Book Review: The Diviners, by Libba Bray

August 29, 2012 at 7:20 pm (Book Reviews) (, , , )

Evie O’Neill has a posi-tute-ly neat-o party trick that lets her read memories from touching anyone’s personal possessions. Doing it at a party, however, gets her kicked out of her home and sent off to her Uncle Will, in Jazz Age New York. What should be a delightful escapade is soured by the presence of a twisted killer with a ritualistic aspect that brings Will into the investigation. As Evie reconnects with old friends and makes new ones in the heady world of Follies, fashion, and speakeasies, unearthly powers are shfiting, pulling together young men and women with unusual gifts. The Diviners are being called- and their story is only starting.

Sometimes timing sucks, because this ARC arrived right as I was supposed to be getting down to the nitty gritty of packing to move. Nitty gritty didn’t happen until the book was finished, because OH MY GOD, strap in.

As much as I want to speak about this intelligently, I’m not even sure where to start. The characters, the setting, the story, the MAJOR creep factor…there are eight million pieces to this book that all come together in this amazing manner that is just mind-blowing.

So…characters. There are a lot of them. The perspective shifts between them, some of them only with us for a chapter, or even part of a chapter, some of them prominent. In as much as you can say there’s a single MC, it’s Evie, but this is very much an ensemble cast. She’s centerstage for this one, but you get the strong feeling that the others will be taking their turns in later books. Despite the sheer number of characters to keep track of, it doesn’t prove to be a difficult or daunting task- each of them is so finely crafted, so detailed and distinct, that you can’t really confuse them. What I really love about them- all of them- is that they each have specific journeys to make. Every significant character has his or her own story arc that doesn’t end with the final page. This is the definitely the first book of a series, but we don’t have to wait for each book to see the growth. Every character has their surface layers- the slang and the parties, the devil-may-care or the dedication to a cause- but they also have layers of secrets and dark pains that define them just as much as the bobbed hair and charming smile. To talk about them individually would take up the entire review, but in a nutshell, some of the things I loved the most: Mabel’s anxieties, Jericho’s broody introspection, Sam’s adaptability, Theta’s vulnerability, Henry’s generosity, Memphis’ guilt, and Evie’s slow realization of a world beyond illegal gin and patterned stockings. Brilliant.

In opening the front cover of this book, we’re invited into Jazz Age New York, the height of the Roaring Twenties. The Great War is done, leaving in its wake a surge of nationalism and euphoria as the nation heals from the first wholescale slaughter of trench warfare. Prohibition is in effect, women have only recently won the legal right to vote, and social reform has swept the streets of the poorer parts of the city. Harlem is the center of jazz, silent pictures and elaborate burlesque stage shows are in their heyday, with the bells poised to ring their deaths with the creation of talkies. Women are bobbing their hair, showing their knees, and glorying in fashion after the deprivations of war. Slang is rich and fast, and for the flappers and their boys, every day is to be lived to the fullest, without care or concern for anything beyond right now. The details of this world envelop us, never drowning or trying too hard to set the stage or to explain, but simply bringing us into it. I mean EVERY detail, right down to word choice and the fact that you have to crank the car to get it started when it’s cold. I’m not normally a Roaring Twenties girl; I kind of overdosed on it in a phase back in high school and haven’t yet gotten past that. But this is…this book made me fall in love with the Twenties all over again. The setting wraps around us in a million different ways, some of which we don’t even notice until we specifically look for them, but it keeps us firmly planted in a time without cell phones or mini-skirts.

It’s a fantastic story, the supernatural woven through with the obsessive nature of the fanatic, a careful balance between the demonic and the divine. There’s a large degree of disgust that comes with the murders and deepens as we learn more behind the motivations and purpose of the deaths, but there’s also a pervading sense of menace. Be careful reading this book at night- some of the most superbly terrifying parts of this book are packed into just a few pages, even a paragraph or two in the midst of so much more, but you devour the pages and in the back of your mind there’s the little voice that’s singing a child’s song that just sends shivers stabbing down your spine. I don’t think it would be a Libba Bray book if it weren’t laugh out loud funny, but it’s a very different type of humor than, say, Beauty Queens, where everything was in your face and over the top and absurd. Here, the humor is part and parcel of the Roaring Twenties, when wit was fashionable and one-liners were idolized. It’s funny as hell, but it’s fast and snappy, and some of them are most enjoyable when the characters around them miss what’s being said- or why it’s funny. Just as the slang and the rhythms of speech show proof of the flawless and deep research, so does the humor.

