Monday, July 30, 2012

Author Guest Post: Jeff Strand

Stopping in today is Jeff Strand, author of A Bad Day for Voodoo, with a hilarious guest post all about How To Read A Bad Day For Voodoo While Doing A Hostage Negotiation.

It's going to happen to a bunch of you. You'll be sitting on the couch with your brand new copy of A Bad Day For Voodoo. You've got a glass of cold milk and a plate of chocolate chip cookies that you've baked just for this special occasion. You open the book, giggle with anticipation, and prepare yourself to enjoy the very first word on the very first page...and then you get called in to negotiation a hostage situation. Aw, bummer!

Well, your afternoon won't be a total waste, because if you follow the below pieces of advice, you can do both! That's right, you can read the book and save innocent lives!

1. Purchase a customized bulletproof book sleeve. If the bullets start flying, one or more of them could puncture your book and obscure important words. And let's face it, there's nothing worse than reading "And then his [Unreadable Due To Bullet Hole] exploded!" and not knowing what exploded! If you can't afford a special book sleeve, just cut a book-sized piece out of your bulletproof vest.

2. Don't let your boss see what you're reading. Your boss knows that you're a loose cannon who plays by his own rules, but that doesn't mean he won't get mad if he sees you reading on the job. That's why, for the low price of $39.99, your copy of A Bad Day For Voodoo can include a special cover attachment that reads Hostage Negotiation 101.

3. Share really funny parts with the captors. When one of the bad guys tells you that you've got thirty seconds to comply with their demands before they start shooting hostages, people are going to be tense. But nothing diffuses tension like a good laugh. Pick up that megaphone, read a paragraph or two, and watch those murderous frowns turn into smiles!

4. Remember that, in the long run, human lives are more important than A Bad Day For Voodoo. In a worst-case scenario, you may actually have to put the book down and actively try to talk the villains out of killing people. In that happens, just take a deep breath, wipe away a tear, and remember that you can still read the book when you get home. It's a pretty good book, but let's not get carried away.

So there you guys go. You know, just in case you find yourself in a hostage situation (but I love all my readers, so I really hope that doesn't happen.)

A Bad Day for Voodoo is out now, so definitely check it out!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Why Contemporary?

Something I've noticed about myself this year, as I continue to read book after book, is that more and more of what I do read is straight contemporary. Of the books I've read this year, maybe 1/4 of them, if that, have been non-contemps. It's not that I dislike paranormal, or dystopian, it's just that the ones I gravitate towards more are contemp. My issue is picking up a non-contemp book. I still have a pretty good idea of whether I'm going to enjoy it based on the summary, and basically all the non-contemps I've read so far this year have been great. I was totally into them once I started them, and yes, there were several that I was extremely excited to read and pretty much dropped everything to start it once I got the book.

But even my own writing is straight contemporary. And not the cute, fluffy romancey kind. Mine are the emotional, dark, painful ones. In talking to a good friend last night about my writing, and about the book I drafted in May while I queried, that I'm going to start revising soon, I started thinking, again, why do I love this stuff so much?

Beyond the obvious, that I just do... for me, it's really how affecting those "harder" contemps can be. There is nothing better, to me, than going through an entire emotional battle while I read. On a bad day, when I'm fed up with things, and tried, and frustrated, or just plain exhausted, there is something invigorating about being locked in someone else's pain and frustration. Not that I am glad they are suffering, plus when it's done right, I'm suffering right there with them. But it's such a good reminder that those things that seem so huge in my life, maybe aren't.

More than that, though, is that feeling, when you put a hard and emotional book down at the end, of being changed. Of having the way you view things changed. Of seeing a character's life, from their side, rather than the outside. Finding out what's really going on in that house down the street, or understanding why that guy spends all his time getting stoned and messing around. I'm not saying that is every character, or every situation, but there have been countless books that have honestly affected me, and even changed me, however subtly.

And as a writer, that's what I want. I want people to walk away from my books gutted and broken, but pieced back together in some way. I want them to think differently of something, however seemingly minor before. I realize that's a tall order to feel, but it's one I'm striving for all the same.

I love connecting to a character so strongly, I lose track of time. I forget what's going on around me (until, you know, Toby pees on my carpet to get my attention...). I love being angry at the other characters who wrong them, cheering when good things happen, and having so many questions about them in my head of things that aren't in the book. The books that leave me aching, that leave me breathless, are the ones that, a year later, I still remember. Not just remember that I loved it, but I'll remember details. I'll remember why. And the ones that really get to me, that leave me gutted for days? Those are the ones I reread.

Characters are always the biggest thing in a book for me... and contemporary books are far more intrinsic and character focused than the paranromal and dystopians. In the latter, so many of what's effecting the main character is extrinsic. Yes, there is an internal element too, but it's different. The non-contemps that end up being my favorite either have a very strong character development component, or the book is primarily contemp, with a touch of something else.

So that's why contemporary, for me. Personal taste, sure, but even more than that, it's what those books to do me, and for me. It's seeing these struggles, so many of them actually pretty ordinary when you get down to it, and how different characters react to it. How their lives have played into who they are now, when we meet them.

It's knowing, when I'm done, that no matter the crap that I get thrown, it's not really so bad, and I've been pretty darn lucky in life.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Book Review: Hidden by Sophie Jordan

SUMMARY: Jacinda was supposed to bond with Cassian, the "prince" of their pride. But she resisted long before she fell in love with Will—a human and, worse, a hunter. When she ran away with Will, it ended in disaster, with Cassian's sister, Miram, captured. Weighed down by guilt, Jacinda knows she must rescue her to set things right. Yet to do so she will have to venture deep into the heart of enemy territory.

