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

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Rumble by Ellen Hopkins

Rumble by Ellen Hopkins
"Matthew Turner doesn’t have faith in anything.

Not in family—his is a shambles after his younger brother was bullied into suicide. Not in so-called friends who turn their backs when things get tough. Not in some all-powerful creator who lets too much bad stuff happen. And certainly not in some “It Gets Better” psychobabble.

No matter what his girlfriend Hayden says about faith and forgiveness, there’s no way Matt’s letting go of blame. He’s decided to “live large and go out with a huge bang,” and whatever happens happens. But when a horrific event plunges Matt into a dark, silent place, he hears a rumble…a rumble that wakes him up, calling everything he’s ever disbelieved into question."- summary from Amazon

I am a huge fanboy of Ellen's books and have read every single one of them (including her two adult novels), so this review will be pretty much a bunch of gushing. What I love about her books is that each story is so different and focuses on such different characters, experiences, and settings. This is told from a boy's perspective, which she's done now a few times though I don't think she's done it for a whole book (the ones I'm thinking of are multiple POV books she's done, like Impulse, Tilt, and Smoke). She does a wonderful job with Matt's voice and his inner anger and turmoil toward most of the world and faith in general.

There's a lot of interesting arguments both for and against faith, as well as different applications of faith (Matt's girlfriend, her dad, and church youth group apply it the wrong way, lol). The most intriguing application deals with a book being challenged (The Perks of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky)- there's not a whole lot of page time given to this thing going on but Hopkins makes sure that it still packs a punch in the message behind it. Religion has no place in determining a school reading list.

The only thing that bothered me mainly had to do with the summary (which she didn't even write, so it's not really a problem with her at all, lol). I kept expecting this "horrific event" to happen for the longest time, so I kept being like "oh, maybe this is when it will happen." or "Oh, I bet will happen!" and it never happened. For the record, the event doesn't happen until well past page 400, which makes the "calling everything... into question" part very short and abrupt. It didn't feel like enough time was given to really getting into the aftermath of that event and Matt's questioning period.

Overall though, another great read from Hopkins and I am eager to read more of her books. If you haven't read her (and regardless of if you enjoy verse or not), please go out and do so now! And if you have read her before, be sure to check out this newly released book!

FTC: Received ARC from publisher (thanks to Ellen and Siena!). Link above is an Amazon Associate link; any profit goes toward funding contests.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Review + Giveaway- The Art of Lainey by Paula Stokes

The Art of Lainey by Paula Stokes
"Soccer star Lainey Mitchell is gearing up to spend an epic summer with her amazing boyfriend, Jason, when he suddenly breaks up with her—no reasons, no warnings, and in public no less! Lainey is more than crushed, but with help from her friend Bianca, she resolves to do whatever it takes to get Jason back.

And that's when Lainey and Bianca stumble across a copy of The Art of War. With just one glance, the girls are sure they can use the book to lure Jason back into Lainey's arms. So Lainey channels her inner warlord, recruiting spies to gather intel and persuading her coworker Micah to pose as her new boyfriend to make Jason jealous.

After a few "dates," it looks like her plan is going to work! But now her relationship with Micah is starting to feel like more than just a game. Can fighting for what she wants help Lainey figure out what she really needs?"- summary from Amazon

I really enjoyed Stokes' debut novel, though some people may definitely balk at the heroine Lainey throughout the novel. I know I did a little bit, but what kept me going was the subtle changes I could see in Lainey's character as I read her story and following her along on her journey. She's not always likable but I feel like she's very realistic. People make bad decisions, they're stuck in their ways, and don't want to venture out of their comfort zone (or what they feel has become their comfort zone)- this is how Lainey is. She has the seemingly perfect life, but it just really isn't as perfect as she thought it was.

I really enjoyed a lot of the characters from this book, especially Lainey's friend Bianca and of course the wonderful sexual tension and chemistry between Lainey and Micah. Readers also get a great treat with the recently released prequel novella Infinite Repeat, which is from Micah's point of view.

Overall, a solid debut from Stokes and I'm excited for her next novel Liars Inc., out next March.

I also have a giveaway from Paula Stokes herself! Depending on your location, one winner will receive a signed Art of Lainey paperback and bookmarks (for US residents), or an order of Art of Lainey from The Book Depository and a signed bookplate and bookmarks (for international residents). All you have to do is leave a comment on this post by Wednesday, August 27 at 9pm EST and you're entered. For an extra entry, leave a comment on my interview with Paula from the other week.

