Friday, May 1, 2015

Review: Black Iris by Leah Raeder

18829666Release date: April 28th 2015
Publisher: Atria
Purchase: Amazon

Synopsis via Goodreads:
It only took one moment of weakness for Laney Keating’s world to fall apart. One stupid gesture for a hopeless crush. Then the rumors began. Slut, they called her. Queer. Psycho. Mentally ill, messed up, so messed up even her own mother decided she wasn't worth sticking around for.

If Laney could erase that whole year, she would. College is her chance to start with a clean slate.

She's not looking for new friends, but they find her: charming, handsome Armin, the only guy patient enough to work through her thorny defenses—and fiery, filterless Blythe, the bad girl and partner in crime who has thorns of her own.

But Laney knows nothing good ever lasts. When a ghost from her past resurfaces—the bully who broke her down completely—she decides it's time to live up to her own legend. And Armin and Blythe are going to help.

Which was the plan all along.

Because the rumors are true. Every single one. And Laney is going to show them just how true.

She's going to show them all.

*Publisher approved request via Netgalley

So I've been back and forth with Black Iris, trying to get my thoughts together to convey my reasons for why I didn't feel the fireworks that I'd anticipated, even though it had wonderful and poetic writing. The thing is, although the writing is absolute great, I felt like it worked for me at times, and then there were moments where I wish it would have been more to the point and less Shakespearean. For instance, the dialogues. Sometimes they lost me, and I would think to myself, "never mind girls, but do guys talk like this?" I guess that's what the author was going for but it just threw me at times, and every so often I'd zone out and not know what was going on or where I was. 

Speaking of where I was, the transitioning between time periods was sometimes confusing and I frequently had to skip back to know what time Laney was in for that particular chapter. It took some getting used to, but towards the middle I finally realized that it was breaking down what exactly happened and what the story was really about. The twist was interesting, I honestly didn't see that coming so I liked that aspect of the book. However, Laney's reasons were...humph. I know she's not the sweetest protagonist, but honestly, I don't think she should have gone after anyone using such tactics, and in any case, she had no one to blame but herself because no one held her hand and made her do anything. What happened to her mother was all on her. I hate bullying and emotionally scarring people, but violence is never the answer to get back at anyone. There are better ways to handle such pain. 

Which leads me to my overall feelings in regards to the characters. I didn't really connect with anyone. I mean, I'm all for equality and am sympathetic towards Laney and what she'd gone through because of who she was, but like I said, to me her actions weren't justice. Aside from that, I wish she'd dealt with her other issues. Like her substance abuse, among other things. Aside from Laney, Armin and Blythe were interesting enough to keep me curious, but like the main character I didn't connect with them. 

In conclusion, it was a good, dark read with beautiful writing that worked in some parts, but threw me in others. I do believe the plot was interesting and there were realistic topics that many face in their daily lives, but I just didn't feel the full impact of what the author was going for. Still, I'm in love with Leah's writing and will definitely read Unteachable soon. 

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

CAN'T WAIT TO READ: Ruthless by Carolyn Lee Adams

Release date: July 14th 2015
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Pre-order: Amazon

Synopsis via Goodreads:
A spine-tingling debut about the ultimate game of cat-and-mouse in reverse as a teen struggles to retain hope—and her sanity—while on the run from a cunning and determined killer.

Ruth Carver has always competed like her life depends on it. Ambitious. Tough. Maybe even mean. It’s no wonder people call her Ruthless.

When she wakes up with a concussion in the bed of a moving pickup trick, she realizes she has been entered into a contest she can’t afford to lose.

At a remote, rotting cabin deep in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Ruth’s blindfold comes off and she comes face-to-face with her captor. A man who believes his mission is to punish bad girls like Ruth. A man who has done this six times before.

The other girls were never heard from again, but Ruth won’t go down easy. She escapes into the wilderness, but her hunter is close at her heels. That’s when the real battle begins. That’s when Ruth must decide just how far she’ll go in order to survive.

Back home, they called her Ruthless. They had no idea just how right they were.

About the Author
Carolyn Lee Adams
Carolyn Lee Adams is originally from the Seattle area, breeding ground of serial killers and those who write about them. She attended USC Film School and graduated with a BFA in screenwriting. RUTHLESS (Simon Pulse, Summer 2015) is her first novel. When she isn't exploring the dark side of human nature in her writing, you'll find her on stage as a stand-up comedian. Because those things go together.

*The fact that this is a debut novel is already exciting, but I'm very intrigued by that alluring blurb and cover. I like how it gives off the idea that this protagonist is strong and I'm curious as to how she evades this lunatic and how he'll be dealt with it.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Behind the Pages #19: Lindsay Smith has a SEKRET

Lindsay  Smith
As her young adult historical fantasy series comes to an end (for now), I invited the awesome author Lindsay Smith to share a bit more with her readers and help us understand the concept behind her stories. Continue below for the interview and enter to win a copy of her riveting release, Sekret.

