My New Book Blog: The Page Dreamer

A brief and to the point post (gasp!)…

I started a book blog!

I’d been wanting to do so for quite some time, and the arrival of a new year seemed the perfect time to do so.

On January 1st, I posted my introduction of sorts to my new book blog:

The Page Dreamer

If you’d like an in-depth sort of look at what the blog will be about, that’s the post to check out! But briefly: it’s my happy place for bookish things: sporadic reviews, lists, Top Ten Tuesdays, and miscellaneous bookish posts!

(pinterest)

Not to worry, I’ll likely still have bookish posts here on The Road of a Writer as well (including some reviews). But I was beginning to feel like all I ever do over here is talk about books, which, while fun (who’m I kidding — it’s not fun, it’s LIFE!!!), is not exactly about writing, now is it…?

This way I will hopefully be able to blog about books to my heart’s content over there, and still manage to post about writerly and life things here without feeling crammed out of my own blog by all the bookishness I want to talk about. 😀 (Because somehow, the more I blog, the more I want to blog… It’s an interesting phenomenon… And books are always great things to blog about. ❤ )

Anyways, that’s my announcement for the day.

I’ve had The Page Dreamer up for nearly a month and it’s been fun so far. I’m very excited about it! ^_^ Feel free to drop by and/or follow if you’re interested in more bookish posts from yours truly… I will love you forever. (Well, ACTUALLY if you want to be technical, I already do… but still. 😛 )

Thanks everyone, and I hope you’re all having a gloriously bookish month (or at least a good one… 😉 )!

“You’d think no one had ever had a cold before”

Possibly the only good thing about having a cold: remembering that Howl had one, and going back to reread all the snatches of Howl’s Moving Castle where he had a cold.

In the words of Diana Wynne Jones, the author, herself, Howl’s “a man who had head colds like a drama queen.”

It’s glorious. (I love Howl a ton, okay.)

I’m in a constant state of wanting to reread that book. ❤ (Howl’s Moving Castle does after all tie The Lord of the Rings for the honored “favorite book” spot for me…)

feelillhowl

dyingfromneglect

thosearespidershowl

howl quote

And yes, I am indeed using my cold as an excuse to unashamedly fangirl over Howl and make graphics of quotes from my favorite book, why do you ask…?

The Sunken Realm by Serena Chase: Review (Pirates!)

justiceandtruthcazien

(Yes, I made this. I couldn’t help it…)

THE SUNKEN REALM KINDLE COVER SEPT 2015The Sunken Realm

by Serena Chase

5 stars

Fantasy / Christian Allegorical / Pirates / Twelve Dancing Princesses Retelling (ish)

Book #4 in the Eyes of E’veria series (but can be read as book 2 in the second set within that series, after The Seahorse Legacy).

Find the book on…

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords

Find Serena Chase on…

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest

My Review

I’ve been breathlessly awaiting THE SUNKEN REALM ever since I finished reading THE SEAHORSE LEGACY. And at long last I have read it! (Many thanks to the author for the free copy I received in exchange for my — honest — review! Which follows…)

This book has pretty much everything. Love. Pirates. Fantasy. A touch of time-travel. A twist on the Twelve Dancing Princesses fairytale. Duels of sharpened wit in dialog. Actual duels (or at least fights). Adventure on the high seas (and/or islands). Awesome characters. And of course Cazien (see above).

In a sense, it starts a little slow, focusing on Cazien’s and Erielle’s relationship, but honestly I didn’t care that not much was happening excitement-wise, and would have been content to read an entire book about them doing nothing, because I just love them so much and I was never once bored. But not to worry — it quickly got quite exciting! Oh, did it ever. I was on the edge of my seat with all the thrilling adventures they got up to, including dealing with sinister plots and all the mysteries and fighting and the Island Realm and all.

Readers of the first two books (THE RYN and THE REMEDY, which I haven’t read yet, having started on book 3, THE SEAHORSE LEGACY) will be glad to see Julien, Rynnaia, Rowlen, Gerrias and others make quite an appearance in this one, about halfway through.