And the fact that this is a series? Makes me jump with joy. I’m sorry- I truly am- that I can’t talk about this more coherently, but there is just SO MUCH to this book. It’s a hefty one, so it may lose some of the more impatient readers, but those who stay through til the end? Will be waiting for the next one just as much as I am.

And if you want to win an advance copy before it comes out 18 September, check out my giveaway, open til midnight ending Wednesday, 19 August!

Until next time~

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The Diviners Giveaway!

August 26, 2012 at 9:49 am (Giveaway) (, , , , )

I said there’d be another giveaway, right?

There’ll be an actual review for this on Wednesday, but I move tomorrow and still have a bunch to do, so once again, YOU WIN! This book absolutely blew my mind and I want to share it with you all, so I am giving away my advance copy. Seriously, you want this book; Libba Bray is an absolute genius, and despite the length and the incredible humor, you’re held in thoroughly creepy suspense the entire time.

Part of that creep factor comes from the book trailer.

Now, I’m the first to admit that I’m not a huge book trailer person. Every now and then a really, really good one comes along, but this is the first time I’ve ever been influenced to read the book based on the trailer. Normally it’s a function of wanting to read the book in spite of the trailer. (Fair’s fair, I already wanted to read The Diviners, but the trailer clinched it). If you watch the trailer before reading the book, you actually HEAR the song throughout and it’s just so…


Well, you may or may not want to read this book in bed, and if you do, keep a nightlight handy.

And all you have to do to enter the giveaway is watch the trailer and tell me below what you think.

Isn’t that amazing?!

Entries will be accepted through Wednesday, August 29th, and I’ll be choosing the winners for all three giveaways bright and early Thursday morning so I can get the books out on Friday. (Haven’t seen the other giveaways? Up for grabs is Carnival of Souls by Melissa Marr, and a combo pack of For Darkness Shows the Stars AND Seraphina, by Diana Peterfreund and Rachel Hartman respectively)

Until next time~

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Not A Book Review

August 22, 2012 at 9:55 pm (Giveaway) (, , , , , , , )

So, today is supposed to be a book review day. It’s a Wednesday (or at least it is as I’m writing this) so it’s supposed to be a book review day.

And I even finished my book yesterday- spent the entire book going o.O and LOVING IT and thinking of all the wonderful things I wanted to say about it. But even before I finished the book, The Grossness hit. I spent most of yesterday in bed with the cat, even though I was supposed to be packing, because of The Grossness. I don’t know what this thing is, if it’s a cold, if it’s sinus issues, if it’s allergies on sterioids, what, but what I do know is that it’s majorly kicking my ass. I’ve reached the point where I can barely breathe (nose stuffed, chest tight) and blowing my nose produces a feeling equivalent to getting stabbed through the ear with a knitting needle.

Fighting The Grossness all day yesterday and all day today (and today was a full work day) has left me with a mental level on par with Ron Weasley in Advanced Arithmancy. (Yes, I know he never took it- there are reasons for that.) So, incoherence is strong with this one today. Seriously, it’s disgusting how many tries it’s taken me to get things right just to this point. The thought of trying to intelligently discuss a book I loved, in all its intricacies, is actually painful.

Buuuuuuut I feel kind of guilty for piking off a review.

You get to reap the benefits of my guilt.

I am giving away a finished copy of Diana Peterfreund’s For Darkness Shows the Stars AND Rachel Hartman’s Seraphina. You can enter through Wednesday, 29 August, and I’ll contact the winner the next day.

All you have to do to enter?

Comment below with your favorite read of 2012 so far, and why you love it so much.

That’s all you have to do!

(Plus, the giveaway for the ARC of Melissa Marr’s Carnival of Souls is still active through Wednesday 29 August, and check back on Sunday for ANOTHER giveaway of the book that blew me away even before the descent of The Grossness)

Until next time~

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Please. Don’t Quit Your Day Job

August 19, 2012 at 7:00 pm (Industry) (, , , )

Sometimes the universe comes together in strange ways.

