Thursday, January 31, 2013

[Review] The Archived by Victoria Schwab

Title: The Archived
Author: Victoria Schwab
Genre: Young-Adult, Fantasy
Series: The Archived #1

Hardcover, 336 pages

Publication: January 22, 2013 by Hyperion

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Source: Publisher, arc

Imagine a place where the dead rest on shelves like books.

Da first brought Mackenzie Bishop here four years ago, when she was twelve years old, frightened but determined to prove herself. Now Da is dead, and Mac has grown into what he once was, a ruthless Keeper, tasked with stopping often-violent Histories from waking up and getting out. Because of her job, she lies to the people she loves, and she knows fear for what it is: a useful tool for staying alive.

Being a Keeper isn't just dangerous-it's a constant reminder of those Mac has lost. Da's death was hard enough, but now her little brother is gone too. Mac starts to wonder about the boundary between living and dying, sleeping and waking. In the Archive, the dead must never be disturbed. And yet, someone is deliberately altering Histories, erasing essential chapters. Unless Mac can piece together what remains, the Archive itself might crumble and fall. (summary via Goodreads)

Mackenzie is a Keeper protecting the boundaries between the dead and the living. When a person dies, a copy of that person is filed away in the Archive (like a library of the dead, and the deceased are like books on shelves). The deceased are called Histories because they are a shell of their former self, full of memories from the time of birth till death. Between the Archive is the Narrow, a dark and ominous place full of doors linking back to the Archive or to the Outer (our world, the living).  Mac and her family just moved to the Coronado (an apartment complex, converted hotel) after the death of her brother Ben. Mac’s job is to make sure Histories don’t escape to the Outer, and every time a Histories does escape it shows on a special Keepers list where she tracks them down in the Narrow. The older the History’s age the more out-of-control they are, and lately the age of the Histories keeps going up and up. It turns out someone IN the Archive is purposely ‘waking’ the Histories, and causing disruption from within to hide a secret that happened in 1953. Mac will stop at nothing until she uncovers the truth, or the Archive, and the History of her brother and her grandfather will cease to exist.

I haven’t read Schwab’s The near Witch, but after reading The Archived…I’m going to be adding it to my ‘To Buy List’!  The Archived was everything I ever wanted in a Fantasy-YA, it’s cleverly written, has a unique story line, and the beautifully detailed description that had the story leaping from the pages. The world of the Librarians, Keepers and Crews is fascinating and so complex but not to the point that it’s hard to understand. Schwab had a nice balance of information, detail and dialogue to keep the story from ever becoming lackluster and the pacing of the book was perfect.

The story is narrated by Mac and throughout the book there are flashback scenes involving Mac and her grandfather Da. The flashback scenes are short conversations between the two, from prepping Mac to become to a Keeper till the day her grandfather dies. I love these short scenes, readers are not only learning more about the secret world of the Archive, Librarians, Keepers, etc but also see the special bond Mac had with her grandfather. I love Mac, at the beginning of the book when Da picked Mac to be his successor, you can see how brave she is, so strong willed…all at the age of 12 (youngest Keeper ever, since the minimum age requirement to be a Keeper is 16). Mac is realistically describes as she tries to balance her two lives, a normal life on the Outer and as Keeper of the Archive.  She has to constantly lie to her friends and family, trying to keep the two world apart….but then one day she meets Wes another Keeper. She never met another Keeper in the Outer before, and what she realizes is it’s harder to keep the line between her two lives separate, the line begins to blur. What I also like about Mac is that she’s not perfect; while she is a ruthless Keeper…she does make mistakes that affect not only herself but the Archive as well (don’t want to go into detail, is spoiler-y).  Then we have the love interest Wes, when I first read the description of Wes…black hair, dark brown eyes, black nails and eyeliner….that totally screamed BAD BOY! LOL. He’s funny and devilishly charming and NOT a bad boy…he just looks the part. Every time the two characters interacted, I can’t help but smile and laugh because Wes always has something clever to say on the tip of his tongue.

