Wednesday, January 29, 2014

We're Off To See The Wizard

Published:  November 12th, 2013
No Place Like Home (Dorothy Must Die #0.5)
By: Danielle Paige
ISBN-13:  9780062280763

In this digital original novella, Dorothy travels back to Oz to reunite with old friends, but her story may not have a happy ending.  No Place Like Oz is a prequel to the forthcoming novel Dorothy Must Die.

After returning to Kansas, Dorothy Gale has realized that the dreary fields of Kansas doesn't compare to the vibrant landscapes of Oz.  And although she's happy to be reunited with Aunt Em, she misses her friends from the yellow brick road.  But most of all, Dorothy misses the fame and the adventure.  In Kansas she's just another prairie girl, but in Oz she was a hero.  So Dorothy is willing to do anything to get back, because there really is no place like Oz.  But returning to land she left comes at a price, and after Dorothy is through with it, Oz will never be the same.


     So anyone who actually knows me in real life, knows that I am completely obsessed with The Wizard of Oz in all of its forms!  Mostly the movie from 1939, but also the book and re-imagined SyFy T.V. miniseries Tin Man.  There is just something about the story that attaches itself to my imagination and places an ache in my wanderer's heart.  So while I was keenly interested in reading this novella and the following book that's released in April, I was also wary.  After all, it turns Dorothy into a villain instead of a heroic, lost girl from Middle America.  But even with my doubts, I can never resist a retelling if it even sounds halfway good!  So I went into it with an open mind and an adventurous spirit.  To understand anything, you need to know that the story starts two years after Dorothy returns to Kansas from Oz.  She was at first, something of a novelty in town for surviving the twister after no one thought she was alive.  But now she is sixteen and without friends, completely disillusioned with life as an average prairie girl in dusty, boring Kansas.  She would do anything to go back to Oz.  Anything to be important and the center of attention again.
     And that is where we find the biggest problem in this novella.  Dorothy is never satisfied with what she has.  She always wants more, no matter the cost or the pain to others because of it.  Dorothy wants fame, attention and things that don't belong to her.  She feels like she's better than everyone else in her town, including her Aunt Em and Uncle Henry, whom she finds boring and unimaginative.  So when Dorothy is given some ruby slippers on her sixteenth birthday after a disastrous party, she puts them on hoping to go back to Oz like nothing changed.  Only things have changed since she's been gone.  Glinda is missing, the Scarecrow is no longer King and a mysterious girl named Ozma is ruling the Emerald City now.  Dorothy finds it up to herself to free Oz from Ozma and put the rightful ruler back in control.  Also, she must free Glinda the Good Witch from her imprisonment!  But is everything really quite the way Dorothy thinks it is?  And when she starts using the magic of Oz, will Dorothy herself be corrupted beyond all saving?
     Overall, I found this to be an interesting concept and was surprised that the novella was almost 200 pages long.  It was longer than most are, which gave it a lot more plot development and allowed an actual story to unfold.  It was nicely blended from the 1939 film and the Oz books, with mythology from both.  My favorite nugget was when Dorothy talks about the silver slippers from her previous journey - a thing from the book.  And also her pet hen Bilina, and the whole history of Ozma being disguised and hidden away until it was her time to rule.  The mythology of the ruling line of Oz being born from flowers was beautiful and if it was Baum's concept or Paige's, it was a nice touch either way.  Yet something was missing with Dorothy as the narrator.  I got truly annoyed quite a bit trying to wade through her inner monologue and really had little sympathy for her.  Especially after the way things go down between her and Ozma.  Also, the way she treats her Aunt and Uncle is horrendous.  That detracted from my true enjoyment of the novella.  Also, the preview for Dorothy Must Die in the back of the novella had me fearing that I wasted my time altogether reading it.  I did not like the protagonist of it AT ALL and am now really ambivalent of the whole thing.  I guess I'd recommend this if you're curious about the idea.  Otherwise, avoid it with all your might.

VERDICT:  3.5/5  Stars

**No money or favors were exchanged for this review.  This book is now available online as an ebook only.**

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

With A Little Luck

Published: October 1st, 2011
Time At The Top & All In Good Time: Two Novels
By: Edward Ormondroyd
Purple House Press
ISBN-13:  9781930900554

"Wait a minute!" Mr Shaw said.  "You want to take me back to the nineteenth century, to marry someone there?"

His daughter Susan must be mad!  Only a girl suffering from hallucinations would make a request like that, on top of a wild story about a good witch, an elevator that travels to 1881, a vanquished scoundrel, a dug-up treasure, and a distressed nineteenth-century family named Walker.  Better humor her, Mr. Shaw thinks, until I can get her to a doctor.

Susan is not mad.  Her story is true.  She and her new best friend Victoria Walker just know that when their parents meet it will be love at first sight, and the two families will become one.

But nothing happens the way it should.  Their parents meet and don't fall in love.  Domineering Cousin Jane forbids more meetings.  The treasure disappears overnight.  The vanquished scoundrel returns, with sinister plans.  Everything is spinning out of control!

So why does an old photo show that Susan and Victoria's dream comes true?


