Wednesday, July 31, 2013

WOW- Waiting On Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is a meme hosted by Jill at Breaking The Spine.
I never fail to discover great new books that have yet to be published, that have already been published and I missed or that are coming out this week or month. I love discovering new books and book bloggers have all the news on what to add to my endless and enormous TBR list!

Here's my pick this week!



Panic by Lauren Oliver
Release Date- March 4th 2014
Publisher- Harper Collins
Hardcover 416 pages
Goodreads Blurb-Panic began as so many things do in Carp, a dead-end town of 12,000 people in the middle of nowhere: because it was summer, and there was nothing else to do.

Heather never thought she would compete in Panic, a legendary game played by graduating seniors, where the stakes are high and the payoff is even higher. She’d never thought of herself as fearless, the kind of person who would fight to stand out. But when she finds something, and someone, to fight for, she will discover that she is braver than she ever thought.

Dodge has never been afraid of Panic. His secret will fuel him, and get him all the way through the game, he’s sure of it. But what he doesn't know is that he’s not the only one with a secret. Everyone has something to play for.

For Heather and Dodge, the game will bring new alliances, unexpected revelations, and the possibility of first love for each of them—and the knowledge that sometimes the very things we fear are those we need the most.

ALSO!!!! LAUREN OLIVER CAN BE SEEN AND HEARD ON EPIC READS READING THE FIRST THREE CHAPTERS OF PANIC- HERE AT EPIC READS

I would love to see what your WOW picks are so please leave me a link or at least your blog name so I can visit your page! Have an awesome Wednesday!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Blog Tour- After Tuesday by Renee Ericson- Who Do You Trust When You've Learned to Trust No One?

After Tuesday by Renee Ericson
Published May 2013
Available Now
Received copy from Publisher for Itching for Reviews Blog Tour in exchange for honest review
Paperback 360 pages
To Buy Links-
Amazon/ Kindle/ Barnes and Noble
Goodreads Summary
Family really is a pain…especially when your father is an addict.

For the last two years, high school senior Ruby has been her own rock and solace. She has learned to depend only on herself and hides her family's issues by keeping herself somewhat unnoticeable. Despite her isolation, Ruby has intrigued the affections of someone unexpected. Finding herself loving life once again as his persistence sparks a romance awakening a well-protected heart. 

While Ruby’s relationship with her father is constantly teetering, her new-found affection continues to blossom into something more than she ever thought possible. Soon, Ruby comes to realize that opening up your heart means being susceptible to love and disappointment.

YA-M: This book contains mature content including profanity, drug/alcohol use, and sexual situations/language.

This novel starts out with Ruby and a fellow counselor, Lexi helping the campers find their parents and go home after a week of camping. Ruby is approached by Brent Cromwell. The Brent Cromwell. You know him. The one guy at school who has been unavailable that you don't even think about him. And he seems to be interested in Ruby. And that's where things get complicated.

This novel has some really interesting characters.
Ruby- Ruby is a senior in high school who has flown under the radar since she moved to Illinois from Colorado with her dad. She hasn't made any friends or dated because she plans to get the heck out of dodge as soon as she graduates. She is in every sense a loner. She has built a wall around herself, trying to prevent herself from feeling anything.

Ruby's Dad- He has not gotten over the death of his wife. He's an alcoholic and an addict. Worse than that, he's living next door to his brother who he used to party with when he was a kid. Not much has changed. They party hard all the time. He doesn't see Ruby much. He is definitely a hands off kind of parent.

Brent- Brent is a good guy. He lets things move at Ruby's pace. He's got a sensitive side. He is not the kind of guy that goes back and forth between his ex girlfriend who he dated for several years and Ruby. Once he and Frankie broke up, that was it. He's also protective and not afraid to tell Ruby how he feels. Oh and he likes to surprise Ruby. Like make the dates really different! I like a guy like that!

Lexi- Lexi is the kind of friend you want to have in your circle. She is "hilarious, infectious and ridiculously bubbly" (p.2), according to Ruby. Who doesn't want a friend like that? Plus, she encourages Ruby every step of the way with Brent, she forces Ruby to step out of her comfort zone and holds Ruby up when things get bad. She may be more of a secondary character, but she definitely has Ruby's back.

The setting- It's a small town, a lake community with houses ranging from lake front mansions to Ruby's rundown duplex and worse. It's typical contemporary Young Adult setting.

The story- The story is tough. Ruby's mother died a few years ago and her dad had a really hard time. But he was okay when they were in Colorado. But when he lost his job and couldn't find work, they moved to Illinois so he could work for his brother. That's when the drinking and partying began. Ruby feels like she's lost both parents. It isn't uncommon for her to have to go to the local bar to pick up her drunk father and drive him home. This is why Ruby has shut herself off from everyone. How does she bring anyone over to meet a man like him? How does she explain her home life? She's not sure she even understands it. Though the romance in the story is great, I think the bigger issue is between Ruby and her father. He asks to meet Brent after he and Ruby start dating and Ruby puts him off. She's been down that path too many times, of letting herself care, of thinking he'll change. She isn't willing to give him a chance to break her again.

What I thought- When I first got done with the book, I thought it was just so-so. But as I've thought about it more and more, I've come to realize what a tough topic it dealt with and just how much it was on my mind. I think it dealt with the issue of the child having to raise themselves (and) the parent because of alcohol or drug use in a realistic manner. I thought Ruby had every right to be angry at her father, to not trust him, but I did think maybe she was a little hard on him when he seemed to be trying. However, I have not been in that situation and I can only imagine what it must feel like to be constantly let down by a parent. The fact that this book has been on my mind a lot says to me that it affected me more than I thought it did and that's a sign of a good book in my opinion.