This is an amazing book, one that will stay with you long after you read it. I honestly don’t think my review does this book any justice lol…you really have to read it to understand how special this book is. Schwab pens one of the most captivating young-adult novels I’ve ever read. A multifaceted world, interesting and well-fleshed out characters, intriguing- plot line, a suspenseful-murder mystery and an original fantasy concept that will appeal to readers of all ages (where does one go after they die? A library like room that houses the deceased like books on a shelf?!). I am so thrilled to hear that this is the first book in a planned series; I can’t wait for more Mac and company! I highly recommend The Archived to everyone; you definitely don’t want to pass this one up. If you already have the book, but haven’t read it…push it to the top of your TBR pile ASAP! Thank you Ms. Schwab for writing such an ingenious book, I applaud you! 

Monday, January 28, 2013

[EARLY REVIEW] Between by Kerry Schafer

Title: Between
Author: Kerry Schafer
Genre: Urban fantasy/ High fantasy
Series: The Between #1

Mass Market Paperback, 304 pages

Publication: January 29, 2013 by Ace

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Source: Author

Vivian Maylor can’t sleep. Maybe it’s because she just broke up with her boyfriend and moved to a new town, or it could be the stress of her new job at the hospital. But perhaps it’s because her dreams have started to bleed through into her waking hours.

All of her life Vivian has rejected her mother’s insane ramblings about Dreamworlds for concrete science and fact, until an emergency room patient ranting about dragons spontaneously combusts before her eyes—forcing Viv to consider the idea that her visions of mythical beasts might be real.

And when a chance encounter leads her to a man she knows only from her dreams, Vivian finds herself falling into a world that seems strange and familiar all at once—a world where the line between dream and reality is hard to determine, and hard to control…

Vivian recently broke up with her boyfriend and decided to move to another state to work at Krebston Memorial Hospital. This enables her to start over independently away from her ex and ailing mother. During one of her shift, a young man comes in with an extremely high fever ranting about dragons. The next she know he’s burning from the inside out, Vivian thought she was hallucinating due to the lack of sleep but no, it’s really happening when she’s wide awake. Things get stranger when she meets Zee a bookstore owner, whom she never met before but in her dreams. He gives her a book which turns out to be from her deceased grandfather, and a message instructing her to find a ‘key’.  She eventually find out she’s the last of the dreamshifter, someone who is capable of walking through all three world; Wakeworld, Dreamworld, and the Between.  

Between is a blend of urban fantasy and pure/high fantasy and Schafer takes the concepts of dreams and spins it into a story of her own.  The story has three worlds; Wakeworld (our world/reality), Dreamworld (everyone’s dream), and Between (the exact time/space between the time the person is about to fall asleep or about to wake…conscious/unconscious). This is a really original idea that makes the book standout all on its own, with a very complex world-building with some characters taking on multiple roles (Wakeworld Vs. Between). While I love a book with complex world-building, there were times I couldn’t differentiate which world Vivian was in because she jumped from Wakeworld to Dreamworld and finally to Between where she resided for the majority of the book. In between these jumps there were also flashback scenes from different characters, which added another layer of confusion for me. About halfway through the book I figured out how I could tell which world Vivian was in, when she was in Dreamworld she didn’t have her protection necklace but when she was in Between she would have it (Wakeworld didn’t really matter because she was barely there).

Vivian was a realistic character, when thrust into this so-called Density she acted like any normal person would act…scared and confused. As the story went on she slowly started to accept her fate and while not the kick-butt heroine we usually get in UF novels she went from being meek to standing up for herself. Joining on Vivian’s trip through Dreamworld and Between was Poe the penguin, I honestly don’t know where he came from but I kind of get why he’s there. Vivian's totem animal is a penguin and he’s helping her find the key (I think lol). My favorite character was Zee a.k.a Warlord. He isn’t the typical hero…more like the antihero, and though he doesn’t really know-know Vivian (only from his dreams) he is willing to break the law and fight a giant bear/dragon to protect her. 

Overall a good read, I like Schafer’s unique urban fantasy and can see this series going far with the endless possibilities using dreams and the three connected worlds. This is a good debut novel, but with some minor flaws. I understand this is just the first book in the series but I hope that with the foundation already set in Between that the world-building in the next book will be more clear and organized. Then there was a rape scene in the book concerning the heroine, it wasn’t described in detail but I didn’t see the purpose of it. Then a couple of chapters later again, the same character attempts to rape the heroine again but this time she defended herself before it happened. I wasn’t keen on the rape/violence afflicted upon the heroine; it just made me so didn’t make a difference to the heroine or the story (hence why I took stars off). 