1. Tell us where you're from and when did you realize you wanted to become a writer?

I’m originally from Tulsa, Oklahoma, though I moved to Washington, DC after college. I’ve always loved writing—always loved turning over story ideas in my head, and occasionally scribbling in class or on the bus as a way to keep myself entertained—but I didn’t start getting serious about it until I joined the working world and wanted to do something more with my free time than beaching on the couch.

156735202. What is it about the Russian Culture that inspired you so much to write the SEKRET series?

I started learning Russian pretty young, and the more I learned about the history—the cyclical triumphs and tragedies, the literary tradition, and so on—the more I fell in love with it.

3. Have you visited Russia? If so, any favorite spots?

I’ve been to Russia three times with exchange groups and a study abroad program—each time we were mainly based in Moscow and its suburbs, but I’ve also visited Saint Petersburg and a remote town in Siberia. I love Moscow in the evenings—strolling across Red Square or down New Arbat street. You can pass an ancient wooden Orthodox chapel, an elaborate Georgian-style mansion, and a stark Communist skyscraper in the same block!

4. How difficult was it creating these characters with psychic abilities and setting them in a time of political issues?

It was definitely a challenge! When I first started outlining Sekret, I assumed I pretty much knew the basics for the 1960s Cold War era, the historical period I’d chosen, then once I actually started putting the sentences down, I realized I didn’t know half as much as I thought. So I spent several weeks rereading old textbooks and hunting down new biographies and historiographies and so on. The psychic abilities, though, I got to play around with more—I had a lot of fun designing the different types of psychics, and finding ways to play them off of each other.

5. The sequel, SKANDAL, picks up on the fact that Yulia and Valya have escaped to Washington DC. What can fans expect from the second book, in regards to how the characters have developed, adjusting to a new life, as well as still having a battle to face?

Yulia and Valya quickly realize that for all its benefits and freedoms, America isn’t going to be a perfect solution to all their problems. And there’s still the lingering issue of Rostov—who has more power in the Soviet hierarchy than ever—and Yulia’s mother, who may be complicit now in Rostov’s plans. Yulia has a lot of hard truths to face about her own power and the people around her!

6. Are you officially closing the chapter on that duology, or will there be any other books aside from the novella?

Skandal wraps up Yulia’s storyline. I would like to revisit this universe someday, but if I were to do so, I’d explore it through the eyes of some of the other characters. Also, in addition to the prequel novella, Kursed, that came out earlier this year, I have a short story from Larissa’s POV in the Fierce Reads anthology Curses & Kisses this summer!

179731457. Can you share a bit about your upcoming novel, Dreamstrider? What is the concept behind the cover art and what inspired the story?

Dreamstrider is a high fantasy story about a girl who can use the dreamworld to manipulate people’s bodies in the real world, essentially hijacking them long enough to gather information while they sleep. She’s trying to prevent a war between her kingdom and the neighboring one, all while fending off the corrupt aristocrats and the ganglords who used to own her, and in case that wasn’t enough to keep her busy, she’s plagued by intense nightmares that seem to be coming to life!

I adore the cover art the Macmillan Kids team came up with for it! It really captures Livia’s tenacity and creativity in shaping the dreamworld. They managed to incorporate a ton of elements from the book’s dream sequences—the dragon skull and scales, the vivid flowers, the fox, and even the dagger all figure into Livia’s journey through dreams.

8. It seems you're going for the same genre as your previous releases, which is like a mashup of Sci-Fi and historical fantasy with political influences. Have you ever considered writing in other genres like contemporary? 

Dreamstrider is actually more of a second-world fantasy than a sci-fi, which has long been a genre I’ve wanted to write in! I have a few contemporary story ideas—mostly ultra-nerdy things involving video gamers and socially awkward kids—but I keep coming back to historicals and fantasies and mixes of the two.

9. What else do you enjoy doing outside of writing?

Well, aside from reading way too much… :) I love playing board games with friends, and other nerdy gaming pursuits—World of Warcraft, Dungeons and Dragons, and so on. My husband and I take our Sheltie for walks all over DC and the nearby parks.

10. Do you have any other future projects you could give us a sneak peek into?

I’m working on a YA that’s due out next fall. It’s still pretty rough, so I’m nervous to say too much, but it’s set in both modern and 19th-century Japan and has to do with revenge.

11. Thanks so much for taking the time, Lindsay. Please leave a message for aspiring writers.

It takes such a long time for the words on the page to match the story in your head—I don’t know if they ever match perfectly—but don’t let it keep you from putting the words down! Your stories are never wasted. You can always learn something from each word you write—you just have to write them down.