Things that I loved:

  • Cazien is still basically the best thing of ever!! Ah, that dashing endearing rogue of a Seahorse Pirate, ever ready with a blade or a perfect snatch of dialog. Impossible to describe, just take my word for it that Cazien is one of the awesomest characters ever.
  • Cazien and Erielle together. They are positively adorbz. Erielle grows a lot in her character arc and I’m happy to say that I liked her in this book! (She had been getting on my nerves in the previous one.) She has so much spark and fire and bounce to her. And she and Cazien in their duels of wit and their love story are simply perfect and precious and awesome. It’s so much fun. ❤
  • The dialog, humor, wit, and flying sparks. This sort of fits into the previous point. But all the dialog is great, especially between Cazien and Erielle, and between Erielle and Ayorn — aahh I loved that! (She’s quite talkative, and Ayorn is… not. So amusing. XD)
  • Along that line: Ayorn. AYORN WAS AWESOME. THAT IS ALL. (This coming from a book where you’d think all I’d be able to do is babble on and on about Cazien… well, there’s another fella in here who’s awesome too. That’s most impressive.)
  • Julien and Cazien interacting. Julien, being Erielle’s brother and all, kind of hates Cazien for a bit there and it’s glorious. I loved it so much. XD
  • Rowlen and the Storyteller stuff. IT. IS. AMAZING. I adore it way too much and simply NEED to go back and read the first two books if only for more glimpses at Veetrish storytelling. That’s fabulous fantasy. (Can I live in E’veria and be a Storyteller, please and thank you?)
  • Speaking of… The setting. I was so immersed in this stunningly rich and well-drawn world! The islands, the sea, everything — I was so much a part of it and so pulled in. A fabulous world that I want to read on and on about!
  • The twelve dancing princesses bits!!! Wow. It took awhile for that part of the story to arrive, but when it did I was just so so SO excited to see parts of the fairytale weaving into this new tale in a totally unique, different way, and yet there all the same. AAHH. It was so fascinating. I just loved it. (My favorite fairytale and all… and this was a totally new take on it!) It’s not TOO big of a part of the overall plot, but important enough to be awesome.
  • The Christian allegorical stuff was simply beautiful. Erielle’s struggles and the scene at the end of part one… so powerful. Rynloeft, the E’verian equivalent of God, had a definite presence in the book which I found very well done. Christian fantasy of this sort is a favorite of mine.
  • Everything about the Seahorse Legacy. I love the idea of these Seahorse Pirates who are the wielders of justice on the high seas… And everything about the Legacy which Cazien carries as its Heir, his connection with the currents and even the brilliance of everything relating to his inability to be inland too long in connection with the main plot problem. I. Loved. That. It was brilliant. And poor Cazien! Whenever he needs to go be in the sea… Just awesome. ❤ But… yes, all of the Seahorse Pirate stuff was some of my favorite ever. This is awesome fantasy, y’all. (Plus, piratey stuff! Yay!)
  • Also their apparent motto: “May justice and truth be served.” (And usually answered with something about cleverness… a sort of pass-code, almost.) I loved it!! It’s used so often and I became so familiar with it that when I was reading another, totally unrelated book, after reading this one, the characters were talking about justice and I found myself wanting — and in fact expecting! — them to say “May justice and truth be served.” It would have been as natural as breathing. And then I was actually disappointed that they didn’t, in fact, say it; before realizing that DUH, of COURSE they didn’t — this was an entirely different story! Ahem. All that to say, I’m very attached. ❤
  • Last but not least: Timey wimey. There’s not a lot of it and I can’t say much because spoilers, but the time-travel-ish things were so cool and really added an extra layer of awesomeness to this story.

As far as downsides… I had some slight disappointments in the plot, and also I can’t entirely recommend it to everyone, just because it was more dark and adult, which is a bit unfortunate to my mind… but couldn’t really have been avoided. There were some darker, scarier, more mature themes than even in The Seahorse Legacy, and some disturbing stuff. I’d definitely recommend it for older readers; not so much YA. I’d call it adult, myself (though I may be overreacting…). And I do wish . . . oh, a hundred things! *clutches heart* I can’t really complain here because spoilers, but I wish a thing or two had turned out slightly different… *wistful sigh* But all in all it turned out pretty well and I don’t have anything to complain about other than a personal preference or two.

Basically I loved THE SUNKEN REALM and just want to hug these characters and live on the high seas of E’veria with the Seahorse Pirates forever.

