Friday, January 30, 2015

Review: Walking on Trampolines by Frances Whiting

22609591Release date: February 3rd 2015
Publisher: Gallery Books
Purchase: Amazon


Synopsis via Goodreads:

From the day Annabelle Andrews sashays into her classroom, Tallulah ‘Lulu’ de Longland is bewitched: by Annabelle, by her family, and by their sprawling, crumbling house tumbling down to the river.

Their unlikely friendship intensifies through a secret language where they share confidences about their unusual mothers, first loves, and growing up in the small coastal town of Juniper Bay. But the euphoria of youth rarely lasts, and the implosion that destroys their friendship leaves lasting scars and a legacy of self-doubt that haunts Lulu into adulthood.

Years later, Lulu is presented with a choice: remain the perpetual good girl who misses out, or finally step out from the shadows and do something extraordinary. And possibly unforgivable…

It’s not how far you fall, but how high you bounce.


*Publisher Approved via Netgalley





Walking on Trampolines was quite a story. Lulu's interesting life journey certainly lived up to the name. Sure it had it's far from perfect moments, but I still  liked the delivery of how strong and valued a friendship could be, as well as how something that happened in your teen years can impact your adult years. 

The opening chapter brought forth a shocker, with a best friend's betrayal. But once I got into the story it became clear that Lulu--even though she was drunk and that still didn't justify her actions-- had been betrayed prior. I honestly couldn't understand why she would even allow these people back in her life after what they did to her as a teen. No wonder Annabelle couldn't stay mad at her. I guess you can call it karma. That aside, I don't agree with them keeping Josh in their lives, no matter as a friend or husband. What tha hell. That part didn't rub me right, but hey, people deal with things differently and if they want to forgive and forget and keep him around, then whatever rocks their boat. 

As for the plot and my overall feelings about the story, it swayed between three and four stars throughout. I felt like it was good for the most part, with the great writing and the way in which the author established the characters. I liked Lulu's friends, minus Annabelle, but Duncan in particular. He was a wonderful inclusion. The things he said and did for Lulu showed the kind of person he was and I loved the impression he made on her and others when he was being himself. 

The mom and dad were... different. Not the average parents you read in books. For one, Lulu called them by their names, like Annabelle did with hers. Both families were alike in some ways, and not so much in others. Lulu's mom had some unique issues. I'd never read about a woman giving her dresses names. That was crazy, yet interesting. Harry, Lulu's dad, was an impeccable man. He took care of his family along with Lulu, while his wife battled the troubles in her head. I liked how Harry pushed Lulu to leave the comfort of her home and go out and find her own life. It's not often that fathers are present in books so Harry's character was a delight. 

Like I said, it's a great story with lucid writing and thought-provoking moments. However, the reason why my feelings were up and down throughout is because of a few things. The first issue I had right off was the fact that Lulu would take us back in time, and there wouldn't always be a warning of these transitions. So at times I'd be confused as to where she was in time. Another thing is that it became somewhat draggy from the middle towards the end. Following the passing of a very well-liked character, I didn't expect the story to carry on the way it did. I wanted a lot of things to wrap up and for Lulu to move on but it seemed like it was taking forever. Finally, she did, but then something terrible happened again and it made me want to stop reading altogether. But then had a change of heart when I saw that things were starting to conclude and Lulu was going to move on after all. 

So, overall, Walking on Trampolines is worth a read. You'll feel like you're on trampolines while reading this one for sure, but if you don't mind a steady pace with a character going back down memory lane or a mother who names her dresses according to her moods, then this one might interest you. 



Friday, January 23, 2015

Review: Crave (Fire & Ice #1) by Violet Vaughn

Crave (Fire and Ice, #1)Series: Fire & Ice #1
Release date: May 15th 2014
Publishing: Sugarloaf Publishing
Purchase: Amazon

Synopsis via Goodreads:
Casey Cassidy is a girl who gets what she wants. 

Determined to get over Jason and find a man that wants a family, she moves to Breckenridge, Colorado.

Landing a job skiing every day, Casey finds Blaine Johnson - a wish come true. A hunky surfer turned ski instructor, he checks off every requirement on her list.

Except for the one she forgot to add.

Blaine has a secret. A secret so big it keeps intimacy smoldering, when Casey needs fire. No matter how hard she tries, the embers won’t ignite. Can she live without passion to get the family she craves?

