Picture drawn by Maggie Stiefvater, 2009. Header made by S.F. Robertson, 2010.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Warrior by Ellen Oh + Giveaway

Warrior by Ellen Oh
"Kira, the yellow-eyed demon slayer who protected her kingdom in Prophecy, is back . . . and her dramatic quest is far from over. After finishing Ellen's first novel, Prophecy, School Library Journal said they were "ready for a sequel." Well, here it is! Filled with ancient lore and fast-paced excitement, this page-turning series is perfect for fantasy and action fans.

Kira has valiantly protected her kingdom—and the crown prince—and is certain she will find the second treasure needed to fulfill the Dragon King's prophecy. Warrior boasts a strong female hero, romantic intrigue, and mythical creatures such as a nine-tailed fox demon, a goblin army, and a hungry dragon with a snarky attitude."- summary from Amazon

I absolutely adored Prophecy last year and was so excited to read Warrior when I got it. I'm a huge fan of fantasy novels and Oh has created and written a wonderful world here filled with danger, magic, and some humor sprinkled throughout. The mythology and world-building is incredible, and Kira is as brave and kick-ass as she was in Prophecy. I also really like that there's only just a hint of romance in the books; the main focus though is on Kira's journey to protect the prince and to collect the three treasures of the Dragon King. There's also a great emphasis on secondary characters, and the reader really gets to know the whole crew traveling with Kira as well as some new characters encountered while on the journey.

Overall, a strong continuation from the first book and I cannot wait to see how it all ends in the third book. This book ends on a cliffhanger so I will be reading the final installment as soon as I get my hands on it.

Ellen was kind enough to give me a signed set of Prophecy and Warrior when I saw her earlier this month for me to giveaway on the blog! All you have to do is leave a comment on this post by Wednesday, March 5 at 9pm EST. Please include your email address, and this contest is open to US/Canada residents only.

FTC: Received ARC from publisher. Link above is an Amazon Associate link; any profit goes toward funding contests.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Until It Hurts to Stop by Jennifer R. Hubbard

Until It Hurts to Stop by Jennifer R. Hubbard
"In seventh grade, Maggie Camden was the class outcast. Every day, the other girls tripped her, pinched her, trapped her in the bathroom, told her she would be better off dead. Four years have passed since then, and Maggie’s tormentors seem to have moved on. The ringleader of them all, Raleigh Barringer, even moved out of town. But Maggie has never stopped watching for attacks, and every laugh still sounds like it’s at her expense. The only time Maggie feels at peace is when she’s hiking up in the mountains with her best friend, Nick.

Lately, though, there’s a new sort of tension between the two of them—a tension both dangerous and delicious. But how can Maggie expect anything more out of Nick when all she’s ever been told is that she’s ugly, she’s pathetic, she’s unworthy of love? And how can she ever feel safe, now that Raleigh Barringer is suddenly—terrifyingly—back in town?"- summary from Amazon

I've really enjoyed Hubbard's previous two books, so was excited to read her new one but it fell a little flat for me unfortunately. I just couldn't really connect to the characters at all, especially Maggie; the prose was compelling enough to keep me reading (and it's a short book; ended up reading it all in one day), but I just never felt this urgency.

I do think there is an interesting concept here that could have been executed a bit better, about how the bullied never forget. Maggie is constantly on edge because of having been tormented in junior high whereas everyone else has moved on and, in some cases, even regret their actions. But it's hard for those being bullied to move on- your insecurities have been fed and grown out of control, and it's hard to get past that. Especially when you're entering romantic territory as Maggie is with her friend Nick, and I do think Hubbard did a great job of handling that obstacle really well and making it realistic. Their interactions in the book are the best part of the whole novel.

It's not an easy book to read, as Maggie is very focused on herself and her own problems, which I'm sure will be hard on some readers. The reader can see what's going on but it takes Maggie a long time to make the realizations, so I can see that being a bit frustrating for some people.

Overall, it is a good book with a good message. It's not a bad way to spend an afternoon, and hopefully it can do some good for some teenagers out there who feel bullied.