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

Monday, August 18, 2014

Summer Blog Tour- The Sound of Letting Go by Stasia Ward Kehoe

For sixteen years, Daisy has been good. A good daughter, helping out with her autistic younger brother uncomplainingly. A good friend, even when her best friend makes her feel like a third wheel. When her parents announce they’re sending her brother to an institution—without consulting her—Daisy’s furious, and decides the best way to be a good sister is to start being bad. She quits jazz band and orchestra, slacks in school, and falls for bad-boy Dave.

But one person won’t let Daisy forget who she used to be: Irish exchange student and brilliant musician Cal. Does she want the bad boy or the prodigy? Should she side with her parents or protect her brother? How can she know when to hold on and when—and how—to let go?

Check out my review of The Sound of Letting Go here.

Author Stasia Ward Kehoe heads to sunny Southern California to visit two awesome YA authors, GRETCHEN McNEIL and CAROL TANZMAN.

After spending a happy summer week at NOVELNOVICE.COM, discussing the writing process, my over-expressive eyebrows and other vital topics, I’m thrilled to be taking THE SOUND OF LETTING GO Summer Blog Tour (click that, you know, ‘cuz there are giveaways) on a virtual summer road trip with some awesome writer pals.

Today, I’m here at Book Chic with two amazing Cali-Gals (er, women): Gretchen McNeil, author of TEN and the upcoming GET EVEN, and DANCERGIRL author Carol Tanzman

SWK: Where should we set up our fantasy beach chairs?
GRETCHEN: Laguna Beach
CAROL: Malibu Beach!

SWK: Hmmm. I’m sensing a pattern here. Will it continue? What are we drinking you Pacific beach beauties?

GRETCHEN: Champagne

CAROL: Other than the sight of all the cute guys surfing? Mango-strawberry smoothies.

SWK: Nope. No pattern on the beverage front. Anyone else wondering what would happen if you spiked a mango-strawberry smoothie with some nice California sparkling wine…? But I digress. What’s stealing the sunshine from your summer, writer-lasses?

GRETCHEN: Worrying about the next book contract I don't have yet.

CAROL: Wrestling with my secret work-in-progress (hint: a supernatural mystery).

SWK: Boy, book contracts and plot problems. Ugh! When you’re fighting those summer blues, what helps put joy back into your summer?

GRETCHEN: Clearance sales at ModCloth and Unique Vintage.

(SWK: Might I say that Gretchen has the most awesome taste in clothes and I want her to take me shopping right now!)

CAROL: Going back to the scene of the crime, so to speak. In a few weeks, I'll be visiting friends and family in Brooklyn, NY, which is the setting for both of my YA thrillers dancergirl and Circle of Silence. Here’s a picture I took in Brooklyn while researching my last novel.
(SWK (editorializing yet again): I LOVE NEW YORK!!!!)
Enter Gretchen’s amazing GET EVEN preorder giveaway HERE. (Giveaway deets: Pre-order your copy of GET EVEN from participating bookstores between now and September 15th and you'll get a signed, special edition booklet* with the first two chapters of GET DIRTY plus bonus material - FREE!)

Curious about Carol’s new thriller? Check out her website: www.caroltanzman.com

Stasia Ward Kehoe grew up dreaming of becoming a professional ballerina but she didn't grow quite enough (she is 5'4") or have sufficiently good knees (they are peppered with surgery scars) to achieve this goal. Instead, she went to Georgetown University from which she received a semi-unintentional BA in English. After working at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, and Random House Publishing in New York, City, and receiving her MA in Performance Studies from New York University, she married a dude who looks just like Clark Kent (the hot geek who turns into Superman), had four awesome sons, and moved to the Pacific Northwest where she now lives.

She then started writing with a vengeance, publishing her first young adult novel, AUDITION, in 2011. She advises not being too specific in your long-term goals however, if you decide to write a book, sit on your backside and don't get up until you have (a) died of starvation or (b) written the words "the end." THE SOUND OF LETTING GO is her second novel and her short-term plan is to write another so, as you read this bio, she's likely got her fingers glued to a keyboard.

Stasia also enjoys artichokes, chocolate (but, come on, who doesn't?), parentheticals (obviously) and turning on her car to an explosion of pop music because the last person to drive it was one of her teenagers--especially if the song is about heartache and healing and has a good dance beat.

You can find Stasia at her website, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Pinterest.

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Sunday, August 17, 2014

Blog Tour- Amity by Micol Ostow + Giveaway

Amity by Micol Ostow
Connor's family moves to Amity to escape shady business deals. Ten years later, Gwen's family moves to Amity for a fresh start after she's recovered from a psychotic break.

