Friday, July 31, 2015

Feature & Follow Friday (40) / Friday 56 (9)

Feature & Follow Friday is a meme hosted by Parajunkiee's View & Alison Can Read. Check out their blogs and the two Featured Bloggers of the week! This is great for finding amazing new blogs to follow and for gaining followers yourself!

This weeks question is: 
If you could get an ARC of any book, already published or not yet, what would it be?

I answered: 
The ARC that I really, really, really wanted was This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Niijkamp. I requested it on NetGalley and was fortunate enough to be approved. It doesn't come out until January so I'm so happy that I get to read it in advance!

What about you? Leave your answer to this weeks question in the comments below.

The Friday 56 is a meme hosted by Freda's Voice. Basically you flip to page 56 (or 56% in your eReader) of any book and post a sentence or two (more if you want) from that page without being too spoiler-y. This gives us a glimpse into what you are reading or have read, and may even prompt us to add your book to our TBR piles!

My teaser:
"Now the door is tricky," she was saying as she backed out. "When you open it, you have to push on it until you hear the click. That means it's locked in the open position. Otherwise, it could close behind you and lock you inside."  
My eyes widened. She'd just served up my worst nightmare.  
Carol laughed at my expression. "Don't worry. It only happened to me once, and Sam found me right away."
Excerpt From: Debra Doxer. “Like Candy.”

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Monthly Wrap-Up: July 2015

Hi guys! So this month has been a slow reading one for me. Apparently I only finished 2 books?! Um, what? lol At least they were really good ones. But anyways, this was actually a pretty good month otherwise. I finished my summer classes, picked my fall ones, randomly flew to San Diego for like 12 hours, my best friend finally came home from school, and I've been down to the beach a few times which I rare for me. I'm excited to see what August has in store for me and can't wait to read some of the ARCs I've received recently.

Books Reviewed This Month:

  1. Sarina, Sweetheart by Megan Carney
  2. Faking Perfect by Rebecca Phillips
  3. Don't Ever Change by M. Beth Bloom
  4. Along the Way by Jacqueline Kolosov
  5. Anya and the Shy Guy by Suze Winegardner
  6. They Call Me Alexandra Gastone by T.A. MacLagan
Books Read This Month:

  1. Paper Towns by John Green
  2. They Call Me Alexandra Gastone by T.A. MacLagan
My reviews will be up in the next few weeks so keep a look out for those!

August TBR List:

  1. Like Candy by Debra Doxer
  2. Half-Life by Tina Ferraro
  3. Dismissed by Kristy McManus
  4. Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between by Jennifer E. Smith
This is a tentative list that might change, but for now these are the next books I plan on reading and reviewing. Let me know if you've read some of these and what you thought!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday (44)

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases we can not wait to read! This meme is the perfect way to add books to your TBR list. Along with upcoming releases, I sometimes include books that I have not had the chance to read or buy even if they have already come out. 

Legacy of Kings
(Blood of Gods and Royals, #1)
by Eleanor Herman
Release Date: August 18, 2015

From Barnes & Noble:
Imagine a time when the gods turn a blind eye to the agony of men, when the last of the hellions roam the plains, and evil stirs beyond the edges of the map. A time when cities burn, and in their ashes, empires rise.

Alexander, Macedon's sixteen-year-old heir, is on the brink of discovering his fated role in conquering the known world, but finds himself drawn to a newcomer…

Katerina must navigate the dark secrets of court life while keeping hidden her own mission: kill the queen. But she doesn't account for her first love…

Jacob will go to unthinkable lengths to win Katerina, even if it means having to compete with Hephaestion, a murderer sheltered by the prince.

And far across the sea, Zofia, a Persian princess and Alexander's unmet betrothed, wants to alter her destiny by seeking the famed and deadly Spirit Eaters.

Weaving fantasy with the shocking details of real history, New York Times bestselling author of Sex with Kings Eleanor Herman reimagines the greatest emperor the world has ever known, Alexander the Great, in the first book of the Blood of Gods and Royals series.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Review (59): They Call Me Alexandra Gastone by T.A. MacLagan

They Call Me Alexandra Gastone
by T.A. MacLagan

Series: N/A
Other Reviewed Titles: N/A
Release Date:
May 20, 2015
Publisher: Full Fathom Five Digital
Pages: 226
Format: eBook
Source: Netgalley

My Thoughts: 
Alexandra Gastone is not who she claims to be. At the age of 7, Milena Rokva was dropped off at the secret headquarters of  Perun, a clandestine organization of her homeland, Olissa. There she trained to be a spy and learns everything she needs to know in order to become Alexandra and to infiltrate the life of Albert Gastone, a prominent CIA analyst—the real Alexandra and her parents are killed in a car crash in order for Milena to take her place. The original plan is to have Alexandra finish high school, attend Princeton, and eventually join the CIA in order to help the Olissan government, but when an opportunity presents itself, Perun activates Alexandra earlier than she is ready.

I actually loved this more than I was expecting to. The plot has the perfect amount of action, romance, and suspense. The whole storyline is very well-planned and complex; Perun, the politics and unrest between the two countries, and the other spy agents were all completely believable. The beginning is a bit slow because we are introduced to the characters and their backgrounds, but once the spy stuff actually kicked in, I couldn’t put it down. There were quite a few surprises and plot twists along the way that I honestly never saw coming; the author really throws curveballs that keep you fully immersed in the story. It ends in a cliffhanger and I am hoping there is a sequel because I NEED to know what happens next.