FTC: Received e-galley from Netgalley. Link above is an Amazon Associate link; any profit goes toward funding contests.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Best Gay Romance 2014 edited by Timothy J. Lambert and R.D. Cochrane

Best Gay Romance 2014 edited by Timothy J. Lambert and R.D. Cochrane
"The best part of romance is what might happen next...that pivotal moment where we stop and realize, This is wonderful. Romance can be many things: thrilling, inspiring, passionate and life altering. But most of all, love—whether new or lifelong—creates endless possibilities. Best Gay Romance 2014 reminds us all of how love can begin: at the grocery store, the gym, the library or even online. Star editors Timothy J. Lambert and R. D. Cochrane bring us stories of real romance between real men. A meet-up at a marriage equality protest is the beginning of something real in Eric Gober’s “Strange Propositions.” Sometimes being a true friend is the best thing you can do for your lover, as in N. S. Beranek’s “There’s No Question It’s Love.” Skinny-dipping strangers heat up the water in James Booth’s “Falling.”"- summary from Amazon

First off, just to get it out of the way, I do have a story in this and no, I will not be reviewing it myself nor does it color my perception of this anthology. The summary also makes it sound much steamier than it actually is; it's a YA story about two high school boys who meet at an outdoor party and get to know each other. There may be some undressing and getting into water, but it's hardly skinny-dipping.

Alright, now on to the other stories. I'm going to do the same thing that I did with the Foolish Hearts review and just focus on the stories I really liked. I may not necessarily include every one I enjoyed as there are 15 stories here and that would be a LONG review. Again, this anthology started off with a really cute story that I loved, "Strange Propositions" by Eric Gober, which sounds a little weird but it's a sweet little story. There is some drama in there with a long-distance lover (who's a horrible person), but it ends happily. "Sight" by Jordan Taylor almost made me cry at the climax of the story; it is really adorable and is just such a beautiful story. "Spill Your Troubles On Me, Love" by Georgina Li is a very short story, but packs the depth of a loving relationship in it so well. I really got a sense of this couple, what they've been through, and their strong connection to each other despite their situation. It's so good. I also really enjoyed "Dandelions" by Tony Calvert- such a funny, sweet story about two guys matched up by the main character's mother; the love interest sounded really cute and was very swoon-worthy. I loved it, and also I found it really interesting that in a lot of these stories, some character, usually the main one though, is a writer or wants to be a writer. I guess we like writing about our careers, haha.

The last three stories in the anthology were so good, and such a perfect note to end on. "Shep: A Dog" by Alex Jeffers is something I don't want to talk about too much because it has a cool little twist in it, but I absolutely loved it; just a cute story. N.S. Beranek's "There's No Question It's Love" is similar to Li's story- very short, but it packs a couple's relationship into that little space and the reader gets a real sense of their love for each other. Finally, David Puterbaugh's "Save the Last Dance For Me" is a great story about an established couple but there's still room for growth; the main character goes through an emotional arc in the story and it ends on a sweet note.

Overall, another really good selection of stories (a couple duds in it for me) and it makes me want to read the editors' first anthology Fool for Love, which I do own (and actually read one story from recently, which was ADORABLE).

FTC: Received finished copy from publisher. Link above is an Amazon Associate link; any profit goes toward funding contests.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Editor Interview- Timothy J. Lambert and R.D. Cochrane

1) Both of you have worked together on several novels as well as co-edited the anthology Fool for Love back in 2009 (and of course co-edited the two anthologies being featured this week). How did you two find each other and start writing together? Is it easier or harder writing together as opposed to on your own?

Becky: Timothy and I met in an AOL chat room in 1997. He and I (and our other two writing partners, Jim and another Tim) clicked because we shared the same humor, enjoyed the same books, and liked hearing one another’s real life stories. In time, a suggestion was made that we four should write, in tandem, a fictional story together. It was supposed to be just for us, something fun to do, but when friends started expressing interest in reading what we were writing, then wanted us to write more, we decided to approach it in earnest. When we thought we had a finished novel, we began the long process of finding an agent, and she led us to Kensington.

Timothy: Writing by committee can be difficult, because it can be tricky to get everyone to agree on a plot. Sometimes it's hard for everyone to write a particular character or location the same way. Becky and I rarely seem to have that problem, though. We work well together. It's more difficult for me to write on my own, because I waste a lot of time second-guessing myself. It's also lonely when I don't have someone to bounce ideas off of, or someone to tell me the line I thought was so hysterical is offensive to Baltic women.