The book tied up nicely, Vivian accomplished the task given to her but there were some questions that were left unanswered (well, questions at least I didn’t know the answer to).  For examples, the key that Vivian had to find unlocks the ‘foverever’, which was never explained nor why it was important to Jehenna’s master plan, why is Zee known as the Warlord and Jared as Chancellor in Between, but Vivian and Jehenna were the same in both worlds (Wakeworld & Between)? Finally, where did Poe the penguin come from?! Regardless of the flaws I mentioned, I am curious to see what happens to Vivian and Zee in the next book. Between is labeled as an urban fantasy but I think it leans more towards the fantasy side. Bottom line this was good book with a few imperfections. I suggest checking out the excerpt or sample chapters before buying it to see if you’re interested. 

Saturday, January 26, 2013

[REVIEW] Wicked Circle by Linda Robertson

Title: Wicked Circle
Author: Linda Robertson
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Persephone Alcmedi #5

Mass Market Paperback, 432 Pages

Publication: December 27, 2011 by Pocket Books 

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Source: Publisher 

Persephone Alcmedi has helped her waerewolf lover Johnny unlock his powers. Now she must come to the aid of Menessos, the vampire overlord she has secretly marked. Beset by a trio of truth-seeking vampire sisters so dangerous their own kind keep them confined in stone, he now needs her more than ever...and she realizes her need for him. Seph has magical promises to fulfill for the waeres, multiple mundane family challenges to meet, vampire politics to confront, both the supernatural males in her life to balance, a dragon to deal with...and then a government investigator shows up to complicate matters.

In the previous book Heldrige, one of the vampire lord sired by Menessos was on his way to VEIN to report a crime against Menessos. At the start of Wicked Circle, Heldrige succeeds in obtaining an audience with the big vampire honcho, Excelsior. Heldrige reports that the Quarterlord Menessos was mastered by his EV witch, and not the other way around like many believed. The Excelsior sends his father Mero and a trio of of truth-seeking vampire witches (more like harpies/owls…they can change their appearance from beautiful women to grotesque owl-bat with wings) to question Menessos, and to see if Seph is really a threat.  A lot of new characters are introduced again (like the previous book) but this time they’re vampires, and poor Seph…she never catches a break.

The author mixes things up in this installment by writing from multiple view-points, unlike the previous four books which were all told from Seph’s POV. In the beginning the multiple view points were a little confusing but after awhile I got in the rhythm of things. The multiple view points were all written in third-person and it switches back and forth to first person with Seph. Johnny and Seph’s relationship takes its toll in Wicked Circle as being Domn Lup takes most of Johnny’s time. To make matter worst, whenever they found the time for one another…Johnny’s inner beast rears its head, dominating his man-mind. In one scene after performing a ritual for Johnny and his pack…Johnny’s beast takes over and tries to kill Seph. While that is a red flag in all/any relationship, ever since Johnny unlocked his power ...his attitude sucks! He is cocky and arrogant, two qualities no one likes…thankfully we don’t have to add cheater to the list. And talking about cheaters, the whole Seph-Menessos-Johnny being bound to one another was already...ehh. I was happy that the relationship between Seph and Menessos stayed the way it was, just flirtatious. Nope, everything changes in this book and toward the end we have a love-triangle going on…WHY GOSH, WHY?! I don’t know if people count kissing as ‘cheating’ but I do…especially when it isn’t a peck on the cheek!

While there were some obvious downer scenes, there were also some highlights of the book! Readers finally get to learn about what happened to Johnny 8 ½ years ago, the life he had before he was inked and turned. I found this part of the story fascinating/heart-breaking at the same time. There was a twist involving his past that I didn’t expect, and it will definitely impact him in the next book.  We also got to learn more about Menessos and his involvement with the truth-seeking vampire witches. 