The characters are also really likable and real. Lex is strong and brave but I also felt that she was a bit lost—imagine being abandoned by your father and forced to become a spy before even starting middle school. I admired her resistance of Perun in the beginning, but I can also see why she gave in to the organization and believed in it as much as she did. She uncovers some secrets that really make her question her loyalty and everything she’s been made to believe about her mission; it all kind of tears her up inside and it was interesting to see what she ultimately decides to do. I just thought she was an overall well-rounded character and found it a little funny how bad at being a spy she was sometimes. 

Albert, her grandfather, is the nicest and sweetest person ever. There was a point in the story where I was sure he would turn into the villain, but I’m glad this was not the case. As for Grant, he seemed nice enough, but there was something about him that I didn’t particularly like? He was a little too needy for my tastes, but for good reason I guess since she does lie to him quite a bit.

This is a fantastic debut novel and, as I mentioned before, I hope there is a sequel to this story or at least another book by T.A. MacLagan in the near future because I will be picking up whatever she publishes next!

| Goodreads | Barnes & Noble | Amazon |

* Thank you to the author and publisher for an eARC in return for my honest review *

Friday, July 24, 2015

Feature & Follow Friday (39) / Friday 56 (8)

Feature & Follow Friday is a meme hosted by Parajunkiee's View & Alison Can Read. Check out their blogs and the two Featured Bloggers of the week! This is great for finding amazing new blogs to follow and for gaining followers yourself!

This weeks question is: 
What is your favorite movie?

My answer: 
These questions are always so hard for me, but I'm going to go with Mean Girls. I have honestly lost track of how many times I've watched that movie. It is so darn quotable, I just never get tired of it!  

What about you? Leave your answer to this weeks question in the comments below.

The Friday 56 is a meme hosted by Freda's Voice. Basically you flip to page 56 (or 56% in your eReader) of any book and post a sentence or two (more if you want) from that page without being too spoiler-y. This gives us a glimpse into what you are reading or have read, and may even prompt us to add your book to our TBR piles!

My teaser:
My stomach churned uncomfortably at seeing his distress. I took his hand in mine and leaned in to kiss his cheek then wrapped my arms around him. My mind was scrambling for another lie to tell. A lie to cover my lie. In that moment, it seemed like all I ever did was lie. Liar, liar, pants on fire. 
Excerpt From: T. A. Maclagan. “They Call Me Alexandra Gastone.”

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Interview with Jenny Miller, Author of Asylum

Title: Asylum
Author: Jenny Miller
Release Date: Mar 25, 2013

June Foster’s summer is limping along. Her life on a 1950′s farm in eastern Washington is boring–full of milking cows, picking apricots and tending to the chicken coops. Her only friends are her record player and her books. But when gorgeous, turquoise-eyed Frank falls into her world, her life becomes anything but ordinary.

June falls for Frank hard and fast–he’s beautiful, impossibly strong, and capable of things ordinary humans are not. But she’s wary about his father Jonas, a creepy man with an agenda. She should be. Suddenly June is deathly ill, falling in and out of consciousness. When she recovers, June and Frank discover Jonas’s deadly plans for her–and June takes revenge.

Convicted of murder, declared insane and sentenced to life at Washington Pines Sanitarium, June is stuck. Jonas’s plans are reaching her beyond the grave, and she suspects that there’s a lot more going on in the sanitarium than group therapy and electric shocks. Something evil has followed her here, or maybe it was waiting for her all along. If Frank doesn’t break her out soon, she’ll lose her mind–and her life.

Hi Jenny! First off, describe Asylum in 3 words.
Thrilling. Quirky. Fast-paced (is that two words?). 

Although ASYLUM is fictional, did you do any research to prepare?
I did. I drove down to an asylum a few hours south of where I live. It’s the sister hospital to the one where the book is based in eastern Washington. I just wanted to get a feel for the place. It was raining it had this eerie, vacated feel, though it was chock-full of patients. We couldn’t go inside so my husband and I just drove around the property taking pictures, though when security discovered us milling around they started tailing us!  A couple of days later there was an article in the paper about an incident there—a patient had killed a guard in a rather gruesome way, and then escaped. Pretty creepy. I think they caught him a couple of days later.

I also read several books about old-time asylums and the patients there, most importantly Nelly Bly’s Ten Days in a Mad House. It was frightening, but provided some much-needed perspective about mental health treatment in the last decade. 

What scene was most difficult to write? Which was your favorite? 
The hardest by far was the scene where we first encounter Frank’s…abilities (I can’t say too much more, without a spoiler). It had to be authentic to the story but not overboard. It was a difficult balance. 

My favorite is the scene where June first meets her roommate Clem. Clem is my favorite character, and I think it shows in that scene where they have this banter going. She makes June feel comfortable in the asylum for the first time. She’s like her little sister. 

Do you have any advice for young writers?
Write a lot. Everyday, whether it’s journaling or a blog or a novel you’re working on. I know you hear that a lot, but it’s true—you have to write a lot of crap to ever write anything good. And read everyday. Read the genre you want to write, and read a lot of it. Eventually you’ll adopt your own style, but it will really be a mash-up of everything you’ve liked about things you’ve read.