The only way Jacinda can reach Miram is by posing as a prisoner herself, though once she assumes that disguise, things quickly spiral out of her control. As she learns more about her captors, she realizes that even if Will and Cassian can carry out their part of the plan, there's no guarantee they'll all make it out alive. But what Jacinda never could have foreseen is that escaping would be only the beginning....

Loyalties are tested and sacrifices made in the explosive conclusion to Sophie Jordan's Firelight trilogy.


Launching immediately into the action while gently reminding readers of the events that closed out Vanish, Hidden is fast paced, emotional, and stunning. Leading up to an explosive and gripping climax, and closing out the trilogy in a great and fitting way, this one definitely doesn’t leave readers feeling cheated. Testing both readers and the characters in new ways, and keeping their attention rapt with both the events of the book and the writing, Jordan’s talent continues to shine in this installment.

Much of this plot is unpredictable, yet there are just enough clues to keep readers guessing. With Jacinda still being pulled between Will and Cassian, for reasons more than where her heart lies, and a gutting new set of trials laid before her, there is a very relatable element to this one and beautifully done characterization. Jacinda continues to grow, learning to make choices for herself at times rather than constantly for everyone else, and she is still one of my favorite heroines. Will is, as expected, steamy and endearing, the boy who makes you melt yet also challenges you. Selfless in a lot of ways, yet not a complete doormat, the attraction and connection between Will and Jacinda continues to burn intensely. While they have their own sets of challenges, which Jordan scripts perfectly against everything else happening, there is also a quietness between them that jumps off the pages. Then there’s Cassian, a boy who has won even my heart, despite my preference for Will, and a boy who has an incredible sense of loyalty and honor. Tamra, too, continues to grow in this one, and will certainly leave her own mark on readers.

There is a great pacing in Hidden, letting readers breathe for only a few moments before something is thrown their way. Tying up all the major threads of the book, Jordan will leave her readers in a good place without intentionally cheating them out of anything. Beautifully written, with stellar descriptions and some seriously hot kissing scenes, Hidden showcases the true talent Jordan has. Hitting on some hard notes, and keeping a strong emotional air throughout, Hidden is stunning and bold, and if you haven’t yet picked up this series, you need to. Now.

Source: ARC received from author in exchange for an honest review 
Reading level: Ages 13 and up 
Hardcover: 272 pages 
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication Date: September 11, 2012

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Book Review: Whispers in Autumn by Trisha Leigh

SUMMARY: In 2015, a race of alien Others conquered Earth. They enslaved humanity not by force, but through an aggressive mind control that turned people into contented, unquestioning robots.

Except sixteen-year-old Althea isn’t content at all, and she doesn’t need the mysterious note inside her locket to tell her she’s Something Else. It also warns her to trust no one, so she hides the pieces that make her different, even though it means being alone.

The autumn she meets Lucas, everything changes.

Althea and Lucas are immune to the alien mind control, and together they search for the reason why. What they uncover is a stunning truth the Others never anticipated, one with the potential to free the brainwashed human race.

It’s not who they are that makes them special, but what.

And what they are is a threat. One the Others are determined to eliminate for good.


Intriguing and captivating, Whispers in Autumn is one of those books that blends together several known elements in a way that just totally grabs you. Though a little slow feeling at first, there is a strong undercurrent to this one that holds interest.With some great twists, and quite a few thought-provoking moments, Whispers in Autumn is both fun and intense.

Althea is a great character, the kind with a different sort of journey ahead of her. Truly feeling like an outsider because she doesn't exist in a mindless daze, there is a constant layer of fear around her. Being found out in regards to having control of her own head definitely has consequences, and Leigh navigates this area seamlessly. Althea goes through tremendous strides, while still being very much the perceptive and caring girl we meet at the start. 

Then there's Lucas, a boy who will completely capture readers from his first appearance. Testing Althea in some pretty big ways, the pair have a few strides to overcome. Once they do, though, things heat up... in some rather awesome ways. There is definitely chemistry between these two, and so many of the pages sizzle with what's going on between them. I fell hard for Lucas, and rooted right there with him and Althea, even in their not as stellar moments. 

While this one is a bit confusion to start, being thrown right into things, and the pacing takes some time to really get up to speed, Leigh has enough mystery mixed with well timed reveals to keep reader interest. I had so many questions, where it seemed like each new piece of info only made me want to know more, in that way that lets the book get so into my head. While I admit, I predicted a few of the twists, Leigh still keeps some up her sleeve until the right moment. There are some fantastic elements pulled into this one, woven in a way that I thoroughly loved, and that put a fresh sort of spin on them.

The writing is fabulous, building the atmosphere Althea lives in while also giving a strong voice to who she is. With some amazing descriptions, and an alluring flow, the writing stands out as much as the story and characters do. There is a huge amount of emotions worked into this one, pulling you in right away, and letting you feel everything Althea does, from fear to happiness. Blending some great aspects into something with a new feel, and adding in the right amount of romance and heat, Whispers in Autumn is a great book that shouldn't be missed.

Source: ARC received from author in exchange for an honest review
Reading Level: Young Adult

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Book Review: The Stone Girl by Alyssa B. Sheinmel

SUMMARY: She feels like a creature out of a fairy tale; a girl who discovers that her bones are really made out of stone, that her skin is really as thin as glass, that her hair is brittle as straw, that her tears have dried up so that she cries only salt. Maybe that’s why it doesn’t hurt when she presses hard enough to begin bleeding: it doesn’t hurt, because she’s not real anymore.

Sethie Weiss is hungry, a mean, angry kind of hunger that feels like a piece of glass in her belly. She’s managed to get down to 111 pounds and knows that with a little more hard work—a few more meals skipped, a few more snacks vomited away—she can force the number on the scale even lower. She will work on her body the same way she worked to get her perfect grades, to finish her college applications early, to get her first kiss from Shaw, the boy she loves, the boy who isn’t quite her boyfriend.