When Jason comes to town, Casey questions everything she wished for. Their consuming love threatens to explode and ruin her dream. Will she have to choose between a family and the love of her life?

*Downloaded the kindle ebook for free on Amazon




Crave certainly has it perks, but there were things about the story and the main character that didn't win me over.  The plot was okay, but I just didn't feel the fireworks. 

Like Casey, my emotions were all over the place throughout the story. It jumped right into her predicament of not being able to let go of her ex, Jason, when she immediately called him after finding a boyfriend cheating on her. I could feel the intensity between Casey and Jason and didn't understand why she was having such a hard time just enjoying life with him instead of focusing too much on what he wasn't sure about. 
I would have love for there to be a back story, to give a better understanding of Casey and Jason's love and where they were coming from. Maybe that would have given me more clarity of the situation.

Let's talk Casey. There were moments where I wanted to shake her. I thought that the whole thing with Blaine was too forced and like her best friend said, she was pushing for something that just wasn't. To me, it was silly of her from start to want to move on so quickly, knowing very well how in love she was with Jason. With a deep love like that, there's no way you can move on in a matter of weeks, especially if you're pushing things to happen with someone who clearly showed signs that he was forcing it as well. I mean, how could she not see the warning bells? Blaine was obviously trying too hard to cover up the truth and the mere fact that they couldn't get pass a particular level in their relationship should have made Casey open her eyes.  That aside, her character wasn't too bad. She was a kind enough person and I liked how she was there for Blaine and her friend when they lost someone so important to them. That again was something that should have made her realize who Blaine was. 

As for Jason, he's a sweetie and too good for Casey. Kudos to him for tolerating so much with her. She really gave his heart hell and messed with his emotions by calling him up for a booty call whenever she missed him. I was super happy when he shot her down after she finally opened her damned eyes and saw what a great person he was, and that he's the one she should be with. I liked that he made her work for him. Go Jason! 

There were other good aspects of the story, like the characters' skiing interest and how good they were at what they did. I'm not much of a fan of ice sports, outside of figure-skating, so I didn't understand some of the details mentioned in the story whenever Casey or another character was out on the ice. Honestly, I didn't care too much for it either, but it's okay because that's part of the story and its characters. 

The writing was easy and the pace was just right. I never felt stuck in a moment, just that some things bothered me about Casey. Whether it was her impulsive decisions or the fact that she made Jason suffered along with her, I just didn't connect to her character as much as I would like to. But like I said, the story was okay, and I would like to continue with the series. 




Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Behind the Pages #17: Jessica Verdi on Realistic YA & Showtunes


Welcome to the first Behind the Pages interview of 2015! The awesome Jessica Verdi has taken the time to talk about her writing, among other things. Be sure to continue below for an awesome giveaway as well.

1. When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?

The realization that I wanted to be a writer happened a little later for me than many other authors I know. I always wanted to be an actor and a singer, and that's what I went to school for and what I spent my twenties doing. It wasn't until my late twenties, when I was becoming increasingly frustrated with constantly waiting around for opportunities to work and be creative, that I started seeking other outlets. I realized that with writing, I could do it whenever I wanted and on my own terms, rather than having to wait to be cast in something, and it was so much more fulfilling. After that, I never looked back!!

2. Who are some of your biggest influences, in literature or otherwise?

Ned Vizzini was one of my hugest influences as a writer. He was a genius at writing about serious, complicated issues, but while also being funny and non-serious at times. That's what I always strive to do with my work.

3. Why Realistic YA? Have you ever considered other genres like Fantasy or Dystopian?

I love realistic YA because it gives me a chance to write about certain things in our world that I think warrant more discussion and voices. But yes, I have dabbled in fantasy, and the book that I just finished (with my co-author Amy Ewing) is definitely in the fantasy/paranormal realm! I love all genres, and hope to get to explore all of them at some point. 

My Life After Now4. What compelled you to write "My Life After Now" and how challenging was it?

I wrote My Life After Now because I was feeling discouraged at how complacent our society has become regarding HIV/AIDS. The medical advances have been great, so people aren't dying of AIDS as much as they used to, and in turn people seem to have almost forgotten about it. But there is still no cure, and young people are still contracting HIV at an alarming rate, so I wanted to do my small part in getting that conversation and awareness going again.

The Summer I Wasn't Me5. "The Summer I Wasn't Me" touches on a heavy topic as well. What message were you trying to bring forth with both books?

