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Dante's Girl & Giveaway

Saturday, September 29, 2012
Dante's Girl
by Courtney Cole

I have spent every summer since I was ten years old with my father in London. Every summer, since I was ten years old, has been uneventful and boring. Until this year.

And this year, after a freak volcanic eruption strands me far from home, I have learned these things:

1. I can make do with one outfit for three days before I buy new clothes.
2. If I hear the phrase, “You’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto,” even one more time, I might become a homicidal maniac.
3. I am horribly and embarrassingly allergic to jellyfish.
4. I am in love with Dante Giliberti, who just happens to be the beautiful, sophisticated son of the Prime Minister of a Mediterranean paradise.
5. See number four above. Because it brings with it a whole slew of problems and I’ve learned something from every one of them.

Let’s start with the fact that Dante’s world is five light-years away from mine. He goes to black-tie functions and knows the Prime Minister of England on a first name basis. I was born and raised on a farm in Kansas and wear cut-off jeans paired with cowboy boots. See the difference?

But hearts don’t care about differences. Hearts want what they want. And mine just wants to be Dante’s girl.

My heart just might be crazy.
Buy for $0.99 on Kindle here


Excerpt
There are rose bushes everywhere. And peonies, which are my favorites. And lots of white marble statues of Greek gods. And one of Napoleon. Why in the world is this country so obsessed with Napoleon?

I am just wondering if the small statue is life-sized when Dante interrupts any coherent thought process that I might have by striding across the lawns with a racquet in hand and wearing short-short tennis shorts.

Sweet.

Baby.

Monkeys.

It’s like a slow-motion scene from a movie. Dante shakes his blond bangs out of his eyes and the sun catches every glint of gold in his hair. His legs are long, lean, tanned and muscled and HolyCowThereIsAGod. If I were a man, I would totally be wolf-whistling right now. But then again, if I were a man, I guess I wouldn’t be wolf-whistling at Dante.

I’m such a weirdo.

Giveaway
Winner’s choice of (1) gifted copy (Kindle or Nook) of PRINCESS or SOUL KISSED by the author; Open International. If winner is located in US/Canada, he/she will also receive a signed 4x6 glossy of DANTE'S GIRL.

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Entice Tour Stop



Entice (The Violet Eden Chapters #2)
by Jessica Shirvington

Publication: September 4, 2012
Pages: 464
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Buy it: Amazon | KindleBook Depository
Violet Eden is Grigori - part angel, part human. Her destiny is to protect humans from the vengence of exiled angels.

Knowing who to trust is key but, when Grigori reinforcements arrive, it becomes clear everyone is hiding something. Even Lincoln. The only thing Violet does know: Phoenix's hold over her is more dangerous than ever. The race to find the one thing that could tilt the balance of power brings them all to the sacred mountains of Jordan, where Violet's power will be pushed to the extreme. And the ultimate betrayal exposed.


Action and love. That's what this book is all about. So many mysteries surround the Grigori, and we learn a lot more about them. At the same time, we learn along with Violet that she can only trust herself. Everyone is keeping secrets; some have murderous intentions lying beneath friendly exteriors.

What makes it harder to discern the traitor in their ranks is the slew of new and entertaining characters that are introduced in this book. They are all fun and lovable in their own ways. It was hard to see where the betrayal would come from. There are so many things taking place in this book and so little time to form speculations before we're swept into another plot. It is not a light read at all.

The characters can be vague. The writing style is different from what I'm used to reading. It feels as though I'm watching everything from the air with all the characters wrapped in their little bubbles. It's new and interesting, kind of like a sci-fi/fantasy film that has you jumping from scene to breathtaking scene. The whole story has this air of mystery wrapped around it, and when the love scenes come in, they swept me off my feet. It's so beautiful, intense, and filled with passion that it keeps you reading, if only for that (and the fight scenes).

I recommend this book for paranormal lovers looking for another kind of read and definitely for fans of Embrace. If you haven't already read book one, however, make sure you do that before reading Entice, as the book jumps right into the plot!
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Jessica's Website | Facebook | Twitter
Jessica Shirvington lives in Sydney with her husband of ten years, FOXTEL presenter and former Olympic sprinter Matt Shirvington, and their two daughters. She has previously founded and run a coffee distribution company, Stella Imports, in London, and been involved in managing the restaurants Fuel Bistro, Tow Bar and MG Garage in Sydney. She is currently a full-time mum, author and co-director in the company MPS Investments Pty Ltd.


Author Interview - Tiffany Schmidt

Friday, September 28, 2012
Today, I am delighted to be interviewing author Tiffany Schmid, author of Send Me a Sign!

Mia is always looking for signs. A sign that she should get serious with her soccer-captain boyfriend. A sign that she’ll get the grades to make it into an Ivy-league school. One sign she didn’t expect to look for was: “Will I survive cancer?” It’s a question her friends would never understand, prompting Mia to keep her illness a secret. The only one who knows is her lifelong best friend, Gyver, who is poised to be so much more. Mia is determined to survive, but when you have so much going your way, there is so much more to lose. From debut author Tiffany Schmidt comes a heart-wrenching and ultimately uplifting story of one girl’s search for signs of life in the face of death.

I saw that your origins as a writer started by telling stories to your dog. Would you tell us more about this and how you progressed to where you are now?
I spent half my childhood in timeout—my mother might argue that it was more than half. Being forced to sit still and entertain myself definitely played a part in becoming a storyteller. My first audience was the family dog, then my younger brothers, then classmates. Eventually my stories grew too long to narrate and I began to write them down.

One of my earliest memories is sitting in time out with the family dog. I went on space adventures with him. What made you decide to write a story about a cheerleader diagnosed with cancer?
I always start a story by getting to know my characters. If you asked Mia to describe herself, cheerleader would be toward the top of her list. Probably just below friend, daughter, and scholar.