Sethie will not allow herself one slip, not one bad day, not one break in concentration. Her body is there for her to work on when everything and everyone else—her best friend, her schoolwork, and Shaw—are gone.


Uncomfortable but realistic, The Stone Girl is an aching but beautiful tale of body issues and friendship. Though the third person point of view creates a different kind of connection to the book, especially one so character and relationship focused, it’s still engaging in an inexplicable way. I fell into this one right away, stunned by the depth of Sethie’s hatred towards herself, even when she couldn’t see it for what it was. Sethie’s entire character arc is so well done, so intricate from start to finish, and the book closes at the perfect moment for the story.

Sethie is a character that, in all honesty, I can see a lot of readers hating. More than once I wanted to shake some sense in to her, except she isn't just that oblivious girl who doesn’t realize her boyfriend is less than what he seems, who doesn’t realize he maybe isn't even her boyfriend at all but a guy that just uses her to get some. As a reader, yes, it’s easy to see early that the reality with Shaw isn't what’s in her head. It is frustrating? Yes. But here’s the thing. I understood her. I got that essentially, Sethie is a girl who has such a small view of herself, so much built up self-hatred, that just having a guy who is willing to sleep with her means everything. He wants her, out of all the girls. It’s her that turns him on. And even when faced with some even rougher truths about him, her reaction is something towards herself, towards what that must mean for her, rather than anything outward. This, I think, is what makes this book so potent, but also makes it one of those books that can be easily misinterpreted. This is one of those books, and Sethie is one of those characters, that is so flawed she is painfully realistic, the kind of authentic that you want to turn away from.

Then there’s the eating disorder wrapped into the story, the way Sethie views herself, the fact that she hates the natural curves a woman should have because those curves come from fat. Sethie isn't the kind of anorexic that weighs less than a Barbie. But she still weighs less than she should, she still punishes her body constantly, punishes herself for being hungry. A victory to Sethie is being able to skip a meal and not think about it, or being fine eating half a bagel with barely any peanut butter on it. And though as a reader, I know how much she’s hurting herself, while reading, I understood that it made sense to Sethie, and therefore it made sense to me. Even more notable with this entire aspect of the story was that for Sethie, it just was. She didn’t have a rough home life that pushed her into needing control of one aspect of her life. She didn’t have a mom who made her feel imperfect all the time. She just had a different view of herself in her head, and it just… was. And honestly? I loved that aspect, because I do think there are a lot of girls who go through the same thing. Who can’t adequately explain why they see themselves like that. If every eating disorder was the exact same, then I imagine treating them would be simple. But each case is different, and some of them are more mundane seeming, and that is showcased so beautifully in this book.

Adding another layer to the story is the note of friendship, of the goods and bads of it, of hurting someone and then figuring out how to make up for it. Jane is an amazing character for this, a girl who has a good head on her shoulders, even if she can be a bit selfish or show-offy at times. Understanding Sethie before anyone else does, she tests Sethie in some much needed, even if painful, ways. I loved watching the friendship form between those, particularly set against the backdrop of how Sethie views herself and her relationship with Shaw. And though Shaw is a character that you will probably want to kick in a certain painful place, he, too, has an honest realism to him and an essential role in the story. While instinct says what happens with him and Sethie isn't really that realistic, logic says that yes, unfortunately, it is. It’s those kind of gray areas that are so perfectly woven into the story, the things that challenge readers, that makes The Stone Girl a great and important read. Though hard to take at times, and certainly a bit of a train wreck to follow, this is a book that is, at its center, captivating.

Source: Netgalley 
Reading level: Ages 12 and up 
Hardcover: 224 pages 
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: August 28, 2012

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Upcoming Droolworthy Books: Male POV

Male POV is my favorite. It's generally what I write, and I usually snatch up as many books written in it as I can. And while I do enjoy the split male/female POV books, the all male ones just get me. So this time on Droolworthy Upcoming Books, I'm feature all male POV ones that I am, well, drooling for! This isn't including any sequels, just stand alones or the start to a new series.

Taken by Erin Bowman: I will probably not ever shut about this book. It has just captured me somehow, with the summary... and okay, the male POV. Also, I love the name Gray, and the color Gray, so there's that. But I have been jonesing for this book since last year sometime. It just sounds so amazing, and like such a Kari book.

Charm and Strange by Stephanie Kuehn: Closed off, emotionally shut down boy? Girl with secrets who challenges that? Um. Yes please. Also, this one is set in a boarding school. I love boarding school books. Not to mention, the things at a cycle of abuse in this story pretty much guarantee it will be intense and wrenching, and you guys know how much I love both of those things.

The Collector by Victoria Scott: A soul collector? A hot one, at that? Yes, please. This one just sounds like so much fun, and I'm totally digging the romance angle of this one. Quirky nerd and sexy demon. Yeah. I'm in. Not to mention the fact that this cover is really rather pretty to look at...

Severed Heads, Broken Hearts by Robyn Schneider: First, this title alone has me sold. Add in the male POV, and I'm drooling. But also, it's a book about tragedy... and about more tragedy. I love the heartbreaking ones, the ones that test me as a reader, so I am so set on this one.

Broken Glass by Lisa Amowitz: This one has something about it that has me intrigued. The mystery. Wanting to know what happens. And, really, just watching Jeremy try to work through everything. Nothing like an accident and losing your crush to set you in motion.

Insomnia by J.R. Johansson: Spending the night trapped in the dreams of the last person you made eye contact with? Um. Yes please. Imagine trying to not only avoid sleep, but avoid eye contact, even the innocent and accidental kind? I love that concept! Add in a girl who's dreams you're okay getting sucked into... and what that means trying to make sure it happens night after night? Hello, stalker. Then add in said girl actually having some kind of stalker, someone who threatens her? Yeah. I am so incredibly sold on this one.