Becky: Once Timothy moved to Houston, we also had more time to write together, and that’s when we did our two collaborative novels. A lot of what we write comes out of conversations. One of us says something that makes the other laugh, and we immediately say, “How can we use that?” Like right now, I’m trying to figure out how to work that “Baltic women” line into something.

2) What is your favorite Jelly Belly jelly bean flavor(s)? Or, if you don't like those, a favorite snack to have while writing or as a reward for writing?

Timothy: I love jelly beans, but Jelly Belly freaks me out because they've cornered the jelly bean market. It's hard to find jelly beans that aren't Jelly Belly. I remember a time when jelly beans were just jelly beans and not 50 different freaky flavors. Most of them are really nasty, I think. Anyway, when I'm writing, I'll eat anything I have in the house. I used to smoke cigarettes, and I loved to smoke while writing. But I can't do that anymore, which makes it really difficult to write. So now I have a bag of almonds, or sunflower seeds, on my desk at all times so I can snack on something healthy while I write. Otherwise, I'll head downstairs for the potato chips, cookies, and other not so healthy stuff in the house. Right now I'm rewarding myself for finally answering these questions with a Lone Star beer.

Becky: My old process was write, write, write, then stop and read/edit with a cigarette. The cigarette was a reward. Then like Timothy, I quit smoking. Was it only coincidence that about that same time I shifted from writing to editing? I hope so. I’ve written a few things since, but I don’t have any kind of reward system now. I do chew a lot of gum. And I’m addicted to dental floss. Maybe those are my new rewards.

3) Both of you also work with and support Scout's Honor Rescue in Houston as well as Rescued Pets Movement. Can you tell us a little bit about these organizations, and why they're so important?

Timothy: Some friends and I cofounded Rescued Pets Movement Inc. (www.rescuedpetsmovement.org) on September 23, 2013, in an effort to help Houston's pet overpopulation problem. There are an estimated 1.3 homeless pets at large in Houston, so any rescue group trying to find a home for them is important. RPM has partnered with BARC, Houston's city shelter, to transport 50 adoptable pets a week out of the city shelter to rescue organizations in other areas of the country where pet overpopulation isn't such a dire issue. These are dogs and cats who would otherwise be put to sleep because the city's shelter is always at capacity. Since RPM formed, we've saved over 1,100 dogs and cats from being euthanized. I'm really proud to be a part of RPM.

Becky: I was involved with Scout’s Honor only peripherally when Timothy was fostering dogs for them. Because Timothy lives on the same property as my husband Tom and I, we were sort of Timothy’s foster assistants. I think the total number of fosters who came through us was eighteen. They all went to good homes. I’m a strong believer in dog and cat rescue and in adopting from any organization. If you have specific requirements for a pet companion, adopting through a foster program gives you a lot of information about an animal’s temperament and training that could enable you to adopt more successfully.

When Timothy and his friends/associates founded Rescued Pets Movement, I volunteered to help him with his social media responsibilities, mostly by taking photos of the animals being transported and animals who need fostering and adopting. I’ll also do editing and proofreading, as needed.

4) You've both now co-edited three different anthologies. What is the process like, in terms of garnering submissions, selecting stories, and getting it ready for publication? Are there times where you disagree on what stories should go in?

Becky: The first anthology we did was the idea of Greg Herren when he was an editor for Haworth Press. We handpicked writers whose work we’d enjoyed, or aspiring writers we met through their blogs or at literary events. When Haworth was bought and the new owners opted out of publishing fiction, Richard Labonté gave us an introduction to the publishers at Cleis, and they gave our orphaned anthology a new home.

Timothy: Since then, we have to pitch our anthology concept to a publisher and hope they agree to publish it. After we convince the publisher there's no way our anthology could possibly be short stories about teenaged gay vampires coming of age in the year 2442—

Becky: I’d buy that.

Timothy: —we finally sign contracts to publish an anthology of contemporary gay fiction with a romantic theme. From then on, the process has been different almost every time. Often we'll solicit stories from our writer friends and then ask them if they know anyone who might want to submit a story to us. If, after that, we still don't have enough stories that we want to publish, that's when we'll start panicking and sending random emails to writers begging them for a story. Oddly, it works. After we have a large pool of stories to work with, we'll pick the ones we think are the best written and that best match the theme of the anthology. Then we'll edit them and sometimes work with the writer if significant changes need to be made.