About the Author

Lindsay Smith's love of Russian culture has taken her to Moscow, Saint Petersburg, and a reindeer festival in the middle of Siberia. She lives in Washington, DC, where she writes on foreign affairs. SEKRET is her first novel.

Win a signed hardcover copy of SEKRET (US only)

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Review: Volition by Lily Paradis

24307444Release date: February 6th 2015
Publisher: Empire Books
Purchase: Amazon | B&N

Synopsis via Goodreads:

You know that feeling in the pit of your stomach that stays with you, then tears you apart slowly at first, and all at once shreds every fiber of your being? 

It’s because you’re contradicting the universe. 

Everything lines up so perfectly that you couldn’t have imagined it to work out better, but then you have to go and do everything humanly possible to ruin it because you can’t stand to have it go right? 

That’s what I did. 

I did it because there’s a darkness that surrounds me, and I think I want it there. 

My name is Tate McKenna, and my soul is blacker than my heart.

*Purchased the Kindle Book

I fell in love with Lily's exceptional writing in her debut, Ignite, and that feeling is carried over in Volition. I'm finding it hard to put my emotions into words so I can properly explain my thoughts on the story, but trust me it's hard. I feel like no words will ever truly interpret the awesomeness of this book. 

For one thing, Tate is like no other female protagonist. Everything about her character is so different from all the girls I'd read about before. I mean, to say she's flawed is an understatement. This young woman gives new meaning to the word. She's definitely an interesting character that will drive you nuts and make you weep, and at the same time make you laugh. I liked her personality and how imperfect she was. I could connect and relate with her intensity, and at times wanted to slap her for her behavior and the way she reacted to certain things. But that's just it, Tate is the kind of character that grabs at your emotions and pulls you into the story. So in a sense, she's perfect because she got my attention and held it.

I liked the overall plot and how Lily gave us Tate in the past and present. I felt like I got to know the main character on a personal level because the author alternated between time, and that also helped shed some light on Tate's feelings for one guy in particular. It gave more of an understanding, in my opinion, and I wasn't upset with her for feeling that way about one while falling for another, even if it wasn't intended.

Speaking of falling, I liked Hayden's character. Aside from being swoon-worthy and charming in many areas, he was quite the understanding and patient one. I mean, not many guys could accept a woman who believed her soul would forever be connected to someone else and still want to be with that woman. It's just a lot to handle, and Tate is a lot to handle. But Hayden stuck by her and showed her that she doesn't have to be afraid of trusting him, love, and finally taking the risk of allowing herself to feel happiness. Their meeting was not random either and I liked how in the end the author showed that. My heart bubbled when I read that part.

There were other impactful characters in the story, from Tate's best friends Catherine and Colin, to her very witchy grandmother and that one person she just couldn't escape from, Jesse. While I don't want to get into those characters too much for fear I'll give away a lot, I can say that I liked their presence in the story and how valuable they were. They weren't the kind of characters that were just fillers. They mattered, and they helped the reader understand Tate better.

In conclusion, great story. Interesting concept and fantastic writing. I liked every side of Tate. I could easily sympathize with her and liked how raw her emotions were. The way she handled losing her parents, growing up defiant, and sticking to what she believed in--wonderfully done. The story felt so real, like I was living Tate's life. I just can't explain enough how much I enjoyed the book. Good job, Lily. I look forward to reading more of your work. 

Lily ParadisAbout the Author

Lily lives with her family and loves reading, running, and hiking. Although she's a Colorado native, New York City is her favorite place in the world and fosters her borderline unhealthy obsession with the Empire State Building and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Ignite is her debut novel.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Review: Come Dancing (Jack and Julia #1) by Leslie Wells

22459712Release date: June 8th 2014
Publisher: Allium Press
Purchase: Amazon | B&N

Synopsis via Goodreads:
It’s 1981. Twenty-four-year-old Julia Nash has recently arrived in Manhattan, where she works as a publisher’s assistant. She dreams of becoming an editor with her own stable of bestselling authors—but it is hard to get promoted in the recession-clobbered book biz. 

Julia blows off steam by going dancing downtown with her best friend, Vicky. One night, a hot British guitarist invites them into his VIP section. Despite an entourage of models and groupies, Jack chooses Julia as his girl for the evening—and when Jack Kipling picks you, you go with it. The trouble is … he’s never met a girl like her before. And she resists being just one in a long line. 

Jack exposes her to new experiences, from exclusive nightclubs in SoHo to the Chateau Marmont in Hollywood; from mind-bending recording sessions to wild backstage parties. Yet Julia is afraid to fall for him. Past relationships have left her fragile; one more betrayal just might break her. 

As she fends off her grabby boss and tries to move up the corporate ladder, Julia’s torrid relationship with Jack takes her to heights she’s never known—and plunges her into depths she’s never imagined. 

With a fascinating inside look at publishing, this entertaining story of a bookish young woman’s adventures with a rock superstar is witty, moving, and toe-curlingly steamy.