In the words of the Seahorse Heir himself: “May justice and truth be served. …And may I be clever in the dispensing of it.” Oh, you are, Cazien. You are. Always. ❤

Snippets Galore! (NaNo 2015)

In which there are snippets from the three stories I worked on writing during NaNoWriMo 2015. (Since I turned Rebel this last NaNo, which is a topic of its own for a later post, perhaps…) Enjoy!

SilverForestCoverFinal

THE SILVER FOREST

Beast and rider swept up at a gallop and came to a halt directly in front of the princesses. The animal pawed at the ground with a hoof and snorted, prancing in place for a moment before standing very still.

Silver stared at it in awe, for it was not a horse but a magnificent kingly stag, silver-white, with a grand array of sweeping horns.

Except, in this point there was later an argument. For some of the sisters distinctly remembered it being a horse, others a stag like Silver, and others in fact a unicorn. Some of them claimed it was white, others that it was silver, and a few that it was a solid black like the clothes of its rider. They were all adamant about what they had seen, convinced they were right, but the accounts varied so much, and they could not come to an agreement.

As for the rider of the black or white or silver creature (horse or stag or unicorn), he was quite as magnificent to look at.

His hand clutched the reins in the act of reining his steed to a halt, in an effortless yet strong gesture, and he sat very straight in the saddle—if there indeed was a saddle (or reins, in fact), for there was some confusion over the existence or absence of that as well—and he had very tall shiny black boots and was dressed entirely in black. Pants, tunic, and great caped cloak, all were deepest black, edged with intricate silver embroidery.

He had a mane of black hair that flowed loose and fell past his shoulders. His face was very handsome in a fierce and frowning way, with the angles of his jaw and nose and cheekbones all sharp but smooth at the same time, in the way of a statue carved of stone. He looked to be about twenty-five years of age.

There was a strength of presence about him that Silver had never felt before, and she thought it was as one with the wild calm of the feeling of the silver forest itself. He belonged there, she felt. And yet . . . at the same time he did not. He was like no one she had ever seen before, though at the same time almost familiar.

A pair of shadowed silver eyes set in that distinctive face keenly took in the group of twelve princesses standing among the silver trees staring back at him like a captive audience.


“And where is ‘here’, if I may ask?”

He seemed to pause. “Faerie,” he said at last.

“And where is that, please?” Silver asked politely, wondering at the strange name.

Taghdach raised one black eyebrow and the corner of his mouth curved into a sardonic smile. It was the first expression he had made yet that was not remotely related to a glare. “It’s . . . difficult to explain. I thought you would have known better than to ask such a question.”

“Indeed, I did not,” Silver shot back, rather nettled at his tone of condescension, and losing her temper rather. “I have never heard of any place called Faerie, or for the matter of that, of any king called Sisceall, so unless you wish me to believe you are entirely making all of this up and deliberately giving us falsehoods for your own amusement, I should advise you to at least explain where we are.”


“Are you not going to dance at your own celebration?” she asked, stopping beside him.

Taghdach did not move for a moment or make any acknowledgment showing he had heard her. Just as she was about to ask again, he stirred and finally glanced over at her.

“Did you say something?”

“As a matter of fact, I did. I was asking if you were not going to dance at your own celebration.”

His silver eyes appraised her for a moment. She tried not to back down from the steely look. He said finally, “Dancing.” Then he shrugged, tossing his mane of black hair. “And it is not my celebration.”

“It is a ball held in honor of your day of birth,” she protested. “That is as much your celebration as anything can be.”

“I do not see that my being born is any cause to celebrate,” Taghdach said in a low voice, his eyes burning past her as if they did not see her at all. “In fact . . . more specifically the opposite,” he added, glancing at the floor, a subtle note of harsh bitterness behind his words.


Taghdach strode off, a swirl of dark cloak and mane of black hair, and disappeared into the silver forest.

“Oh, and he can go off the path, I suppose,” Emerald said.

“I believe, my dear Emerald,” Silver said, “that he does whatever he pleases.”


Seamus gave Peach a flamboyant bow, and casually pulled a silver coin out of Rosie’s golden curls with the deft fingers of his outstretched hand and flicked it through the air to Peach, who caught it.

“If you keep doing that, Father’s going to wonder why he pays you,” Rosie teased.

“You raise a good point,” Seamus mused, rubbing a hand over his jaw.