Becky: Best Gay Romance 2014 was an open call because we hoped to get stories from new writers as well as writers who’d worked with Richard on earlier anthologies in the series. We received a large number of stories to choose from. Sometimes those choices were hard. Again, we wanted a range, so if one story was too similar to another, we had to make tough calls.

Timothy: I don't think Becky and I have ever disagreed whether or not a story should be in an anthology. If Becky believes in a story, she's usually good at convincing me why it has merit. And vice versa.

Becky: I do encourage writers whose stories are turned down by anyone, not just by us, to keep refining and submitting them. Maybe writers should regard their unpublished work as “foster” stories. Shape them into the best they can be without losing any of their most endearing qualities, then they are more likely to find their forever homes.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Foolish Hearts edited by Timothy J. Lambert and R.D. Cochrane

Foolish Hearts edited by Timothy J. Lambert and R.D. Cochrane
"As gay marriage bells are finally ringing out around the world, bestselling editors Timothy J. Lambert and R. D. Cochrane celebrate with a collection of gay romance that will incite love—and lust—in every reader. A thirty-something realizes the man sleeping beside him every night is his real Prince Charming in Steven Reigns' "On These Sheets." Love, youth and age bump up against each other at a gay guesthouse in "Symposium," by Andrew Holleran. A hopeless romantic finds his heart’s desire amid the temptations of Hollywood in Felice Picano’s "New Kid in Town: 1977." Men who love men abound in this dazzling collection of deliciously sexy, romantic and tender stories."- summary from Amazon

I really enjoyed this collection of gay fiction, though not every story worked for me. I'll be focusing on the ones I loved, starting with the first story "Hello Aloha". Calvert wrote an ADORABLE story that takes place at Disney World and involves flirting with the Goofy mascot. I mean, seriously, this story was so cute and romantic- it's the perfect story to begin this anthology. Puterbaugh's story "How to Be Single At a Wedding" follows it and it was an interesting take on the theme. There isn't a romance here but the story is humorous and introspective and ends on a hopeful note for the main character's love life and his outlook on it.

"On These Sheets" is almost flash-fiction, it's so short, but it's a very sweet story and Reigns does a great job painting this relationship in such a short amount of pages. It just works so well. "Tea" is a more melancholic story but it is still romantic while being heartbreaking; it makes me want to read more from Ricker. It flashes back and forth between past and present, which could be a little confusing at times, but for the most part, worked really well.

"A Royal Mess" was so sweet, and I loved that it took place in a pet store. It was such a unique place to set this rekindling of old flames and made for a unique story. The reader really gets to know these characters and their past together and separately, and watch them work toward a future together. Burgoine's "Struck" was an extremely cute story and I absolutely loved it. There's a bit of magical realism sprinkled into it, which made it very fun. I loved that the main character was a bookstore clerk and it was all just GAH SO ADORABLE! I want to read more of these characters.

"Foundations" by Timothy Forry is a sweeping love story about a couple during a massive thunderstorm being miles apart; it made me tear up. It's a really beautiful story. Finally, I really enjoyed "Meditation" by Timothy J. Lambert, which was humorous and cute while having very little dialogue (there's three lines spoken, only one of which is to the love interest).

Overall, this is a fantastic collection of gay fiction and while I may not have liked every story (though that would be hard to do anyway), I can appreciate the writer's prose and talent. There's definitely a story here for everybody; every one is so different.

FTC: Received finished copy from publisher. Link above is an Amazon Associate link; any profit goes toward funding contests.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Blog Tour + Giveaway- Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith

Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith
"Sixteen-year-old Austin Szerba interweaves the story of his Polish legacy with the story of how he and his best friend , Robby, brought about the end of humanity and the rise of an army of unstoppable, six-foot tall praying mantises in small-town Iowa.

To make matters worse, Austin's hormones are totally oblivious; they don't care that the world is in utter chaos: Austin is in love with his girlfriend, Shann, but remains confused about his sexual orientation. He's stewing in a self-professed constant state of maximum horniness, directed at both Robby and Shann. Ultimately, it's up to Austin to save the world and propagate the species in this sci-fright journey of survival, sex, and the complex realities of the human condition." -summary from Goodreads

This is my first Andrew Smith book, though I've heard wonderful things about his stuff in the past. But after hearing about this book for months prior to its release (seriously, like every book event I went to, someone was saying how awesome this book is), I decided that I needed to read this book and so signed up for the blog tour (which came with a fun T-shirt along with an ARC- yay!).