It does deal with mature themes and the rating of YA/M for 17 and up stands. I think lovers of contemporary YA, romance and issues books, relationships in families and friendships will all enjoy this book.

I received a copy of this book for review for the blog tour through Itching For Books Blog Tours. I was not compensated for my review. The opinions expressed are my own.


About the Author
Renee loves to wear hoodies, is fluent in Yoda speak, and likes to make videos with Lego figures. She is a long time insomniac, but doesn't have the energy to start an underground Fight Club so she settles for writing stories about the characters who plague her mind. She grew up in the Midwest and currently resides in the Boston area, but sounds nothing like Ben Affleck or Matt Damon.

Contact Renee Ericson


Giveaway

Monday, July 29, 2013

And I Thought Hollywood Parents Punished Their Kids with Bad Names- Giveaway and Review Spies and Prejudice by Talia Vance (US only)

Spies and Prejudice by Talia Vance
Available Now
Publisher: Egmont
Won from Library Things
Hardcover 298 pages
To Buy Links-
Amazon/ Kindle/ Barnes and Noble/ Book Depository/
Indiebound/ Kobo

Goodreads
Fields’ Rule #1: Don’t fall for the enemy.
Berry Fields is not looking for a boyfriend. She’s busy trailing cheaters and liars in her job as a private investigator, collecting evidence of the affairs she’s sure all men commit. And thanks to a pepper spray incident during an eighth grade game of spin the bottle, the guys at her school are not exactly lining up to date her, either.  So when arrogant—and gorgeous—Tanner Halston rolls into town and calls her “nothing amazing,” it’s no loss for Berry. She’ll forget him in no time. She’s more concerned with the questions surfacing about her mother’s death. 
But why does Tanner seem to pop up everywhere in her investigation, always getting in her way? Is he trying to stop her from discovering the truth, or protecting her from an unknown threat? And why can’t Berry remember to hate him when he looks into her eyes?  With a playful nod to Jane Austen, Spies and Prejudice will captivate readers as love and espionage collide.-

Okay first I have to comment on the names. Berry is actually Strawberry Fields. But wait for it, it does get worse. Her best friend is Mari Chris Moss born on Christmas Eve. They've been friends since kindergarten, bonding over their names. I did find that truly funny. 

Unfortunately, I didn't really find anything else that was funny. The tone of the novel was dark to me and though there is a romance or romances in it and definite nods to Pride and Prejudice, the romance didn't feel natural, and never seemed to take off to me. The mystery was good, though I knew about the mother, or guessed early on, but that may just be me. I have a certain criteria for guessing what happened and if that thing isn't mentioned then I know the ending. Still, it was surprising the way the reveal came about and who was involved. 

Berry is a 16 yr old still not quite over the death of her mother when she was 8 yrs old. Her car drove off a bridge and the police ruled it suicide. Berry works for her father in his PI  firm because no one notices a teenager doing surveillance. That I never really warm up to Berry is probably the biggest reason this novel and I aren't a good fit. In her pursuit of the truth, she doesn't care who she steamrolls to get it. She is no Lizzy Bennet. And that she constantly jumps to the wrong conclusion and pushes away the only person who wants to help her is really frustrating. Oh, hmm, maybe she is Lizzy Bennet after all. I think the thing with Berry is that despite the story being told from her point of view, I never feel like I know her. People tell her what they think of her and she says what she thinks people think of her, but we don't get to know who she is.
I think the story suffers from that.

Mari Chris on the other hand, though she is a secondary character to Berry is very much Jane Bennet. She is a gadget geek, gracious, kind, forgiving and a lot less shy than Jane B. but still she tends to remind me of Jane Bennet. Composed, less likely to jump to conclusions and therefore less likely to jump into danger. She's a cool, calm headed girl in the face of a dangerous situation. I felt her romance much more than I felt Berry's.

Jason. I have my biggest complaint here. He feels like the stereotypical gay bestie. He brought nothing new to the story. He did go on a little adventure with Berry, but he was left out of the final showdown. Why?

Tanner and Ryan- Nothing really distinguishes these two from each other except for who they like. Ryan likes Mari Chris and is more successful at wooing her than Tanner is at wooing Berry.


The setting takes place in a high school in California and various places around the small town. Nothing really special about it.

The story as I said is a nod to Pride and Prejudice with Berry trying to find out how her mother died. By accident she learns that her friend's father, Mr. Moss, may have information on how she died or that it wasn't an accident and she begins to investigate. Unfortunately, she hurts her friend in the process as well as ruining her chances at a romance with Tanner and messing up Mari Chris' chances with Ryan.

What worked were the nods to Pride and Prejudice. While sometimes I have a hard time figuring out what exactly is supposed to be a reference to my beloved Pride and Prejudice in retellings or reworkings of the novel, in Spies and Prejudice I had no trouble seeing it. In fact, the basic plot is a modern day version of Pride and Prejudice just with a thriller plot line thrown in as well. Tanner as Darcy was sufficiently arrogant. Ryan as Bingley is good. He's pleasant, friendly, adoring of Mari Chris and only goes away when forced to by....Tanner/Darcy.  As I said before Berry is excellent as Lizzy Bennet and Mari Chris makes a great Jane Bennett. But I have no idea where Jason fits into all of this. 

What didn't work was the thriller part of the story. It started out great, but quickly became unbelievable. I bought into Berry working for her father. I am a full fledged member of the Nancy Drew fan club! But it got a bit out of hand with what the "kids" where trying to take on and then it was just confusing. I did understand that Berry wanted to know how her mom died. I understood that was HER goal. But I didn't understand what Tanner and Ryan wanted or Drew. And though I realized early on what had probably happened to the mom, I didn't understand why it was handled the way it was.