     So, I never read either Time At The Top or its sequel when I was a child, but I had seen the movie that was based on the first book and absolutely loved it beyond measure!  I think it probably contributed to my complete obesession with time travel that I still have, even midway through my twenties.  The story is all about Susan Shaw, a preteen who is having a horrible time of things.  Her Mother has recently died, her Father is always working and at school she's been passed over as the lead in the play, so others can have a "fair chance."  Susan is just utterly grumpy about things in general, yet she still stops to help a strange old lady pick up her spilled groceries from the street.  The old woman promises her "three" and Susan doesn't know what she could possibly mean.  It doesn't mean three wishes, but three trips to 1881 (there and back) in the old elevator in her apartment building!  While she's there, she becomes good friends with Victoria Walker whose Mother is being taken in by a fortune-hunter.  So Susan helps Victoria get rid of him by making him think they have no money - only for the girls to find out it's suddenly true!  Can Victoria, Susan and Vic's brother Robert find a way to save the Walker family.  And will Susan find a way to stay in 1881, with her Father, and join the Walker family with her own?  Add in a buried treasure and some very interesting things will be happening!
     I really loved the story in this one and how it focused on Susan for a decent portion in the beginning, mainly for the chance to show the readers why she would want to live in the past.  Considering this book was written in the 1960s, it really wasn't a gigantic time gap when you think about it.  The most hilarious character in her time period is the housekeeper Mrs. Clutchett who is completely paranoid and extremely nosy!  Her commentary on Susan's disappearance is priceless.  Only eighty years or so between Susan and the Walkers.  I thought that the way Susan got rid of the fortune-hunter was slightly ridiculous and over the top, but it was also pretty amusing.  The whole scenario with the buried treasure definitely appealed to my inner youth.  Such a fun plot to unravel along with the children (even if it wasn't difficult at all to figure things out).  But my favorite thing about this book was the way the author, Edward Ormondroyd, inserted himself into the narrative as the Shaw's neighbor in their apartment building.  He barely interacts with Susan except for one notable time before she disappears.  But he desperately wants to know where she's gotten to, almost as much as her Father and the police do!
     The sequel, All In Good Time, is just as much fun with Susan finally taking her Father back to 1881 with her.  But nothing goes according to plan.  The Walker childrens' Mother is wary of accepting anonymous money (i.e. the treasure the children found and sent secretly to her), and therefore is still planning to sell the house.  Her horrible Cousin Jane comes to help manage the household, and terrorizes everyone in it.  She interferes with Mr. Shaw and Mrs. Walker's first meeting, disapproves of Susan who she sees as trashy, and does everything possible to prevent Victoria and Robert from seeing her.  And when the evil fortune-hunter Mr. Sweeney comes back once more, it's up to Susan and Mr. Shaw to find a way to save the Walkers from disaster - especially when the fortune disappears!  Overall, I highly enjoyed both of these books.  They flowed together beautifully and it felt a lot like one continuous novel.  Also, the adventure was fun even as a disbelieving adult.  I think that I would have absolutely adored this beyond belief if I had read it between the ages of eight and twelve.  As it is, I highly enjoyed it and will probably re-read it sometime.  That is a distinction not many kid's books I've read as an adult can boast of! :D

VERDICT:  4.5/5  Stars

**No money or favors were exchanged for this review.  This book is now available in stores, online, or maybe even at your local library.**

Thursday, January 23, 2014

A Tale of Ladies and Kitchen Maids

Expected Publication:  January 28th, 2014
Manor of Secrets
By: Katherine Longshore
ISBN-13:  9780545567589

The year is 1911.  And at The Manor, nothing is as it seems...

Lady Charlotte Edmonds: Beautiful, wealthy, and sheltered, Charlotte feels suffocated by the strictures of upper-crust society.  She longs to see the world beyond The Manor, to seek out high adventure.  And most of all, romance.

Janie Seward: Fiery, hardworking, and clever, Janie knows she can be more than just a kitchen maid.  But she isn't sure she possesses the courage -- or the means -- to break free and follow her passions.

Both Charlotte and Janie are ready for a change.  As their paths overlap in the gilded hallways and dark corridors of The Manor, rules are broken and secrets are revealed.  Secrets that will alter the course of their lives...forever.


     Lady Charlotte Edmonds is still very young and full of dreams, even if she does know pretty much exactly how her life will turn out.  She will be married, take her place in society and slowly become nothing in the eyes of the world, except for an addition to her husband (who she probably won't choose or love of her own accord either).  Charlotte wants nothing more than to break free, see the world and fall in love with someone of her decision.  Janie Seward is a kitchen maid at the Manor and has known hunger, tragedy and injustice.  But she has a fiery spirit and something very important: freedom from societal expectations.  All Janie wants though is to have a stable place at The Manor, and somewhere to belong.  She's too afraid to even dare to dream of going beyond her current station in life.  When Charlotte and Janie collide into each others' daily lives, it's all they can do to hang on for dear life.  Secrets long since buried come to light and the girls find out they have more than they ever thought possible in common.  Can they help one another rise above the mistakes of the past and into a brave new future together, that they can be excited for?
      This book was basically like Downton Abbey for a younger audience, with less emotional and character depths.  In Charlotte and Janie we have two of the normal stereotypes of the time period (early 1900s): the privileged lady and the kitchen maid.  That said, I did appreciate Charlotte's desperate want for something more and freedom to make her own choices.  She was realistically drawn in the sense that Charlotte has no real concept of the way the world works.  When she toys with the idea of an affair with a young servant named Laurence, Charlotte doesn't realize that it could end in ruination for her or at the least dismissal for him.  And his dismissal (along with the reasons for it) would lead to never being hired in another grand house.  Thus, a career and established life have been destroyed by fleeting fancy.  Also, the idea that Charlotte was at first appalled by the idea of Lord Andrew Broadhurst, because he was the one who her Mother wanted her to marry, and later actually liked him once she got to know him was wonderful.  He wasn't a disposable, one-dimensional boring moron (or evil jerk) like a lot of historical fiction love interests turn out to be.  Instead Laurence was a womanizing jerk!  It would have been so easy to go in the other direction for the sake of romanticizing and I applaud Longshore for not doing it.
     Janie on the other hand, was just as realistic in different ways.  She had such an uncertain childhood, that all she wants is to belong at the Manor and have nothing change ever again.  The interpolitics and hierarchy of the household servants, upstairs and downstairs, was well played.  I especially liked the fact that even with her Mom as the head cook, Janie was still treated as something of an outsider by the other servants, except her best friend Harry, the hall-boy.  Janie is up to taking small risks and dares that don't cause any real upheaval in her life, but she doesn't want adventure like Charlotte.  She just wants stability, even though she dreams of running her own kitchen.  When Charlotte's long-lost Aunt Beatrice comes to The Manor and brings an astounding secret with her, Charlotte will do anything to uncover it.  So enlisting the help of Jenny, and causing more trouble than either of them imagined (upstairs and downstairs), the girls set out to find the truth.  In the process they become pretty good friends and learn that the grass isn't always greener.  I have to say though, the secret of Beatrice's was extremely predictable and I feel only younger readers might be fooled into any modicum of surprise.  I have to say that I was expecting the secret to encompass Janie as well (which it did), just not in quite the way it did.  With no obvious plans for this to be a series, I am also disappointed in the very open ending.  We are left with next to no resolution for Janie or Charlotte.  That said, while I overall enjoyed the book, I wouldn't be continuing in the even of another anyhow.  I recommend this if you're in need of a early 1900s class study fix, or some lite Downton Abbey to tide you over.  Maybe a good intro to fluffy historical fiction for younger teens as well.