I read it pretty soon after I received my copy, right at the beginning of the year. It took me a little bit of time to get into it; the way Smith writes this book is very different from other YAs I've read. It's very stream-of-consciousness and there's a lot of repetitiveness and the word "horny" is used a LOT. I don't have a problem with that (or anything else in the book, in regards to language or whatever), but it did border between annoying and funny throughout the book.

I'm trying to figure out what to say about this book. I wasn't as taken in by it as many other people have been, though that doesn't mean I thought it was bad. It's a very good, interesting, thoughtful book and I think Smith does a wonderful job dealing with a variety of normal teenage issues alongside this sci-fi-like concept. I especially enjoyed the sexual orientation aspect of it, which I think a lot of teen boys will relate to and identify with; Smith handles this very well and it's a fantastic way of looking at the nature of sexuality. There's no judgment in this book, or urgency to figure things out; sometimes these things take a while to understand, but that doesn't mean there aren't consequences in the meantime. Smith writes Austin and his friends Robby and Shann realistically and with plenty of depth; the reader learns a lot about these characters and their backgrounds due to the introspective nature of the prose. Austin is constantly writing down the history of him and his friends, and pretty much almost anything else that comes across his mind too (as mentioned in the summary, there's a lot of his family's Polish history included too).

Overall, this is definitely a book to check out and one that deserves to be discussed openly. It's an honest, unflinching look into the life of a fairly normal teenage boy, despite the mutant praying mantises running about throughout the novel.

Courtesy of Penguin, I also have a giveaway! There's a hardcover copy of Grasshopper Jungle and an Unstoppable Corn t-shirt (which is awesome; I own one and love it!). The contest is open to US residents only and all you have to do is leave a comment on this post by Friday, February 21 at 9pm EST and you'll be entered!

There's also a separate tour-wide giveaway too, which you can enter below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

FTC: Received ARC from publisher. Link above is an Amazon Associate link; any profit goes toward funding contests.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Pi in the Sky by Wendy Mass

Pi in the Sky by Wendy Mass
"Joss is the seventh son of the Supreme Overlord of the Universe. His older brothers help his dad rule the cosmos, but all Joss gets to do is deliver pies. That's right: pies. Of course, these pies actually hold the secrets of the universe between their buttery crusts, but they're still pies.

Joss is happy to let his older brothers shine. He has plenty to keep his hands full: attempting to improve his bowling score; listening to his best friend, Kal, try (and fail) to play the drums; and exploring his ever-changing home, The Realms. But when Earth suddenly disappears, Joss is tasked with the seemingly impossible job of bringing it back. With the help of Annika, an outspoken girl from Earth, he embarks on the adventure of a lifetime...and learns that the universe is an even stranger place than he'd imagined."- summary from Amazon

I love Wendy Mass' books so much; they're so clever and well-written. If you haven't read a book by her, go read one. It doesn't matter which because they're all amazing. They're very smart middle-grade books and this one is no exception. It's all about the universe and building one, so there are some scientific aspects to it (some of which flew over my head, lol) but it's very much from a kid's perspective. Joss and Annika are great characters and I loved seeing them interact with each other and work together on this crazy journey; there's some good humor and a little flirting between the two of them as they get to know each other. It's all very sweet.

Overall, just another wonderful, original book from Mass. Again, if you haven't read anything by her yet, get on it!

FTC: Borrowed hardcover from library. Link above is an Amazon Associate link; any profit goes toward funding contests.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Proxy by Alex London

Proxy by Alex London
"Knox was born into one of the City's wealthiest families. A Patron, he has everything a boy could possibly want—the latest tech, the coolest clothes, and a Proxy to take all his punishments. When Knox breaks a vase, Syd is beaten. When Knox plays a practical joke, Syd is forced to haul rocks. And when Knox crashes a car, killing one of his friends, Syd is branded and sentenced to death.

Syd is a Proxy. His life is not his own.