Trainwreck by Christa Desir: This is the kind of book that going, I basically expect it to break me. Not to mention, I love that this one is told from the boyfriend's POV. He wasn't the one raped, but that doesn't mean he's not affected. This one sounds so intense, and so damaging, and so, so amazing.

So what upcoming male POV books are you excited for?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Book Review: Smashed by Lisa Luedeke

SUMMARY: A field hockey star grapples with addiction in this riveting debut that will appeal to fans of Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak.

Stay out of trouble for one more year, and Katie Martin can leave her small town loneliness behind forever. She is a field hockey star on the fast track to a college scholarship, but her relationship with alcohol has always been a little questionable. Then trouble finds her. Alec is the most popular guy in school, and also the biggest bully—with his sights set firmly on Katie. When Alec turns on the charm, Katie thinks she must have been wrong about him.

Except that she wasn’t. On a rain-soaked, alcohol-drenched night, one impulsive decision leaves Katie indebted to Alec in the worst possible way. This debut novel is a fast-paced and compelling story of addiction, heartbreak, and redemption.


This isn't a good girl/bad boy story… it’s more of, a broken girl trying to be good falling for a guy that is nothing but trouble… usually. I fell in love with Katie from the start, and even when things started getting really messed up, I didn’t ever dislike her. Luedeke does a remarkable job of writing not only Katie’s character, but those around her as well, and set against a relatively simple but definitely intense plot, Smashed is a stunning debut. Twisting some common elements in her own way, and having a very strong realistic note to the situations, Luedeke is a talent writer who I will look for more from.

Katie is kind of a mess, in large part simply due to circumstance. With a father who walked out and never looked back five years before, and a mother who is gone almost all the time, Katie does what she can to make things appear fine on the outside, even when she’s in more pain than she can handle on the inside. A talented field hockey player, Katie has some great things ahead of her, even if getting to them isn't so easy. With two best friends who will do pretty much anything for her, and who try to help her best they can when it comes to taking care of herself and her little brother, she has things pretty good, yet not really good enough. While she doesn’t necessarily voice that specific thought, the proof of it is on the pages, and Luedeke does a truly amazing job of building everything about Katie’s character.

From the start, Alec starts showing up in Katie’s life, drawing her in. With a softness to him that shows when it’s just them, it’s easy for her to ignore his reputation and even the things he’s done to one of her best friends in the past. Though signs of something darker lurk within Alec, the way he listens to her and even the common ground they share go far to bring the two together. Even with Alec, however, alcohol is the driving force in many of her decisions, the ultimate prize she is going after, even if it means being in his company. Even as things continue to spiral out of control, however, and Alec gets more demanding with Katie, she keeps quiet about everything that’s happened, both for self preservation and fear. Completely under his control, her reliance on alcohol grows even stronger, making a self-feeding loop that she can’t seem to get out of.

This book is a very honest portrayed of addiction, with a downward spiral that seems innocent enough, even to readers. Enjoying a party isn't the same as needing to party, even if Katie is desperate to get to said parties. Having a drink to take the edge off at the end of the day isn't the same as being unable to get through the day with a drink. Or is it? With beautiful, emotional writing, and some huge triggering scenes, Luedeke easily navigates these questions and more, making this a powerful book that is impossible to put down. Even with the strong messages it carries, Smashed is far from a preaching novel, nor is it simply a “don’t drink” campaign.

There are several story lines woven together, making this much more than an addiction book. Definitely not a romance, particularly given everything that happens with Alec, there are still stolen kisses to excite readers, at least for awhile. Though one of Katie’s best friends is a guy, he really is just a friend, without any pining on either side, and in that, Smashed also stands apart. Simply an amazing guy who she’s grown up with, Katie and Matt have a very well done and realistic friendship, with a depth to them that tells just how much they’ve been through together. Then there’s Cassie, her other best friend, who is so full of life, yet also has such a well put together life and family, that the underlying jealousy Katie feels causes tension as the book progresses.

With some rough and gutting scenes, and a very heavy emotional atmosphere, Smashed is a showcase in talent from a debut author. Strongly paced, and walking the line between what happens behind closed doors and a public front, there is something highly relatable about this book. Beautifully written, and with a protagonist who has her faults but also is plenty likeable, understandable, and someone to believe in, this one will suck you in and not let go.

Source: ARC received from publisher in exchange for an honest review 
Reading level: Ages 14 and up 
Hardcover: 336 pages 
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Publication Date: August 21, 2012

Monday, July 16, 2012

Epic Announcement (AKA, How I Got My Agent!)

I am a million kinds of ridiculously excited to announce that...


I am ELATED to say I am now represented by the fabulous Pam van Hylckama Vlieg with Larsen Pomada!!!!!!

I only started querying in April of this year, but I am so excited to be ready for the next step! And, yes, the manuscript loving nicknamed SlackerBoy is the one Pam signed me with.

So for those of you interested in how this all came about, and where I was when I got the call and all that... here's the story:

Pam asked me Thursday evening if I had time for a phone call. My first thought was "My phone is almost dead!" and then, for reasons I can't explain, my follow up thought, in the midst of freaking out, was "I don't even have a bra on!" because, apparently, that was somehow important to me? I don't know. So I put my phone on the charger, and Pam said it'd be about an hour and a half.

Commence more freaking out, frantic texts to a good writing friend (who probably screen captured those for later amusement, or potential blackmail?), a gchat convo with another good writing friend, and more freaking out. I did some cleaning. Took the dog out so he would behave while I was on the phone. Took some deep breaths to calm down....

And I sat down to wait. I was on pins and needles, trying not to stress, knowing what this phone call means but still part of me was thinking "Maybe she's calling to talk about puppies" (and let the record reflect, when I texted that to my writing friend, I could hear the sarcasm in her response of "Yeah. That's it" even through a text...). And as I was waiting... Toby peed on the carpet, right in front of me. Mind you, he went out less than an hour before this.