I don't think I had a particular "message"—whatever the reader takes away from the books is totally okay! But I do think it's important to get conversations going, and put a human (albeit fictional) face to many of these issues. If there's anything I hope readers take away from my books, it's a little more understanding, a little more openmindedness. And hopefully they'll continue the conversation with their own work or the people in their own lives.

What You Left Behind6. Tell us about "What You Left Behind", in regards to how it differs from your two previous releases.

The biggest difference for sure is that What You Left Behind is written from the perspective of a boy main character! His name is Ryden Brooks, and he's a single teen father struggling with learning how to be a dad, grieving the death of his girlfriend (which he feels responsible for), and trying to figure out how to balance his old life with his new one.

7. Was it difficult writing from the POV of a male character?

It wasn't, surprisingly! For some reason, I just really knew Ryden from the beginning, and I felt so connected to him. I loved being in his head for the year or so it took me to write the book. 

8. Are you working on anything now? Can you give us a snippet?

As mentioned above, I've recently finished a paranormal novel with Amy Ewing. We've revised it a couple times, and now it's with our beta readers. After the next revision, we'll be sending it off to our agents, who will hopefully like it! Haha. It's a little too early to give a sneak peek, but I will say that it's a very unusual book, and creepy in (I hope) a good way. :)

9. Besides writing, how do you creatively express yourself?

I love to sing! Showtunes, pop, in the shower or on a karaoke stage, it doesn't matter. 

10. Thank you for taking the time, Jess. Please leave a message for aspiring writers.

Thank you so much for having me on your blog, Shane, and thank you to everyone who took the time to read this! For any aspiring writers out there, remember that you have a unique voice, a perspective on the world that's only yours, and there is a reader out there who WILL connect with what you have to say. So write for that one person (or many people), and don't worry about the rest.

Brief Bio:
Jessica Verdi is a young adult author who writes envelope-pushing stories about not-so-pretty real-life issues, but always with a positive spin.
Though she’s always been a bookworm (her childhood was basically defined by the philosophy that working your way through giant stacks of library books is far superior to playing outside), she remained convinced throughout high school and college that the stage—rather than the page—was meant to be her creative outlet. After nearly ten years pounding the NYC pavement auditioning for musicals (and sometimes actually getting cast in them), she got an idea for a novel. That novel was an adult magical realism story, and while it will never see the light of day—nope, don’t ask—it was the book that started her love affair with writing. Now she can’t imagine doing anything else.
Jess received her MFA in Writing for Children from The New School and works as an editor at a romance novel publisher. She loves all animals, from the cute and cuddly to the large and freakish, has been a vegetarian for most of her life, is a little too obsessed with TV shows about vampires, and has an amazing group of writer friends who keep her sane.
Jess lives in Brooklyn, NY with her husband and dog.

Connect with her:



Win a copy of The Summer I Wasn't Me. Thanks to Sourcebooks for sponsoring this giveaway.

17586458

 



Monday, January 19, 2015

Spotlight & Giveaway: An Appetite for Violets by MartineBailey


An Appetite for Violets is an utterly compelling story of food, obsession and mystery, introducing a brilliant new voice in historical fiction. Check out an excerpt below and enter to win a hardcopy of the book. 

22313653Release date: January 13th 2015
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Purchase: Amazon

Synopsis via Goodreads:
That’s how it is for us servants. No one pays you much heed; mostly you’re invisible as furniture. Yet you overhear a conversation here, and add a little gossip there. A writing desk lies open and you cannot help but read a paper. Then you find something, something you should not have found.

Irrepressible Biddy Leigh, under-cook at the forbidding Mawton Hall, can’t wait to settle down with her sweetheart and set up her own tavern. But when her elderly master marries the young, enigmatic Lady Carinna, Biddy is unwittingly swept up into a world of scheming, secrets, and lies.


Forced to accompany her new mistress to Italy, Biddy takes with her an old household book of recipes, The Cook’s Jewel, in which she records her observations. When she finds herself embroiled in a murderous conspiracy, Biddy realizes that the secrets she holds could be the key to her survival – or her downfall . . . 




EXCERPT

We were nearly shipshape when Jem’s knock shook the door. Even with hands still claggy with flour I couldn’t get to him fast enough, my heart fluttering like a pigeon in a basket. Then there was Jem leaning on the door frame with the afternoon sun gilding him; I am tall for a woman, but his golden hair near touched the lintel. 