This or that:
  • Coke or Pepsi? Coke. Diet or Coke Zero. I’m an aspartame junkie. 
  • Sweet or salty? Both put together. Pretzels dipped in chocolate are my kryptonite. 
  • Summer or winter? Summer. It’s too short in Seattle. 
  • Full House or Family Matters? Full House! Scrunchies! Acid-wash! Uncle Jessie! 
  • Dogs or cats? Dogs. We have a cavalier named Nudge. 
  • Cake or pie? Pie. Definitely pie. 

Once again, thank you for sitting down with us & good luck with your next novel!

About the Author:
My writing career began in 5th grade, when I wrote a 26-page (illustrated!) novel entitled The Living Room Piano. It was sappy, full of mother-daughter love and tears, and somehow a piano, though I'm not sure where that fit in. I still live in Seattle with my husband, our two hooligans (ages 2 and 4), and one dog who thinks he's a cat. When I'm not writing I'm hanging out with my kids, dancing to Lady Gaga, and whipping up the latest recipe from Bon Appetit. Currently I'm working on the sequel to ASYLUM.

| Website | Twitter

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday (43)

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases we can not wait to read! This meme is the perfect way to add books to your TBR list. Along with upcoming releases, I sometimes include books that I have not had the chance to read or buy even if they have already come out. 

The Accident Season
by Moira Fowley-Doyle
Release Date: August 18, 2015

From Barnes & Noble:
Every October Cara and her family become inexplicably and unavoidably accident-prone. Some years it's bad, like the season when her father died, and some years it's just a lot of cuts and scrapes. This accident season—when Cara, her ex-stepbrother, Sam, and her best friend, Bea, are 17—is going to be a bad one. But not for the reasons they think.

Cara is about to learn that not all the scars left by the accident season are physical: There's a long-hidden family secret underneath the bumps and bruises. This is the year Cara will finally fall desperately in love, when she'll start discovering the painful truth about the adults in her life, and when she'll uncover the dark origins of the accident season—whether she’s ready or not.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Review (58): Anya and the Shy Guy by Suze Winegardner

Anya and the Shy Guy
by Suze Winegardner

Series: Backstage Pass, #4
Other Reviewed Titles: 
Daisy and the Front Man, #3
Release Date: July 14, 2015
Publisher: Entangled Publishing (Crush)
Format: eARC 
Source: Netgalley

My Thoughts: 
Anya Anderson has been on her own and homeless since she was just 15 years old. She has been trying to figure out a way to make enough money so that she can get off the streets and can get her friend Jude the help he needs. She somehow convinces an online music blog to hire her as a freelance writer, and so for the next two weeks it is her job to shadow Will Fray—the bonafide “shy guy” of the hottest boyband around, Seconds to Juliet—and try to dig up as much dirt about him and the band as possible. What she doesn't expect is that Will is actually Matt, his twin brother, who has been reluctantly filling in for him while he is in rehab. (Although this is the fourth book in the Backstage Pass series, they are all written by different authors and do not need to be read in order).

Anya is a 17 year old girl who has worries and problems no one her age should have to face. Her time on the streets has made her guarded, anxious, and she has a difficult time trusting people, yet none of this has made her angry or bitter. She is primarily trying to make this job work for the sake of her friend Jude—who helped her and kept her safe when she first arrived on the streets—which made me like her that much more (it’s never explicitly said, but I am assuming she’s trying to save enough so she can help him go to rehab). 

Matt is really sweet and self-less. He fills in for his twin while he is away in rehab because he wants to see him get better and also because he does not want either Will or his mom to face a 20 million dollar lawsuit. Stepping into the shoes of a world famous boy band member can not be easy for someone who has no experience or desire to be in one. 

This is the second Backstage Pass book I have read (the first being Daisy and the Front Man). I genuinely enjoyed it; it is well-written and easy to get into. This is told in alternating view points which isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it worked for me because Anya and Matt both have strong voices and it was easy to distinguish between them. I also thought that the conflicts and drama throughout the book were well-thought-out and believable which was something that I did not like about the third book. Anya and Matt have great chemistry from the beginning and I loved seeing their relationship progress. The ending is seriously so cute; my favorite part by far!

| Goodreads | Barnes & Noble | Amazon |

* Thank you to the author and publisher for an eARC in return for my honest review *

Monday, July 20, 2015

Review (57): Along the Way by Jacqueline Kolosov

Along the Way
by Jacqueline Kolosov

Release Date: April 1, 2015
Publisher: Luminis Books, Inc.
Pages: 300
Format: Paperback 
Source: ARC for Review

My Thoughts: 
Three lifelong friends have decided to do the famous Camino de Santiago Pilgrimage before they begin college in the fall. They have been preparing for a year and are finally heading out on this once in a lifetime experience. Tessa, entranced by her grandparents love story, is also looking for a fairy tale ending of her own. Piper—dealing with her estranged mother constantly popping in and out of her life—and Dani—struggling with the fact that her mother and her fiancé are pregnant with twins—just want a summer to remember. Despite the fact that the girls have since moved across the country from each other, their friendship and bond has remained constant and is only strengthened by this journey.