So then came the frantic scrubbing of pee out of the carpet, hoping Pam waits a bit longer to call... and me trying not to be too angry at Toby, who then just walked up and licked my arm and gave me his big sad eyes... yes. Instant forgiveness.

Cue more mental freaking.

Then the phone rang.

And Pam and I chatted. And I probably sounded like a dork. But I kept basically all ridiculous comments inside, and refrained from any random squeals...

We hung up. I freaked out. Told my two writing friends. Gave Toby a celebratory Beggin Strip and a huge kiss on the head.

Then I took a few days to let other agents know, and tied up those loose ends, before working everything out and officially accepting her offer.

And now I am ridiculously excited, and grinning out of nowhere, and just... so relieved, and happy, and, I admit it, darn proud of myself.

Because.. holy cow I HAVE AN AGENT. An agent who I have an immense amount of respect for (and who has a dog that is adorable enough to rival Toby's cuteness), and who I know is a great fit both for me, and my work.

Exclusive Cover Reveal: Never Enough Stories

Never Enough author Denise Jaden is putting out some companion stories to the book, coming August 1, and I am so excited to share with you guys the cover she's put together for this!

So before we get to any details, I give you the cover:

And here's a note from Denise, about this cover:

I’ve always loved the cover Simon & Schuster created for Never Enough, but while it suits the tone really well, I never felt like the image of the girl looked like either Claire or Loann. The cover for Never Enough Stories focuses on the girl that I think looks like Loann. Whenever I look at this picture, I imagine Loann at a certain part in the book—after the swimming scene in the river.

I think this is totally fitting, and I love seeing Loann through Denise's eyes. There is such an innocence to this girl that matches up, at least to me, with Loann.

If you loved Never Enough, trust me, you want to check out these stories... and if you aren't sure, it's a great way to pull you into the book, at least with the companion stories and even the deleted scenes (though you might want to stay away from that alternate ending and read the original first, but trust me, this book rocks anyhow).

Even better, Denise will be offering this anthology of extras for free to anyone who has purchased a new copy of Never Enough, or for a low price for anyone who wants to check out the characters before buying the book. Watch her blog for the coupon code on August 1st to find out how you can get your copy.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Book Review: False Memory by Dan Krokos

SUMMARY: Miranda wakes up alone on a park bench with no memory. In her panic, she releases a mysterious energy that incites pure terror in everyone around her. Except Peter, a boy who isn't at all surprised by Miranda's shocking ability.

Left with no choice but to trust this stranger, Miranda discovers she was trained to be a weapon and is part of an elite force of genetically-altered teens who possess flawless combat skills and powers strong enough to destroy a city. But adjusting to her old life isn't easy--especially with Noah, the boyfriend she can't remember loving. Then Miranda uncovers a dark truth that sets her team on the run. Suddenly her past doesn't seem to matter...when there may not be a future.

Dan Krokos' debut is a tour-de-force of non-stop action that will leave readers begging for the next book in this bold and powerful new series.


Intricate and brilliant, False Memory is the kind of book that hooks from the start, doesn’t let go, and messes with your head on the way. Pulling some powerful punches and filled with plenty of jaw dropping twists, this one is impossible to put down. Despite being an intense adventure with a potent climax, Krokos tapers things off smoothly and ties up the events of this book in an easy way, without leaving readers stuck on the edge with a cliffhanger.

Miranda is a fabulously done character, getting snippets of her now lost memories in a way that not only builds her character but raises plenty of questions. Certainly a product of the training she’s gone through, but with a great strength that is all her own, she is perfectly developed throughout the book. Her character arc is smoothly done, pulling in plenty of things that are clearly her, while still mixing in with the results of everything else going on and the answers to the big questions that are pitched.

Along with Miranda’s great development is that of Peter, Noah and Olive, and Krokos weaves their stories together perfectly. Also notable is the hints of a love triangle that is brought in, while still being very clearly not an actual love triangle. Challenging the feelings of the characters, but letting things play out in a very natural way, Krokos definitely pulls in a realistic element to his world.

The plot of this one is mindblowing, and one with a stunning amount of twists and turns that will keep readers guessing the entire way. Twisted in plenty of ways, and vividly portrayed, the bigger points of this book will stick with readers long after the pages are finished. Strongly written, with vibrant descriptions and voice, this one is a hit across the board.

Source: TLA 
Reading level: Ages 12 and up 
Hardcover: 336 pages 
Publisher: Hyperion Book CH
Publication Date: August 14, 2012

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Cover Reveal + Excerpt: Doomed by Tracy Deebs

I am so excited to be taking part in the cover reveal for Tracy Deebs' next book, Doomed! I heard about the premise of this one last year at a signing for Tempest Rising, and it totally got into my head. So without further ado, I bring you the Doomed cover:

Isn't that an awesome cover? I love the blue and greens, as well as the cyber/virtual feel, and then the destruction in the background. Heck. Yeah.

So what's this book about? Great question!

Beat the Game, Save the World.

One Stuxnet type worm,

One Greek-themed MMO,

One real world scavenger hunt,

Three teenagers on the run

And a ten-day countdown to total nuclear annihilation .

Pandora’s Box isn’t just a myth anymore …

When seventeen-year-old Pandora Walker opens an email attachment, she uploads the most frightening worm ever invented—and in doing so, brings about total technological Armageddon. Everything from the internet to communications to utilities collapses and suddenly Pandora finds herself on the run from Homeland Security, the FBI and every police department in the country, all of whom blame her for the technological wasteland sweeping across the U.S.. With the help of stepbrothers Eli and Theo, her neighbors and the two hottest guys in school-- plus codes encrypted in a world famous MMO-- she sets out on a real life scavenger hunt that only she can solve. A scavenger hunt that pits her against one of the most brilliant men in the world—the maker of the Pandora worm. Her father. Only by unraveling the clues left by him in the MMO, and in real-world places around the U.S., can they hope to beat the clock ticking the days off until the entire planet is Doomed.