Every now and then at work, I’ll pass by one of my co-workers telling a customer that I have a book coming out (I guess they’re proud of me or something :D), or it’ll come up when I’m in conversation with a customer, and sometimes I get what I’ve always thought of as a pretty strange comment/question. I got it several times yesterday, and it was kind of bothering me, but then I woke up this morning and three separate posts on my Twitter feed held answers to that, so I figured this was as much a sign as I’m ever likely to get.

“Oh, you have a book coming out? And you’re still working here?”


There seems to be this mindset that you sell a book and BAM you’re in the bank!

Not so much the case.

There are always exceptions, but usually it takes a long time of steady writing before you actually have a solid enough foundation to quit your day job. If you have a spouse who can support the family- or if you’re on a trust fund- sure, writing can be your Main Thing, but for most of us, writing isn’t going to be what pays the bills. That’s why it’s called a Labor of Love.

The three posts this morning (one by Laurie Halse Anderson, one by The Rejector, and one by Barry Lyga) say pretty much everything about the money thing, with the exception of taxes. Mandy Hubbard has a post that helps add the taxes into the picture.

Writing is a passion, right up until you get paid to do it- then it becomes a job about which you’re passionate. The thing about jobs is that you can love them, and love them deeply, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to pay you enough to live off of. I say that from experience. I love my job, but without getting into numbers, I have to scrimp most months to make my bills, and I don’t live an extravagant life. My vice is books and I actually work my budget around them (sacrificing quality of food in order to make up the difference when I fall short), but I don’t have unreasonable expenditures; some months my savings account (which is a fairly new thing) takes a hit just to pay the power bill.

I’m not saying that to complain or to garner sympathy, because hey, at the end of the month, the bills get paid.

I say that because it’s given me a certain outlook on money, namely that it doesn’t stretch as far as we’d like it to. Even when I get a windfall of any measure (a surpise check, extra hours, or hey! selling a book), I tend to break down the numbers by expenses. It’s this many months of rent, or this much of a rent payment. Even in its smallest doses- oh hey, that’s three meals if I’m careful. I know how much I’ll pay in rent in a year, how much for internet, about how much for groceries and power and gas, and the financial life of a writer- being based on sales and projected sales- is far from predictable. You don’t know how or when your book will sell.

I’m a worrier, I admit it. I worry about that next rent payment, about that oil change I have to budget in, about unexpected expenses that pop up when we can least afford them (flat tires, etc). I’ve spent too many years playing the game of which paycheck I can use to pay which bills, which bills I can pay late if I absolutely have to, to be comfortable not having a steady, predictable income. The notion of quitting my day job? Makes my skin crawl.

There’s a me from the past- the one that thought being a starving artist would be totally romantic and nothing could be wrong with that- that thinks Yes! Throw the shackles of the day job away and write Write WRITE!

Then there’s the part of me that pays rent, that likes having food in my belly and clothes on my back.

That feeling that comes with selling your book is a high unlike any other. It really is. And there’s this part of you that looks at the numbers with wide eyes and thinks of all the things you could DO with that money. But there are bills, and there are taxes, and there are things you HAVE to do.

So please do yourself a favor and DON’T QUIT YOUR DAY JOB.

Until next time~

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Book Review: Amy’s Eyes, by Richard Kennedy

August 15, 2012 at 7:07 pm (Book Reviews) (, , , , )

This is less of a book review than it is talking about a book re-view.

When I was in fourth grade, I pretty much lived down in my school library. I finished my assignments so far ahead of my classmates that my teacher sent me off to the library so I wouldn’t get bored and cause trouble. (Not that I was a troublesome kid, but if I was bored, I would try to entertain myself- sometimes caused unintentional problems.) I read through great swathes of that room in my years at that school, and one of the books on the shelf was this great fat thing with selveged pages called Amy’s Eyes, by Richard Kennedy.

I fell in love with that book. It was an epic thing of sailors and pirates, the search for treasure, family lost and found, secrets, dolls coming to life and even little girls becoming dolls out of loneliness and sorrow. It had orphanage hi-jinks and adventure on the high seas, it had mutiny and religion and nursery rhymes, and what made me truly fall in love with the book- and this may or may not say something significant about me- was that it taught me the song Greensleeves. I checked that book out several times that year and next, and when I found that my middle school library didn’t have it, I checked it out from the public library. I read that book at least twelve times through the next three years.