I had never heard of this pilgrimage but I am now really interested in doing it myself. Although this is fictional, it still seems like a great experience and like an amazing thing to do before college. I feel like this is not something that most 17 year olds would want to do since it is by no means a vacation—they walk hundreds of kilometers a day, sleep in overcrowded hostels, and even have to endure a rain storm. The walk really allows them to get to know themselves and each other. They each discover who they are and become comfortable in their own skin. They realize that what seemed important or overwhelming at the beginning of the walk really isn’t that big of a deal. Although there were a few major bumps in the road, I was pretty proud and impressed that they were able to fight through and finish.

This is a great read and I think that it would appeal to a large audience. It is told in alternating view points which I know is an issue for a lot of people. I usually don’t mind, but this time it was a little hard for me to keep track of who’s turn it was because it was all in the first-person perspective. But it does allow you to really get to know each girl individually and experience their emotions and feelings throughout the Camino. Tessa was a bit annoying at first because she is used to the finer things in life and has a hard time slumming it on the Camino, but she eventually steps out of her comfort zone. Dani was extremely sweet and really shy at first—out of all the girls I think she is the one that comes into her skin the most and you can really see her gain confidence day by day. Piper comes to terms with her relationship with her mother and even falls for someone with the same illness. What I really liked about the three is their relationship and how open and honest they are with each other; they seemed more like sisters. 

| Goodreads | Barnes & Noble | Amazon |

* Thank you to the author and publisher for an ARC in return for my honest review *

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Interview with Amanda Black, Author of The Single Game (with Giveaway!)

Title: The Single Game
Author: Amanda Black
Genre: NA, Romance
Release Date: July 15, 2015

In this third, stand-alone installment of Amanda Black’s Apartment Novels series, sparks fly during a sexy party game.

When Eden Foster’s parents tell her they’re moving from Chicago to the Illinois suburb of Aledo, Eden is crushed. That is, until she runs crying to her jock boyfriend, who she finds on top of her so-called best friend. Moving’s not looking so bad anymore.

Now a senior at Mercer County High, Eden is ready to re-enter the dating scene. Still burned over the betrayal of her ex, she’s looking for someone sweet and innocent. With the help of her two new friends, Zoe and Amy, Eden makes a list of what she’s looking for: an eager virgin, ready for training—and no jocks.

Eden thinks she’s found what she’s looking for in Logan Black, a shy and geeky classmate. But why are Zoe and Amy convinced that the answer to her search is a party game…with kissing?

Eden better get ready, because she’s about to play the Single Game.

The Single Game is the latest addition to the erotic Apartment Novels series, which began with Lily and Ethan in The Apartment and The Blank Canvas.

Hi Jo! Thank you for taking the time to talk with us! 
What elements of your own love life influenced this story? More than I should probably admit! My husband and I were both very young when we started dating. Not quite as young as Eden and Logan, but there were still plenty of bets that we would never make it.

There is less angst in The Single Game than in your previous books (The Apartment and The Blank Canvas), can you talk about that a little bit more? 
That was most definitely on purpose. By the time I finished writing those books I was absolutely drained from all of the emotions I had dredged up, both personal and fictional. Once I started getting the idea for The Single Game I saw that as an opportunity to just sit back and have some fun. It sounds funny to say that I was avoiding melodrama while also writing about teenagers, but I just wanted it to feel genuine, sweet and loving. Life has enough angst. I wanted to give me and my readers a small break. 

What motivated you to write a New Adult Erotica? I was already used to writing erotic romance after the last two books, but I was just really drawn to the story that was growing in my mind of these two teenagers on the verge of graduating high school. It’s such a big milestone in everyone’s life and I wanted to see how this couple would deal with a budding relationship in the middle of all of that.
I was so intrigued by the characters in this story. Logan is a shy, geeky, male virgin whereas Eden is a beautiful, confident, and sexually active HS senior girl. What made you reverse these typically male/female roles? 
I’m always up for a good role reversal! Honestly, some details of their relationship were drawn right from my own and other people I’ve known. There were plenty of girls who got burned by dating a player and they were much happier once they gave the shy guy another look. Plus, how many of us have said at one time, “I’d love to find a guy with no relationship baggage who I could teach exactly what I like.” Eden takes that idea and runs with it, exploring and discovering brand new things that she and Logan both like. 

What character in The Single Game is most like you and why? 
Definitely Eden. I had the proverbial burning by the ex. Not quite as dramatic as hers was, but that scene came from my ugliest high school memories. I wasn’t back in the saddle until early college but by then I knew what a treasure I had when I found my own shy guy.

Anything else you would like us to know?
I’m so excited for the release of my new book The Single Game! It’s my first venture into NA territory and I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. While it is a continuation of my Apartment series that gives us a glimpse into the future of some of the main characters, it can easily be read as a standalone novel featuring the next generation of the Foster family. So if you haven’t read the first two books but this one sounds interesting to you, go ahead and jump on in! If you really like this one you can always go back and see how it all began.

The idea for this story actually came to me in a dream a while ago. It was just a fleeting image of two random teenagers making out for the first time in a dark closet during a party game that was sort of like spin the bottle. The boy was very nervous and the girl was the one putting him at ease. For some reason that one scene kept replaying in my mind over and over again after I woke up, which I found totally weird because I can never remember my dreams. I always feel like they must have been awesome, but damn if I can ever recall one single detail the next morning. That’s why when I realized that I was building on that scenario in my head the more that I thought about it, I knew I had to write it down or it would drive me crazy. As the story unfolded, I realized that I was drawing on a lot of my own experiences from when I started dating my husband, so this one ended up being very near and dear to my heart.