Seamus always said of himself that he was vain as a peacock, and twice as handsome.


“Well then, how about I make it an extra-special juggling lesson?”

“Like what?”

“With daggers.”

“Oooh!” Rosie’s eyes lit up.

“Oh no you don’t!” Peach cut in quickly.

“Come on, Peaches!” Rosie protested. “Don’t give me that. Since when are you all practical like Silver?”

“I’m not, and I don’t mind if you get dagger juggling lessons sometime, but not just now. It’s almost the ball tonight, and I came to fetch you to get ready. I don’t exactly want your arms slashed all to bits right before, thank you. No offense, Seamus.”

“Oh, it’s taken,” Seamus said. “Are you implying that I’m a poor teacher? I’ll have you know that when I’m teaching your sister to juggle daggers, she’ll be as safe as a baby bird in a dragon’s nest.”

“You’re not reassuring,” Rosie and Peach both said together.

“Did I say a dragon’s nest? I meant a patch of daisies and soft fluffy harmless dandelions. Naturally.”


Finnigan gasped a lungful of breath and threw himself mostly clear of the falling stones, tumbling to lie on the wall top and glancing up to see what— That was when he saw the enormous golden dragon, the cause of the fire and falling masonry, blasting through the air overhead.

He shut his eyes a moment, and reopened them to see if it had been his imagination.

No. Evidently not.

He would have groaned again if he had not been so winded and also busy flinching away from smaller bits of stone falling on him.

A dragon.

This was all he needed.


The guardroom was empty . . . probably because half of it was on fire. That was the problem with dragons. Too much flame.


“Why did you take us this direction?” Finnigan asked, glaring in the direction he thought Kern was, not that it would do any good as neither of them could really see each other in the dark. “You could have taken us to where my father and the rest of the army is.”

“No, I could not,” Kern growled. “I took you the easiest way, through the least enemy soldiers. The castle was surrounded but there were the least the way we took. The way to toward where the king and the rest went would have been through the bulk of the enemy, through the worst part of fighting and the most fire, not to mention the fellow I don’t like with the lightning, and I might add the dragon. So unless you wanted both of us to end up extremely dead in a very short amount of time, this was the best way we could have gone, and taking you to your father would have defeated my orders because you would be dead, and keeping you alive was half of them. Taking you somewhere safe was the other half. So that’s what I’m doing.”

“But—! You—! That—!” Finnigan couldn’t seem to get his words to work with how exasperated he was. He threw his hands in the air. “Why am I even talking to you?”

“Excellent question,” Kern said dryly. “Finally one that I’m glad you asked.”

R&R

THE ROSE AND THE RAVEN

Derrick was up early that morning, walking along the corridor in search of breakfast, minding his own business, when a whirlwind suddenly ran into him.

“Whoa—!” He regained his balance, grabbing at the arms of the whirlwind, which on further inspection proved to be a wild-eyed, frenzied Princess Brier-Rose apparently in an extreme hurry, with quite untamed hair and seemingly still in her nightdress.

“What are you in such a—?” he began.

“I have to save the tower room!” she exclaimed distractedly in one breath—so that he was not entirely sure he had even heard her correctly—even as she tore away from his steadying grip and off along the corridor.

“Wha—?” Derrick wavered a fraction of a second, then gave up and switched directions, hurrying after her. He caught up in time to witness her bursting into the room where the two kings were talking over breakfast and a game of chess. These activities were paused as they looked over to see a very disheveled ten year old princess standing at the flung-wide door, apparently with something on her mind, and Derrick in the background as unsure of what was going on as they.


“Funny, you’ve always seemed quite grown up to me. At least, I always thought so,” Brier said.

“I always did too,” Derrick said with a laugh.

“Even when you were five?”

Especially when I was five,” Derrick said with mock solemnity.


“Derrick!” Brier said, quickly moving to stand in front of the roses. “What—?” she began.

Derrick answered distractedly, looking past her, “I met a maid coming down the stairs from bringing your breakfast—she said I could go in—and why do you have roses in your room?”

“Roses?” Brier laughed. “What are you talking about?”

Derrick looked uncertainly from the roses—which Brier now reflected must be visible behind her no matter how much she tried to block the sight—to her, and back again.


“You will be dead before the day is out.”