*I was gifted the ebook by the author in exchange of an honest review.

I read Come Dancing a few weeks ago but wanted to let it soak in before writing a review. Let me just say, the story was quite enjoyable. Loved the 80s setting and how the main character worked in the publishing industry. I found her likable and her daily life to be quite interesting. Her relationship with Jack, a rock star, is one that doesn't happen often and seemed unlikely, but I'm happy they pulled through. Although, there were times I wanted to snap at them both.

Julia was trying to step up as an agent in her company, and not without facing problems with a sleazy boss. She already had a lot on her plate and then when Jack came along, more was added because she wasn't used to being apart of his lifestyle. I liked that she was hard to get and made him realize that just because he's a musician doesn't mean every woman will fall at his feet. Julia gave him quite the work, and the process of him trying to win her over was quite funny and sweet. 

However, there were times that Jack's unflattering musician ways would pop up and Julia would deliberate these things, but she never said anything. She'd started to develop strong feelings for him but still wouldn't speak out against certain things that would upset her. She'd often use his status as an excuse and say he didn't owe her any loyalty. Now, if this was some fling on her part and she wasn't as emotionally invested, I would understand what she was saying and ignore it. But no, she liked him. A lot. So I wish she had spoken out more in the beginning, then maybe when it all had built up towards the end, they wouldn't have ended up in that situation that caused a problem between them. Just saying. 

Still, the story was interesting from start to finish. I loved the writing and how vivid the descriptions were. I felt like I was tossed to the 80s with how Wells described the setting and how things as important today weren't back then, some not even released yet. That was a big plus in the story. I also liked Julia's best friend, Vicky, and how carefree she was. I feel like her role in the story was to keep Julia relaxed when she'd get too high-strong on something. 

Other aspects of the story included Julia's relationship with her mother and how something that happened in the past between her parents sort of made Julia distant. She'd blamed her mother for a lot of things, but I'm happy that they'd managed to resolve their issues and were able to move on. 

There were other things well constructed in the story, from the activities of rock stars--lavish parties, tours, women, and other unappealing stuff--to the workings of the publishing industry. But the strongest thing about Come Dancing was the blossoming relationship between Julia and Jack, and how deeply they felt for each other. I feel the characters and overall plot was greatly developed and I look forward to reading the sequel. Good job Leslie!

Leslie   WellsAbout the Author
Leslie Wells has edited forty-eight New York Times bestsellers in her over thirty-year career, including thirteen number one New York Times bestsellers. She has worked with numerous internationally known authors, musicians, actors, actresses, television and radio personalities, athletes, and coaches. She lives on Long Island, New York.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

CAN'T WAIT TO READ: Truthwitch (The Witchlands #1) by Susan Dennard

21414439Release date: January 5th 2016
Publisher: Tor
Pre-order: Amazon

Synopsis via Goodreads:
On a continent ruled by three empires, some are born with a “witchery,” a magical skill that sets them apart from others.

In the Witchlands, there are almost as many types of magic as there are ways to get in trouble—as two desperate young women know all too well.
Safiya is a Truthwitch, able to discern truth from lie. It’s a powerful magic that many would kill to have on their side, especially amongst the nobility to which Safi was born. So Safi must keep her gift hidden, lest she be used as a pawn in the struggle between empires.

Iseult, a Threadwitch, can see the invisible ties that bind and entangle the lives around her—but she cannot see the bonds that touch her own heart. Her unlikely friendship with Safi has taken her from life as an outcast into one of of reckless adventure, where she is a cool, wary balance to Safi’s hotheaded impulsiveness.

Safi and Iseult just want to be free to live their own lives, but war is coming to the Witchlands. With the help of the cunning Prince Merik (a Windwitch and ship’s captain) and the hindrance of a Bloodwitch bent on revenge, the friends must fight emperors, princes, and mercenaries alike, who will stop at nothing to get their hands on a Truthwitch.

Susan DennardAbout the Author
Susan Dennard has come a long way from small-town Georgia. With a masters degree in marine biology, she got to travel the world—six out of seven continents, to be exact (she’ll get to Asia one of these days!)—before she settled down as a full-time novelist and writing instructor.

She is the author of the Something Strange and Deadly series (from HarperTeen) as well as the forthcoming Witchlands Series (Tor, 2015). When not writing, she can be found hiking with her dogs, exploring tidal pools, or earning bruises at the dojo.

*Okay, first of all,  I absolutely adore Susan Dennard. Her writing is beyond spectacular. Her debut trilogy blew my mind away and I expect nothing less from this new series. Love the coverart and blurb, and the fact that it has a magical concept. 
One thing is guaranteed when it comes to Ms. Dennard, expect the unexpected and prepare to be intrigued. Can't wait to read Truthwitch!!

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