Yeah. This book sounds so freaking awesome! I mean, oops on, you know, being the reason for world doom but... yay for being able to solve it? Yes. That.

So if you're as excited for this book as I am, head over to Mundie Moms where you can enter to WIN an ARC, and read an awesome excerpt of the book!

Doomed is coming January 8, 2012 from Bloomsbury Walker, so make sure you add it to your Goodreads shelf today so you don't forget about it!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Book Review: Counting Backwards by Laura Lascarso

SUMMARY: Three weeks ago I tried to run away from home. Now all I want is to go back.

When troubled Taylor Truwell is caught with a stolen car and lands in court for resisting arrest, her father convinces the judge of an alternative to punishment: treatment in a juvenile psychiatric correctional facility. Sunny Meadows is anything but the easy way out, and Taylor has to fight hard just to hold on to her sanity as she battles her parents, her therapist, and vicious fellow patients. But even as Taylor struggles to hold on to her stubborn former self, she finds herself relenting as she lets in two unlikely friends-Margo, a former child star and arsonist, and AJ, a mysterious boy who doesn’t speak. In this striking debut, Laura Lascarso weaves together a powerful story of anger and self-destruction, hope and love.


This is one of those books that takes a different sort of look at not only family dysfunction but coming of age and figuring yourself out. Though Taylor is adamant that there is nothing wrong with her, and she doesn’t belong at Sunny Meadows, and in some respects she is right, there is also such a deep rooted anger in her that there’s plenty of reasons why the place can help her. Still, Lascarso creates a beautifully dissonance between the two, of true more easily recognizable and quantifiable mental problems with that of anger and the effects of not so stellar parents. Watching Taylor navigate through all this and learn to trust people is what makes this book, standing it out against other similar books in a great way. Rich in character development and rapt with emotions, Counting Backwards is definitely not just another psych ward book.

Taylor has such a deep love for her mother, even through the anger and disappointment, you can’t help but not only feel for her, but understand her as well. Stuck with a drunk mother after her father walked out on them, and harboring an unending amount of anger at him for it, but also at her mother who is too weak to overcome her alcoholism, it’s so easy to understand why Taylor not only acts the way she does, but thinks the way she does as well. Even when she wants to curse and scream at her mom, however, it’s also clear to see how much it hurts her to do it, and how hard it is to stay strong in taking a stand against her mom. Add in the harder to pinpoint issues with her father, that hint at simply a conflict of personality but end at something much greater, and she is a force of a mess that will drag you in. Determined to escape from Sunny Meadows, and not completely caring about who she might hurt in the process, there is a selfishness to her that goes far to develop her character. Her path is a heartbreaking one, yet a stunningly well done one as well, and she is definitely a character readers won’t easily forget.

Given the length of the stays in Sunny Meadows, both Taylor and readers get to know several other characters very well. From clearly not totally right in the head Charlotte, who is happiest when she’s coloring and sees the world in a different sort of beautiful way, to mute but intense and perceptive A.J., Lascarso has built each character vividly and individually. Adding in some romance, yet having it be far from the focus, she has crafted a realism into the book that shines. Though possibly coming off as a bit overdramatic at times, given the situation and the overall play out of the book, it’s easy to fall into this one and not want to put it down. With strong writing, and a well designed high security psych unit, the attention and effort put into this book shows easily. Intense at times, but sweet at others, this one is raw in all the best ways. Taking a different path to recovery and therapy, and pulling in some unique elements, Counting Backwards will capture readers.

Source: ARC gifted 
Reading level: Ages 14 and up 
Hardcover: 288 pages 
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: August 14, 2012

Friday, July 6, 2012

Book Review: Perfect Escape by Jennifer Brown

SUMMARY: Kendra has always felt overshadowed by her older brother, Grayson, whose OCD forces him to live a life of carefully coordinated routines. The only way Kendra can stand out next to Grayson is to be perfect, and she has perfection down to an art -- until a cheating scandal threatens her flawless reputation.
Behind the wheel of her car, with Grayson asleep beside her, Kendra decides to drive away from it all -- with enough distance, maybe she'll be able to figure everything out. But eventually, Kendra must stop running and come to terms with herself, her brother, and her past.
With undeniable grace and humor, acclaimed author Jennifer Brown explores OCD, the pressure for perfection, and the emotional highs and lows of a complex sibling relationship.


This book is stunning and bold, with the emotional depth and soft flair that all of Brown’s books have. Having far more to it than just a sibling with OCD, Perfect Escape beautifully ties in a sibling relationship with coming of age and just trying to figure everything out. There are some breaking scenes in this book, but plenty of fun and sweet ones as well, with a vivid realism to it that will keep readers completely hooked.

Kendra is a phenomenally done character, someone who seems to have everything together yet has plenty of faults hidden underneath. With a painful drive to be perfect and a skewed view of her family, she has made some mistakes before the book even opens that propels her throughout. Struggling with her brother’s disability, yet loving him so completely, there an authentic note to her character that shines. Caught up on some things from the past, and terrified at least for awhile to move forward, Kendra is a very relatable character with a strong drive and motivation behind her.

Grayson is an equally stunning character, painful to read about and watch. Though a genius, he is hindered in most every way by the compulsions that lock him in, rendering him useless in a lot of ways. Both stuck on numbers/counting, with a germophobic element as well, it is easy to see not only how frustrating the disability is for him but for those around him too. Determined in all the ways that truly matter, despite his seeming inability to just ignore the compulsions, Grayson is a great guy and an even greater brother. Adding poignancy and realism to his character is the fact that plenty of times, both through Kendra’s eyes and those of the people they interact with, Grayson is viewed as less than everyone else, and unable to understand, simply because of his compulsions. Far from that, he is perceptive, intelligent, and has plenty of emotions and empathy underlying it. This makes for some gutting scenes, but also some beautiful ones, with a smack in the face kind of realization about him.