VERDICT:  3/5  Stars

*I received this book as part of Around the World ARC Tours, run by the lovely Princess Bookie & also from Scholastic on NetGalley.  No favors or money were exchanged for this review.  This book's expected publication date is January 28th, 2014.*

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Cozy Classics: Jane Eyre

Published:  November 20th, 2013
Cozy Classics: Jane Eyre (Cozy Classics)
By: Jack & Holman Wang
Simply Read Books
ISBN-13:  9781927018316

Give a kid a classic!  Cozy Classics is the popular board book series that presents well-loved stories to children age 0+ through twelve child-friendly words and twelve needle-felted illustrations.  Jane Eyre is Charlotte Bronte's mysterious romance about a young governess who discovers a terrible secret about the man she loves, and is one of the world's most beloved classics.  Now you can share this classic with children of any age.


     So for anyone who didn't catch my first review, this is my second foray into the Cozy Classics books.  My first was their version of Jane Austen's Emma, which I found truly adorable and hilariously fun to read/interpret as an adult who has read the original book.  I can say that I was laughing throughout this one as well.  The biggest issue that I had was how little it actually represented the original story.  But as other reviewers (and I myself) have said, representing a literary classic in just twelve words, with felt puppets staged around is not an easy endeavor!  Jane Eyre is pretty complex story, not necessarily more so than Emma, just in very different contexts.  It's a lot easier to allude to social niceties and blunders, mixed with romance/friendship than it is to talk about the crazy wife in the attic.  
     It introduces the reader to Jane (the word "girl") sitting at a table with a book, looking miserable.  Next we see the word "red" and she is pictured looking terrifed and trying to wrest open the door to the red room of her nightmares.  The third word is "stand" and has Jane on a stool at the front of a classroom, being humiliated.  These are the only words we're given to represent Jane's mess of a childhood.  While the less horrific of some of the things that could've been shown to children, it also doesn't do much to tell us what exactly is going on - unless we already know (as lots of adults probably already know the gist of the story).  Then we get "woman", with Jane all grown up (I respect that the Wangs make the Jane puppet plain looking in accordance with the story.  It could be tempting to do otherwise, especially when marketing a romantic classic to children!)  We are introduced to Rochester on the ground, clutching his knee ("fall").  Probably the most nonsensical thing about this is how far in the background his horse happens to be, when he's just fallen from it.  We next see Rochester leaning on Jane and limping away from the scene of misfortune (help) and all of the sudden he's recovered, they're holding hands and about to kiss each other (appropriately titled "kiss").  I like the light filtering in between them and the trees, and the happy looks on the puppets' faces.  Especially considering the shit's about to hit the fan!
     This is when the action (if you can call it that) starts to take place in the book, with Rochester leading Jane to the attic to tell her the big secret ("stairs" with her veil in hand and trailing after them) and running away, obviously upset ("leave").  This is very confusing without prior context.  What's so important about the stairs?  Why is Jane running away two seconds later, upset and not wanting to be around the man she was in "kiss" position with only two pages ago?  Either this book is meant for babies who won't ask questions or adults who will find it a fun exercise in terse storytelling with beautifully crafted visuals.  It's fun to speculate on that as well!  Next we seen Jane on a doorstep with her eyes closed ("cold") and Rochester backed into a corner with a fire raging in front of him ("hot").  The last scene depicted has Jane once again with Rochester, smiling and leading him to a chair with his eyes closed ("care").  I believe that the Wangs did the best they could to depict the full story, but to a child this would probably come across pretty confusing.  I think that last scene should have had bandages over Rochester's eyes probably, to depict the fact that he was blind a little more clearly.  The whole reason Jane leaves when she finds out about Rochester's crazy wife is that she's got a serious moral backbone, but also a devalued sense of self in that she doesn't think she was enough for him anyways.  An extremely difficult thing to depict in a children's board book, with twelve words, when trying to give any sense of story as well.  All that aside, I had fun once again with this concept (even if it wasn't quite as good as Emma). 