I missed the humor in this one. Berry was not sarcastic or witty to me. But as I read through other reviews, I found plenty of people that found that humor and wit. So I want to make sure you read those reviews as well. You know novels are not a one size fits all kind of thing. So please check out other reviews. I've included a few below for comparison.

YA Books Central Reviews- Spies and Prejudice
Jen Ryland YA Romantics -Spies and Prejudice
Nala's Book Corner- Spies and Prejudice

Okay, so are you as confused as I am? Yes, so what am I saying? The Pride and Prejudice part worked great for me! The other story, not so much. So really it's a toss up. I definitely didn't feel like I wasted my afternoon by reading this novel. I'd have stopped reading. It was worth reading just to see the modern retelling of P&P and I think it would have worked without the mystery/thriller element. So I say, give it a shot. Since I won my copy I think I'll be passing it on for others to read. 

GIVEAWAY- One finished copy of Spies and Prejudice by Talia Vance. Just leave your email addy in the comments if you'd like to win a copy. US ONLY.


Friday, July 26, 2013

In The After by Demetria Lunetta- Shhh, Don't Let Them Hear You!

In The After by Demitria Lunetta
Published June 25th, 2013 Available Now
Publisher: Harper Teen
Hardcover 400 pages
Purchased from Bookstore
To Buy Links-
Amazon/ Kindle/ Audible/ Barnes and Noble/ The Book Depository/ Kobo 
Goodreads Synopsis-They hear the most silent of footsteps.
They are faster than anything you've ever seen.
And They won't stop chasing you...until you are dead.

Amy is watching TV when it happens, when the world is attacked by Them. These vile creatures are rapidly devouring mankind. Most of the population is overtaken, but Amy manages to escape—and even rescue “Baby,” a toddler left behind in the chaos. Marooned in Amy’s house, the girls do everything they can to survive—and avoid Them at all costs.

After years of hiding, they are miraculously rescued and taken to New Hope, a colony of survivors living in a former government research compound. While at first the colony seems like a dream with plenty of food, safety, and shelter, New Hope slowly reveals that it is far from ideal. And Amy soon realizes that unless things change, she’ll lose Baby—and much more.

Rebellious, courageous, and tender, this unforgettable duo will have you on the edge of your seat as you tear through the pulse-pounding narrow escapes and horrifying twists of fate in this thrilling debut from author Demitria Lunetta.

Oh, ho,ho!!! Am I glad I got this one! You do not want to miss this one even if you don't like apocalyptic or dystopian novels. This is one scary apocalypse! They, they are so damn scary. Demitria Lunetta knows how to write suspense and make you keep quiet while you're reading. I barely breathed! And then, the dystopian part of the novel, just as scary but in a "Everything will be okay," kind of way. Excellent mix, perfect story!

The characters of course make the story for me. Amy is what she believes to be the sole survivor of an alien invasion. She is all alone at home when they attack and they decimate the human population. But Amy finds Baby, a toddler when she finds her, while out on a scavenge run for food. They live a silent life for three years, Amy teaching her how to sign as they live together adapting ASL for their needs. Then one night, they are swimming in the lake and get "rescued."

There are other characters but Amy and Baby make up the first third of the book and remain prominent throughout the book. I'll leave you to discover the rest.

The setting plays a big role in this novel. There are several settings depending on which part of the novel you are reading. The start of the story is set in the suburbs of Chicago. That is where Amy survives with Baby. Everyone is dead. Houses are broken into but only by the aliens as they pursued their prey. There are no rotting bodies, just blood stains. Night is the only safe time to venture out. The decaying buildings and world along with encroaching wilderness is the setting for the first three years. After they are rescued, New Hope is the setting. A college campus/research facility. It is orderly, has strict rules and unbreachable borders that the aliens can't even approach. New Hope is safety and food and people and comfort and home. But Amy and Baby are ripped out of one world, one of fear and wildness and a type of freedom and thrown into a world of borders, constraint and containment.

The story is so compelling that despite being 400 pages I had to read it all in one sitting. I just couldn't put it down. Amy has been living as the sole provider and defender as more than an adult for the last three years. Then she gets to New Hope and is expected to fall into the role of a child, go to school, be taken care of, follow rules. It doesn't work for her. She has a hard time adjusting to this new ordered, structured way of life with rules and authority figures. And she doesn't like being separated from Baby even for a few minutes. I could understand her frustration with the adults that ran things not understanding her need to be herself and not fall back into "Before" patterns. Nothing should go back to the way things were "Before." There is a new reality. Kids can't be fed a diet of fairy tales and nursery rhymes. They have to be taught the truth. But I have a feeling we don't know the truth, yet.

If you love apocalyptic and dystopian novels, you will not want to miss this one. It is book one in the series and I will definitely be anxiously awaiting the next novel. I don't feel like it ended on a cliffhanger. It left on a decent place, but man do I have questions!!! Guess I'll be waiting!


Contact Demitria Lunetta


Thursday, July 25, 2013

This is W.A.R. by Lisa Roecker and Laura Roecker- A Delicious Book of Secrets and Revenge

This is W.A.R. by Lisa Roecker and Laura Roecker
Published July 2, 2013 available now
Published by Soho Teen
Hardback 288 pages
To Buy Links-
Amazon/ Kindle/ Audible/ Barnes and Noble/ Book Depository/ Indiebound/ Kobo
Goodreads SynopsisThis is W.A.R. begins with a victim who can no longer speak for herself, and whose murder blossoms into a call-to-arms. Enter four very different girls, four very different motives to avenge Willa Ames-Rowan, and only one rule to start: Destroy James Gregory and his family at any cost. Willa's initials spell the secret rallying cry that spurs the foursome to pool their considerable resources and deliver their particular brand of vigilante justice. Innocence is lost, battles are won—and the pursuit of the truth ultimately threatens to destroy them all.