With a strong driving force behind the plot and pacing, and enticing characters, Perfect Escape is hard to put down and even harder to forget. Tying in multiple notable elements, from a fear of what’s to come to just trying to love someone as they are without expecting more from them, Brown seamlessly weaves together each little nuance in the most perfect of ways. I fell in love with both Grayson and Kendra as the book progressed, seeing the faults in both of them but also the ways they figure out how to help each other. Coming from a family that loves them very much, yet still has it’s issues that seem largely due to Grayson but not entirely, there is a wrenching dissonance between doing something for yourself and doing it for others in this one. Beautifully written with a strong voice, a great blend of humor and pain, and a fitting and comfortable ending, Perfect Escape is daring, captivating, and a complete must read.

Source: Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review
Reading Level: Young Adult  
Hardcover: 368 pages 
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: July 10, 2012

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Book Review: Team Human by Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan

SUMMARY: Just because Mel lives in New Whitby, a city founded by vampires, doesn't mean she knows any of the blood-drinking undead personally. They stay in their part of town; she says in hers. Until the day a vampire shows up at her high school. Worse yet, her best friend, Cathy, seems to be falling in love with him. It's up to Mel to save Cathy from a mistake she might regret for all eternity

On top of trying to help Cathy (whether she wants it or not), Mel is investigating a mysterious disappearance for another friend and discovering the attractions of a certain vampire wannabe. Combine all this with a cranky vampire cop, a number of unlikely romantic entanglements, and the occasional zombie, and soon Mel is hip-deep in an adventure that is equal parts hilarious and touching.

Acclaimed authors Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan team up to create a witty and poignant story of cool vampires, warm friendships, and the changes that test the bonds of love.


Funny and witty, yet having quite a bit of depth to it and tackling some great concepts, Team Human will appeal to both fans and haters of vampires. This one takes a different approach to the entire thing, and puts friendship and love first and foremost, while still leaving plenty of room for the characters to work things through on their own. Smooth in pacing, and alluring from the start, Team Human is a quick but highly enjoyable read.

Mel is, in a lot of ways, headstrong and brash, but her intentions behind it are nothing but honest. Protective of her best friend who generally has her head in the clouds, and seemingly more realistic when it comes to love and life than Cathy, Mel still has quite a few strides of her own to go through, which are tackled beautifully in this book. Keeping her dislike of vampires upfront, but also not being simply an inbred dislike, Mel is a multifaceted, flawed, but likeable character. She has some great views and takes on things, and there is a big emotional component to her that completely works.

With a relatively small, but very strongly developed cast, readers will fall in love with more than just Mel. Though Cathy certainly tests Mel, and some readers might feel an inherent dislike towards her for that, and the fact that she is that girl who falls totally, hopelessly in love almost instantly, there is still something driving and real behind her. Her relationship with Francis is fun to watch, even through Mel’s eyes, and okay, I admit it, I love watching Mel make Francis squirm. Then there’s Kit, who throws in a few challenges of his own, and definitely brings plenty to the table. He is downright hilarious, and the banter and fun between him and Mel is my favorite thing about this book.

Having a touch of mystery, a pretty fun and awesome world that is easy to fall into and has all the right elements of being both straight up and toying, and with the right amount of romance and friendship, Team Human is the kind of book you pick up when you need a laugh but don’t want pure cheese. Wonderfully writing, with a spunky narrator and some stellar descriptions, this one should definitely be put on your list.

Source: TLA
Reading level: Ages 13 and up
Hardcover: 352 pages 
 Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication Date: July 3, 2012

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Droolworthy Upcoming Books

Once again, I've been lucky in the reading department lately, and have had the chance to read ARCs of upcoming books that just totally blew me away. Since my reviews for all of these won't be coming for awhile, here's some quick reasons why you need to add them to your lists pronto and drool over how much you want them.

Let the Sky Fall by Shannon Messenger: This book is hilarious. There is such a natural wit, even with all the rougher, more emotional stuff. Shannon straddles that line perfectly, and totally drew me in from the start. I love Vane. He's that bumbling, awkward, but totally sweet guy you want to hug, and will also have you laughing out loud. Audra is just as fabulous, with a more dry sort of humor to her and a lot on her plate. The characters are stunning in this one, but so is the execution and plot, and I absolutely cannot wait for more.

If I Lie by Corrine Jackson: This book is totally emotional, and kind of breaking, but also so beautiful. It's one of those books that, I think, nearly everyone will react differently too, due mainly from how Corrine has set all of it up. Characters that I didn't like, others will empathize with better with, and I really love that about this book. But mostly, I love how it all plays out, the potency in some of the scenes, and the way Corrine doesn't hold back. I ached so much reading this one, yet I couldn't stop turning the pages. This book is utterly breathtaking.

The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken: I finished this one a few days ago, and I am still in shock. In some ways, this book totally broke my heart. But more than that, it totally made me think, and I think Alexandra has done an exceptional job of weaving together existing concepts and notions into something that is truly all her own, and something that packs a powerful punch at that. The characters are fantastic, the romance soft yet totally believable, and the story line well paced and intriguing. Add in the solid writing, and the humor that is perfectly placed, and this is a knock out book.

34 Pieces of You by Carmen Rodrigues: You know those books where every part of just aches, because the characters are such a mess, and it's almost a trainwreck, and you know they might not come out of things okay? This is one of those books, and I couldn't put it down. Carmen alternates not only in the perspective, but in the timeline as well, building this story that will both tear you apart and put you back together. I absolutely love these characters, how messy they are, how lost at times they are, and I really appreciate the stunning realism that is on every page of this book.