But something is not right about this secluded house. Connor's nights are plagued with gore-filled dreams of demons and destruction. Dreams he kind of likes. Gwen has lurid visions of corpses that aren't there and bleeding blisters that disappear in the blink of an eye. She knows Amity is evil and she must get her family out, but who would ever believe her?

Amity isn't just a house. She is a living force, bent on manipulating her inhabitants to her twisted will. She will use Connor and Gwen to bring about a bloody end as she's done before. As she'll do again.

The book will be out in stores on August 26. And courtesy of Egmont USA, I have a signed hardcover copy of Amity to give away. The contest is open to US/Canada residents and all you have to do is just leave a comment on this post by next Sunday, Sept 24 at 9pm EST. Here's an interview with Micol Ostow:

1) How did you get the idea for Amity?

It was coming time to pitch the second book for my contract with Egmont, and my first novel with them, family, had been a big departure for me tonally (it was much darker than my earlier work). So it felt important to me to try to write something that would serve as a companion to family, that the two might create their own little sub-genre. I was kicking around a few ideas but late one night, happened to come across the original “Amityville Horror” movie on tv (it was around Halloween). Something clicked in my head as I realized that I’ve always wanted to try my hand at pure horror – and what better subject than that classic trope, the haunted house? The original Amityville Horror story, too, fit nicely alongside family (based on the Manson family murders of 1969) as the inspiration for the movie came from a true crime.

Once that seed of an idea was planted, it was just a case of finding the right angle for a YA novel. I went back and forth as to whose story it would be – the boy who’d killed his family? His girlfriend? The sister who’d been killed? The house itself? I realized I really wanted to tell two sides of the same experience, which is how Connor and Gwen’s voices were born.

2) I've noticed that this book and your previous book for Egmont (Family) have been much darker than earlier novels of yours. What caused this transition? Do you still want to write lighter fare as well and move back and forth between the two? What are you currently working on?

I was finishing up my MFA in writing for children, and my then advisor suggested that since I’d already met all of my course requirements, I should try my hand at writing something “just for the heck of it.” I’ve been extremely blessed as a writer in that I came into publishing through the back door (as an editor) and therefore never had to write a whole novel on spec. So the idea of just sitting down to write without a contract or a deadline was completely novel and oddly liberating. The oddest thing about it, though, was what came out: two strange, dark short stories that would become the basis of family.

That said, I definitely go back and forth with what I like to read and write. I have a paranormal YA mystery coming out in 2015, but in the meantime, I’m working on a new, very young chapter book series about a seven-year-old girl in a traveling circus. I’m pretty lucky that my agent and editors (and readers!) allow me to be so diverse.

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

I don’t have one particular favorite flavor but I love the jelly belly sours. Although I always eat them too quickly and basically burn all my taste buds off.

I love sweets: candy, chocolate, pastries... but believe it or not, I don’t eat while I’m writing. I tend to work in concentrated bursts and trying to maneuver between Red Vines and the keyboard means I can’t really concentrate on either. Usually I save candy binges for after a good writing session, usually in front of some DVR’d reality tv, or a streaming horror movie.

4) What are you currently reading, or are about to start? Any books you're excited for?

My fellow Egmont author, Jessica Verday, has a horror novel out this fall called Of Monsters and Madness which looks amazing! Also Nova Ren Suma’s The Walls Around Us, which we have to wait until spring to read. Boo.

In the meantime, I’m keeping busy with Adele Griffin’s The Unfinished life of Addison Stone, and Everything I Never Told You, by Celeste Ng.

Check out the next stops on the tour- Monday, August 18 will be at Actin' Up with Books and Tuesday, August 19 will be at A Dream Wihin A Dream.

Micol Ostow has written dozens of books for children, tweens, and teens, but Amity is her first foray into horror. I turns out, writing a ghost story is almost more terrifying than reading one. (In a good way.) Her novel family was called a “Favorite Book of 2011” by Liz Burns at School Library Journal, and her illustrated novel, So Punk Rock (and Other Ways to Disappoint Your Mother), was a Sydney Taylor Notable Book for Teens.

In her spare time, Ostow blogs with the National Book Award-winning literacy initiative readergirlz.com. She lives in Brooklyn, NY, with her husband, her (utterly fearless) daughter, and a finicky French bulldog named Bridget Jones. Visit her online at www.micolostow.com or follow her on Twitter @micolz.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Blog Tour- Guardian by Alex London + Interview

Amazon | B&N | IndieBound | Goodreads
"In the new world led by the Rebooters, former Proxy Syd is the figurehead of the Revolution, beloved by some and hated by others. Liam, a seventeen-year-old Rebooter, is Syd’s bodyguard and must protect him with his life. But armed Machinists aren’t the only danger.