But then Things Happened, and real life intruded, and with how insane my schedule was, the public library became rather hard to get to, and while I still thought fondly of the book, there wasn’t really a chance to catch up with it.

Fast forward to senior year of college, as I’m sitting down with my honors thesis advisor and talking about the influence of books in my life, and he tells me to track down a handful of books with significant influence and re-read them. Some were things I still read again and again- David Eddings’ Elenium trilogy, for example, which is largely responsible for my sense of humor- but I immediately thought of Amy’s Eyes. I remembered it as being a great adventure full of sweetness and laughter. It was out of print and a little tough to track down- none of the libraries I had access to had it, not even the trusty library back home; it had been stolen and they hadn’t replaced it. I finally found a used copy online that a former library copy, and not too dinged up (I’m a little OCD about my books), and when it came, I settled down to immerse myself in childhood nostalgia.


Somehow in reread after reread after reread when I was younger, I had managed to completely miss how CREEPY large portions of that book was! There were some sections, even some characters, who absolutely made my skin crawl coming back to it almost ten years later. This went far beyond merely unsettling- this was sit up awake in bed clutching the baseball bat against the moving shadows terrifying. As a child, I’d categorized the characters into three groups: Good, Bad, and Surprise. As an adult, the characters were much more difficult to dismiss into those simple corners. I understood a lot more of the nuances in their personalities, got a lot more out of the shifting loyalties and the plaintive confusion at their existence. The nature of identity, the simple fact of existence, weaves through this story in ways I never could have grasped when I was nine years old.

As a child, I thought parts of the book were sad. As an adult, I found some parts downright tragic- and not always the same parts. I learned about disguise as a part of truth and how far some people would go for love- and for greed. There were a few stray elements that I remembered as being the same, but in so many ways, it was like I was reading a completely different book.

For the next two weeks, before my next advisor meeting, I tried to wrap my brain around just how different this was from what I’d remembered, and therefore expected. The book, of course, hadn’t changed. I was two years old when it came out, and the text hasn’t altered a bit since the date of publication.

What had changed was me.

Another decade of life, another decade’s worth of experiences, had changed my perspective on things. As a child, I didn’t understand anything about betrayal or greed or black-hearted villains except for what I read in books. As an adult, I’d learned, and if I’d sometimes mourned the knowledge, I still had the deeper experience. Limitless devotion wasn’t something I took for granted anymore, so seeing just how far some of these characters would go to protect and reunite with the ones they loved wasn’t something I took for granted anymore either. Because of those life experiences, everyone reads the same book in different ways.

What I learned from re-reading Amy’s Eyes proved invaluable when I wrote the novel for my thesis, and for each novel after that. The character who was most deeply unsettling was also the one for whom we feel the deepest sympathies. Good and evil were not nearly as separate as I’d previously imagined, and just because a person is Good, it doesn’t mean they don’t have deep flaws within them. And perhaps the deepest lesson- the one that wove its way through again and again in what became Elsinore Drowning: sometimes we injure those we love the best, even when- or perhaps especially when- we’re trying to do what’s best or right.

Have you ever had a book that seemed drastically different upon a re-read?

Until next time~

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Shiny Shiny

August 12, 2012 at 1:17 pm (Writing) (, , )

I think it’s a rule of writing that the pretty, amazing shiny you want to play with isn’t the one you’re supposed to be working on.

And as a corollary: when you get the pretty, amazing shiny, it’ll be exactly when you have no time to work on it.

I’m hitting up hard against the corollary right now. I have these pretty shinies all fighting for attention but I can’t- genuinely CAN’T- work on any of them right now. I’m packing up my current apartment and making sure I have everything arranged for the new apartment, and I’m going to have to take the time to unpack otherwise I’ll never get it done and I’ll be living in a hellhole for the next year (I’m a sedentary creature by nature; if I don’t start habits early, I never maintain the good ones), so I really can’t start a new project right now.

So of course, the competing ideas are keeping me awake at night, crowding and tumbling. Characters are intruding and nearly tripping over themselves trying to tell me all about them and their lives, and even the skylines in my dreams are strange and wonderful and new, filled with floating cities and mountain monasteries, unfamiliar music obscuring the alarms in the morning.

So far I’ve been disciplined.