Dualed by Elsie Chapman: West is totally one of my favorite characters ever. She has such a strong drive in her, even when she's seemingly breaking apart. I think Elsie did a truly amazing job with the characterization in this book, but also with the concept and it's execution. It's in a world that, in a lot of ways, is easy to believe and understand, even though it's far different from our own. But what really got me with this one, truly, was how well Elsie played out the notion of which Alt should live, which one deserves to live, and what qualities go into that deserving to live. Breeding a nation of killers is the ultimate goal, but Elsie quietly explores the implications of that without taking away from the bigger plot. This book had me gripped, and played out in a fantastic way.

Burning Blue by Paul Griffin: I love mysteries, and this one did not disappoint. I also completely love Jay. He is a loner, even if partly by choice, yet he's also this amazing hacker. He has an interesting view on the world, and this huge heart that just totally made me melt. He's awkward at times, but perfectly smooth at others, and he's just that perfect blend that will get to you. The mystery part of this story also had an amazing execution, with some huge twists and a ton of clues left while still leaving readers unable to totally piece things together. This is a book I couldn't put down, and was sad to see the characters go at the end of it.

So those are the books that I totally recommend to everyone! Click the links of the titles to add them to your Goodreads shelves so you don't forget.

And because this post wouldn't be complete without some books that I am currently drooling for, here are ones that I definitely hope to get my hands on soon!

Crash and Burn by Michael Hassan: This book just totally grabbed me from the short summary listed in the Harper catalog, and I cannot wait for it. I expect this one to totally break me apart, and pack a huge punch, but to also be breathtaking and amazing.

Pivot Point by Kasie West: There is something about this one that just has me completely enamored. I completely love the idea of different futures, but more importantly, that though the main character can Search them, and even live them out, she ultimately has to choose. I am so excite for this one in a huge way.

Nobody but Us by Kristin Halbrook: This one is dual POV, which is a total favorite of mine. I love this cover. But mostly, I think this one is just going to be so raw, and honest, and utterly amazing. I love the notion of Zoe wanting to save Will, and Will wanting to save Zoe. I want to know what they need to be saved from, and I want to know what happens. Not to mention, there's a road trip. I love road trip books.

My Beautiful Failure by Janet Ruth Young: I LOVE the concept of this one. Teen boy working at a suicide hotline, and falls for a caller? This has potential heartbreak written all over it, and I totally love that kind of story line. I think this one is going to tackle suicide from a different perspective, and I am so excited to see it play out.

So those are some of the books I need in my life like my dog needs his toys. And if anyone wants to help a girl out.... that would be much appreciated.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Author Interview: Denise Jaden

Dropping in today is Denise Jaden to celebrate the upcoming release of her sophomore novel, Never Enough!

As a teen, what was the most notable when you felt like you were "never enough"?

One of my big frustrations and insecurities as a teen was my singing voice. I was a trained dancer, and had been pretty involved in theater, but when it came time for the spring musical at our school, it took all of my inner strength to make myself sing for an audition, and I’d be lucky if I got a bit part. I’ve come to terms with this insecurity over the years—my poor son will tell you how I belt out off-key songs in the car. Besides that, I had all the usual insecurities about my looks and body and fashion sense. Those ones still come and go 

With Never Enough being your sophomore novel, what part about the entire writing process from start to finish was easier for you this time around? Harder?

Um, quite honestly, I wouldn’t say any part of the process was easier. Never Enough was a work in progress for close to eight years, and possibly because I was very close to it, nothing about it seemed easy to fix or problem-solve with. I had to completely rewrite the beginning and the ending when I felt like I’d already written every single version I could possibly come up with. The editorial revisions of this book were very difficult on me, compounded by the fact that I was going through a brutal year in my personal life. When I look back on the revision process of Losing Faith, I want to smile and laugh. When I look back on the revision process of Never Enough…well, I try not to look back on it too often.

Given that Never Enough is about two sisters, how different do you think the story would be if it were about brothers, or a brother and a sister?

I think the story could be similar if it were two brothers (except, perhaps, for the giddiness over boys). I can’t see a brother and sister for this story as easily, since so much of the character growth comes out of their comparisons as part of being the same sex. This story definitely came more naturally to me in the head of a girl, but I do have another work in progress that will be from a boy’s point of view, dealing with different family issues.

If you could pair Loann and Claire with any character from any book, who would you pick for each?

I like Loann with Marcus, the boy she befriends in Never Enough, and honestly, I don’t want to imagine her with anyone else. But I could picture her being good friends with other fun and offbeat characters. Maybe someone like E. Lockhart’s Ruby Oliver would be a good friend for her.

Claire is a little on the superficial side, and I’d love to find her someone who would root her and make her realize what’s most important. Maybe a boy like Jacob from Justina Chen Headley’s NORTH OF BEAUTIFUL.

What god/goddess would be your nemesis?

In Polynesian dancing we learn about a lot of the ancient gods the Hawaiians once believed in. The most well-known of these is Pele, the goddess of fire. She would be my nemesis because I’ve caught on fire (accidentally) more than any other person I know! The worst of these experiences was when I was performing with my Polynesian dance troupe on national television, and stood too close to a flash pot when it went off. My costumes (and hair) went up in flames!

What kind of farm animal would you describe yourself as?

I’d probably be a sheep dog. I’m very goal-driven and I like to make sure everything is happening as it should be.

Thank you, Denise, for stopping on, and congrats on the release! And now check out the trailer:

Never Enough is a wrenching but beautiful story that I highly recommend. It hits shelves July 10, so make sure to watch for it.

To celebrate the release, Denise is giving away a ton of books to 6 lucky winners! Full details will go up on her blog tomorrow for ways to win, but you can check out the prize packs here. Definitely, though, commenting on the various posts throughout this entire blog tour is a great way to be entered (Click the banner below for full details).