I really hope you check out this sweet and sexy story and let me know what you think! 

Once again, thank you for sitting down with us & good luck with your next novel!

About the Author:
Amanda Black was born and raised in the Midwest, where she still lives with her husband and spoiled-rotten dogs. She earned a bachelor's degree in Studio Art before deciding that she actually needed to pay some bills, which is when she took a position as an ophthalmic technician.

For the past few years she's been a closet romance writer in her spare time and would love nothing more than to make it a full-time career. When she's not writing her next steamy love scene, her interests include reading, sketching, and annihilating her friends and family in movie trivia.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday (42)

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases we can not wait to read! This meme is the perfect way to add books to your TBR list. Along with upcoming releases, I sometimes include books that I have not had the chance to read or buy even if they have already come out. 

Never Always Sometimes
by Adi Alsaid
Release Date: August 4, 2015

From Barnes & Noble:
Never date your best friend

Always be original

Sometimes rules are meant to be broken

Best friends Dave and Julia were determined to never be cliché high school kids—the ones who sit at the same lunch table every day, dissecting the drama from homeroom and plotting their campaigns for prom king and queen. They even wrote their own Never List of everything they vowed they'd never, ever do in high school.

Some of the rules have been easy to follow, like #5, never die your hair a color of the rainbow, or #7, never hook up with a teacher. But Dave has a secret: he's broken rule #8, never pine silently after someone for the entirety of high school. It's either that or break rule #10, never date your best friend. Dave has loved Julia for as long as he can remember.

Julia is beautiful, wild and impetuous. So when she suggests they do every Never on the list, Dave is happy to play along. He even dyes his hair an unfortunate shade of green. It starts as a joke, but then a funny thing happens: Dave and Julia discover that by skipping the clichés, they've actually been missing out on high school. And maybe even on love.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Excerpt: At the Heart of the Deep by Carrie L. Wells (with Giveaway!)

Title: At the Heart of the Deep
(A Falling in Deep Novella)
Author: Carrie L. Wells.
Release Date: June 23, 2015
Genres: NA, Paranormal Romance

Oceanographer Luke McAllister races to figure out why the ocean depth is changing off Florida’s Treasure Coast. But before he and his crew discover what’s transforming the deep, he stumbles upon an even greater mystery. Leagues below the waves, he swear he sees…a mermaid?
Anya isn’t allowed to get close to humans. But when a golden-haired researcher gets too close to her island, she can’t afford to stay away.

Together, this unlikely pair will seek to discover what’s causing shifts in ocean floor. While their new alliance is forbidden, Anya will risk everything to save her beloved ocean. The only problem is, she’s not sure what’s really luring her in, her love of the sea or the tempest Luke has stirred in her heart. Either way, Anya knows that the dangers facing the sea are nothing compared to what will happen to her when her father learns she’s broken the merfolks’ most sacred law.

Can Anya and Luke discover what lurks at the heart of the deep before it’s too late?

I caught sight of his cut, thought a moment, and swam away. He floated there, treading water and wondering what would happen next. At that point, his face conveyed the pain in his side. I watched an intense sting replace what I knew of the original burning sensation of a coral abrasion, and the open wound spilled into the ocean at a steady pace. 

Conceivably, I had underestimated the severity of the cut. Maybe the coral cut deeper than I thought. The blood clouded the water surrounding him, and now the problem remained of how to take the injured man across the reef without doing further damage. We still needed to cross at least two miles and climb a rocky beach. Or did we?

Before he had time to contemplate any other option, I approached him from below. I swam up to him slowly, and he did nothing. He didn’t dive to meet me or attempt to swim away. He hung vertically in the water, waiting. 

He must have felt me before he could clearly see me. The water shifted as I neared, my physicality changing the flow of the ocean around me. He knew I was there, but he didn’t dive below. Was he afraid? Too hurt to move? Instead, he stayed still, moving as little as possible, allowing my approach, and keeping the blood loss at a minimum. 

I moved below him and then up, along his body, until my head emerged from the inky blue water and he stared into my eyes. He let out a fast gasp and quickly sank below the surface.

About the Author:
Carrie L. Wells crosses genres, writing everything from newspaper editorials and textbooks to paranormal romance novellas. Her first fiction publication, The Heart of the Deep, will release in June 2015, followed by Playing with Magic in October 2015. A New England native, she spent her childhood on the beach and inland, fishing and dancing, before moving to Florida. And while she doesn’t tan, nothing keeps her from a walk on the beach.

Carrie earned her Master's degree in English with a minor in Psychology from Hardin-Simmons University and a Bachelor's degree from the University of Central Florida. With a love of chocolate, books, and her family, Carrie braves the world and chaos only children can bring. She currently lives in Florida with her fire-medic hubby and three children. She is an English instructor at Eastern Florida State College.