VERDICT:  3/5  Stars

*I received an Advanced Reading E-book Copy from the publisher, Simply Read Books, via NetGalley.  No money or favors were exchanged for this review.  This book was published November 20th, 2013.*

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Side Effects of a Serious Attitude

Expected Publication:  March 18th, 2014
Side Effects May Vary
By: Julie Murphy
Balzer + Bray
ISBN-13:  9780062245359

What if you'd been living your life as if you were dying - only to find out that you had your whole future ahead of you?

When sixteen-year-old Alice is diagnosed with leukemia, her prognosis is grim.  To maximize the time she does have, she vows to spend her final months righting wrongs -- however she sees fit.  She convinces her friend Harvey, who she knows has always had feelings for her, to help her with a crazy bucket list that's as much about revenge (humiliating her ex-boyfriend and getting back at her arch nemesis) as it is about hope (doing something unexpectedly kind for a stranger and reliving some childhood memories).  But just when Alice's scores are settled, she goes into remission.

Now Alice is forced to face the consequences of all that she's said and done, as well as her true feelings for Harvey.  But has she done irreparable damage to the people around her, and to the one person who matters most?


     I am always reluctant to read books about kids or teens with cancer.  Just because I feel like it's very difficult subjecr matter and the author usually devolves into something overly maudlin and sappy - like a Nicholas Sparks book or something!  That said, I think the only one I've ever read that really touched me and came across realistically was The Probability of Miracles by Wendy Wunder.  I enjoyed The Fault In Our Stars the first time I read it, but it didn't hold up very well upon further re-reads.  So I was apprehensive to see what direction that Julie Murphy would decide to take.  It was already different in the fact that the main character, Alice, starts the book off by going into remission.  So when the readers are introduced to her, Alice has been told that she is going to live after all.  Except she's not happy about it as you would expect her to be.  Because she just spent what she thought were the last months of her life, doing whatever the hell she wanted and getting revenge on the people that hurt her in the past.  Now she has to deal with her feelings for her friend Harvey, the mean things she did to her ballet rival and ex-boyfriend, and the fact that she saw her Mom cheating on her Dad right before she got cancer.
     I enjoyed the alternating between the present time and the time before/during when Alice had cancer.  It gave more of an insight into her complicated friendship with Harvey and the reasons for the things she had on her bucket list.  I feel like one of the biggest problems I had with this book was that Alice was an irredeemable bitch for almost the entire thing.  We get to see her POV and Harvey's, but whereas I ended up rooting for Harvey and sympathizing with him, I just wanted Alice to get some help or something.  Harvey was her best friend all throughout their childhood (their parents were good friends) but she dropped him when they entered high school, without a second thought.  Then when Alice is diagnosed with cancer, she takes Harvey back into her life, mostly so that she can use him to help her complete her buckt list/revenge on other people.  Harvey knows that she's just using him, but the poor guy spends almost the entire book trying his hardest to find any sort of redeeming quality in her to make up for her just plain mean and awful behavior.
     Alice on the other hand, is totally unexplainable other than to say that she probably has some kind of personality disorder or something.  She acts downright evil to people, even ones who do nothing but take care of her and try to make her life pleasant.  One major example of this is when she goes into remission, pretty much after admitting to Harvey she loves him, and ditches him again.  Instead Alice starts to go after Eric, the new guy in school.  She kind of likes him, but it seems like she's mostly just doing it to make Harvey jealous and hurt him.  She wants him to be there for her when it's convenient, but Alice will do anything possible to make Harvey feel expendable and refuses to admit anything to him now that she's stuck being alive.  I was really happy that shortly before the end Harvey stopped making excuses for her and kind of just gave up on redeeming Alice in any way.  So of course, in the last 2% of the book, Alice decided to become a better person and try to win Harvey back.  That said, there were some major emotions in this book and reading Alice's POV you can tell that she really doesn't want to be this way and doesn't know why she is.  So I still managed to enjoy the what-if aspects, even if this book has somewhat of a vindictive nature for my tastes personally.  Overall, a good read that makes you really think about life and the people in it.  Not recommended for people who can't stand truly mean characters though.

VERDICT:  3.5/5  Stars

*I received this book as part of Around the World ARC Tours, run by the lovely Princess Bookie.  No favors or money were exchanged for this review.  This book's expected publication date is March 18th, 2014.*

Thursday, January 16, 2014

You Don't Even Know Me At All

Published:  January 14th, 2014
By: Jessica Khoury
ISBN-13:  9781595146059

On Skin Island, even the laws of creation can be broken.

On a remote island in the Pacific, Corpus scientists have taken test tube embryos and given them life.  These beings -- the Vitros -- have knowledge and abilities most humans can only dream of.  But they also have one enormous flaw.

Sophie Crue is determined to get to Skin Island and find her mother, a scientist who left Sophie behind years ago.  With the help of Jim Julien, a young charter pilot, she arrives -- and discovers a terrifying secret she never imagined: she has a Vitro twin, Lux, who is the culmination of Corpus' dangerous research.

Now Sophie is torn between reuniting with the mother who betrayed her and protecting the genetically enhanced twin she never knew existed.  But untangling the twisted strands of these relationships will have to wait, for Sophie and Jim are about to discover what happens when science stretches too far beyond its reach.