People are falling ill—their veins show through their skin, they find it hard to speak, and sores erupt all over their bodies. Guardians, the violent enforcers of the old system, are hit first, and the government does nothing to help. The old elites fall next, and in the face of an indifferent government, Syd decides it’s up to him to find a cure . . . and what he discovers leaves him stunned."

I absolutely loved Proxy and was so excited to read the sequel and see where things went from the end of the first book. Guardian is a crazy ride through this new overturned world and I really enjoyed following Syd on this new journey, especially with the prospect of an actual two-way romance this time.

and now I have an interview with Alex:

1) How did you get the idea for Proxy and Guardian? Will there be any more books in the series?

Proxy was the book I’d wished existed when I was a teen—an action-packed cyberpunk thriller with a gay protagonist that engages with the big ideas about the world we live in. It’s about the things that concern me—debt, privilege, inequality, justice, forgiveness, friendship.

Guardian, its sequel, has a very different set of concerns. While its still a thriller, it is certainly darker and more somber than Proxy. Our hero is dealing with the aftermath of some pretty intense stuff and I didn’t want to gloss over it or make it easy. Healing is hard and it doesn’t always work as planned. Sometimes, when things break, no clever plot twist can unbreak them. I wanted to explore how these characters live in a world where that’s the case. I wanted to question the values they have, the ideologies and the beliefs they hold and I wanted to create circumstances to test those things. So Guardian came from this urge to push my characters farther than I ever thought they’d go to see what happens. I think they emerge stronger, if not exactly unscathed. It is, hopefully, still a wild ride (and unlike in Proxy, there’s some romance!)

As of right now, there are no plans for more books in the series, but I have more stories about these characters I could tell and probably one day will. It may not be, however, with another book. What form these stories take is still very much an open question. But if the publisher wanted more books in the series, there is certainly more I could write.

2) These are your first two YA books. Before that, you'd written middle-grade fiction and adult non-fiction. What brought you to YA, and what was different about writing in this genre?

I don’t really write for a particular audience, but I do write books that have more appeal for a particular audience, so my middle grade books are usually about kids in that rage or written in a style that appeals to that age rage, but adults and teens can enjoy them too. It’s the same with YA. They are stories that (hopefully) young adults are drawn to and hopefully they speak to authentic young adult truths, but ultimately, the question of genre or audience isn’t one I think much about. I tell the stories I want to tell and I hope the right audience finds its way to them one reader at a time.

3) What is 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 like Jelly Belly’s just fine (I’ve actually done their factory tour twice) but whenever I finish a manuscript, I celebrate with a bag of Tate’s Whole Wheat Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies. I tell myself I’ll only eat the suggested serving size. I usually eat the whole bag.

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

I can’t wait to read 100 Sideways Miles by Andrew Smith and The Young Elites by Marie Lu, two very different YA novels by two very different YA writers, each of whom has such a vivid style and generous imagination that they make my jaw drop on a regular basis. I’m about to start reading David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks, which I’ve been waiting for for years—he’s my favorite living writer—and I can’t wait to dive into it.

Alex London writes books for adults (One Day The Soldiers Came: Voices of Children in War), children (Dog Tagsseries; An Accidental Adventure series) and teens (Proxy). At one time a journalist reporting from conflict zones and refugee camps, he is now a full time novelist living in Brooklyn, NY, where he can be found wandering the streets talking to his dog, who is the real brains of the operation.

Goodreads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

Read the Exclusive 3 Chapters from London’s new release, GUARDIAN here.

You can read the short story PUNISHMENT, the PROXY prequel on Wattpad for free right now! Meet Syd, Knox, and Liam (from Guardian) at 15.

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Monday, August 4, 2014

Author Interview- Paula Stokes

1) How did you get the idea for The Art of Lainey?

So awkward, but I got blown off by this guy that I was obsessed with. It was one of those things that dragged on for years without getting serious because no other guy made me feel like he did (and I tried getting over him, believe me!) Anyway, I cried for like a week straight when our on again-off again thing turned into a completely-off thing. And then, like Lainey, I went looking for advice on how to win him back. But instead of game-playing, I decided to write a book. The Art of Lainey healed my heart. It's a miracle that something spawned from so much pain turned out to be so happy and hopeful. I love my little book.