“Good luck with that, then,” Ev said cheerfully.

KW2coverP
THE SECRET OF KEDRAN’S WOOD

Tare turned to Baz. “Move.”

Baz quickly elbowed Lavender out of the seat so he could scoot over and hastily move out of Tare’s way, making a mental note that he should never ever block Tare’s way again, even unintentionally.


The Chess Club were running around hither and yon, messing up the blanket of fresh snow, pelting a rain of snowballs in every direction, making enough noise to wake the dead, and clearly having the time of their lives.

Tare folded his arms and watched.

They weren’t making very good use of the various snow forts and the impromptu shelter made of a snowman which Baz was using. Their military strategy was very much lacking, he observed, except perhaps—he had to grudgingly admit—for Adrian. Chucking snowballs every which way, dumping arm loads of snow on other people and giggling seemed more to be the order of the day.

He was about to turn to leave, but one of the teams rallied and began rushing at the other, and somewhere in the midst of it a stray flying snowball hit Tare square in the face.


“Um, Tare . . . is that a gun?”

Tare glanced down at his hand that wasn’t holding on to the door, and almost looked like he hadn’t known he was holding the black handgun. “Yeah, why?”

“And your knuckles are bloody,” Marie observed.

He looked like he hadn’t noticed that either. “So.”

“What happened?” Lavender asked.

Tare gave her a flat look and blinked once. “A wall ran into them.”


“Are you all right?” Adrian asked straightforwardly.

Tare closed his eyes and said wearily, “Leave me alone, Adrian.”

Adrian nodded slowly. “I will,” he said simply.

Tare watched him another moment, appraisingly, then finally turned away and reached for the doorknob. He paused with his hand on it. Adrian waited.

Then Tare said in a low voice, “Tell them I’m sorry.” And with that Tare pulled the door open and disappeared inside his lair.

Yorien’s Hand Review

I’ve been looking forward to reading another book by Jenelle Schmidt ever since reading her gorgeous Beauty and the Beast retelling, Stone Curse, in the Five Enchanted Roses collection. So what a delight to be able to say that a book of hers is releasing today!

I’m joining in a blog tour for the launch of Yorien’s Hand — the blog tour will be continuing this week and includes a delightful giveaway which you will not want to miss!

Dragon Sapphire Pendant Hand and a Half Training Sword

Check out Jenelle’s awesome website for all the info! 🙂

And now, my review . . . (Drumroll, please…)

*drumroll*

(Thank you…)


Yoriens Hand - Cover Reveal MediumYorien’s Hand (The Minstrel’s Song, #3)

by Jenelle Leanne Schmidt

Amazon-Buy-Button GoodreadsButton

5 stars

Christian Fantasy

I received a free advance reader copy of this book from the author in return for my honest review. These opinions are my own.


My Review

I had no idea what I was getting into when I started this book. I enjoyed it well enough as I read along, completely unsuspecting, until I suddenly realized that somewhere along the way, without noticing the exact moment, I had fallen in love with it. I had been entirely pulled into a rich fantasy adventure in an increasingly wondrous world filled with characters who wrapped themselves around my heart. Let me just say, Yorien’s Hand was a fantastic read!

It’s been a long time since I’ve read a true High Fantasy novel, and I had no idea I missed the genre so much until reading this excellent specimen. It was coming home! Aom-igh, Llycaelon, and the rest of Tellurae Aquaous . . . what a wonderful land! With heroic warriors, majestic dragons (oh, how I loved the dragons!) and the occasional unicorn or gryphon . . . fantastic creatures, beautiful magic, a thread of Christian allegory drawn through (loved that!), and of course a darkness to be defeated . . .

The adventure was thrilling and exciting, filled with danger; I was constantly worried for my favorite characters, especially nearing the end there . . . I was on the edge of my seat! Aaah! That climactic ending! I could hardly breathe and was so invested. (I’d say I was flipping pages, but it was an ebook, so I’ll say that I couldn’t click the ”next” button fast enough.) It was SO intense and awesome! And then a certain fabulous twist . . . which I LOVED (and sort of guessed at . . . sort of . . . which made it almost better) and just YES. YES YES. I’m torn between feeling satisfied with the ending but also desperate for the next book! (That epilogue!) Minstrel’s Call had better come out soon! *flails around a little*