So this is one of those guilty pleasure books that you can read in a couple of hours, maybe on the beach or maybe curled up in your favorite reading spot during a thunderstorm. And I had the added pleasure of actually reading one of the books I purchased!! Nobody fall off their chairs or anything. I did it twice this week. Don't choke on your morning coffee. I didn't feel the world stop turning but I'm sure a few stars shot across the sky in glee. So back to the book. I was ridiculously happy reading this book about revenge against two rich boys that get away with treating girls badly and now killing Willa Ames-Rowan. I love guys! I really do. I married one and I have two boys. But really, I love nothing better than when a girl or girls get even with a guy or guys who really deserve it! I don't know why. Maybe because I'm reliving my teenage years when I was always the dumped instead of the dumper?? I don't know I just know I love it when a girl gets her justified revenge! So sit back and enjoy this one on the beach or after a messy break up or just because!

The characters in this one are numerous, but we get to know each one really well because each one narrates for several chapters. It isn't confusing at all because each girl has a chance to tell her story and her connection to Willa and what she knows about the night she died. After her narration is done, someone else picks up the story and that character is seen through the eyes of the next narrator. It works very well for this story.
-The characters are Rose, who isn't exactly a member of the country club. Her mother runs it but won't let her fraternize with the help. She wants Rose to make connections with the rich kids her age so she can climb the social ladder. That isn't what Rose wants.
-Then there's Willa's crowd- Lina, Sloane and Willa's step sister, Madge. They are used to summers spent at the country club together with Willa and it just isn't the same without her. Madge is especially upset, everywhere reminds her of Willa. And she more than any of the others is determined to make the Gregorys pay!
-There are also the two Gregory boys that we only get to see through little scenes that aren't very flattering.
Trip, the outgoing, social playboy, life of the party and worst of the two, but not the one seen leaving with Willa in his boat and coming back without her. He is supposedly hated by his grandfather, the Captain who owns the club and Hawthorne Lake, but that's just rumor. And then there is James Gregory, he left the yacht that night with Willa in his boat. An hour later, he came back alone. But both boys are going down!

The setting is a lake community that is run by the richest man around, the Captain. He is THE Gregory and he has enough money to buy his grandsons out of trouble. Their parents died in a car accident that Trip is supposed to have caused. There isn't a lot of information on that. Basically the lake and the country club is where everything takes place.

The story is pretty straightforward. Four girls bond together over their common desire to get even and then to get revenge. But each of them has a crucial bit of information about that night that they don't realize they have. It takes awhile for them to get everything together to understand what happened. The most eerie parts of the story are the parts where we hear (read) Willa's last thoughts and just how close she was to living.

I've already said what I thought. This is a decadent pleasure read. It's about four girls scheming and carrying out scenarios to bring down two playboys who seem to be untouchable. And they do prove to be untouchable for awhile. Some things are left unresolved, but not Willa's murder and that was what the book was about. So the ending completely satisfied me. Anyone that loves scheming teen girls sticking it to boys or rich untouchable boys that deserve it will enjoy this one. It's a contemporary. No paranormal to it. Just lots of fun!
Contact The Authors



Monday, July 22, 2013

Far Far Away by Tom McNeal Review- A Dark Contemporary Fairy Tale

Far Far Away by Tom McNeal
Available Now
Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers
Hardcover 384 pages
Received E-Arc from Publisher through NetGalley
Published June 1st, 2013
To Buy Links-
Amazon/ Kindle/ Audible/ AudioCD/ Barnes and Noble/ The Book Depository/ Indiebound/ Kobo/
Goodreads SynopsisIt says quite a lot about Jeremy Johnson Johnson that the strangest thing about him isn't even the fact his mother and father both had the same last name. Jeremy once admitted he's able to hear voices, and the townspeople of Never Better have treated him like an outsider since. After his mother left, his father became a recluse, and it's been up to Jeremy to support the family. But it hasn't been up to Jeremy alone. The truth is, Jeremy can hear voices. Or, specificially, one voice: the voice of the ghost of Jacob Grimm, one half of the infamous writing duo, The Brothers Grimm. Jacob watches over Jeremy, protecting him from an unknown dark evil whispered about in the space between this world and the next. But when the provocative local girl Ginger Boultinghouse takes an interest in Jeremy (and his unique abilities), a grim chain of events is put into motion. And as anyone familiar with the Grimm Brothers know, not all fairy tales have happy endings. . .

Ah Fairy Tales....I love them for all their weirdness and beauty and timelessness and did I say weirdness. Yes, this one starts out very weird. I thought it was too literary for me to enjoy. The stuffy Jacob Grimm narrates and he waxes prosaic about his lost brother and his time in the world after his death trying to find his way to his brother. Yes, I thought it was just going to be a little too much for me. I was wrong. Very wrong. Jacob Grimm basically lives one of his own fairy tales as an almost silent observer.

The characters in this story are numerous but only a few stand out. I will limit who I describe to Jeremy Johnson Johnson and Jacob Grimm.

Jeremy is a bit nerdy because all he does is study. But when you have a ghost telling you "studies, studies" all the time and you know your only ticket out of town is college and a scholarship, then you know you should study. And he's weird because he once told someone he hears voices. But he does and we know he does because we can hear Jacob Grimm talking to him throughout the novel. But, unfortunately, Jeremy has a tendency to talk to Jacob out loud and that makes him look even weirder. And Jeremy lives with his father in the back of the Two Book Bookstore which, as you may have guessed, sells only two books, the first and second volumes of Jeremy's grandfather's life story. Business isn't good. And, as if you need more to make a boy look weird, Jeremy's father stays in his room all day watching t.v. since Jeremy's mother left him. Life has not been kind to Jeremy. But he's a good boy, studies hard, is kind to everyone, friendly, wary, industrious (he has a lawn service business) and he takes care of his father.