2) You've written the historical Venom novels under the name Fiona Paul, and now have contemporary titles coming out under your own name (Art of Lainey- a contemporary romance and Liars Inc- a dark mystery). Is it fun to go back and forth between different genres? Do you prefer any one over the other?

I am so done with historical stuff. Maybe I'll set a book in the 1990s someday, but that's as far back as I'm going. When I took the contract to write the Venom novels, it seemed like this awesome and exciting challenge. It was, but historical is really far from my comfort zone and I spent more time trying to cull the anachronisms from the novels and get the accuracy right than I spent writing. Historical writing just feels like going back to school, whereas contemporary books still require research, but it's about topics more fun and interesting to me.

3) You're also a registered nurse. How did you get started with that, and does any of that knowledge and experience affect your writing?

I fell into nursing when I finished the prerequisites for veterinary school and realized if I became a vet I would probably be in debt until I was fifty years old. I didn't know what to do--it was a really dark time in my life. My mom was like "Go to nursing school." So I did. I landed in hematology/oncology after my first job was a really bad fit and now I can't imagine working with anything other than cancer patients. They are so inspiring. Medical stuff creeps its way into all my stories. Both The Art of Lainey and Liars, Inc. have little scenes in emergency rooms and some of my other projects involve main characters with physical or psychiatric illnesses. I also have a medical thriller I want to write someday.

4) 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?

Jelly Belly! So fancy :) I eat like a ridiculous amount of cinnamon fire jolly ranchers when I write. I probably consume at least a bag a week, two bags if I'm revising.

5) Can you tell us anything about Liars Inc., your next book? What else are you currently working on?

Liars, Inc is the story of three kids who form a business selling lies and alibis to their classmates. Which is totally as awesome as it sounds, until one of the three asks for his own alibi and then disappears. MC Max has to figure out what happened to his friend because there's only one suspect in the disappearance--Max.

I had so much fun writing from the POV of a teen boy. My crit partners were like "Are you a boy trapped in a girl's body?" Nah--I just spent six years as "one of the guys" in a restaurant kitchen. Liars, Inc. is dark, shocking, and unpredictable, as different from Lainey as Lainey is from Venom. I'm working on like a zillion other things, including a novella in the Art of Lainey world called Infinite Repeat and three other books.

6) Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

So many people have said all this better than me, but my advice is to write the book you want to read. Not what you know, not what you think will sell. Write the book you're able to read thirty times and still love. Write the book you love so much that you're not afraid to shout from the rooftops that it's yours, no matter what kind of sales figures or reviews it gets. I want my books to succeed. I want my books to be loved. But at the end of the day, I will love The Art of Lainey no matter what, because I believe it does what I set out to make it to--spread hope and happiness (and hot boys :D) throughout the bookish universe.

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

I am reading REBEL by Amy Tintera. REBOOT was one of my favorite reads from 2013 and I have been clamoring for this sequel!

Friday, August 1, 2014

These Gentle Wounds by Helene Dunbar

These Gentle Wounds by Helene Dunbar
"Sometimes I wish I'd lost a leg or something. Everyone can understand that. They never get it when what's been broken is inside your head.

Five years after an unspeakable tragedy that changed him forever, Gordie Allen has made a new home with his half-brother Kevin. Their arrangement works since Kevin is the only person who can protect Gordie at school and keep him focused on getting his life back on track.

But just when it seems like things are becoming normal, Gordie's biological father comes back into the picture, demanding a place in his life. Now there's nothing to stop Gordie from falling into a tailspin that could cost him everything--including his relationship with Sarah, the first girl he's trusted with the truth. With his world spinning out of control, the only one who can help Gordie is himself . . . if he can find the strength to confront the past and take back his future."- summary from Amazon

Dunbar's debut is a heartfelt, gripping, and honest portrayal of a boy dealing with a version of PTSD. It can at times be very hard to read but it's such a compelling story and as a reader (and empathetic human), you want things to get better for Gordie. As the novel goes on, we learn more about Gordie's past and what happened that particular night.

Of course, there is a romantic relationship going on in the story, which it seems every YA has now no matter what the topic, but there were two things I loved about this one in particular: 1) They start off as friends and slowly grow into a relationship through honesty and conversation, and 2) It's not the major focus of the story either. What I also loved was the fantastic brother relationship between Kevin and Gordie. It's not often that you see a lot of deep bonding between family members in YA and even more unlikely to see it between two brothers. It was a refreshing breath of air. Their care and love for each other was a wonderful thing to read about.

Overall, Dunbar's debut is amazing and written so beautifully. I highly recommend it and am excited to see what she does next!

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