     I am a huge fan of Jessica Khoury's debut novel, Origin.  I enjoyed reading a science fiction book focusing on the dangers of experimentation, that was just the right balance of science, action and romance.  So of course I was absolutely DYING to read Vitro as soon as I knew it existed!  I figured that, knowing it was in the same universe as Origin, it would pretty damn awesome and strike a good balance once more.  That said I did enjoy all of the beautiful descriptions and the dual POV was far more well done than a lot of authors manage.  But for me this book had the same issue that another author's (Cat Patrick) did post debut.  It had the Goldilocks Syndrome.  This is something made up by me, to describe a phenomenon of a perfectly balanced debut, followed by truly good books that are just not quite right.  Too hot, too cold, etc.  For me the biggest problem with Vitro was the character development - or lack thereof.  The plot is great stuff for a science fiction YA - what are at first belived to be clones, altered on a fundamental level by scientific experimentation.  It turns out that they are unused, previously frozen embryos that were previously normal human beings.  But the scientists working for Corpus have altered them into something resembling slaves by implanting a microchip in their brains during development.  The chip causes imprinting to occur - the person (known as a Vitro) will automatically live for the first person they see upon waking for the first time.  They will protect them, love them, and even die for them if necessary.
     The three main characters in this book are normal girl Sophie Crue, whose mother is a scientist on the Vitro project, her childhood friend (and pilot) Jim Julien and Sophie's twin sister, a Vitro named Lux.  Sophie has gone to Skin Island to find her Mom, who she believes is in trouble after a cryptic and worrying email that seems to be from her.  Trying to find a way to the island, Sophie runs across her old friend Jim Julien from when she lived on Guam as a child.  Now he has a pilot's license - and just as much of a sense of adventure as he did when they were kids.  But going to Skin Island is even more dangerous than Sophie and Jim ever imagined.  When the two get separated, Sophie is mistaken for Lux and shown off to a potential buyer by her own Mother - while Jim is going back to the plane with Lux who he's 'rescued' thinking she was Sophie!  With sinister forces working against them, a corporation driven by evil greed and secrets and people who will stop at nothing to kill them all three teens are in for a ride.  But will things end happily ever after for all of them?
     For carrying an entire book, we know almost next to nothing about Sophie or Jim (even by the time the novel ended).  Sure the blanks have been kind of filled in alongside all the "deep dark secrets", but nothing truly personal or insightful into their past experiences and personalities as individuals.  They came across as stereotypes, and cardboard placeholders to move along the action and the plot.  I could have easily replaced Sophie with Lux and as long as neither of them spoke, not noticed a difference.  No one else did either, if the amount of time they traded places undetected is any indication!  Jim was also very dull to me character-wise.  Let's go to an island all the locals avoid like the plague, because I have a crush on a girl I haven't seen in almost a decade and a half.  Really bright idea Jim-bo!  That said, while I didn't get anything heavily emotional from it and the identity of the "real" villain was laughably obvious from less than 100 pages into the book, it was still a fun and easy read.  I enjoyed it for what it was - an action film in book form.  I will definitely read whatever Khoury writes next, because I am a fan of both Origin and Vitro.  And I will be endlessly curious to see if she can reattain the perfection of her first novel once more.  I'd recommend to those looking for a book that will make you ask semi-deep questions, but also give you the opportunity to enjoy Bruce Willis-worthy explosions! :D

VERDICT:  3/5 Stars

*I received this book as part of Around the World ARC Tours, run by the lovely Princess Bookie.  No favors or money were exchanged for this review.  This book was published January 14th, 2014.*

Revival Blog Tour - Spotlight, Sneak Peek, & GIVEAWAY!!!

Revival (The Variant Series, #1)
Author: Jena Leigh
Check out on Goodreads!
Purchase on Barnes & Noble and Amazon!


Possessing the uncanny ability to fry a television set from twenty paces can really wreck a girl’s social life.

If you’re looking for proof, just ask sixteen-year-old Alexandra Parker. After catching her boyfriend in the arms of the prettiest girl in school, she made the journey from social elite to social pariah in a haze of electricity and exploding electronics. But finding herself at the bottom of Bay View High’s social hierarchy was nothing compared to the shock of discovering who—and what—she really is.

After being zapped out of a burning bookstore by the mysterious Declan—a hero nearly as handsome as he is infuriating—Alex finds herself under the protection of the powerful Grayson family. It’s through them that she learns the truth: that the world she’s always known is nothing like it appears to be... and that she has far more in common with them than she might want to believe.

Now, on the run from a fire-wielding hit man and a secretive government organization, Alex must navigate a strange and treacherous new world filled with superhuman mutants known 
as Variants. As she begins to unravel the many secrets of her family’s past, she uncovers the real reason for her parents’ death twelve years earlier—and finds out that the threat to her family, and to everyone she cares about, is still dangerously real.


Born and raised in Tampa, Florida, Jena Leigh spent ten years in the mountains of North Carolina before returning home to the lightning capital of North America. A shameless geek, she loves bad sci-fi movies, Skittles, writing cracktastic e-mails to friends and taking shenanigan-filled road trips to faraway concerts. She has a degree in English from Appalachian State University. REVIVAL is her first novel.

Where to Stalk Jena!



Declan O’Connell had been reduced to babysitting.

This was so humiliating. He was going to have to have a talk with Grayson when he got home. Surely his punishment for last month’s misunderstanding should be nearing an end.

It wasn’t his fault they needed a new roof in the atrium. That had been entirely Nathaniel’s doing. Declan had merely supplied a little motivation. It was the Golden Boy that did the glass breaking.