Jacob Grimm's Ghost- Jacob's Ghost somehow got stuck on Earth after he passed away. He's been told by other ghosts it's because he's searching for something, but he has no idea what. He thought his brother would wait for him, but none of the other ghosts have seen or heard of his brother.  Finally he determines that he needs to go to Never Better a place that can barely be seen but once found can never be forgotten and he must protect the boy, Jeremy Johnson Johnson from the Finder of Occasions. Jacob also takes it upon himself to be a sort of moral compass for Jeremy and tries to make him not do certain things because he has a bad feeling about it. Yeah, we all know how that goes.

The world- Never Better is a strange place. There seem to be children that disappear frequently, yet parents don't watch their children overly much. There are dark alleys and an old woman that searches the night for her lost son Possy. There is a police deputy that lurks everywhere, seemingly perverted spying on girls, the townspeople, anyone he can blackmail. There is a jolly baker with a generous hand with his baked goods. But there's a darkness that overlays even the simplest of moments in the town. Something lurks behind the windows and the trees and the trashcans. It follows you home, even in the bright sunshine. There is a timelessness to the town as well. Certain references date it such as game shows and bikes and trains, but truly I would have thought it could have taken place in Jacob Grimm's time.

The Story- Ginger Boultinghouse takes an interest in Jeremy Johnson Johnson and this makes Jeremy Johnson Johnson take an interest in her. After a few days of her showing interest, she shows up in his window at night and dares him to pull a prank. Not being the pranking type, it goes awry and Jeremy is implicated in it. The townspeople turn viciously against Jeremy and then begins a sort of twisted Hansel and Gretel story. Very,very twisted.

What I thought- As I said, the first time I tried to read it, I thought it was very literary and I was not in the mood. I picked it up again and was enthralled. I really couldn't put it down once I got past the first part and I understand why the first part is there. Just don't think the whole story is like that. It is definitely a contemporary fairy tale, a dark one. There is magic and a love story and a ghost. And a definite tribute to The Brothers Grimm.  But it's definitely creepy and dark and you know something isn't right, but you can't quite put your finger on it. When it happens I hope you'll feel the same sense of desperation I did. I had no idea how it would turn out and I was amazed at how twisted and dark this tale turned in such a short amount of time. But things that had happened before started falling into place. And seemingly innocent things from before turn into dire warnings unheeded. Even Jacob Grimm falls victim.

I definitely recommend this for lovers of dark twisted tales! It's a contemporary fairy tale (no fairies) along the lines of the Brothers Grimm. This took me totally by surprise and I'm going to search out more of Tom McNeal's works.

I received a copy of the e-arc from the publisher through Net-Galley. All reviews are my own and are my honest opinion.


Author Info-
Young adult veteran Tom McNeal (one half of the writing duo known as Laura & Tom McNeal) has crafted a novel at once warmhearted, compulsively readable, and altogether thrilling--and McNeal fans of their tautly told stories will not be disappointed.

More info on the author- Website

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Viral Nation by Shaunta Grimes Review

Viral Nation by Shaunta Grimes
Available Now
Published by Berkley Trade
Paperback 320 pages
Received finished copy for review from publisher
Two chapter sample available from Goodreads-Preview of Viral Nation
to Buy Links-
AmazonKindleBarnes and NobleBook Depository/
IndieboundKobo
Add to Goodreads-
Synopsis- After a virus claimed nearly the entire global population, the world changed. The United States splintered into fifty walled cities where the surviving citizens clustered to start over. The Company, which ended the plague by bringing a life-saving vaccine back from the future, controls everything. They ration the scant food and supplies through a lottery system, mandate daily doses of virus suppressant, and even monitor future timelines to stop crimes before they can be committed.

Brilliant but autistic, sixteen-year-old Clover Donovan has always dreamed of studying at the Waverly-Stead Academy. Her brother and caretaker, West, has done everything in his power to make her dream a reality. But Clover’s refusal to part with her beloved service dog denies her entry into the school. Instead, she is drafted into the Time Mariners, a team of Company operatives who travel through time to gather news about the future.

When one of Clover’s missions reveals that West’s life is in danger, the Donovans are shattered. To change West’s fate, they’ll have to take on the mysterious Company. But as its secrets are revealed, they realize that the Company’s rule may not be as benevolent as it seems. In saving her brother, Clover will face a more powerful force than she ever imagined and will team up with a band of fellow misfits and outsiders to incite a revolution that will change their destinies forever. 


Don't forget that I have a giveaway going on for this novel HERE.

I really loved this novel! There's a little bit of something for everyone in it. A little bit of romance, a little bit of evil, a little mystery, and a whole new apocalyptic world to explore.

The characters- There are a lot of characters in this novel and the secondary characters play a big role in this novel so it's hard to just explore main characters. I'll say this- they are all very important.

West Donovan is the older brother in the Donovan family. This is a guy who puts his life on hold to take care of his sister. He helps the little old lady next door get her rations. He put his dreams on hold so his sister didn't get sent to live in the nightmarish Foster City, a place adults pretend is a reputable and caring institution for taking care of the orphans left behind after the virus killed so many. West is a really good guy. He's so patient with Clover. He is really easy to like. He worries a bit. But I guess that's what older brothers do.

Clover Donovan is West's younger sister. She is very intelligent. She is direct to the point of being rude, though not intentionally. She is stubborn. And she is autistic. All these things work in her favor. There is no way you can't like Clover. I laughed when something unexpected came out of her mouth and got pissed when she was bullied. I loved seeing the world through Clover's eyes. It was very cut and dried, decisions made based on fact, not emotions. But then little loopholes started getting thrown in or I guess I should say monkey wrenches and it was interesting to see Clover work through those. And romance? How she handled that was interesting as well. She is a very lovable character.