‘Did you see ’er?’ His hazel-gold eyes glinted. ‘Under all them frills she ain’t nowt but a girl. Dirty old goat, he is, to take such a bantling to his bed.’ 

‘She may be fine-looking but she don’t look frisky to me.’ I’d seen her youth, sure enough, but also something tight-knotted in that pretty face. ‘Not like some,’ I said with a prod at his chest. 

He made a grab for my hand, grinning all the while. ‘Yer got flour on yer face,’ he laughed and smeared it so I must have looked worse. ‘Are them pies I can smell?’ He craned forward, stretching the thick tendons of his neck. ‘Give us a taste then,’ he said, so low and slow my belly fizzed. That boy could make me melt like butter. ‘You rogue, you’ll have me out the door with no wages,’ I protested, pulling back away from him behind the threshold. We could never forget the rules all we female servants lived under: no husband, no followers, not even a wink. Even Mrs Garland only held her title from tradition, for every cook was Missus, though almost all were spinsters. ‘No callers’ was the rule set by every respectable master. It was the curse of my life, to choose to cook or to choose to marry. 

‘Now you won’t forget about tomorrow night’s Souling?’ I chided. ‘You will tell Mr Pars we’re to wed?’ 

‘I’ll do it, love. Then we can start up our alehouse and you can get cooking. I don’t half fancy being a landlord.’ 

‘Aye, but we need the means to start it up first. We need the capi- tal, Jem.’ 

It was the grand future we dreamed of. If ever we won a bonus or were remembered by a generous master, we would turn the old ruin at Pars Fold into a tavern. It was in a most fortunate place, right by the new highway. With all the new money rattling around from turnpikes and trade, I’d heard travellers would rather eat beefsteak for a shilling than bread and cheese for tuppence. But sometimes I wished I’d never told Jem my notion, for now he talked of little else. ‘The time will come, my love,’ I added, then reached to touch his cheek. 

‘One kiss,’ he croaked. ‘Look, I fetched some Fat Hen for you.’ Jem offered me a bunch of wilting greens. 

I reached for the plants, rubbed the leaves with a snap of my finger and thumb and sniffed. They were as fresh as spinach but not so peppery and warm. And wasn’t that a faint whiff of cat’s piss? Mrs G always said I could sniff a drop of honey in a pail of milk. I used my nose then and saved us all from a night of gripes. 

‘That’s not Fat Hen, you noddle. That’s Dog’s Mercury. Once I knew a band of tinkers that made a soup of it and near died. If I serve that up to the new mistress I could be hanged for murder.’ 

‘God help us. Give it back here. It’s ill-omened.’ He hurled the plants towards the hogs’ trough. ‘I’ll fetch you whatever you want from the glasshouse.’ 

‘I have fruit by the barrel-load,’ I laughed. ‘Get along now. I’ve Her Ladyship’s supper to see to.’ 

‘Wait, I near forgot my news.’ He held me back with his calloused hand. ‘This footman fellow of hers just come from town. A brown- skinned fellow he is, a right chimney chops, wearing one of them gold footman’s coats. He’d got a letter from London. Billy saw it in his hand. So maybe the master is coming home after all. Sir Geoffrey might put his hand in his pocket when we wed.’ 

‘Maybe, maybe not, Jem. When he was younger, perhaps. His bride coming up here on her own, that don’t bode well.’ 

Just then a waft of bitter smoke reached me from the kitchen. ‘My damned pies!’ I cried and turned back inside. 

Jem caught my wrist as I turned. ‘Where’s my kiss then?’ 

‘They’re ruined,’ I snapped. ‘Teg must find you a morsel.’I am sure that’s what I said that day, that I confused his victuals with his kisses.

When I rescued the pies they were greasy brown and tasted of cinders. ‘You stupid distracted numkin,’ I cursed to myself as I stared at my ruined handiwork.

But before I could tip them in the trough I felt a shadow at my back. Turning about, I found Teg twitching like a puppet on a string.

‘Biddy, come quick. There’s a lady in the kitchen asking for the cook, but I just run off dumb.’


ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Martine BaileyAn amateur cook, MARTINE BAILEY won the Merchant Gourmet Recipe Challenge and was a former UK Dessert Champion, cooking at Le Meurice in Paris. Her recipes have appeared in many publications including Good Housekeeping, Olive magazine, and Green and Black’s Chocolate Recipes. Martine lives in Cheshire, England. An Appetite for Violets is her first novel.



GIVEAWAY

*Thanks to St. Martin's Press for sponsoring this giveaway.