Regardless of all the things I didn’t really like in this installment, it was still a well-written addition to the series. I like Seph for most of the series, but making out with Menessos is a big no-no, and Johnny’s attitude for most of the book didn’t make him endearing either. It’s like the two most important characters did 180….well except Menessos but I was always whatever about him. Overall I did enjoy this book, it didn’t suffer from middle book syndrome like book #2-#3…I just wasn’t happy with the choices the characters made. I hope things will fare better in Shattered Circle, and I can’t wait to see how things play out for Johnny and that twist I mentioned earlier.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

[REVIEW] Arcane Circle by Linda Robertson

Title: Arcane Circle
Author: Linda Robertson
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Persephone Alcmedi #4

Mass Market Paper, 401 pages

Publication: December 28th 2010 by Pocket Books

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Source: Publisher

Even magic can’t solve everything. . . . After facing down the forces of Fairy in mortal combat, Persephone Alcmedi still must deal with the aftermath. Not only does Seph now possess deadly secrets she must hide from the arcane and mundane world alike, but the dozens of magical creatures who’ve taken up residence behind her cornfield need food and shelter, and there’s still her foster daughter Beverly’s tenth birthday party to plan.

And that’s not all. . . . Seph’s boyfriend Johnny has revealed himself as the wærewolf Domn Lup, and the ruler of the wære world is en route from Romania to make sure Johnny really is the “king” he claims to be. But Johnny’s hiding a dangerous secret: his magic is locked in his mysterious tattoos. He and Seph must find a way for him to reclaim it—fast—despite those who have no intention of letting Johnny gain his full powers. Seph knows that, in the arcane world, strength is always a necessity and power must be constantly proven, but how far is she willing to go to succeed . . . and at what cost?

The Battle with the fairies is over, and things seem to be back to normal as it can be. Seph is in the middle of preparing for Beverly’s 10th birthday party and building shelter for her new magical livestock (unicorns, dragons and griffins).  Johnny, Seph’s wærewolf boyfriend has announced to everyone that he is the Domn Lup (King of all wæres), and word of his title has made its way to Romania where all the wære leaders resides. The Rege (one of the wære leader) is making his way to Ohio to witness Johnny’s at-will transformation, and to confirm that he is the Domn Lup.  With no time to spare, Seph must help Johnny unlock the magical tattoos that binds his powers and memories before the Redge comes into town. 

The first book introduced us to the world of Persephone, in the second book the main focus was the witches, the third book focused on the vampires, and finally the fourth book gave readers a deeper insight to wærewolves and their politics. While both the vampires and witches’ politic were interesting, I was more excited to learn about the hierarchy of wærewolf society. In aiding Johnny to unlock his past and power, Seph uses her great-great-great grandmother slate spell to find out who put the binding tattoos on Johnny. The spell gave them a name ‘Arcanum’ which led them to Pittsburg. In Arcane Circle, Seph receives a visitor from her past…someone she didn’t expect to ever see again. The visitor was a big surprise, and what Johnny and Seph find in Pittsburg is even more of a shocker as she find out who ‘Arcanum’ really is.  Not only does Seph has all three groups breathing down her back, there’s apparently a secret branch of the government that deals with supernaturals ‘xenocides’ and Seph is at the top of their list in the death of Xerxadrea Villeux.

I really enjoyed Arcane Circle; it was better than the previous two books which I think suffered a little bit with sophomore syndrome.  While the witches and vampires take the backseat in this book, I didn’t mind the focus being all on Johnny and the wæres. A lot transpired and again set the stage for the upcoming book, as Heldrige is on his way to see the VEIN council with dire information about Menessos. There wasn’t much action as I would have liked, but there were a couple of twist and turns that held my attention throughout the book. Overall another great read, I recommend this series to all UF and PNR fans, this urban fantasy series isn’t too fluffy and light or too dark and gritty…it’s perfectly in the middle of the two.  

Friday, January 18, 2013

[REVIEW] Fatal Circle by Linda Robertson

Title: Fatal Circle
Author: Linda Robertson
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Persephone Alcmedi #3

Mass Market Paper, 368 pages

Publication:  June 29th 2010 by Pocket

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Source: Publisher 


Destiny sucks. . . .

There was a time when Persephone Alcmedi thought her life was hard to manage, what with wondering how to make sure she took adequate care of both her grandmother and her foster daughter, Beverley, whether she'd end up in the unwanted position of high priestess of a coven, and whether her werewolf lover, Johnny, would resist the groupies who hang around his band Lycanthropia.