She’d admit that she’s superstitious. She’d admit that she’s confused about what she wants from her on-again, off-again fling, Ryan. But she wouldn’t confess to feeling the pressure of others’ expectations or just how very out-of-her-control her life feels.

Starting with a character like that, I needed something that would push Mia from manageable-stress into full-blown crisis. Cancer would do that for anyone, but for someone like Mia, who already doesn’t feel like she’s in charge of her life, cancer was the impetus for a much more disastrous set of choices.

Cancer is a big subject. What kind of research did you do for the story?
I spent a great deal of emotional and exhausting time researching leukemia and treatment. I called in favors to doctor-friends and borrowed access to their journal databases—printing out articles that took hours and multiple highlighters to decipher. On the opposite end of the spectrum, I read a lot of children’s books about cancer. I needed to be able to understand it deeply, but also explain it simply.

There were also a million other small things I researched: cheerleading terms (I spent FAR too long debating pom-poms, pom-pons, or just poms), superstitions (how many spots on a ladybug make it lucky?), and bands (though, luckily, Gyver inherited a lot of my musical tastes).

I find the fortune telling aspect interesting. What superstitious fortune telling do you find the most fascinating and why?
I truly wasn’t a superstitious person before writing this book. I might have had little good-luck rituals (for instance, I HAD to listen to Dave Matthew’s “Dancing Nancies” on the first day of school every year) but I wasn’t someone who looked for signs.

AFTER writing Send Me a Sign, I’m so much more aware of my new superstitious tendencies. I may laugh at myself while indulging them, but that hasn’t stopped me from holding my breath every time I crack a fortune cookie.

I saw that Mia also begins to look for signs in songs. Is there a song in particular that you would associate with Mia?
There are so many songs and playlists sprinkled throughout the book. Two that are VERY Mia-relavant are Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” and Our Lady Peace’s “4am.”


Phillip Phillips - Superstition
(I love this Phil Phillips version because he sounds a lot like I imagine Gyver would!)


Our Lady Peace - 4am


What three words would Gyver use to describe Mia?
Stubborn, superstitious, stunning.

If you could send Mia a sign, what would you tell her?
I’d tell her to trust herself. Mia is very swayed by what others want for her. When she needs to make a decision, her first reaction is to think of others’ opinions or look for a sign. I’d tell her to believe in herself and her own instincts.

What are you working on right now?
My edits for my second book, Bright Before Sunrise, (Walker, winter 2014) should be coming soon, so I’m getting excited to work on that again. Bright is dual-perspective and takes place over the course of one night. It tells the story of Brighton and Jonah—teens with very different backgrounds and preconceptions of each other, and what happens when they’re forced to reevaluate each other… and themselves.

I’m also working on a brand new project which is the first novel I’ve written that isn’t straight-up contemporary. I’d tell you more about it, but I don’t want to jinx it… (I guess there’s a little of Mia in me after all!)

I'm excited to hear about your new works and can't wait to read them!


Tiffany's Website | Facebook | Twitter
Tiffany Schmidt grew up in Massachusetts where she spent a significant part of her childhood getting into mischief and sitting in the naughty chair, where she honed her storytelling skills. She now lives in Pennsylvania with her saintly husband and impish twin boys. She's repped by Joe Monti at Barry Goldblatt Literary. She still gets into mischief, she still has dogs, and she still tells stories. She very much hopes you like them.

The Vampire Hunter's Daughter Tour Stop + Giveaway

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Today, I'm delighted to be participating in the blog tour for The Vampire Hunter's Daughter by Jennifer Malone Wright! I have for you today my review, an interview, and giveaway!


Fourteen-year-old Chloe witnesses her mother’s murder at the hands of a vampire. Before the vampire can kidnap her, there is an unexpected rescue by a group of vampire hunters. Overwhelmed by the feeling of safety, Chloe passes out and they whisk her away to their small community.

When Chloe wakes, she comes face to face with the only other living relative, besides her mother, whom she has ever met: her grandfather. Chloe’s mother kept her hidden from the family; now, Chloe tries to unveil the family secrets. Through her grandfather, she learns her mother was a vampire hunter. In fact, her entire family is descended from the powerful bloodlines of vampire hunters. Chloe agrees to join the family she has never known for one reason only: Chloe vows to kill the vampire responsible for her mother’s murder.

With vengeance in her soul, Chloe is even more determined to follow through on her vow when she discovers the true identity of her enemy and how he is connected to her. Experience the world of vampires hunter’s, vampires and mythology with Chloe in this exciting series.

My Thoughts
The nice thing about this collection of books is that each segment is short and written in a simple style and well-paced, making it easy to keep up with. The brevity of the books also makes for a quick and relaxing read. Chloe is a tough girl. She has to grow up fast, after all. She has much to catch up on as a vampire hunter, and she has to learn it fast to defend herself against the vampires coming after her. Inside, however, she is also a vulnerable girl who has just lost her mother but isn't being given much time to mourn her.

My only complaint would be that Chloe is force-fed so much information about the vampire hunters. While it is understandable that much would need to be told to her since she's lived apart from the community for all her life, it would have been nice to see her find out a lot of the information by herself--or at least be given the chance to ask questions instead of having people tell her what's going on.

Once Chloe has been caught up on life in the vampire-hunter community, the pace picks back up. This is an entertaining read filled with much action and romance... especially romance. There are some hot vampire hunters walking around. Being hunters, they're kind of muscled and dangerous. Who doesn't like?


Author Interview with Jennifer Malone Wright

Tell us a little about yourself and how you got into writing.
Well, first and foremost, I am the mother of five children and wife of a terrific man. I live in the beautiful mountains of northern Idaho and love it, except during the winter when I'm longing for tropical places.