So how was it that the Golden Boy kept picking up all the choice jobs, while Declan was stuck trailing around after high schoolers?

He leaned heavily against the brick wall of the alley and watched as his target disappeared into a restaurant across the street, only to reappear a few moments later on the wraparound patio, trailing after a hostess. They settled in at a table overlooking the water.

At least with this vantage point he wouldn’t have to follow them into the restaurant.

She’d spotted him twice already. Not that he was particularly trying to hide from her at this point. It made things easier when the target didn’t know he was there, sure, but there wasn’t any hard and fast rule about it.

Declan had been shadowing the pair for nearly an hour before he’d realized that something was off.

Usually, his job involved protecting innocent humans from the monsters that walked amongst them unnoticed. From the things that went bump in the night. Things a whole lot like him, just without the charm … or a functioning moral compass.   Judging from the haze of static electricity that followed the girl around like a rain cloud, however, there was something very different about this mark.

Playing a hunch, he’d broken his cover and followed the two girls into a clothing shop. Ten minutes later the store’s registers were toast and his suspicions had been confirmed.

He wondered if the girl knew what she was.

Better yet, he wondered if Grayson had known when he’d given Declan the assignment and just hadn’t said anything.

“I want you to keep an eye on the girl, Declan.”

“No other specifics?”

“Just keep her away from bookstores, if you can.”


Thanks, Grayson. That helps.

Apparently whoever said, “no harm ever came from reading a book” hadn’t met this girl.

Grayson’s orders were usually pretty detailed. The fact that these weren’t could mean a couple of things. Either Grayson didn’t know the specifics of the danger the girl was facing, or he did, but for whatever reason, he felt Declan didn’t need to know.

It was the second possibility that worried him.

He didn’t think that Grayson would ever intentionally send him out on an assignment at a disadvantage, but if Grayson felt like he couldn’t trust Declan with the details, then Declan wanted to know why.

The cell phone tucked in his jacket pocket began to vibrate. He fished it out and checked the screen.

The caller ID read “GRAYSON.”

Declan narrowed his eyes at the shuddering phone. Weird. Grayson never called anyone while they were in the field. He knew better.

Returning his gaze to the restaurant patio, Declan answered the call. “Miss me already?”

“I want an update on the girl.”

Declan considered telling him what he’d learned about her, and then thought the better of it. That could wait. “She’s spending the day shopping with a friend.”


“Clothes shopping. No bookstores in sight. Not so far, anyway.”


“You going to tell me why this girl is so special you’re calling me for updates? My next check-in’s not for another two hours.”

“Just do your job, Declan. Keep her safe.”

The line went dead.

If Declan had been suspicious before, now he was outright convinced that something was up. 

What was so important about this girl?


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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Devil's Temptation by Toni De Palma - Cover Reveal!

The Devil’s Temptation by Toni De Palma
Published by: Crescent Moon Press
Release Date: March 14, 2014

Fighting the Devil brought Cooper and Grace together. But without a little evil to spice things up, the everyday life of a normal teenager is pretty dull. A summer job crewing on a billionaire’s yacht in sunny Italy might be just the ticket to rekindle passion. While the setting is perfect, the winding, sinister back streets of Naples are also the perfect playground for a scorned Lucifer to wreak havoc. And if evil doesn’t rip them apart, the sultry billionaire’s daughter and the sexy First Officer might be what it takes to finally destroy Cooper and Grace’s love forever.

Stay up to date on everything Toni De Palma! 

Toni De Palma was born in Brooklyn, New York. As a child she spent many summers in Ischia, the Italian island where her father was brought up. Her first middle grade novel, Under the Banyan Tree, was published in 2007 and selected as a Kirkus New Voices Pick and a New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age. Her second middle grade novel, Jeremy Owl, was published in 2010. Her third book, The Devil’s Triangle, A YA paranormal is getting rave reviews. The sequel, The Devil's Temptation releases March 14, 2014. Toni holds her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College and she is a recipient of a New Jersey Arts Fellowship. She currently resides in New Jersey.

Become a fan of The Devil Series!

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Animal I've Become

Expected Published:  January 28th, 2014
Her Dark Curiosity (The Madman's Daughter #2)
By: Megan Shepherd
Balzar + Bray
ISBN-13:  9780062128058

To defeat darkness, she must first embrace it.

Months have passed since Juliet Moreau returned to civilization after escaping from her father's island - and the secrets she behind.  Now, back in London once more, she is rebuilding the life she once knew and trying to forget Dr. Moreau's horrific legacy -- though someone, or something, hasn't forgotten her.

As people close to Juliet fall victim one by one to a murderer who leaves a macabre calling card of three clawlike slashes, Juliet fears one of her father's creations may have also escaped the island.  She is determined to find the killer before Scotland Yard does, though it means awakening sides of herself she had thought long banished, and facing loves from her past she never expected to see again.

As Juliet strives to stop a killer while while searching for a serum to cure her own worsening illness, she finds herself once more in the midst of a world of scandal and danger.  Her heart torn in two, past bubbling to the surface, life threatened by an obsessive killer -- Juliet will be lucky to escape alive.