But that was before the fairies started demanding that Seph's frightening, unpredictable ally - the ancient vampire Menessos - be destroyed . . . or the world will suffer. Seph and Menessos are magically bonded, but that's a secret she dares not reveal to her fellow witches lest they be forced to reject her and forbid her use of magic. And, despite the strain this casts on her relationship with Johnny, as a showdown with the fairies nears, she and Menessos badly need the werewolves as allies.

Life, death, and love are all on the line, but when destiny is calling, it doesn't help to turn away. With the individual threads of their fates twisted inextricably together, can Seph, Johnny, and Menessos keep the world safe from fairy vengeance?

In Fatal Circle, the third installment of the Persephone Alcmedi, we find Seph and the others on the brink of war.  There’s a traitor in the elders’ mist, and to save Seph from danger and being a suspect, WEC ostracizes Seph from the Witches circle….not for real tough.  To weed out the traitor, Seph agrees to become ‘The Erus Veneficus’ which means being the witch of a vampire coven, and up on the ladder of hierarchy above offerlings and beholders (marked people who have super-human strength, and want to become a vampire). The faeries bound to Menessos will stop at nothing to break their link, and one particular red fairy has done the unspeakable to ensure it…killing one of her own kind.  As the Lustrata, Seph must keep the balance between the vampires, witches, Wærewolves.  To do what needs to be done, Seph enlist help from everyone or anyone choosing to help or all three groups put themselves at risk to be attack and give human more reasons to hate the supernatural community. 

Fatal Circle takes place exactly after the previous book, a ‘few hours’ between the books event after leaving the witches’ ball. There was a lot of more information to take in than previous books; readers not only learn more about Seph and her role as the Lustrata but readers got to ‘meet’ the previous Lustrata. The previous Lustrata was a BIG SURPRISE, I was shocked when I found out who she was before, and wonder why she goes by the name Seven now.  There were a lot of more new characters as well, both in the vampire camp and Wærewolf camp. While the main focus is on witches; we got to see more of the vampire politics this time around, and I hope in the next book we see the Wærewolf’s side. The two guys in Seph’s life her boyfriend Johnny and the vampire-wizard Menessos both share more page time as both play an important part in Seph’s role as Lustrata.  It is hinted in previous book that both Menessos and Johnny are different from their kind, and this book revealed both their past and their potential for the future. They are both way more powerful than anyone ever expected, and I really like how Seph has two of the most powerful men ever to be at her side! 

Bottom line, this was another great addition to the series, the first half of the book was again slow, but unlike the previous two books there was a lot of action in the last quarter of the book..FINALLY, ACTION.  Everything is falling into place as Seph, Jonny and Menessos accept their roles in aiding the Lustrata, and did so by linking their souls to another. The role of the Lustrata is to keep balance and to dish out justice but the previous two Lustrata has failed to do that…perhaps with their binding; Seph will actually fulfill her fate. I hope Robertson keeps the action going in Arcane Circle, can’t wait to see what will happen next! 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Interview with Samantha Durante + Giveaway

Please welcome Samantha Durante to Short & Sweet Reviews. Samantha Durante is the author of Stitch , which was released on July 31, 2012.

Hi Samantha, thank you for stopping by the blog today! Can you give us the elevator pitch for Stitch? 

Hey Van!  Thanks so much for having me today.  :-)  Sure, Stitch is a young adult/new adult science fiction novel and the first of a trilogy.  It starts out seeming like a paranormal romance between a college girl and a ghost, but it’s actually much more than that… Nothing in Stitch is quite what it seems since it’s got a big dystopian twist that brings something a little different to your typical paranormal read!

How did you come up with the idea for this novel?

I started with the idea of a paranormal romance with ghosts, but I couldn’t seem to figure out a way to get the two main characters together without resorting to time travel.  And as much as I enjoy time travel books, if I’m honest, they always drive me a little nuts… it’s so confusing, and most of the time it doesn’t end up making sense if you really think about it.  Since Stitch was my first book, I wanted an idea that I was really excited about, and time travel just wasn’t it.  So one day this crazy idea of how to resolve that dilemma occurred to me, and it was totally unlike anything else I’d read.  (Sorry, readers, I can’t say too much more without giving away the twist… Van, you know what I mean!)  And I was just super excited about bringing the story that direction, so I knew I had my plot!