I got into writing because that is what I've always wanted to do. I love reading and always have. Ever since grade school my dream has been to be a published novelist and now I am finally doing that.


What intrigued you into writing a story about vampire hunters?
I wanted to bring back vampires as the bad guys, so I wanted to write about the people who lived their lives in pursuit of killing them. But, I wanted my hunters to be born and bred for the job. In the case of my hunters, they are actually a race of hunter created from demi-gods and angels, so it's in their bloodline.

That's really cool. What kind of research did you do for the story?
The research for writing anything is extensive. I had to research types of vampires, mythology, Greek names, Italian Armies, gun shot wounds, healing processes, ect… I try to make sure everything I write is as accurate as possible.

Chloe is suddenly brought into a community and meets the grandfather she didn't know she had, and her desire for vengeance leads her to take on the family occupation. How did you balance her youth and vulnerability with her drive for vengeance while making her relatable to readers?
It's so hard when people ask about how a character develops because, like, with Chloe, she sort of reveals herself as we go on with the story. But, I wanted to make sure that she was still a teenager. She still cares about clothes and boys, she still throws little tantrums and is self absorbed in some ways like a lot of teens are, but she is driven to avenge her mother's death because it was only her and her mother for so long, they only had each other.

What did you enjoy most developing Chloes relationship with the members of the vampire hunter community?
I freaking love writing about the hunters! I really enjoyed writing about how Chloe has this obvious love of weapons, just like the other hunters do, it's sort of like a hereditary thing for them. There are lots of things they do that she doesn't, like they are health food junkies and she is not, so that makes for some exciting conversation. lol, but all in all, I enjoy writing about how she seems to fit in in some ways and not in others.

What are the highlights of the training program for a vampire hunter?
Oh, this is a good question! The high lights of the training program for a vampire hunter. Exercise (especially cardio), weapons training in all forms, hand to hand combat, and book research. (The hunters in the community learn this in school.) Don't forget a healthy diet.

If you were to hang out with one of Chloe's vampire hunter friends, who would it be and where would you go?
Mmmm, I would have to pick Drew, cause he's a hottie and we would go hiking up to the waterfall!

What are you working on right now?
Right now I am working on the continuation of The Vampire Hunter's Daughter, called The Arcadia Falls Chronicles. I am also working on the second installment to my other series of which the first one is titled The Birth of Jaiden.

Jennifer's Website | Facebook | Twitter
Jennifer Malone Wright resides in the beautiful mountains of northern Idaho with her husband and five children. Between the craziness of taking care of her children, whose ages range from sixteen all the way down to two years, and being a homemaker, Jennifer has little time left for herself. The time she does have left, usually leading far into the night, is spent working on freelance work or her beloved fiction.

Giveaway

Jennifer has kindly donated an e-copy of The Vampire Hunter's Daughter.

Open internationally.
To enter, fill out the Rafflecopter form below.
Giveaway ends October 5th

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In addition, there is a tour giveaway of a $100 Amazon Gift Card.
Open internationally 
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The Unfailing Light Blog Tour

Tuesday, September 25, 2012
I'm participating in The Unfailing Light blog tour, which started yesterday. Here's the complete list of tour stops, so you can join in the fun!



Having had no choice but to use her power has a necromancer to save Russia from dark forces, Katerina Alexandrovna, Duchess of Oldenburg, now wants to forget that she ever used her special powers. She's about to set off to pursue her lifelong dream of attending medical school when she discovers that Russia's arch nemesis--who she thought she'd destroyed--is still alive. So on imperial orders, Katerina remains at her old finishing school. She'll be safe there, because the empress has cast a potent spell to protect it against the vampires and revenants who are bent on toppling the tsar and using Katerina for their own gains. But to Katerina's horror, the spell unleashes a vengeful ghost within the school, a ghost more dangerous than any creature trying to get in.



September 24thSmitten Over Books
September 25thCasey’s Crew
September 26th: Much Ado About Books
September 26thThe Streetlight Reader
September 27th: Infinite Reads
September 28th: The Hiding Spot
September 29th: Girls *Heart* Books
October 1stMom Reads My Books
October 2nd: The Book Review Club
October 3rd: The Book Review Club
October 4th: Kimba Caffeinated
October 4th: My Life is a Notebook
October 5th: My Life is a Notebook
October 6th: Candace’s Book Blog
October 7thReader Girls
October 8th: Bookish
October 8th: Peace, Love, Books
October 9th: YA Bibliophile
October 9thReader Girls
October 10th: Wastepaper Prose
October 10th: Imaginary Reads
October 11thImaginary Reads
October 12th: Well Read Wife
October 15thLibby Blog
October 16th: Cracking the Cover
October 17th: A Bookish Libraria
October 18th: A Novel Review
October 19thIn the Best Worlds
October 20thTripping Over Books


Huber Hill & the Brotherhood of Coronado Tour Stop & Giveaway

Today, I am delighted to be interviewing with B.K. Bostick for the Huber Hil & The Brotherhood of Coronado Tour Stop!

Tell us a little about yourself and how you got into writing.
I consider myself a pretty normal guy. I am married, go to work every day, and have two kids, but there's a secret side of myself. Something a few years ago I would've denied all day long. What was that secret? I am a writer. I was scared to tell people because it usually induced eye rolls and the phrase, 'Oh, do you have a real job?' After being published, it got easier to tell people, but I still get a few eye rolls. My real job is at the Open High School of Utah where I work as a school counselor trying to steer America's youth toward real jobs. I love working with kids. For the last ten years I've worked as a teacher or counselor and secretly type away each weekend on my books.