Then again, neither is Knox’s. Knox and Syd have more in common than either would guess. So when Knox and Syd realize that the only way to beat the system is to save each other, they flee. Yet Knox’s father is no ordinary Patron, and Syd is no ordinary Proxy. The ensuing cross-country chase will uncover a secret society of rebels, test both boys’ resolve, and shine a blinding light onto a world of those who owe and those who pay. Some debts, it turns out, cannot be repaid."- summary from Amazon

I will admit that I picked up this book because I heard it had a gay main character in it; I am not ashamed to say that that made me pick it up faster than I otherwise would have (I was also meeting the author at a signing, so there's that too...). But the gay factor is just a matter-of-fact aspect of Syd's character, and it's not mentioned too much past the beginning pages of the novel. Like with Scott Tracey's Witch Eyes trilogy, it's refreshing to read a book with a gay character that isn't about coming out, finding love, or anything like that (those obviously still have their place and I love reading, and writing, them, but it's nice to have stories that focus on other things too). That also doesn't stop me from writing a piece of Syd/Knox slash fan fiction.

London has created a very interesting world, and it really reminds me of the Legend series by Marie Lu (who blurbed this book). It's not necessarily similar, but they both kind of have the same gritty atmospheric quality to them. They're also both very action-packed and deal with teens running for their lives. I really enjoyed going back-and-forth between the two boys' perspectives and it was great getting to see into their heads and learn more about them that way.

Overall, I'm really glad I picked this book up and I'm so excited to read the sequel, Guardian, out this May, and see where the story's going after that crazy ending.

FTC: Received ARC from publisher. Link above is an Amazon Associate link; any profit goes toward funding contests.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg

Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg
"Rafe is a normal teenager from Boulder, Colorado. He plays soccer. He's won skiing prizes. He likes to write.

And, oh yeah, he's gay. He's been out since 8th grade, and he isn't teased, and he goes to other high schools and talks about tolerance and stuff. And while that's important, all Rafe really wants is to just be a regular guy. Not that GAY guy. To have it be a part of who he is, but not the headline, every single time.

So when he transfers to an all-boys' boarding school in New England, he decides to keep his sexuality a secret -- not so much going back in the closet as starting over with a clean slate. But then he sees a classmate breaking down. He meets a teacher who challenges him to write his story. And most of all, he falls in love with Ben . . . who doesn't even know that love is possible."- summary from Amazon

I really enjoyed this book. I will admit though that I did start it way back in June when it first came out, couldn't get into it really and set it aside for a few months. It wasn't until November when I went to YALLFest in Charleston (and was meeting Bill, whose debut I loved too) that I started it again. I flew through it that weekend, reading it while waiting in various signing lines and then in my hotel room each night.

It's such a different kind of gay book with a main character determined to not let his sexuality define him and learning what it really means to be yourself. Konigsberg does a great job with Rafe's character and I liked the inclusion of his writing assignments, which gives the reader a different look into Rafe's past and into how he views the world through his writing.

What I also really liked was the friendship between Ben and Rafe- it was handled so beautifully and in an interesting way. It was nice to see a real connection evolve from a friendship and have it be more about the person rather than the gender, at least from Ben's perspective. I loved reading their scenes together and there's some great humor and heart in their interactions.

Overall, another hit from Konigsberg- seriously such a well-written, compelling, humorous book with a great amount of depth. I strongly urge you all to check it out and I hope it isn't too long of a wait before his next book comes out!

FTC: Received ARC from publisher. Link above is an Amazon Associate link; any profit goes toward funding contests.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Blog Tour- Something Real by Heather Demetrios

Something Real by Heather Demetrios
"Seventeen-year-old Bonnie™ Baker has grown up on TV—she and her twelve siblings are the stars of one-time hit reality show Baker’s Dozen. Since the show's cancellation, Bonnie™ has tried to live a normal life, under the radar and out of the spotlight. But it's about to fall apart . . . because Baker’s Dozen is going back on the air. Bonnie™'s mom and the show's producers won't let her quit and soon the life that she has so carefully built for herself, with real friends (and maybe even a real boyfriend), is in danger of being destroyed by the show. Bonnie™ needs to do something drastic if her life is ever going to be her own—even if it means being more exposed than ever before."- summary from Amazon

I'm a huge fan of books that feature reality TV, and this was definitely right up my alley. It's a little bit similar in tone to the amazing Reality Boy by A.S. King, though this is a bit more humorous and also deals with the reality situation both in the past and the present (whereas the show happened in the past in Reality Boy). Bonnie is a wonderful main character and I enjoyed reading her story and following along with her on her journey through this crazy situation she thought she had finally gotten out of.