Then there's Jude. Clover meets him at the Academy reception. They are two kids that don't fit in with the rest of the crowd there. Jude is from Foster City. He likes Clover's service dog, Mango and puts her at ease. But it's how they know each other later on that's really interesting and what Jude reveals about himself that makes him such a great secondary character. He really rocks!

And Bridget. I couldn't get if she was flighty spoiled rich girl in the beginning or just thrust into this role of headmaster's daughter and she didn't know what to do with it. But she finally develops into a full character and I understood her.

There's Mrs. Finch, Isaiah, and Clover's trainer Leanne. They have bit parts yet play a huge part in the story.
I won't tell you who the bad guy is....

The world- The story takes place in post apocalyptic Reno Nevada. There are a lot of empty buildings and it isn't very crowded. A virus swept through the world and killed 95% of the population before a cure was found. People have portals on the back of their necks where they get a vaccine daily to keep the virus from coming back. Children are educated up to the age of 16 when they are allowed to test for the Academy, apply to work for the Company or work for the government. If you work for the Company, you live in the barracks. West couldn't work for them because he had to take care of Clover. Crime prevention is done by having time travelers go two years in the future and find out who was going to commit a crime and if it was a capital offense, the person is executed. Lesser offenses seem to be ignored. Such as the crimes committed in Foster City. It is not a perfect system. Food is scarce. So is electricity and other goods like candles, toilet paper, clothes, etc. Everything is reused. The world building is excellent.

The story- I understood how the world got to the state it was in and how it was trying to come back from it's state of almost dying out. I thought the added element of time travel made this story a lot more interesting than other dystopians. There isn't a lot to the time travel, but it makes the crime prevention story believable and what happens in the plot necessary. People drop like flies or don't...because there can be many different time loops you aren't sure what's true or not. But I was definitely worried through a lot of the book when I realized Shaunta Grimes wasn't shy about killing off important characters.      

My thoughts- Can I just say again.... I LOVED it! Clover was funny and so sweet. I wanted to hug her so many times even though she would have pushed me away, she's not a hugger. I loved the relationship between West and Clover. She never saw all the ways he took care of her until she had to function without him. Even then, I'm not sure she noticed, but as a reader, I did. When Clover takes care of herself, she's very resourceful. She did a great job. I loved how the time travel element was brought into the story. Everything really clicked into place to me. It wasn't the same tired old dystopian. In a genre that is overrun with viruses, zombies  and natural disasters, Viral Nation really stands out.

Again, I received a copy of this novel from the publisher for review. This did not influence my review. The opinions expressed are my own.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Playing Tyler by TL Costa Review

Playing Tyler
Playing Tyler by TL Costa
Available Now
Publisher: Strange Chemistry
Received a finished copy from publicist for review
Paperback 304 pages
To Buy Links-


When is a game not a game?

Tyler MacCandless can’t focus, even when he takes his medication. He can’t focus on school, on his future, on a book, on much of anything other than taking care of his older brother, Brandon, who’s in rehab for heroin abuse… again.

Tyler’s dad is dead and his mom has mentally checked out. The only person he can really count on is his Civilian Air Patrol Mentor, Rick. The one thing in life it seems he doesn’t suck at is playing video games and, well, thats probably not going to get him into college.

Just when it seems like his future is on a collision course with a life sentence at McDonald’s, Rick asks him to test a video game. If his score’s high enough, it could earn him a place in flight school and win him the future he was certain that he could never have. And when he falls in love with the game’s designer, the legendary gamer Ani, Tyler thinks his life might finally be turning around.

That is, until Brandon goes MIA from rehab and Tyler and Ani discover that the game is more than it seems. Now Tyler will have to figure out what’s really going on in time to save his brother… and prevent his own future from going down in flames.


REVIEW:

Characters- Tyler- I LOVED Tyler!! He has ADHD and his parts are written with run on sentences and with incomplete thoughts so that every time I read his thoughts I read them really fast like his brain was working. I liked the way TL Costa wrote his thoughts because it gives some insight into the way a person with ADHD thinks, how their brain functions. It's so different than what you imagine it to be. I have two sons with the disorder and I've never really understood how it felt. But reading Tyler's mind, I get it! But Tyler's personality is so great! He loves his brother who is in rehab. He worries about his mom who works too much. And he is immediately infatuated with Ani also known as SlayerGrrl. He's absolutely adorable with how his mind works when he thinks about Ani.

Ani/SlayerGrrl-Ani is a really young girl (16) at Yale who is a fish out of water. Though she's among other smart people, she sticks out being so young. She can't get into any of the under 21 clubs because you have to 18 so she's pretty isolated. She doesn't make friends easily. She is a master gamer, having even made her own online game that people loved and played including Tyler. But being an online gamer is a lonely life, being a winner and breaking records is even lonelier. Ani is likable and very easy to relate to if you've ever felt like a fish out of water. 

The world- This is a contemporary so it's set in the real world but there is so world building with the gaming aspects of the novel. Honestly, I didn't care what the system looked like so I kind of skimmed that part but it is explained in detail if you know enough to picture what it looks like. I know X-Box and Wii. That's it.

The story- Tyler's family has suffered the loss of the dad/husband in a tragic way and Tyler's brother never quite recovered. He's in rehab and not doing well. Tyler has a lot of worries, his brother, his mom, school but one thing he doesn't have to worry about is his mentor Rick or as Ani knows him Mr. Anderson. They both know him so differently, Tyler knows him as a caring adult who is giving him a shot with a new video game and possibly a shot at aviation school. Tyler's dream is to fly. But Ani knows him as Mr. Anderson, her employer and the man that pays her way through Yale. A strict, no nonsense business man who had her design the video game that Tyler is testing and he has an even stricter policy of no contact between Ani and the gamers.