I saw that Huber Hill's story was inspired by stories your grandfather told you. How else has your relationship with your grandfather influenced your writing?
My Grandfather died when I was fairly young, but those interactions I had with him are burned in memory. He really influenced me to become a storyteller. There were few things I looked forward to more than visiting him each weekend to hear more stories. The tales he told took me out of the world temporarily to a more fascinating place. Sadly, many of the stories he told I can no longer remember, but I do remember the feeling. I like the idea of being able to produce those same feelings of excitement and exhilaration for kids.

As a mystery book filled with adventure, I think Huber Hill does just that. It's a book that readers of all ages can enjoy! Book two takes places in Spain. What research did you do for the story?
I minored in Spanish at the University of Utah. It was there I learned about the rich history of Spain and its provinces. In my teaching career, I was able to teach at a Spanish Academy. Many of the teachers there were from Spain. I learned much about their culture and history through them. In particular, many of the teachers I worked with hailed from Salamanca- the city of Cervantes and one of the oldest universities in the world. It is a city rich with history and secrets. Don Quixote is also one of my favorite stories, so I tried my best to pay honor to Spain and the city of Salamanca in particular.

I love how you took the Spanish culture and incorporated it into the story. Huber Hill is a boy caught in a deadly conflict. How did you balance his youth and thirst for adventure with the leadership roles he needs to take on and fear over what he's gotten into?
Huber definitely transitions in this story from being a victim with something to prove in book one to being more of a leader in book two. He has survived the terrifying ordeal with the Dead Man's Treasure and is now confident in his ability to solve problems and face danger. It has been fun to watch him mature and progress. That said, he is still young and feels fear, but is able to overcome it for the sake of others. Relationships play a large role in the story from family to love to friendship. Some we don't find out about until near the end, though they've been there all long.

My favorite aspect of the characterization was the relationships that the children formed with each other and those around them. How did you go about developing these ties? How significant are relationships to the book?
I believe that in a story, relationships are everything. When I think about great stories like Harry Potter, I instantly think about the relationships between the characters more than the adventures themselves. Relationships are something we all have in common. The more rich and complex they are, the more invested I am in the story and it characters. If all a story has is explosions and special effects, no character development or relationships, it becomes boring pretty quick.

There are many plot twists in this book. What did you most enjoy setting up?
It's funny because some of the biggest twists in the story didn't happen until I was writing it, so they surprised me too. I figured if they surprised me, they'd surprise the reader as well.

I certainly wasn't expecting some of the things that happened to take place! I saw that, like Huber, you went treasure hunting with your friends. What would you have done if you found something?
If we would've found something, we probably wouldn't have told anyone. So, who knows?
Maybe we did :)

That's fair. What are you working on right now?
I'm working on the third and final book of the series, Huber Hill and the Golden Staff of Cibola.


B.K Bostick's Website | Facebook | Twitter
B.K. Bostick, author of Huber Hill and the Dead Man's Treasure, resides among the magnificent Rocky Mountains. In addition to writing, he has spent his career in education. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Utah and his Masters in Psychology from Utah State University. He has worked as a teacher, after school program coordinator, junior high school counselor, and most recently as a teacher mentor for a University. He loves spending time with his lovely wife and two dogs. In his spare time, he enjoys eating cheetos and watching old episodes of the Twilight Zone.



Author Interview - Emily Hainsworth & Giveaway

Monday, September 24, 2012
Today, I'm excited to be interviewing with Emily Hainsworth, whose debut novel Through to You comes out October 2nd.


Camden Pike has been grief-stricken since his girlfriend, Viv, died. Viv was the last good thing in his life: helping him rebuild his identity after a career-ending football injury, picking up the pieces when his home life shattered, and healing his pain long after the meds wore off. And now, he’d give anything for one more glimpse of her. But when Cam makes a visit to the site of Viv’s deadly car accident, he sees some kind of apparition. And it isn’t Viv.

The apparition’s name is Nina, and she’s not a ghost. She’s a girl from a parallel world, and in this world, Viv is still alive. Cam can’t believe his wildest dreams have come true. All he can focus on is getting his girlfriend back, no matter the cost. But things are different in this other world: Viv and Cam have both made very different choices, things between them have changed in unexpected ways, and Viv isn’t the same girl he remembers. Nina is keeping some dangerous secrets, too, and the window between the worlds is shrinking every day. As Cam comes to terms with who this Viv has become and the part Nina played in his parallel story, he’s forced to choose—stay with Viv or let her go—before the window closes between them once and for all.


Tell us a little about yourself and how you became a writer.
I had always wanted to be a writer, but I didn't get serious about it until about six years ago. I started out an English major in college, switched to Psychology because it seemed more "practical," then became a dog groomer and ran my own business for a while. I returned to writing when I felt like I needed more of a challenge. Writing a book & getting published is one of the hardest things I've ever done, but also the most fun I've ever had.

I love the concept behind Through to You. How did you come up with the inspiration for the novel?
I had been thinking a lot about how different my life might have been if I’d made some slightly different choices at certain moments in my past. The idea of being able to see two different outcomes based on opposite choices was ultimately what inspired Through to You.

Through to You includes a slight sci-fi element with the parallel worlds aspect. Did you do any research for this novel, or did you let it develop on its own?
I did a little bit of research on different dimensions and theories of the multiverse. I tried to keep the sci-fi element grounded in those theories, but for the most part, I let the story develop on its own.

I read that Through to You began a bit chaotic for you. Since it's beginning, how has the novel developed?
The most chaotic part of writing Through To You was simply the decision TO write it. I had been working on another book for four long years before I could finally admit it was time to give up on it. Once I did that, I was able to write Through To You very quickly!

I understand the feeling of not wanting to give up, but I am so glad that you decided to write Through to You! Camden is grief-stricken over the death of his girlfriend Viv, and he's desperate to get her back. What made you decide to tackle this emotional and sensitive topic?
This will sound like a cop-out answer, but that was simply the story Cam needed to tell. As I got to know his character, it became clear to me this would be a very emotional journey, and it was. I hope I was able to do him and Viv justice.