I also loved a lot of the side characters. I will admit to not really being able to tell the younger siblings apart, but I feel like the main focus was more on the three older siblings (Bonnie, Benton and Lexie) and their parents and the strained relationship between them all. I particularly enjoyed Bonnie and Benton's relationship; it's fantastic to see two siblings getting along and having each others' backs. I also liked that Benton was gay (and it wasn't a big deal) and had a steady boyfriend; that made me happy to see.

Demetrios really does a great job of writing the family dynamics and nailing the dysfunctional nature of this family through the scope of reality TV. The writing is compelling and it's hard to put down the book. I always wanted to keep reading and see what happened next. I really felt for Bonnie, and think the ending is the start of good things to come, and I kinda hope there's a sequel. I feel like there should be more!

Also Patrick, the love interest, is pretty damn awesome and I love him. He's a wonderful contemporary swoon-worthy guy!

Overall, such a great debut and I cannot wait to read more from Demetrios, no matter what it is!!

Courtesy of Macmillan, I have a copy of Something Real to give away! The contest is open to US/Canada residents only. All you have to do is leave a comment on this post by Wednesday, February 12 at 9pm EST and you'll be entered! Please leave your email address in the comment if it's not easily accessible (like by clicking on your Blogger profile).

and here's an interview with Heather:
1) How did you get the idea for Something Real?

A People magazine, believe it or not. Stories will find you anywhere—all you have to do is pay attention to the world around you and be open. The issue I saw had Kate Gosselin and her kids on the cover and it just got my mind spinning: what would it be like to be one of those kids, with the camera on them 24/7? It was really as simple as that (well…and my own personal feelings about reality TV and privacy).

2) You have two books coming out in 2014- a contemporary (Something Real) and a fantasy (Exquisite Captive). Do you like switching between the two genres, and is that something you think you'll continue to do in her writing career?

I love switching between genres. I’m actually writing a totally different thing right now—it’s kind of The Grapes of Wrath meets The Road, but more exciting and with cute boys. I’d even love to do sci-fi one day—I have a killer idea, but I’m not sure how to pull it off yet. Going back and forth between fantasy and realism keeps me on my toes. It’s challenging because of all the world building and all these different characters who have needs and wants and demand my attention. It might be a little bit like having thirteen kids. J For me, it’s all about the story I want to write and characters I fall in love with. You know how in Dirty Dancing Patrick Swayze says “Nobody puts Baby in the corner?” For me, it’s like, “Nobody puts Heather in a writing box.” Or something like that.

3) You're getting an MFA in children's writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. What's the best lesson you've learned from the program so far? Do you think it's beneficial for authors to get an MFA?

Wow, this is a tough question because I have learned so much there. Perhaps the best lesson I’ve learned at VCFA is that you never stop learning. You can always be better, go deeper, and push boundaries. I do think it’s incredibly beneficial to get an MFA, although it’s not necessary. I had a two-book deal before I entered the program and several students had way more than that before they made the decision to get the degree. I think that speaks volumes as to the quality of the education and the passion that VCFA students have for craft. I don’t think not getting an MFA and getting published is a bragging right, but neither do I think the MFA guarantees publication or necessarily makes you better than someone who doesn’t have it. Everyone has their own path. For me, I like having the confidence that comes with knowing that I have been seriously educated in my field. It’s not just about the writing—for me, it’s about being able to meaningfully contribute to and be an advocate of the genre of children’s and young adult literature and—again this is just for me—I think having a degree will help me to do that a bit better. All that being said, it’s really expensive to get an MFA and not everyone has the opportunity to do that. And not all programs are equal—some, I’ve heard, can actually mess with your writing Zen. So, MFA or no, I firmly believe all writers need to commit to their craft. It’s not enough just to write a book—anyone who has a modicum of intention and has the ability to sit in a chair and type for long lengths of time can do that. A book should be so, so, so much more.