Can we talk about the characters now? Oh my! So many have become favorites of mine! Oraeyn the hero, Princess Kamarie, young King Jemson, brave fighter Devrin, sturdy yet sweet Dylanna, Yole and the awesome dragons, and of course my very favorites, Brant the majestic warrior, and that ever-mysterious minstrel, Kiernan Kane! Though Brant MAY be my favorite (he’s just so… awesome! And… strong? I don’t even have words for him!), Kiernan Kane intrigues me the most! I’m very curious to learn more about him! Gaah! I just love these characters a lot, okay? ^_^ (Also, I will not give anything away, but a scene in the final chapter involving two certain characters had me laughing out loud and beaming and let’s just say I’m basically very very happy right now. *glows*)

The FEEL of this story reminds me of some of my favorite fantasy tales, like those of Tolkien and Lloyd Alexander, while at the same time the story itself feels entirely new and unique. It was told with at times lyrical writing, as Jenelle Leanne Schmidt seems to excel at — with lines that sometimes blew me away or caught at my heart — alternating between beautiful, epic, heartstoppingly perilous, and then sometimes I found myself laughing aloud.

Downsides? I’m trying to think of any, in the interests of being balanced, but really I only have a couple little quibbles — it was mostly so awesome! I did wish that Devrin had gotten more focus, since he seemed to fade away after awhile, while others took more prominence, which made me sad. (But hopefully he’ll be in the next one!) Along that line, there was a lot of hopping about between points of view (which I LOVED!) but occasionally, since there were so many, it spent more time with ones I didn’t care as much about. And a few times I was confused for a bit, but I usually sorted it out eventually; I think those problems were only because I hadn’t read the first books.

That being said, although it’s the third book in The Minstrel’s Song series, I found Yorien’s Hand stood alone fairly well. Of course, now I’m looking forward to reading the book before this one (King’s Warrior) as well as the prequel to both (Second Son). I’m intrigued by many of the references to the characters’ pasts! Hopefully they will tide me over until the next book (Minstrel’s Call) releases!

If you love good clean adventurous fantasy tales with lovable characters, a touch of faith and mysteriousness, a large dose of epicness, and of course majestic dragons, I encourage you to pick up Yorien’s Hand! Hopefully it will twine itself around your heart as it did mine. 🙂

Not to mention, you need Brant and Kiernan Kane in your life. YOU JUST DO! ❤

About Yorien’s Hand

The years of Oraeyn’s short rule have been peaceful, but now ominous nightmares plague his sleep and cling to him during his waking hours. When two of his most trusted advisors disappear without a trace and not even the power of dragons can locate them, the fell promise of the king’s nightmares becomes reality.

From the furthest reaches of the world, an ancient enemy stirs. Stretching beyond his crumbling prison walls, this foe seeks to bring life to the darkest of shadows. His army marches towards Aom-igh with deadly intent, threatening all Oraeyn holds dear.

Aided by dragons, and with the warrior Brant and Princess Kamarie at his side, Oraeyn must journey into the wilds of a forgotten realm. Trusting in the wisdom and skill of the enigmatic minstrel, Kiernan Kane, the companions race against time in search of Yorien’s Hand, a relic that may hold the power to save them all.

Buy Yorien’s Hand on Amazon | Add Yorien’s Hand on Goodreads

Find the other books in the series:

kingswarriorsecondsonKing’s Warrior (The Minstrel’s Song, #1)

Amazon | Goodreads

Second Son (The Minstrel’s Song, #2)

Amazon | Goodreads

About the Author

JS Author Photo ColorJenelle Schmidt grew up in the northern-Midwest. She now resides with her husband and their three adorable children in the wilds of Wisconsin. Jenelle fell in love with reading at a young age during family story-times when her father would read out loud to her and her siblings each night before bed. Her imagination was captured by authors such as Madeleine L’Engle, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Lloyd Alexander. It wasn’t long before she began making up her own stories and sharing them with her family. To this day she enjoys creating exciting adventure tales filled with poignant themes and compelling characters in the fantasy and sci-fi genres.

Connect with Jenelle on:

Her Blog | Twitter | Facebook

***

What do you think, O blog readers of mine?

Sound interesting?

And please reassure me that you love dragons. 😀

Don’t forget to check out the rest of the blog tour and giveaway!