What were some challenges in creating Camden's character? What do you like the most about him?
The biggest challenge in creating Cam's character was simply learning how to write in the voice of a guy. It took me a while to get comfortable with, but by the end I felt more at ease with Cam than any other character I've written. I love how willing he is to just wallow in his own sadness, but also how strongly he can be brought out of that by the right person.

If you were to find an opening to a parallel world, would you like to see how different choices you could have made impacted the course your life took?
Oh, absolutely! It's something I'm so curious about, and ultimately why I wrote this book. I don't think I would trade any of the choices I've made for another, but who wouldn't want to see how life could have been different?

It would be interesting to see what would happened had I made a different decision somewhere along the road. What are you working on right now?
I recently handed in my second book to my publisher (another standalone novel--the title is still unconfirmed or I would share!). So now I'm gearing up to work on Book 3. It's always a little daunting starting at the beginning all over again, but I'm super excited about this next book. I continue to write in the "light sci-fi" genre, so if you like Through To You, hopefully you'll enjoy my other books too. Stay tuned!

I can't wait to read your second book! Thanks for interviewing, Emily.


Emily's Website | Facebook | Twitter
Emily Hainsworth was raised in upstate New York, but quickly fled its gray skies for the sunny Rocky Mountains. She currently resides in Denver with her husband and daughter. Through to You is her first novel.



Review: The Maze Runner by James Dashner


Series: Maze Runner #1
Hardback: 374 Pages
Publication: October 6, 2009 by Delacorte Books for Younger Readers


When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his first name. His memory is blank. But he’s not alone. When the lift’s doors open, Thomas finds himself surrounded by kids who welcome him to the Glade—a large, open expanse surrounded by stone walls.

Just like Thomas, the Gladers don’t know why or how they got to the Glade. All they know is that every morning the stone doors to the maze that surrounds them have opened. Every night they’ve closed tight. And every 30 days a new boy has been delivered in the lift.

Thomas was expected. But the next day, a girl is sent up—the first girl to ever arrive in the Glade. And more surprising yet is the message she delivers.

Thomas might be more important than he could ever guess. If only he could unlock the dark secrets buried within his mind.

The Glade is a place of unknowns. None of the boys has any memory of his old life; they don't remember any details about themselves except their names. The boys have made a life for themselves in this place, and their only hope is trying to solve the maze that surrounds the walls. The Maze is a dangerous place, filled with terrifying half monsters and half machine, Grievers, who exist solely to sting the boys with a deadly poison. The plot is mysterious and full of surprises. I constantly found myself wondering how the boys got there, whether they would be able to get out, and what will happen to them.

I love how all the Gladers formed a society to survive the everyday fear of not knowing why they are there or how they can possibly get out. Then, with Thomas's arrival, things begin to change. He is determined to discover the solve the secrets to the maze and goes to great lengths to find the way out. He gives the boys hope. Even with no answers, he unites the boys, and they keep working together to find a way out.

What made it hard to start the book is the slang. Dashner uses unique words, like klunk, greenie, shuck, slopper, and all sorts of other words, which were confusing at first. It's just like the feeling I got with Thomas at first. He is confused and doesn't understand what Dashner is saying. Thomas is an easily relatable character. The way that Dashner portrays him makes it easy to feel his emotions and identify yourself with him.

It is through unexpected intervention that Thomas remembers the solution to the maze and why the boys have never been able to get out. The ending was very suspenseful, and I look forward to further adventures with this bunch!

Imagine Weekly: Imagine My Mailbox (34)

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Hi, everyone! I hope your week's going splendidly.

This Past Week
I reviewed...
My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher
Nerve by Jeanne Ryan (whom Austin also interviewed) for the Nerve Tour
Fathomless by Jackson Pearce, an amazing fairy-tale retelling!
The Pregnancy Project by Gaby Rodriguez, ghost writer Jenna Glatzer
Spindlers by Lauren Oliver

Alice reviewed...
Surviving High School by M. Doty

I interviewed...
Shannon Hale, one of my all-time favorite authors, for the Palace of Stone tour!

Participated in two cover reveals...
Solstice by P.J. Hoover
Opal by Jennifer L. Armentrout

And I talked about comfort reads

Imagine My Mailbox
Quite a bit of books came in the mail this week. Mostly, they come from my recent Tamora Pierce shopping spree, which I'm really excited about! I've finished rereading the first two books in The Immortals quartet in addition to Trickster's Choice, which is also why I conveniently forgot to set up my mailbox post yesterday :)

For Review

Through to You by Emily Hainsworth (for giveaway)


Bought

The Circle of Magic 1&2 by Tamora Pierce (Sandry's Book & Tris's Book)
The Circle of Magic 3&4 by Tamora Pierce (Daja's Book & Briar's Book)


* Check out more book hauls at Tynga's Stacking the Shelves *


What did you get this week? Leave a link in the comments section, and I'll check out your week's haul!

Review - Spindlers

Saturday, September 22, 2012
Spindlers
by Lauren Oliver

Publication: October 2, 2012
Pages: 256
Author: Website | Facebook | Twitter
Publisher: Harper Collins
Buy it: Amazon | KindleB&N | Book Depository

ARC provided by publisher for review purposes
One night when Liza went to bed, Patrick was her chubby, stubby, candy-grubbing and pancake-loving younger brother, who irritated and amused her both, and the next morning, when she woke up, he was not. In fact, he was quite, quite different.

When Liza's brother, Patrick, changes overnight, Liza knows exactly what has happened: The spindlers have gotten to him and stolen his soul.

She knows, too, that she is the only one who can save him.