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Monday, July 13, 2015

Review (56): Don't Ever Change by M. Beth Bloom

Don’t Ever Change
M. Beth Bloom

Release Date: July 7, 2015
Publisher: HarperTeen
Pages: 368
Format: eARC 
Source: Edelweiss

My Thoughts: 
Eva has wanted to be a writer for as long as she can remember. So when she hands in her last writing assignment of her high school career and her writing teacher tells her she should focus on writing “what she knows”, she is a little distressed and realizes she doesn’t actually know all that much. She decides to take advantage of her last summer before college to gain new experiences and finally live a life worth writing about. That’s how she ends up as a camp counselor even though she is wholly unqualified, how she finds herself falling for the last person she ever thought possible, and how she almost loses her two best friends. 

Eva is a judge-y, know-it-all who has this irritating need to be different than everyone around her. But despite all of this, I found myself liking her. She knows how problematic she is (because she is told by pretty much everyone she talks to) and she genuinely seems like she wants to change her negative attitude. She realizes that she hasn’t lived any life changing moments thus far because she hasn't really let herself; she’s been more preoccupied trying to be different and unique that she has shunned people and passed up opportunities. She kind of reminds me of my high school self in this regard, unfortunately.

Her sister, Courtney, is also a great character. She is 21 and, although she is more confident and in control than Eva, she is also a little lost and trying to find herself. She is going to community college and doesn’t sound like she fully knows what she wants to do with her life—except maybe travel. I really liked her and Eva’s relationship. She is always there whenever Eva needs her and is actually great at giving her advice and making her realize when she’s being difficult or ridiculous. 

The plot isn’t particularly exciting or action-packed, but it is real. The book takes place the summer after Eva’s senior year and is spent just like any new graduate probably would; with a summer job, spending as much time with friends as possible, and coming to terms with the fact that going to college means leaving the only home you’ve ever known. What I also really liked about this is that Eva doesn’t go through a magical transformation and doesn’t turn into a completely different person by the end of the story. She learns a lot about herself during those few weeks but she herself recognizes that this is just the beginning and that she has a long way to go. And I think that’s perfect.

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Click HERE to read an excerpt!

* Thank you to the author and publisher for an eARC in return for my honest review *

Friday, July 10, 2015

Interview with Jo Schneider, Author of Fractured Memories

Title: Fractured Memories
(Jagged Scars, #1)
Author: Jo Schneider
Genre: YA, Sci Fi, Post-Apocalyptic
Release Date: May 20, 2015

Sixteen year old Wendy never knew the world before the Starvation. She’s learned to put her trust in her knives, and her confidence in her fighting ability. When the Skinnies attack her compound, she’s the lone survivor.

Injured and near death, Wendy is rescued and nursed back to health by mysterious strangers. Her saviors offer her a place among them, but trust has never been one of Wendy’s strengths, and suspicion soon leads to evidence that these people might be the group who killed her family.

The decision to get her revenge, and take the settlement down from the inside out is easy. Keeping her distance from those she must befriend in order to make it happen proves to be much more difficult.

Hi Jo! Thank you for taking the time to talk with us! 
What does your writing process look like?
Imagine a desk, and at one end is a neat, little pile of papers. Next to that is another pile, this one not quite so tidy. Maybe one paper is slipping off the stack, which leads the eye to an array of notes that may have been, at one time, in a pleasing fan shape, but now looks like someone gave it a noogie. This is usually where you will discover the discarded wrappers of whatever snacks I could find. A glass with the glazed on remains of a Diet Coke will be sitting on a Dr. Who coaster, and the little cup for pens will be empty, because the pens are now hiding under the papers. When your eyes reach the keyboard, you'll see that everything has been pushed aside to make room for me playing of Facebook.

What book do you wish you could have written?
Ender's Game. That book has captured so many people's imaginations, I would love to have been the person to have written it. Plus, Ender's Game sits somewhere in the middle of commercial fiction and literary fiction, a place I hope to venture someday.

How important are names in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning? Do you have any other name choosing resources you recommend?
Names are very important, and I'm sometimes horrible at finding just the right one. Ages ago, I bought a baby name book--a book that my fiance packed up when we got married and moved in together and was a little concerned about--and I often use that to find names. Sometimes I look at meanings. Often I will end up with names that all sound the same (one syllable for instance) or all start with the same letter. When that starts to happen, I find a letter I haven't used and I flip open the book. Sometimes I use the web too. Especially if I need, say, legitimate last name from Africa .

In my first novel, New Sight, I couldn't think of a name for the bad guys, so I named them the New until I came up with something better. By the time I got finished writing the book, the New had stuck. It's a dumb name, but now it's theirs.

What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment?
This one is easy, and maybe you're expecting me to say "Finishing my first manuscript!", but that's not it at all. While writing isn't easy, it's something that I can do. What I struggled for six years to get is my black belt in Shaolin Kempo. I'm a round girl--always have been--and I had to put some seriously hard, physical effort into every single thing I did at the dojo. I can write all day, but ask me to do a push up, and I still inwardly roll my eyes and do them from my knees. So yeah, black belt. I'm pretty proud of that.

What writing advice do you have for aspiring authors.
Years ago, I was at a little, tiny writing/Sci-fi/Fantasy convention and I went to a class by a guy I'd never heard of. A guy named Brandon Sanderson. His first Librarians book was about to come out, and he was talking about magic systems. I don't really remember what he said about that. What I do remember is one simple statement he made, "Don't be afraid to suck."