4) What's your favorite Jelly Belly jelly bean flavor(s)? Or, if you don't like those, your favorite snack to have while writing or as a reward for writing?

I seriously hope this involves actual Jelly Bellies! I love those sour ones or the watermelon flavor. They actually are a pretty good writing snack because they don’t get your hands all messy. Sometimes I eat those individually wrapped Dove chocolates because the sayings inside them crack me up.

5) What are you currently reading, or are about to start?

I’m currently reading A.S. King’s REALITY BOY—I like to think great minds think alike. J She’s also my advisor for school, so that’s fun. Yesterday, I just picked up Laurie Halse Anderson’s The Impossible Knife of Memory, which is about PTSD, an issue I talk about in my realism from Macmillan that’s coming out next year. There are so many great books out! My TBR list gets longer every day.

FTC: Received ARC from publisher. Link above is an Amazon Associate link; any profit goes toward funding contests.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Blog Tour- Vengeance by Megan Miranda

Vengeance by Megan Miranda
"Nobody really believes in a curse. Until you know the people who disappear. Too much coincidence, you look for reason. Too much death, you grasp for something to blame. Carson pulled Delaney out and he died on the side of the road with her mouth pressed to his. Her air in his body. Troy. She told the cops it was suicide. Didn't matter. The lake released her and grabbed another. But when Decker's father dies in a pool of spilled water on their kitchen floor, all Decker can feel is a slow burning rage. Because he knows that Delaney knew that his dad was going to die. She knew and backed out of his house and never said a word. Falcon Lake still has a hold on them both, and Decker can't forgive Delaney until he knows why."- summary from Amazon

I really enjoyed Fracture and was excited about a sequel, but I probably should have re-read Fracture in anticipation of this. I was a little lost re-entering this world and everything that had happened previously and so may not have liked this as much as I might have if I was more in tune with the characters. As it is, I didn't really feel any connection to these characters and continued reading it hoping for something good.

Miranda is a good writer, and I will continue reading her books, but unfortunately this really fell flat for me. Decker's perspective wasn't all that intriguing to me, and the mysteries at the center of the book just felt tacked on for suspense. I don't know if there could've been a better sequel to Fracture; perhaps it was better off as a stand-alone.

Overall, if you liked Fracture, go ahead and give this a shot. I know there are plenty of people who still really enjoyed this sequel, but unfortunately I am not one of them. I will continue to read Miranda's books though because she is a talented author and I'm really excited to see what she writes next.

and here's an interview with Megan:
1) How did you get the idea for Vengeance?

I originally wrote Fracture as a stand-alone, and I was happy with where Delaney ended up in her story. I wasn’t planning on a sequel at first—I guess I wanted to think of Delaney and Decker as having some peace, some happiness. But over the course of the year, I received a lot of reader emails asking about what happened next, and so I also started wondering: no, really, what happens next?

What happens in a place where there was a miracle—Delaney surviving the un-survivable—but a surge of deaths surrounding that event?

What happens after people fall in love? After you think you’ve made it through the worst?

What happens to the people who’ve lived through the events in Fracture, who’ve watched their friends die, or almost die?

What makes someone believe in a curse? How much coincidence before you really believe?

2) What are you currently working on? Can you tell us anything about it?

I’m currently editing a book that will come out in 2015, currently titled Soulprint. In this story, science has discovered how to screen for someone’s soul, much like DNA fingerprinting. It’s about a girl who has been contained on an island for her own protection, who chooses to escape, following clues left behind for her from the previous life, that only she can decipher—unraveling the mystery of who she was, and who she is, and whether she’s destined to repeat the past.

3) What's your favorite Jelly Belly jelly bean flavor(s)? Or if you don't like those, what's your favorite snack to have while writing or as a reward for writing?

Toasted marshmallow! The best flavor, without the gooey mess!

4) What book(s) are you currently reading, or are about to start? Any 2014 books you're looking forward to reading?

I’m reading Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch, and I’m about to start This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales.
As far as 2014 books, there are so many I’m looking forward to! One I’m really excited about seeing published is Elle Cosimano’s debut, Nearly Gone, which I had the pleasure of reading early. Tense, scary, romantic, and smart!

FTC: Received e-galley from Netgalley. Link above is an Amazon Associate link; any profit goes toward funding contests.