To rescue Patrick, Liza must go Below, armed with little more than her wits and a broom. There, she uncovers a vast world populated with talking rats, music-loving moles, greedy troglods, and overexcitable nids . . . as well as terrible dangers. But she will face her greatest challenge at the spindlers' nests, where she encounters the evil queen and must pass a series of deadly tests--or else her soul, too, will remain Below forever.

I'm in love with Lauren Oliver's writing all over again. Before I Fall and Delirium showed us that she can write emotional, heartwrenching novels. I haven't read Liesl & Po yet (where have I been?), but Spindlers has shown me that she can write magical fantasies that will capture the heart and inner child of middle-grade readers everywhere.

As I've mentioned in some past reviews, I'm an older sister myself, and I can easily relate to Liza. Yes, siblings get in fights, but they're your best friends. Half the time, they do the opposite of what you ask them to do, but they're also the ones who understand you best and truly care about you. This is the case with Liza. She remembers the annoying habits of her brother Patrick, but all faults are forgiven when she realizes that her brother's soul has been stolen by Spindlers. Without thought for herself and in spite her her fears, she decides to rescue him.

This book reminded me of Gregor the Overlander, which is also about an older sibling who goes "Below" to save a younger sibling. However, Spindlers is more magical and seems to be targeting a slightly younger audience. I love the portraits of the various characters that show up at the beginning of each chapter and only wish that the pictures were larger. The drawings are gorgeous and the world so magical that I wish there were more illustrations accompanying the text. On the bright side though, this also means that we get to imagine the world ourselves.

I love middle-grade fantasies for the fantastical worlds they bring to younger readers. Inside, I'm still a bit of a kid and get excited whenever I find an especially extraordinary fantasy book. While I may also enjoy darker, more mature works for young adults and the occasional adult paranormal/urban fantasy read, there's something about the innocent magic of middle-grade fantasies that calls out to me.

Spindlers captures that essential element.

This book is about sibling relationships, friendship, and taking courage in oneself. As I've also mentioned before, Lauren Oliver is one of my favorite authors. I am looking forward to seeing more new works from her, young adult and middle grade alike and whatever else she comes up with!

If this appeals to you, you may also enjoy Ordinary Magic by Caitlen Rubino-Bradway.

Related Posts
Lauren Oliver Archive

Review - Surviving High School

Surviving High School
by M. Doty

Publication: September 4, 2012
Pages: 272
Publisher: Poppy
Buy it: Amazon | Kindle | B&N | Book Depository

What's the secret to surviving your freshman year of high school?

Emily Kessler thinks she has it all figured out. She eats, sleeps and trains for competitive swimming. All she has to do is keep her grades high and swim times short -- short enough to live up to her sister Sara's. But walking the crowded maze of unfamiliar high school hallways is like diving headfirst into shark-infested waters. Shark #1: Dominique, her biggest competition on the swim team and all-around mean girl. Shark #2: The adorable and popular Ben Kale... Emily can't resist his smile no matter how hard she tries. When the pressure builds to the point where Emily isn't sure she can stay afloat, she begins to question the strict path her life has always followed.

Maybe there is more to life than studying and swimming. Maybe the secret to surviving high school is just to have a little fun.

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for review purposes

Emily is training to be an Olympic swimmer. Her older sister Sara was on her way to breaking tons of records before she died in a terrible car crash. Emily worships Sara, and she feels like she needs to live up to her sister’s legacy by sticking with an 8,000-calorie daily diet, a strict sleep schedule and a daily three-hour training with her dad, who is also her coach. Emily’s schedule leaves no room for a social life except a monthly sleepover with her best friend Kimi. When Emily tries to discover what really happened the night her sister died, she finds out a secret about her sister.

Kimi and Dominique are the two supporting characters in the book. Kimi cares about popularity, and she loves making pro/con spreadsheets of how popular the guys are. Other than that, however, there is not much to distinguish her. Dominique is Emily's number one competitor both in the pool and as competition for Ben Kale. She is always looking for ways to insult and humiliate Emily. She's the mean girl you don't want to mess with.

Ben Kale is hot and popular. He is a party animal and prankster who is not afraid of breaking the rules. With Ben coming into the picture, Emily begins questioning her commitment to swimming, if it's worth the effort she puts into it. Emily starts to cheat on her sleep schedule to spend time with Ben and happy for the first time. Ben makes her see that there is more to life and that it's okay for her to be who she wants to be.

Emily’s dad is a former Olympian and the one who pushes her a lot. He even acts like her coach at home. Emily’s relationship with her father is the main focus of the book. Emily wants to satisfy her father’s Olympic dream, but on the other hand, she desires the normal teenager life. When Emily gets caught by breaking the rules and sneaking out with Ben, she confronts with her Coach Dad about Sara’s secret and her own desire.

Surviving High School is a fun, contemporary book with lots of little life lessons of teenagers. I can’t wait to read the next book, which about Kimi. We didn't really get to know about her in this book, so I'm excited to get to know her more!

Wedding Cake Girl Tour Stop & Giveaway

Friday, September 21, 2012
As a part of the tour for Anne Pfeffer's Wedding Cake Girl, I have for you an excerpt and a giveaway of her book.

Seventeen year old Alexandra spends so much time helping others realize their dreams that she never has time for her own. An expert ocean diver and reluctant maker of wedding cakes, she longs to leave roses and frosting behind to study oceanography. Alex’s mother won’t have it—needy and dependent, Mom can’t run the family wedding cake business on her own.

No matter what Alex does, things only get worse for her. When she risks her life to save a tourist while scuba diving and becomes the local hero, Mom's angry with Alex for going diving at all. Mom also discourages Alex's new friendship with the insanely wealthy Jeremy, a fun boy with a secret. Then, Alex's best friend, Zack, a hunky island guy, starts to take an interest in her as well. The problem is, he's dating another girl.