I've lived by this creed ever since. Don't expect to be the best author in the room, don't expect to get everything right the first time, and don't expect to wow every reader you encounter. What all authors need to do is keep writing. Find some people who will help you get better and listen to them. It's okay to suck, as long as you're willing to try again.

Do you read reviews? Do you respond the them, good or bad? Do you have any advice on how to deal with the bad?
I started out reading my reviews, but quickly gave up. Partly because it's like an emotional roller coaster with some ups, some downs and often times afterwards I just wanted to throw up. My fix for all of this was to have my husband read them. He then tells me if there are any common threads. For instance, if three or four people say they felt the ending was rushed, then that's something I should look at.  

I remember getting a review of my first novel that said it was horrible and she couldn't connect with the characters and she didn't even make it through the book. I was devastated. How could anyone be so mean? In a fit of rage, I looked up her blog to see if she was mean to everyone, or if it was just me. That's when I found out that she reviews fluffy romances, not action/Sci-Fi/Fantasy stories. No wonder she didn't make it through, there wasn't nearly enough googly eyes and sexual tension for her. That's when I asked my hubby to read the reviews for me. One romance writer hated my book. That's totally fine, but her feedback isn't terribly pertinent to me, because I'm not writing Twilight.

What is your biggest failure?
I still haven't received any death threats for killing off a character. This will happen.

What is your biggest fear?
The dark. No, wolves. No, the lack of toilet paper in the apocalypse. 

What do you want your tombstone to say?
Okay, two things here. The mom of one of my best friends growing up wants this on hers, and I think it's brilliant, "See, I told you I was sick." I can probably talk my husband into this.

If not that, then something silly. None of the sweet, tear jerking messages that people leave. Those are lovely, but not really me. I'm more like, "Did you turn the lights off before you left?" or, "Be good. There is no try."

If you had a superpower, what would it be?

Flying. Fast. Then I'd figure out some weapons and the bad guys would hate me. Buahahaha!

Once again, thank you for sitting down with us & good luck with your next novel!

About the Author:

Author of Babes in Spyland, New Sight-YA fantasy out April 2014, wearer of a black belt in Kempo and always in search of the next cool place to visit!

Feature & Follow Friday (38) / Friday 56 (7)

Feature & Follow Friday is a meme hosted by Parajunkiee's View & Alison Can Read. Check out their blogs and the two Featured Bloggers of the week! This is great for finding amazing new blogs to follow and for gaining followers yourself!

This weeks question is: 
You can only eat one cuisine type for the rest of your life. Which would you choose?

I answered: 
Mexican food. Oh my god, how I love Mexican food! It seems to be the only thing I crave and it's always what I suggest when my friends want to eat out--to the point where they don't even ask me anymore, they just assume that's what I want. lol

What about you? Leave your answer to this weeks question in the comments below.

The Friday 56 is a meme hosted by Freda's Voice. Basically you flip to page 56 (or 56% in your eReader) of any book and post a sentence or two (more if you want) from that page without being too spoiler-y. This gives us a glimpse into what you are reading or have read, and may even prompt us to add your book to our TBR piles!

My teaser:
She was quiet for a moment, and then she walked right up to the glass and leaned her forehead against it. I hung back, but then she grabbed my T-shirt and pulled me forward. I didn't want out collective weight against a single pane of glass, but she kept pulling me forward, and I could feel her balled fist in my side, and finally I put my head against the glass as gently as possible and looked around.
Excerpt From: John Green. “Paper Towns.”

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Review (55): Faking Perfect by Rebecca Phillips (& Giveaway!)

Faking Perfect
Rebecca Phillips

Release Date: June 30, 2015
Publisher: Kensington Books
Pages: 272
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley

My Thoughts: 
Like most high school students, Lexi Shaw is pretending to be someone she’s not. In order to fit in with the popular crowd at school—and ultimately make Ben Dorsey fall in love with her—she needs to look and act the part. This means hiding the fact that her mom is hardly ever around because she is too busy off drinking with one of her boyfriends. And making sure no one finds out what she does with Oakfield High’s resident bad boy in her room at 1 A.M. Oh, and keeping her relationship with her best friend a sort of secret because her popular friends think he’s weird.

Although this seems like it is going to be about the Lexi-Tyler-Ben love triangle, it is really about Lexi’s self-growth. For two years she has tried to be the perfect everything just so she can impress a boy she doesn’t truly know—ultimately losing herself along the way. She has been fixated on her idea of Ben instead of who he really is; she even pushes away two of the only real friends she has because she can not bear to disappoint him. When everything blows up in her face—and someone from her past resurfaces complicating things further—she snaps out of it and allows herself to be, well, herself. Mostly because she doesn’t really have a choice, but also because she finally sees that what you wish for might not always be what you actually want.

Nolan is probably my favorite of all the characters. He does not care an ounce what people think of him and actually takes pleasure in making them squirm when he gets the chance. (Still not sure what everyone’s problem with him is either…) I just really liked his friendship with Lexi because he shows how much he cares in a quiet kind of way. He is her rock and she knows she never has to hide who she is from him and that he’ll always be there for her no matter what. I wish we had gotten to know Tyler more because he is so sweet (albeit a little hotheaded) and could have been a great character. I wanted more Lexi and Tyler scenes that really took the time to develop their romantic relationship. 