Yes, okay, laugh if you like, but it’s true. Other than writing down a few notes (and buying a couple of books for research purposes that I haven’t read yet, I swear) I haven’t touched the ideas. I haven’t outlined, I haven’t deliberately thought of them. (Haven’t had to, they won’t go away!) I have more than enough to keep me busy, with edits, and packing, and eight million phone calls once I actually know my new address, plus, you know, the whole full time day job thing. I don’t have time.


So remind me of that, would you?

What do y’all do when this happens to you?

Until next time~

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Book Review: Tiger Lily, by Jodi Lynn Anderson

August 8, 2012 at 6:45 pm (Book Reviews) (, , , , )

Before Peter Pan belonged to Wendy, he belonged to the girl with the crow feathers in her hair.
But the girl with the crow feathers didn’t belong to anyone.
As Neverland teeters on the brink of massive changes, as the magic slowly fades from the world and all the unexplored corners are discovered, Tiger Lily is poised on the cusp of growing up- or not. This will be the summer that deciedes, as Englanders come to Neverland’s shores, as the Lost Boys pelt through the woods, as the pirates engage their relentless hunts, as the Sky Eaters follow the rhythms of the earth and the seasons.
All children grow up, except one.
And that isn’t Peter Pan.

This book is absolutely brilliant, in so many unexpected ways, not the least of which is the narrative concept as a whole. We’re given a first-person narration with a third-person perspective, which gives us both intimacy and distance from our main characters. Our narrator is Tink (as in Tinker Bell, yes that Tinker Bell), and she looks on with the relentless fascination of an outsider. Her inability to directly communicate with the other characters keeps her from directly influencing the action. She contributes in small ways, she is a part of things, but not in the same way a speaking character would. She’s practically an insect, easy to ignore or bat away or even not notice. It’s unique- but it’s also brilliant, because Tink gives us a far better picture of Tiger Lily than Tiger Lily herself would- the same with Peter, for that matter.

Tiger Lily is a fascinating character, largely because she’s both personable and unknowable. She builds high walls around herself, she isn’t honest with herself and therefore she’s incapable of being completely honest with others, and yet she has moments where she’s intensely vulnerable, endearing, and even sweet. These moments are few and far between, but they add into an incredibly complex character bound by shifting loyalties in a time of great change, both in her setting and in her own life. Just as Tink is an outsider to the main action of the story, Tiger Lily is an outsider to every group of which she’s a part. She doesn’t belong with the other Sky Eater girls- she isn’t soft and domestically skilled like they are- but neither is she welcomed by the boys, who feel threatened by her hunting and forestry skills. Despite being thoroughly welcomed by the Lost Boys, she isn’t one of them either, and no matter how much she runs with them, she never becomes one of them. She’s always Other. Even in other, temporary, alliances, she’s always set apart. Even with her closest friends, she lacks the same qualities that mark Pine Sap and Moon Eye as similar. It isn’t that she’s unfeeling, but more that she doesn’t always know what to do with those feelings. They’re as alien to her as she is to others.

This is largely Tiger Lily’s story, but she’s not the one telling us, and I love that, love that Tink gives us an honesty of which Tiger Lily is incapable. Not that Tiger Lily would deliberately obfusticate, but rather that she can’t see things clearly enough to give us the real story.

The characters in this book are stunningly, intricately drawn, filled with equal measures savagery and grace. Peter is a wild thing, a mercurial creature of fancies and shifting moods, of vindictiveness and kindness, a childlike delight at odds with a merciless, dispassionate killer. His attitudes and whims snap through extremes, leaving everyone else scrambling to catch up, often with no rhyme or reason to the change. The Lost Boys are alternately savages following the worst of the bunch and endearing, sweet children desperate for a touch of softness and familiarity. We don’t see many of the pirates, but those we do are drawn with a surprisingly sensitive hand. Captain Hook, especially, emerges not as the ineffectual fop of Disney’s…thing, nor does he have the tightly contained barbarity hidden beneath a thin layer of ultra-civility and class with a brutal ability for emotional manipulation that we see in Dustin Hoffman and Jason Isaacs’ portrayals in Hook (1991) and Peter Pan (2003) respectively. This Hook is a broken man whose savagery and uneducated intelligence put him above the others he draws to his banner, but is ultimately burdened beneath the weight of his own failures and inadequacies. He’s a surprisingly sympathetic character. Smee, who is usally just shy of a bumbling idiot, becomes an unexpectedly (but thoroughly) creepy individual capable of giving you nightmares. Pine Sap and Moon Eye, Tiger Lily’s friends within the Sky Eaters, are soft and patient, their deep strengths hidden beneath visible frailties.