As Alex struggles to learn where she stands between her two difficult and confusing Prince Charmings, it occurs to her that maybe what she really needs is a Prince Charming for Mom. If she doesn't do something, she will make cakes all her life and die in her "Sue's Wedding Cakery" apron with a spatula in her hand.


Excerpt
Someone with a whimsical imagination must have named the streets in Paradise. I head down Cinnamon Street to Carousel Avenue and turn left. It takes me all of one minute to get to Dizzy's Dive. Fishnets full of carefully preserved sea life cover the walls. Amidst the motionless crabs and swordfish, a soccer game blares from ten TVs. Brazil's playing Italy.

I squeeze my way through the tables. Zack's already sitting at the counter. Technically, since Dizzy's is a full-fledged liquor-slinging establishment, Zack and I are not allowed on the premises. But seeing as how Dizzy Malone is Zack's uncle, and Spike Malone, Zack's dad, is Chief of Police, there's no one to turn us in or arrest us. Zack and I have been hanging at Dizzy's since we were little, slugging down sodas and sitting near Dizzy at the bar, where he could keep an eye on us. Zack listens to the person beside him, grinning broadly, his smile white against his tan. I love the way he's always himself, always calm and centered. A couple of girls walk by, checking him out, but he's waving to me.

It's okay if Zack's with Rosie, I try to convince myself. After all, I was the one who stupidly said it was better to be just friends.

Three months ago, Zack and I went mountain biking and stopped to rest on a hillside. I lay in a patch of sun with my eyes closed, while Zack walked around nearby. I heard him rustling in the grass, but didn't know what he was doing until I sat up, opened my eyes, and found him holding out a bunch of wildflowers. To me.

I leaned forward, admiring the island poppies and Arroyo lupine in his hand. "The flowers are great this spring, with all the rain we've gotten!" Then I looked up. He had a half-embarrassed, half-determined expression on his face. "They're for you," he said.

"Oh!" In shock, I took them and sat there, looking down at them, not knowing what to say.

"I thought that maybe I should ask you out on a date. That is," he added, "if you're interested." He put on this "just-kidding" expression that masked the shy and serious Zack underneath and gave him an escape route if needed.

But the word "date" meant one thing: my mother and her men. I would never live in that world or let it touch what I had with Zack.

"I don't do dates!" The words flew out of me. I scrambled to my feet, the flowers falling from my hand. "Your friendship means too much to me."

"Yeah, I know, me too," he said, suddenly busy brushing off his shorts with angry little strokes.

"Zack, I...." I knew I'd hurt him, but I didn't know how to undo what I'd done. "Now I've dropped your flowers!" I wailed, trying to pick them up out of the long grass. "Don't worry about it." He stalked off toward his mountain bike.

"Wait!"

"Forget it." He asked Rosie out the very next day.

I haven't been able to fix my mistake. We're still friends and diving partners, but it's not the same.

About the author:
Anne Pfeffer lives in Los Angeles near a large rotating neon chicken head with her daughter and her dachshund Taco.

Anne's Website | Twitter


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Book Nerd Hearts: When in distress, I can always count on these books


Having just finished an intense examination period where all my professors decided to pile exams on us students at the same time, it makes sense for me to talk about comfort reads, books that I read during times of stress and distress. These books calm me down and make me happy when I'm in the middle of a stressful period in life. If it's an examination period like now, I don't have to worry about becoming addicted to the plot line and forgoing studies to read. I know what's happening and where I'll be picking up the story again, and I'm not pressured with having to figure out what I think about the story for a review. I've read the story before and know that I love it.

Actually, I was talking about comfort reads with some fellow fantasy book-loving friends of mine a couple weeks ago. My friends had brought some of their favorite reads to college with them to read when they were in need of comfort from a book they knew they could rely on. That got me thinking about what my comfort reads were. The next weekend I went home, I brought back a couple of these favorites with me.

So what are my comfort reads?

With my comfort reads, I return to the comfortable familiarty of my favorite fantasy books.

At the top reigns Tamora Pierce. I have practically all of her books and am in the process of aquiring the few books of hers that I have yet to own. A tried and true favorite of mine is the Song of the Lioness quartet, which I've been reading since the examination period started. I'm still as much in love with Alanna's courage and strength of heart as when I first discovered her back in the day.



Other books that I love to reread in times of need are:
   


... and anything by Tamora Pierce because she's that awesome.
I especially love the books set in the world of Tortall. It's my favorite by her!


How about you? What are your comfort reads / reads you can always count on?


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Review: The Pregnancy Project by Gaby Rodriguez

Thursday, September 20, 2012
The Pregnancy Project
by Gaby Rodriguez, Jenna Glatzer

Publication: January 17, 2012
Pages: 218
Gaby: Website | Twitter
Jenna: Website | Facebook | Twitter
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
Buy it: Amazon | KindleB&N | Book Depository

Growing up, Gaby Rodriguez was often told she would end up a teen mom. After all, her mother and her older sisters had gotten pregnant as teenagers; from an outsider’s perspective, it was practically a family tradition. Gaby had ambitions that didn’t include teen motherhood. But she wondered: how would she be treated if she “lived down” to others' expectations? Would everyone ignore the years she put into being a good student and see her as just another pregnant teen statistic with no future? These questions sparked Gaby’s school project: faking her own pregnancy as a high school senior to see how her family, friends, and community would react. What she learned changed her life forever, and made international headlines in the process.

In The Pregnancy Project, Gaby details how she was able to fake her own pregnancy—hiding the truth from even her siblings and boyfriend’s parents—and reveals all that she learned from the experience. But more than that, Gaby’s story is about fighting stereotypes, and how one girl found the strength to come out from the shadow of low expectations to forge a bright future for herself.

