look...


Everbound by Brodi Ashton
Scarlet by Marissa Meyer
Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi
Chance of a Ghost by E.J. Copperman... and wait, what's that inside the front cover?

...And on the next page?

I love this series so much.  If you haven't checked it out yet, give it a look if you're a fan of mysteries and friendly ghosts.


The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff
Hooked by Liz Fichera
Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff
The Ruins of Lace by Iris Anthony

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Woot, woot!  What'd you get this week?

Monday, February 4, 2013

Ghost Hunt: Chilling Tales of the Unknown

Ghost Hunt: Chilling Tales of the Unknown
Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson with Cameron Dokey
304 pages
Released: September 7, 2010
Publisher: Little, Brown
Source: PaperBackSwap

You can read the Goodreads summary here.

My mother got me hooked on the show Ghost Hunters a few years ago and in the time since I've actually read a few of their non-fictions books.  When I heard they were writing books for young adults, I jumped on it.  One of my favorite TV shows plus a young adult book?  Sign me up!  So I was excited when this came up on my PaperBackSwap wish list.

Ghost Hunt is a collection of shorts stories Jason and Grant have based off some of their real cases.  However, having seen the show, it was easy for me to tell which parts of the stories were fictionalized.  I was drawn in right away by the first story, but it was actually the last story I enjoyed the most.  Miranda's grandmother passed away a few months ago, but she's still communicating with Miranda, whose parents are a little worried about the grandmother's unfinished business.  Each story had their own unique moments of suspense.

I will say this about Ghost Hunt: it was a very quick read because it's written at a middle-school level.  I read this very quickly and while it was cute, the fact that it was geared towards such a young reader left me a little bored.  But, being such a big fan of the show I'm glad I read it.

At the end of the book is a little ghost hunting guide the duo have put together for amateur ghost hunters.  I didn't learn anything new there, but I think it was a great little guide for middle school aged kids and I did find the quiz to be kind of fun.

Three stars.  I enjoyed the stories in this collection, even if they were a little basic.  If you're a fan of chilling tales, or if you're a fan of Ghost Hunters on television, then this is a must-read for you!  Plus, the cover glows in the dark, which provided me much more entertainment than should be allowed for my age.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

In My Mailbox (69)

IMM is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi @ The Story Siren.

Macmillan sent Unremembered by Jessica Brody.  Thanks, Macmillan!  I liked My Life Undecided, so I'm happy to read more by this author.

Zest Books sent Regine's Book by Regine Stokke.  Thanks for sending this, Zest.  It's probably going to be depressing, but it sounds worth it.

Anything But Ordinary by Lara Avery.  I read the prologue and first chapter at Barnes & Noble but didn't purchase.  I was still thinking about it over a week later and decided I just had to have it.  Can't wait to read this one!

Pizza, Love, and Other Stuff That Made Me Famous by Kathryn Williams.  Sounds cute and I'm on a contemporary kick right now.

Touching the Surface by Kimberly Sabatini.  My first score from ARCycling.

Ghost Hunt: Chilling Tales of the Unknown by Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson.  Holla, I love this show.  I'm cracking this baby open tonight.

GIFTED (extremely belated Christmas presents from my brother):
Drift by Rachel Maddow.  Totally political and un-reviewable for my blog, but I can't wait to read it!

Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier.  Now I'll be able to read my Sapphire Blue ARC without being confused.

Holy horrible cell phone pic, Batman!

34 Pieces of You by Carmen Rodrigues.  Just the depressing kind of contemporary I've been into recently.

Reached by Ally Condie.  Finally!  I was on the hold list at the library for about two months.

Mystic City by Theo Lawrence.  Don't know much about this one, but I'm game!

Ta-da!  What did you get this week, anything good?