     Juliet thought that she might be able to have some semblance of a normal life after she left the island behind - along with all its twisted 'experiments', the creatures and her now dead father.  She is starting to become part of polite society again and has been taken under the wing of Professor Von Stein, her father's former colleague, who is now her guardian.  But Julitet is still unable to let it all go, because her illness is steadily killing her.  Without a cure soon Juliet will die, so she's been studying her father's diary and notes looking for an answer - for a serum that will end her suffering.  Keeping a secret appartment and selling hybrid roses to buy ingredients, Juliet is horrified when people with a connection to her begin to turn up murdered.  They have a signature mark, three clawlike scratches, that are familiar to Juliet.  Turns out not everything died on that island and something is more obsessed with her than ever.  If he can't have Juliet, no one can.  Can Juliet find the killer before Scotland Yard does?  And will the situation turn out to be even worse than she ever dreamed?
     This book was a slight bit of a slow starter, with Juliet by herself trying to hybridize roses, and come up with a cure for herself - in secret.  I enjoyed the quite obvious allusions between Shepherd's story and the original tale of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  It's really hard to write a comprehensive review that compares the two though, unless I want to give out some pretty major spoilers!  The murders were pretty gruesome and the identity of the killer, while pretty obvious from the start to people who read book #1, still had some puzzle pieces missing in regards to motive, etc.  There is a really great camraderie between Lucy and Juliet, who have renewed their frienship now that Juliet is back in the city and society.  They are both involved with the murderer (knowingly and unknowingly), have connections to the experiments of Juliet's father and are connected to up and coming Scotland Yard Detective John Newcastle.  Probably my least favorite part of this book was the love triangle.  It carried over from the first book, and while I could understand it somewhat, it did make Juliet loose some backbone when making decisions for herself.  There are some points where she gets downright pathetic about it too.  Probably the least historically realistic to me was Juliet engaging in premarital sex.  It's the Victorian Era!!!  And she absolutely NEVER struck me as the type to do something like that, even if she was a societal outcast.  Just way out of character for me.  Overall I greatly enjoyed this book and it was an extremely strong follow up to The Madman's Daughter.  The plot twist at the end of the book was completely unexpected, had me shaking in surprise and slapping myself on the forhead saying D'oh! for not realizing it sooner!

VERDICT:  4/5  Stars

*I received an Advanced Reading E-book Copy from the publisher, Balzar + Bray (Imprint of Harper Collins), via Edelweiss.  No money or favors were exchanged for this review.  This book's expected publication date is January 28th, 2014.*

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Idle Hands Make Mischief

Published:  November 30th, 2012
Ghost Hand (The P.S.S. Chronicles #1)
By: Ripley Patton
ISBN-13:  9780988491001
Seventeen-year-old Olivia Black has a rare birth defect known as Psyche Sans Soma, or PSS.  Instead of a right hand made of flesh and blood, she was born with a hand made of ethereal energy.
How does Olivia handle being the girl with the ghost hand?  Well, she's a little bit morbid and a whole lot snarky.
Her mother thinks her obsession with death, black clothing, and the local cemetery is a bid for attention.  But when Marcus, the new guy in Olivia's calculus class, stares at her like she's a freak, Olivia doesn't like it.  And when her hand goes rogue, doing things she never imagined possible, Olivia finds herself running for her life with Marcus from a group of men bent on taking the power of her hand for their own nefarious purposes.
     I don't take on all that many self-published books anymore.  Someone with my kind of e-galley backlog really has no business taking on ANY new books for review, so I have learned to be careful and only say yes when I'm 99% sure that I will like/love that book.  I read the Kindle sample for this book and I knew I had to have it for my own!  Olivia Black is a character that comes along only every so often in YA lit, PNR or contemporary.  When we first meet her, she is sitting in class trying to pay attention to the teacher, when all of the sudden her hand goes rogue and reaches into Passion Wainwright (who is sitting in front of her).  Olivia ends up with a handful of razor blades and is seriously freaked out by the whole thing.  How is this possible, you ask?  Olivia Black has a rare condition known as Psyche Sans Soma, or PSS.  Basically she was born with psychic energy in the form of a hand, instead of an actual flesh and blood limb.  Olivia tries to forget that anything ever happened, but when the new kid, Marcus, follows her home and tries to warn her about a secret organization coming after her she shrugs it off.  Then they try to snatch her in the cemetery.  When that doesn't work, they burn her house down.  And things only get crazier from there on out.
     This book is non-stop action, with an occasional pause for some necessary dialogue and character relationship building.  But it is so well-structured that I never really felt like anything was missing from my reading experience.  I liked the fact that it was kind of an Idle Hands situation, only with psychic energy and not limited to just the hands.  It was definitely not an idea that I had seen crop up before in any lit that I've read or heard of (YA or otherwise).  I enjoyed Olivia's distinctive personality, although it was slightly over the top.  I could definitely understand her turning towards an interest in things death/goth related, especially after having a parent undergo a slow, painful death from cancer.  We also got an insight into the strained relationship Olivia has with her Mother and the wonderfully accepting, loyal one she has with her best friend Emma.  The action had a purpose - there was a mission and a rhyme or reason to the way things went down.  That put me in a very happy place as a reader.  I thought that the whole secret organization thing fit very well into a world where there are psychic energy birth-defects.  It made sense that people would be trying to steal that energy and harness it for their own purposes.  And I liked that the other kids with Marcus were from a list of PSS kids that he was saving from the evil organization.  It definitely brought home things to Olivia, who was on the list herself.
     The whole thing with Olivia removing things from people definitely gave something unique and intriguing to the story.  I was always curious to see what she would remove next and what special abilities the item would have.  The initial distrust moving into an acquaintance and then finally into attraction between Olivia and Marcus had me breathing a sigh of relief.  No insta-love here folks, which is a nice and refreshing change!  The other guys in Marcus' band of misfits (PSS kids) were well fleshed out as secondary characters.  We got just enough backstory to tantalize us, but not enough to make everything happening in future books rehash and boring.  I particularly like Nose and Yale.  I feel Jason has potential, but for which side I'm not quite sure yet.  He could go hero OR villain from what I can tell.  And the different areas of all their respective PSS was well played too.  Probably the best part in the book was after a major battle with the baddies, when Olivia is trying to get them away from the house it was in.  There is a thing that happens with the space-time continuum.  That's all I will say, but it was definitely unexpected!  Probably the only thing that had me rolling my eyes a little was the torture/do not torture dilemma with the fire chief.  Overall, I greatly enjoyed it.  One of the best paranormal YA books I've read in a long time and one of the best I read in 2013 overall!  I highly recommend it to anyone looking for something fresh, innovative, with a sense of humor and for anyone who doesn't mind taking a chance! :D
VERDICT:  4.5/5  Stars
*I received a review copy from the author , in exchange for an honest review.  No money or favors were exchanged for this review.  This book was published November 30th, 2012.*