We live in a world with stereotypes, where we label others based off appearances and initial impressions. While I don't like being stereotyped, I often make jokes about being Asian. It's funny to me that while Asians are known for being strong in mathematics, I lean more towards the liberal arts and am actually minoring in English with a Creative Writing specialization. Gaby doesn't want to live by stereotypes either; however, she takes it a step further in conducting a social experiment on how stereotypes really do influence people.

Despite being known as a good student destined for college, Gaby falls prey to stereotypic views when she fakes a pregnancy. People stopped celebrating her academic achievements and instead start talking about how they knew she was going to get done in at some point. They think she's ruined her life. It has to take a lot of strength to keep going with the project when people start talking like that both to your face and behind your back. It takes greater strength to keep this to a select few people and accept the disappointment of those who care about you. I really admire Gaby's courage in going through with his project to prove stereotypes false and to open peoples' eyes to the reality of teen pregnancies.

While not all of this story is happy, Gaby's story is certainly an inspirational one with a powerful message behind it. Gaby has not only proven stereotypes false, she has proven that one person can make a difference and that individuals do have the power to make a difference in their lives. This is a story that I recommend reading once.



Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this book from the publisher. No payment was received in return for a review. The receipt of the book had no influence on the opinions expressed in my review.

Palace of Stone Tour Stop

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


Today, I am delighted to be interviewing with Shannon Hale as part of the tour for Princess Academy: Palace of Stone. I know that this was scheduled to go out earlier, but the office was having difficulties with emails bouncing back or not sending properly, so it wasn't until now that I was able to set up the post!

Coming down from the mountain to a new life in the city seems a thrill beyond imagining. When Miri and her friends from Mount Eskel set off to help the future princess Britta prepare for her royal wedding, she is happy about her chance to attend school in the capital city. There, Miri befriends students who seem so sophisticated and exciting . . . until she learns that they have some frightening plans. They think that Miri will help them, that she "should "help them. Soon Miri finds herself torn between loyalty to the princess and her new friends' ideas, between an old love and a new crush, and between her small mountain home and the bustling city.


Interview with Shannon Hale

Tell us about yourself and how you became an author.
I’m currently a mom of four young kids, so that’s what takes up most of my time and energy. Inside I’m still that young, starry-eyed daydreamer who loved to read and struggled to make friends. And at the moment I’m eating rice crackers. I became an author by writing books for 19 years till I was good enough to write something that other people might want to read.

What draws you to the fantasy genre and fairy-tale style of writing?
Fantasy was my favorite genre as a kid and I still love it. I’m intrigued by fairy tales and their ability to still fascinate us hundreds of years later. There’s a timelessness and universality to those stories. If I’m true to the story itself, it’s easier for a reader to slip into the telling and find her own metaphors that resonate with her life.

You mention in your interview with City Weekly, "I want to see my heroine succeed without a phallic weapon in her hand," and each of your heroines possesses unique qualities that help them succeed. What do you believe is the most powerful weapon and why?
Ooh, I don’t know if I could choose one. I see in my heroes an arsenal that includes wit, perseverance, humanity, cleverness, creativity, and hope. I think we all have an arsenal of skills and talents, some untrained or unnoticed, that can win any war.

Your heroines all have good friends supporting them. How important are these relationships to your works?
Relationships are so important. Our relationships with others in large part determine our happiness. If I’m struggling to understand a character, I examine her relationships with other characters. I guess my work reflects how strongly I feel about the power of friendship in my life, especially my friendship with my husband.

How has Princess Academy and its sequel developed since you first came up with the idea for the story?
Whenever I get an idea for a story, it starts as a tiny dot, and as I think about it and begin writing drafts, it grows and grows until it becomes so much larger and more complex than I could have imagined. I love that process.

Miri is a young girl with a thirst for knowledge and no immediately identifiable weapon. What do you believe gives her the power to throw revolutions and touch hearts?
I love Miri. But I don’t think she’s that unique as a hero. I think most anyone could what she did in the right circumstance, with support and ideas and opportunity. You or I or everyone have the chance to be heroes every day to someone. And sometimes that someone is just ourselves.

At heart, Miri is an insecure girl who doesn't know if she can live up to everyone's expectations of her or even begin to comprehend Peder's feelings. How did you balance her need to be a leader to those who look up to her with her vulnerability?
I followed what felt like truth to me. Everyone has vulnerability. And everyone has strengths. Working with my characters to find that balance helps me try to figure out that balance in my own self. I am turned off by the posturing of some politicians, the pretending to be perfect, the bombastic shouting, the refusal to admit fault or humility.

Miri travels down from Mount Eskel to the city and learns that the world is bigger than she could have imagined. There is a revolution in the works, but there is no defined villain in either the townspeople or the king. Where do you feel the heart of the story is?
In Miri. In her choices. There’s no easy answer, so she has to decide what she believes and what’s right for her. Sometimes people shout at us, “It has to be this way or that way!” And it takes some thoughtfulness and bravery to say, “Wait, what about the other way?” We can’t control other people, nor should we try. We can only find our own truth and make our own choices.

What are you working on right now?
A young adult superhero adventure novel. It’s been in the works for years, but I’m hoping to finish it this year at last!


Shannon's Website | Facebook | Twitter
Shannon Hale is the New York Times best-selling author of six young adult novels: the Newbery Honor book Princess Academy, multiple award winner Book of a Thousand Days, and the highly acclaimed Books of Bayern series. She has written three books for adults, including the upcoming Midnight in Austenland (Jan. 2012), companion book to Austenland. She co-wrote the hit graphic novel Rapunzel's Revenge and its sequel Calamity Jack with husband Dean Hale. They live near Salt Lake City, Utah with their four small children, and their pet, a small, plastic pig.