As for Lexi, she is a bit lost, has low self-esteem and believes that she is not good enough for anyone. She doesn’t have the greatest support system or role models at home—Nolan’s parents practically raised her and her mom doesn’t even bother to attend her high school graduation. I can see why she would want to pretend to be someone else and I applaud her for standing up to her mother. 

I think this cover is perfect. The girl in the picture just looks so FREE which perfectly sums up Lexi at the end of the book. (It is the same image used for Heather Topham Wood's Falling for Autumn, but honestly I much prefer the way this one was designed).

| Goodreads | Barnes & Noble | Amazon |

* Thank you to the author and publisher for an eARC in return for my honest review *

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Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday (41)

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases we can not wait to read! This meme is the perfect way to add books to your TBR list. Along with upcoming releases, I sometimes include books that I have not had the chance to read or buy even if they have already come out. 

Damage Done
by Amanda Panitch
Release Date: July 21, 2015

From Barnes & Noble:
22 minutes seperate Julia Vann's before and after.

Before: Julia had a twin brother, a boyfriend, and a best friend.

After: She has a new identity, a new hometown, and memories of those twenty-two minutes that refuse to come into focus. At least, that's what she tells the police.

Now that she's Lucy Black, her fresh start has attracted the attention of one of the hottest guys in school. And someone much more dangerous. She thought her brother's crimes were behind her. But now she's being forced to confront the dark secrets she thought were safely left behind. How far will Julia go to keep her slate clean?

One thing is clear: The damage done can never be erased. It's only just beginning...

In this deliciously twisted contemporary thriller, family can be a real killer. For fans of We Were Liars and readers who love unique multiple perspectives that leave clues like breadcrumbs until they reach the stunning conclusion. 

This sounds pretty intense and I'm all for thrillers. Can't wait to find out what exactly got her into this mess in the first place!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Interview with M. Beth Bloom, Author of Don't Ever Change (with Giveaway!)

Title: Don't Ever Change
Author: M. Beth Bloom
Publisher: HarperCollins
Release Date: July 7, 2015

Eva has always wanted to write a modern classic--one that actually appeals to her generation. The only problem is that she has realized she can't "write what she knows" because she hasn't yet begun to live. So before heading off to college, Eva is determined to get a life worth writing about.

Soon Eva's life encounters a few unexpected plot twists. She becomes a counselor at a nearby summer camp--a job she is completely unqualified for. She starts growing apart from her best friends before they've even left for school. And most surprising of all, she begins to fall for the last guy she would have ever imagined. But no matter the roadblocks, or writer's blocks, it is all up to Eva to figure out how she wants this chapter in her story to end.

Perfect for fans of E. Lockhart, David Levithan, and Rainbow Rowell, Don't Ever Change is a witty, snarky, and thought-provoking coming-of-age young adult novel about a teen who sets out to write better fiction and, ultimately, discovers the truth about herself. 
Hi M. Beth, thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions with us today! 
First off, tell us 4 interesting things about yourself.
I only have hand tattoos.  
I was a raw foodist for five years.
I played in a band that opened up for Sonic Youth and Vampire Weekend.
I still remember my Bat Mitzvah Torah portion.  

What inspired you to write Don’t Ever Change?
My own teenage life. I remember being a super pretentious, obnoxious young writer, obsessed with being epic and memorable. I spent a summer as a camp counselor and was totally humbled/horrified. I started to take myself far less seriously, incorporating humor and wit into my work, remembering to “write what I know,” be personal, soulful, and open. I understand most YA protagonists are fighting to save the world, or battling serious demons, matters of life and death… Not Eva. She’s just an arrogant, funny weirdo, who I hope comes across as appropriately irritating and charming.

What can you tell us about your book in 140 characters or less?
The only thing certain in life is change. 

What are your thoughts on the cover? Did you have any input in the design?
I love the cover; I’m so fortunate that my amazing editor at HarperTeen (Tara Weikum) was open to my ideas. I knew I wanted something hand-drawn and quirky, a little twee, a little self-deprecating, something of a wink to the reader. Eva is a total pie chart herself, constantly categorizing and weighing the importance of randomness vs. realness.

Have you always been interested in becoming a writer?
Always. Since I knew what a job was.

Do you have any advice for young writers?
Eva’s whole journey is the journey of a writer. She learns to write down what she’s living, seeing in front of her, experiencing in the moment. Also, emotionality is a wide Sargasso. The best and most dramatic writers have a deep sense of irony, veering more toward bathos than pathos.   

Are you excited about any new books being released soon?
Of course the new Harper Lee book, “Go Set a Watchman.” Also Terry Gilliam’s memoir and the book “M Train” by Patti Smith.

This or That:
Christmas or Halloween?  Christmas
Cup or cone? Cup
Hot or cold? Hot
Rachel and Ross or Chandler and Monica? Rachel and Ross
Apples or oranges? Watermelon
Sunset or sunrise? Sunset
Coke or Pepsi? Coke
Sweet or salty? Salty

Once again, thank you for sitting down with us & good luck with your next novel! 

About the Author:
M. Beth Bloom is a novelist and a screenwriter. Her fiction has appeared in StoryQuarterly and Dave Eggers's Best American Nonrequired Reading series. She is also the author of Drain You. M. Beth lives
in Los Angeles.

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