My thoughts- I was hooked from the first page. I love a guy's point of view, but reading Tyler's point of view was just amazing. My 13 yr old told me that was exactly how his mind worked, an alarming thing to know since he's medicated for his ADHD. Tyler's mind is like a whirling dervish and it makes for fascinating reading. Here's a little snippet from when Tyler first meets Ani/SlayerGirrl:
Dammit!  That was so not suave. Tell her you know who she is. That you've always wanted to meet her, a girl who games to game, not to impress a boyfriend or because it sounds like something fun to do when stoned. A girl who  designed a game so badass that supposedly people have actually died while playing it because they didn't want to walk away from the console. Quick. Now, Ty, witty, clever. "Your nose doesn't look so big in real life." Shit. Her eyes widen in surprise. Her cheeks turn bright red. Like neon red. Shit! "I mean, your profile picture is just awful."p.28
The story alternates between Tyler's point of view and Ani's. You won't have any trouble identifying which is which. Ani reads totally like the fish out of water that she is. She is totally overwhelmed. Yale, her responsibilites with the game, Mr. Anderson and Tyler. 

I absolutely loved this novel. I'm a character girl for the seven hundredth time and these characters totally stole the story for me. I fell for Tyler right away and then Ani snuck in there and their story was addictive. I read it in one sitting. And my 13 yr old read it in two. I highly recommend this one for anyone that enjoys contemporary thrillers and romances. The characters do have some issues, but it only presents characters with issues. It isn't really an issue book at all so don't be turned off by that.





Monday, July 15, 2013

Author Interview with TL Costa of Playing Tyler

Playing Tyler
Playing Tyler by TL Costa
Available Now
Publisher: Strange Chemistry
Received finished copy from publicist for review
Paperback 304 pages
To Buy Links-
When is a game not a game?

Tyler MacCandless can’t focus, even when he takes his medication. He can’t focus on school, on his future, on a book, on much of anything other than taking care of his older brother, Brandon, who’s in rehab for heroin abuse… again.

Tyler’s dad is dead and his mom has mentally checked out. The only person he can really count on is his Civilian Air Patrol Mentor, Rick. The one thing in life it seems he doesn’t suck at is playing video games and, well, thats probably not going to get him into college.

Just when it seems like his future is on a collision course with a life sentence at McDonald’s, Rick asks him to test a video game. If his score’s high enough, it could earn him a place in flight school and win him the future he was certain that he could never have. And when he falls in love with the game’s designer, the legendary gamer Ani, Tyler thinks his life might finally be turning around.

That is, until Brandon goes MIA from rehab and Tyler and Ani discover that the game is more than it seems. Now Tyler will have to figure out what’s really going on in time to save his brother… and prevent his own future from going down in flames.

I had the great pleasure of reading PLAYING TYLER earlier this month and was able to get an interview with the author, TL Costa. I think you'll enjoy it and hopefully, you'll enjoy the novel as well. I thought it was fantastic! I'm reviewing it tomorrow. It's a contemporary, thriller with some romance thrown in. The characters again are GREAT! 

Here's a little about TL Costa-
T. L. Costa is a graduate of Bryn Mawr College and has a Masters of Teaching from Quinnipiac University who taught high school for five years before becoming a full-time mom and writer.
She has lived in Texas, New York, New Jersey and Spain. Currently, she lives in Connecticut with her husband and two children.
T. L. can be found online at her Facebook page and @TLCosta1 on Twitter




My Interview:
1)    Playing Tyler has a lot of gaming involved in it. If you were to create your own video game, what would you call it and what would the characters be? 
I would like to say that I would make some sort of uber-intellectual puzzle game, but really, I would make a sort of comedy-adventure game, starring Chuck Norris and Elvis Presley who would have to fight aliens while riding unicorns.  Something just off-the-wall crazy. 
2)    Say you are as gifted with code as one of your main characters is, what would you do with your skills? 
So many possibilities! I would probably try and create an interactive reading experience site.  Taking books and uploading the setting, characters, etc and having the reader take clues from the book to advance to the next level of a game based on the book.   When I was little, I used to love the books where you could choose what happened next, so basically merge that kind of text into an almost videogame like experience.
3)    What would your gamer name be if you had an online gamer name?
I have had many gamer names, very few I feel comfortable fessing up to in public.  Let me see, a good gamer handle has always been sort of analogous in my mind to a good roller-derby name.  Shepolocalyse?  Slaughterella?
4)    I loved the dual narratives! How hard was it to write from Tyler's point of view?
Writing Tyler’s point of view was very natural, as his voice is such a large part of his character, so it wasn’t all that difficult. What was a bit sticky was trying to write both Tyler’s scenes and Ani’s scenes the same day.  When I first started writing the book, I had to compose Tyler’s sections one day, and then Ani’s the next.  After a while, creating them both became so natural that I could write both whenever I wanted.
5)    Tyler's biggest desire is to fly planes. Ani's to go to Yale. What was yours when you were their age?
To become a doctor.  My aunt was a doctor in New York City and I’ve always thought that saving lives must be the most amazing experience.  By the time I got into college, though, I fell in love with subjects other than just biology, and so I chose a different path.  I still have a great amount of respect for doctors and other medical professionals, and when I am at my aunt’s house, I often pick up her medical journals and read them for fun. (Yes, I am a major nerd.)
6)    Playing Tyler feels pretty finished, but I loved these characters. Any chance of a sequel?
I wrote it as a stand-alone.  However, I really loved writing the book.  So I have 14 different outlines for a potential sequel, and I hate all of them, so we’ll see.
7)    What's up for you next?
I have two completed drafts of other books, and we’ll see if I can polish them up into something grand!  If not, I have lots and lots of ideas…








Sunday, July 14, 2013

Character Interview- West from Viral Nation by Shaunta Grimes and Giveaway!!!