Perhaps the most surprising and most sympathetically drawn character is that of Tik Tok, the Sky Eaters shaman and Tiger Lily’s adopted father. In blunt terms, Tik Tok is either a hermaphrodite or a non-operative transexual. In more genuine terms, he was born to both genders, equal parts man and woman in a single mind, soul, and body. He wears his hair long and luxuriantly braided, loves fanciful dresses and decorations, but he’s also a wise man with a keen sensitivity to the human condition, a healer with a gentle touch and an endless patience, a father who loves his daughter beyond words or limits, someone with a boundless curiosity for the world beyond and a deep satisfaction in the world immediately around him. Tik Tok is an incredible character, standing fully on his own but also drawing a striking parallel to the infant girl he found under a tiger lily blossom and kept for his own. Tik Tok straddles genders in the same way Tiger Lily straddles loyalties. Male and Female, Sky Eater and Lost Boy, the two parts are always innate but in direct opposition. As long as those elements are in balance, Tik Tok and Tiger Lily are okay, but as soon as those elements shift, once they fracture, so too does the whole person. What happens with those slip-faults is heartbreaking.

This is a Neverland equal parts savagery and beauty, where the exquisite lives side by side with the menacing, and often hand in hand. Mermaids may be lovely but they’re deadly. Lost Boys may be sweet, but they can kill. It’s a land that’s still untamed, a tiny corner of the world that hasn’t yet been colonized, that still holds wonders, but it’s a desperate beauty with a lot of rough edges. Within all those vibrant colors are a lot of shadows, and a lot of dark things thrive there. Wendy, when she eventually comes- not by fairy dust but by an Englander missionary vessel- is a vivid spot of white in an otherwise multi-color world. She’s clean and soft in a world that’s anything but, but she has a different kind of Otherness than Tiger Lily. Where Tiger Lily is frequently in competition- both with Peter and the boys- defeating them at many of their own games, Wendy simply cheers them on and doesn’t try to play. Tiger Lily accepts her world as it is, even when it’s painful, but Wendy simply expects her surroundings to conform to her desires, because she’s never known anything different. Peter is the one who holds Tiger Lily’s heart, but Wendy is the one who breaks it.

This is a deeply sad book, where even the moments of joy are shadowed by the lingering darkness, but ultimately redemptive in how we choose to define hope. In a land where one stops growing older when they’re caught up in a Significant Event, this is a beautiful story about growing up with all its sharp edges and ugly truths. This may be a book to read slowly, but it’s definitely not one to be missed.

Until next time~

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Carnival of Souls Giveaway!

August 5, 2012 at 10:39 am (Giveaway) (, , , , )

Have I caught your attention yet?

This is kind of a crazy month for me; I’m packing up the apartment in prep for a move at the end of the month, I have to actually figure out the logistics of said move, and I’m forcing myself to work through severe heat with no air conditioning (which SUCKS!).

So I want to do something fun.

My birthday is at the end of the month, and I’d like to share the day with you. I’m giving away an ARC of Melissa Marr’s Carnival of Souls, out in store September 4th, plus swag from Jill Hathaway, Kathleen Peacock, Hannah Moskowitz, Nova Ren Suma, and Sophie Jordan.

You’ve got three ways to enter, and they’re all easy. Plus you can do all three for three entries!

Method 1: follow me on twitter at @dothutchison
Method 2: like my facebook page. As I get more information about the book, and as we get closer to having things like swag and ARCs, I’ll post things up there as well.
Method 3: add Elsinore Drowning on Goodreads

If you’ve already done any of these, just let me know (and list your handle) and you’ll have that entry. (Shameless self promotion? Yes- but it’s my birthday gift to myself) Just make sure you comment and tell me which ones you do and who you are(new or current), so I can count it all up.

Entries will be accepted through 29 August (my birthday!) and I’ll contact the winner the next day.

And don’t forget, this is the beauty you’re up for:

Until next time~

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