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Merch Girl Tour - Review, Excerpt and Giveaway!!!

Title: Merch Girl
Author: Rebecca Lewis
Date of Publication: May 1, 2013
Genre: Contemporary YA romance; Music


Seventeen-year-old Lacey Kind doesn’t have the guts to talk to cute boys, isn’t a size two, and would rather stay home and listen to music than go to a party. But in the summer before her first year of college, she ends up thousands of miles away from home, in the back of a tour bus, underneath the half-naked body of the hottest teen rock star in the country.

When Lacey and her best friend Trina sneak into a Boston nightclub to see their favorite band, they not only get to watch their rock gods perform for the first time, but score a chance to meet the band too. Lacey’s heart races as she comes face-to-face with her idol, nineteen-year-old lead singer, Logan Shire.

The girls charm their way into being hired to sell merchandise on Lansdowne’s first summer tour. As “merch girls” Lacey and Trina quickly find themselves transported from their ordinary, suburban life to an exhilarating few months on the road. But they soon realize that life on the road isn’t always a smooth ride...

Purchase linksAmazon | B&N | Smashwords | Kobo | iBooks

About Rebecca Lewis

Rebecca Lewis is the author of the Young Adult novel, Merch Girl, and a lover of all things music! She's been writing stories since middle school and penned her first fanfic about a semi-popular boyband in 1997. Her passion for music and writing brought her to Boston University, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Science from the College of Communication. During her college career, she interned for various record labels in Boston and New York City, sold merch for local bands, worked at record stores, and did a whole lot of grassroots marketing. She currently resides in Florida with her husband and puppy.


I rubbed my hand soothingly against my throbbing forehead. I’d never experienced a hangover before, but I guessed this was what it felt like. I opened my eyes slowly and saw the low ceiling above me  and the curtain hanging by my side. Strange, I had no recollection of getting into a bunk. I cautiously pulled the curtain back and poked my head out to find an empty hallway. I maneuvered my way out of the bunk and realized I was only wearing Logan’s t-shirt and my underwear. His soft cotton tee felt nice against my skin, and still smelled like him. I breathed in the scent, which brought a rush of memories from last night back into my mind. Good memories, really, really good memories. 


     I absolutely love reading anything to do with music, rock stars or the entertainment industry.  I'm actually a bit of a freak about it sometimes, to be quite honest!  So I was pretty excited to read another book about regular girls touring with their favorite rock band (it didn't hurt that this is the first one I've seen from the merch girl angle of things).  Do we ever really think of the people behind the merch tables when we're at venues, big or small?  If you're honest with yourself, the answer is not really - bordering on never.  Lacey and Trina are BFFs who just graduated high school and are ready to spend their last summer together before college.  Lacey is quiet, shy and unsure of herself.  Trina is boisterous, brimming with confidence and never shy about leading the charge on anything.  When they get the unforseen opportunity to meet up and coming band Lansdowne (their favorite, over which they're complete fangirls) things spiral from there.  The girls end up becoming friends with the guys and getting hired to be merch girls on their first tour.  With sparks flying between Griffin and Trina & Lacey and Logan, the summer is heating up.  But can secrets on the part of the girls and the guys, plus scheming from mean girl Jenna stop things before they even start?
     Maybe it's just because I've never really been a crazy, balls to the wall fan of any particular band in my life.  I kind of missed the window for boy band crazy, fangirl shenanigans by being too young during the NKOTB, Backstreet Boys, and N'Sync era.  And I'm not really into the newer boy bands, like One Direction.  I was kind of in-between.  Yes, I had posters on my wall.  But I didn't go to concerts, cry, scream and overall lose my mind over my favorite bands.  That said, Lacey and Trina are better characterized better than your average, screaming fangirls from the crowd.  We get to see into their brains and learn that they really do like the guys for who they are.  Also, though the relationships are a little too I love him just-because, instalove for my taste I appreciated the tumult of both relationships.  Neither of them was perfect and we are constantly reminded that all of them are just immature teens/twenty-somethings, who are still finding their way.  I don't want to give any real spoilers, so all I will say is that there were a couple of twists involving Trina & Gabe's relationship and Lacey's interactions with fangirl Devin that were unexpected.  Overall, a cute fluffy and slightly angsty rock 'n roll romance, definitely more suited for actual teenagers (or more naieve/less jaded adults).  I could barely suspend my disbelief sometimes.  A fun romp, but I am definitely NOT the target audience.  

VERDICT:  3/5 Stars

*I received an ARC from the author and tour host for the purpose of this blog tour. No money or favors were exchanged for this review. This book was published May 1st, 2013.*


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