Friday, January 16, 2015

Review: When by Victoria Laurie

20338342Release date: January 13th 2015
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Purchase: Amazon

Synopsis via Goodreads:

Maddie Fynn is a shy high school junior, cursed with an eerie intuitive ability: she sees a series of unique digits hovering above the foreheads of each person she encounters. Her earliest memories are marked by these numbers, but it takes her father’s premature death for Maddie and her family to realize that these mysterious digits are actually death dates, and just like birthdays, everyone has one.

Forced by her alcoholic mother to use her ability to make extra money, Maddie identifies the quickly approaching death date of one client's young son, but because her ability only allows her to see the when and not thehow, she’s unable to offer any more insight. When the boy goes missing on that exact date, law enforcement turns to Maddie.

Soon, Maddie is entangled in a homicide investigation, and more young people disappear and are later found murdered. A suspect for the investigation, a target for the murderer, and attracting the attentions of a mysterious young admirer who may be connected to it all, Maddie's whole existence is about to be turned upside down. Can she right things before it's too late?


*Approved by Publisher via Netgalley





Suspenseful, dark and intriguing. When has the right elixir for a twisted thriller with a supernatural spark, and I like what Ms. Laurie cooked up for her readers. 

I read the synopsis after finishing the story, and even though Maddie faces a lot of problems due to her ability, I disagree with it being called a curse. If any thing, it's a gift to provide people with more time, whether they want to make amends or plan ahead. Maddie's ability had me thinking a lot too. Like, if I'd want to know and what I would do if I should find out. It was an interesting concept that I hadn't read before--or maybe I don't remember--and I was curious from start as to how the story would unravel, as well as how Maddie would develop by the end. 

The writing is good; very fast-paced and engaging. I wasn't bored at all. But I must say that there were times I was frustrated with Maddie. However, living with her mother's disease and reading how badly losing her dad had affected them, I could understand her feelings more. 

Donny was great. He was the most involved uncle I'd ever read in a book. I liked how much he believed in his niece and how he fought for her. No matter if she would explode on him or if Maddie's mom got under his skin with her problems, Donny never turned his back on them. Aside from him, Maddie and her mom, I really liked Mrs. Duncan. Like Donny, she was so caring and thoughtful of Maddie's well being. I loved her character and truly felt it when her date approached. 

Those were the main characters that grabbed me. As for Stubby (don't like the name too much), honestly, I couldn't connect with him. He seemed so rash and impulsive, but yeah, he still brought the humor to the story. There just wasn't enough about his character to pull me in, and I wasn't moved enough to sympathize with him during those hard times.

Overall, When is an interesting story, and I'm sure the addition of that supernatural aspect along with the mystery was a great idea. It definitely held my attention, so if you're a fan of such a combination you'll like this one.



About the Author
Victoria Laurie is a New York Times bestselling adult mystery author and a former professional psychic intuitive. Her Both careers have served her beautifully in craftingForever, Again and her forthcoming young-adult debut, When. She lives and writes in Michigan.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Cover Reveal: Black Iris by Leah Raeder

I'm super excited about being part of Leah Raeder's Black Iris cover reveal. The book seems really interesting and I can't wait to read it. Check out the lovely cover below. Don't you just love the purple concept?


Release date: April 28th 2015
Publisher: Atria 
Purchase: Amazon | B&N


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.


EXCERPT
April is the cruelest month, T.S. Eliot said, and that’s because it kills. It’s the month with the highest suicide rate. You’d think December, or even January—the holidays and all that forced cheer and agonized smiling pushing fragile people to the edge—but actually it’s spring, when the world wakes from frostbound sleep and something cruel and final stirs inside those of us who are broken. Like Eliot said: mixing memory and desire, stirring dull roots with spring rain. In the deepest throes of depression, when sunlight is anguish and the sky throbs like one big raw migraine and you just want to sleep until you or everything else dies, you’re less likely to commit suicide than someone coming out of a depressive episode. Drug companies know this. That’s why antidepressants have to be marked with the warning MAY CAUSE SUICIDAL THOUGHTS.
Because what brings you back to life also gives you the means to destroy yourself.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Leah Raeder is a writer and unabashed nerd. Aside from reading her brains out, she enjoys graphic design, video games, fine whiskey, and the art of self-deprecation. She lives with her very own manic pixie dream boy in Chicago. 

Visit her at LeahRaeder.com


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