I really enjoyed Stitch, and the entire idea beyond the story (readers will have to read the book, no spoilers here!). The book is part paranormal romance- part dystopian. When you started writing Stitch, did you always planned for it to be a dystopian or did it just kind of happened?

Oh, it was DEFINITELY planned… There’s so much backstory that went into Stitch – it would have been REALLY difficult to bring in that aspect after I started writing.  So before I even put down a sentence, I started world-building and planning out all the character histories and timelines and how their society got the way it was, etc.  I think I have probably 50 pages of notes outlining all of it!  So I got all the planning out of the way first, and then I wrote. 

If a movie was made based on Stitch, who can you see playing Alessa, Issac, Janie, and Lizzie?

This is always one of the HARDEST questions for me to answer, because it’s so difficult to find that perfect actor who looks and sounds and behaves just like the character you were envisioning in your head.  So far, the best options I’ve identified are:

(From left to right: Emmy Rossum as ALESSA, Alex Pettyfer as ISAAC, Willa Holland as JANIE, and Robbie Amell as JOE)

But if any readers have other suggestions, I would LOVE to hear them

On your website, it says that you use to work as a software engineer at Microsoft and now as a freelance business writer and communications consultant at Medley Media Associates. Can you tell us three interesting things about yourself that readers might not know or isn’t found on your Bio page? 

1 – I love cheese.  Cheese is hands down my favorite food of all times.  (Though I guess if you read Stitch you might have picked up on this… I mention cheese quite a few times, haha.)
2 – I prefer to play contact sports.  After fouling out of most of my basketball games in high school, I moved on to rugby in college and roller derby after college since I can’t get in trouble for playing hard in those sports!
3 – I have a shoe problem.  I think I have somewhere around 40 or 50 pairs, and I’m always on the hunt for my next ones.  You just can’t go wrong with shoes – a good shoe will last forever, will always fit, and can easily take an outfit from blah to brava!

The cover is gorgeous yet simple, who designed the cover?
Thank you!  I worked with Damon from – he was fabulous.  (There’s a long post about our design process here in case you’re interested in seeing the behind-the-scenes.)

What other projects can we look forward to reading from you in the future?

I’ve just started on Book 2 of the trilogy, Shudder, so that one will be next!  I’ll be keeping readers up to date on my progress, so swing by my blog or Facebook pages for the latest.  :-) Aiming to release that one in Summer 2013.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

It took me quite a few years to realize that writing was what I was meant to do.  Even though I always loved writing, it never seemed like I could make a living doing it, so I always gravitated towards other fields that were more lucrative.  And now that I’m writing full time, I can tell you that it certainly *is* more difficult to make a living as a writer than as a software engineer, but I can also tell you that it’s totally worth it to spend every day doing something you love.  If you like to write, JUST WRITE, no excuses.  Even if you can’t write full time, set aside a couple hours for yourself each week and stick to it, because there’s no time like now to do what you love.


Coke or Pepsi?  Coke!  Diet Coke, specifically.  I’m addicted.

Twitter or Facebook?  I just got a Twitter account this year, but I joined Facebook back when there were only 7 colleges on it, so I’ll have to go with Facebook. :-)

All time favorite movie? Beetlejuice.  I re-watched it recently with friends and they all thought I was nuts, but I still think it’s amazing.

Physical book or E-reader? Love the convenience of the e-reader, but you just can’t beat that new book smell!

Favorite comfort food? Mac and cheese.  Mmm, I just can’t get enough!

Favorite paranormal creature? I love me ANY good paranormal creature, no discrimination here.  But if I had to pick one, I’d have to go with ghosts – there are just so many possibilities with a ghost.

Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings? Huge fan of both, but Harry Potter definitely holds a special place in my heart.  Thank you, J. K. Rowling, for reigniting an entire generation of readers!

Thanks again for being here Samantha! :D 

Want to learn more about the Stitch Trilogy and Samantha? Check out the following Links!


Buy the book on Amazon! 

Samantha has generously offered an e-copy of STITCH to one of Short & Sweet Reviews readers, to enter please fill out the Rafflecopter below. This giveaway is open to everyone (international).

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