Viral Nation by Shaunta Grimes
Available Now
Publisher: Berkley Trade
Paperback 320 pages
Received finished copy from publisher for review
Two chapter sample available from Goodreads-Preview of Viral Nation
to Buy Links-
Amazon/ Kindle/ Barnes and Noble/ Book Depository/
Indiebound/ Kobo
Add to Goodreads-
Synopsis- After a virus claimed nearly the entire global population, the world changed. The United States splintered into fifty walled cities where the surviving citizens clustered to start over. The Company, which ended the plague by bringing a life-saving vaccine back from the future, controls everything. They ration the scant food and supplies through a lottery system, mandate daily doses of virus suppressant, and even monitor future timelines to stop crimes before they can be committed.

Brilliant but autistic, sixteen-year-old Clover Donovan has always dreamed of studying at the Waverly-Stead Academy. Her brother and caretaker, West, has done everything in his power to make her dream a reality. But Clover’s refusal to part with her beloved service dog denies her entry into the school. Instead, she is drafted into the Time Mariners, a team of Company operatives who travel through time to gather news about the future.

When one of Clover’s missions reveals that West’s life is in danger, the Donovans are shattered. To change West’s fate, they’ll have to take on the mysterious Company. But as its secrets are revealed, they realize that the Company’s rule may not be as benevolent as it seems. In saving her brother, Clover will face a more powerful force than she ever imagined and will team up with a band of fellow misfits and outsiders to incite a revolution that will change their destinies forever. 

I have read Viral Nation and will be reviewing it later in the week and it really blew me away! It was amazing and different and didn't end on a cliffhanger and had such a great story line and oh the characters!!! Well, below is an interview with West Donovan, older brother of Clover Donovan. Ms. Grimes had a few spoilers in her answers (she was giving you guys too much information!) so I had to shorten the answers on some of the questions. Sorry, but I want you to know as little as I did when you read it!! So, here we go! Here is West Donovan (definitely swoon worthy!)

Hi West! Thank you so much for being here today. I know it's risky, being here but I didn't give any advance warning that you'd be here so The Company shouldn't know about your visit.

It's okay. I'm safe. We checked it out.

West, you're a farmer in Reno, not a job you'd choose. What do you really want to do?

I would have loved to have been an engineer. To build things, you know? But, it's too late for me to go to the Academy. I've always wanted to work for the Company, like my dad does, but that's off the table now. Right now, all I really want is to figure out a way to keep all these kids safe.


Clover is a handful, but you seem very comfortable with her. What is one piece of advice you'd give someone that has to help Clover adapt to a new situation.

Clover is my sister. I've been taking care of her most of my life, so of course I'm comfortable with her. The one piece of advice I'd give someone to help Clover adapt to a new situation is to not push her. Let her go at it in her own way, at her own pace. Once she figures out what's going on and how she fits in, she'll be fine. Just be patient with her. I hope Jude takes that advice.

What do you think about to keep your mind occupied while you pick cantaloupes all day long?

When I was still on the farm, I spent a lot of time thinking about Bridget, and how I could get myself in a better position to be with her someday. I counted the days until I could make a change. Now I think about Bridget and Clover and Jude, and I hope that they're safe. 

The Bazaar where you get your rations and some extras, how did you learn to work it? Did your father show you or did you have to learn for yourself? Can you explain a little more how the extras work?

My father taught me, as soon as I was old enough, so that he could stop going himself. Every week I earn extra tickets and I get extra tickets for Clover as well. I trade them in for tokens that I can gamble at machines or table games. Sometimes I win something useful, or even exciting. Other times I come home with nothing but our bare bones rations. Every state has their own way of dealing with limited supplies. This is Nevada's. 

Do you feel like the crime prevention system is fair? Do you think it works because it's right or because it just scares people?

My father has been an executioner for three years and worked in the justice system most of my life. I grew up with a strong belief in the system. Circumstances change though. They make you see things differently.

Do you want your father to come back in your life or would you rather he stay in the Company barracks in his job as an executioner?

I used to wish that our father was around more, that he didn't have to work so hard. By the time that he went to live in the barracks, I knew better. He stays away because he wants to. He never recovered from our mother's death. The Virus stole both of our parents from us.

How did Clover get Mango, her service dog? It doesn't seem like something The Company would do for children with disabilities.

Our father has worked in the justice system for a long time. There is a program where prisoners, those who aren't slated for execution, train service dogs. Some of them are trained to work with the guard, others to help people who have disabilities. It wasn't the Company who gave Mango to Clover, it was our dad. It was maybe the only truly good thing he ever did for either of us. Mango is Clover's best friend and her lifeline. 

Thank you West for your time and I can't wait to read the rest of your story! Stay safe!

About Shaunta Grimes-
Shaunta Grimes has worked as a substitute teacher, a newspaper reporter, a drug court counselor, and a vintage clothing seller. No matter which direction she strays, however, she always comes back to storytelling. She lives in Reno with her family, where she writes, teaches, and perpetually studies at the University of Nevada. Viral Nation is her debut traditionally-published novel. 

Where to Find Shaunta Grimes-
Email/ Blog/ Twitter/ Facebook/ Newsletter

To celebrate the Apocalypse Blog Hop and Viral Nation's release I am giving away one copy of Viral Nation. The Book Depository must deliver to your country in order for you to win.
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