Friday, 29 August 2014

The Mill River Redemption Blog Tour and Review

The Mill River Redemption: Blog Tour and Review

'A touching story that encompasses the whole gamut of human behaviour with love and chariy' 
Red on The Mill River Recluse

Having unexpectedly lost her husband and lacking the means to support herself, Josie DiSanti and her two daughters take refuge in the small town of Mill River to live with Josie's aunt, Ivy. The sisters, Rose and Emily, are inseparable growing up - until a shocking tragedy tears them apart. 

Years later, Rose and Emily return to Mill River for the reading of their mother's will where they learn that Josie would do anything to force their reconciliation: the sisters must move into neighbouring houses for the summer and work together to locate the key to Josie's safe deposit box, which contains their inheritance. And so, left with no choice, Rose and Emily reluctantly begin their search. But in a place known for its magic and miracles, little do they know that an even greater treasure awaits them....

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Mill River Recluse, comes this enchanting story of family, self-discovery, love and forgiveness.

About the Author

Darcie Chan is the author of THE MILL RIVER RECLUSE, an originally self-published debut novel that became a word-of-mouth e-book sensation. With more than 700,000 copies sold, THE MILL RIVER RECLUSE appeared on the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists for more than 30 weeks and became a heartwarming favorite of readers across the country.

"In the short time that I’ve been a writer – which is a description of myself that I’m still getting used to – I’ve learned a few things.  First, you should always expect the unexpected.  And, there is sometimes more than one path that will enable you to achieve a dream. For me, being able to get my first novel in front of readers as an e-book changed my career and my life. I will always be grateful to every person who read The Mill River Recluse, and especially those who took the time to review it, mention it to a friend, or send me a note of encouragement. Those readers – my readers – made my dream of being an author come true.  I only hope that my future books return to them some of the great happiness and enjoyment that they have given me."

My Review
After receiving a review copy from Little Brown Books UK, I was excited to dive headfirst into the second novel of an author I had heard so much about. Darcie Chan had taken over the world of literature, and hers was the name that passed everyones lips when recommending a great summer read. Shamefully I wil ladmit that I am yet to read The Mill River Recluse, however after flying through page after page of The Mill River Redemption, I know what the next book on my "To Be Read" list is. 
The Mill River Redemption brings a story of love, loss, friendship, family and mystery all rolled into one book of incredible literature that had me hanging on every word written by Miss Chan. When I discovered that the book was written in third person and flipped between different character viewpoints, I was a bit wary. I'm not normally a fan of third person writing, however this book was easy to read, and fitted together flawlessly. To add yet another difficult feat into the writing, Chan not only switches character viewpoints, but also time. The chapters are divided equally between modern day, focussing primarily on the lives of the two estranged sisters - Rose and Emily - however the book also takes us through the life of Josie DiSanti, from the week after the death of her husband in 1983 to 2011, two years before the story resumes with the sisters and the death of their mother. I was surprised to discover how I didn't favour one time or the other, I was desperately yearning to finish a chapter to read the next part of each family members story. 
On page 24, at the wake of their beloved mother, Rose and Emily are left a letter detailing what they must do in order to receive their mothers last will and testament; a glorified, adult version of a treasure hunt. Personally, I was ecstatic. I love treasure hunts, and I hadn't read a novel that included a treasure hunt for a very long time. I was thrilled and incredibly curious to see where this would take the story, and how Chan would evolve the treasure hunt over the course of the novel.
As the story progressed, I became increasingly curious and frustrated at how many mysteries Darcie Chan had successfully incorporated into this book. 

1. Why/How did Tony (Josie's husband) die, and why was Josie so afraid?
2. What happened to the sisters, why did they become estranged?
3. Who gifted the house to Josie? (I expect this has something to do with Darcie's first book)

These three mysteries were so well intertwined with the story that I found myself desperate to know the answers, so much that I read long into the night, only to finish the book and discover it was past 4am.

The characters created by the author were exceptional. I associated myself very quickly with characters that I loved, and those that I grew to despise. Emily, one of the sisters, is created as a kind, open hearted, friendly and down to earth girl who grows into a wonderful women, whilst her sister, Rose, is a character which I hated with a burning passion. The things that she says and does and her actions made me determined to never become like her. Amongst Rose and Emily were the characters of Ivy, Claudia, Kyle, Alex, Sheldon, Darcy, Ned, Ruth, Fitz and of course, Josie. All with their own individual personalities and traits, and all with a back story. Every single character was written in a way that they had some importance, something that made you either like them or despise them, but either way they weren't just there as character fluff - they became real people, and I personally would love to read individuals books by Chan all about every character she mentioned and wrote so flawlessly.

Within the novel were beautiful gems of writing, gems that I will take and hold on to for all my life. Quotes that left me breathless with their beauty and insight into human nature. Sentences that made me laugh until my stomach hurt, or cry until I had no tears left. A total emotional adventure was created by Darcie Chan in the Mill River Redemption. With twists and turns on every page, this book never had a dull moment, and left me hungry for more long after I'd turned the final page.

The novel crosses genres from Family to Chick Lit to Mystery and Cosy Reading, incorporating beautiful life lessons and advice that I will take to the grave.

"Loving someone unconditionally is never pointless. Even when it results in your getting hurt, you can still learn from the experience." 

If you are interested in following the remainder of the blog tour, or seeing past reviews for The Mill River Redemption, check out the schedule below!

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Review: White Hot Kiss by Jennifer Armentrout

A while back I received a review copy of White Hot Kiss from Harlequin Teen and Netgalley, however at the time I was in France, then California and finally in Turkey. I've spent the past few months travelling and whilst I have had my kindle, my internet connection has been pretty sparse, thus I have been unable to really commit to posting my reviews until this week. 
I have so many books that I want to talk about, and so many books that I want you to talk about! 

Today I'm going to post my review of White Hot Kiss.
I feel as this is a Jennifer Armentrout book, multiple GIFs of Supernatural are appropriate throughout the entirety of my post. If you are a fan of hers, you will understand why. 

Dean's winking at you, Jen.


One kiss could be the last. 

Seventeen-year-old Layla just wants to be normal. But with a kiss that kills anything with a soul, she's anything but normal. Half demon, half gargoyle, Layla has abilities no one else possesses. 

Raised among the Wardens—a race of gargoyles tasked with hunting demons and keeping humanity safe—Layla tries to fit in, but that means hiding her own dark side from those she loves the most. Especially Zayne, the swoon-worthy, incredibly gorgeous and completely off-limits Warden she's crushed on since forever. 

Then she meets Roth—a tattooed, sinfully hot demon who claims to know all her secrets. Layla knows she should stay away, but she's not sure she wants to—especially when that whole no-kissing thing isn't an issue, considering Roth has no soul. 

But when Layla discovers she's the reason for the violent demon uprising, trusting Roth could not only ruin her chances with Zayne…it could brand her a traitor to her family. Worse yet, it could become a one-way ticket to the end of the world

My Review: 

So first and foremost, I want to start off by saying Oh My Gods, Holy Alien Babies, Son of a Sinner, this book was incredible.
I'm giving this book a 1,000,000 out of 5 star rating for how unbelievable AWESOME this story is.
I am one of the people that run the Jennifer Armentrout approved official Luxen Army fan page, and I am totally in love with the Lux series and Jen herself. Daemon Black? He is the definition of sexy, however I have to admit I have been swayed to the Sins of Roth in White Hot Kiss. This book surpassed all my expectations, and overtook Obsidian for the number one spot of my books of all time (except for the Bible).
Bravo Jen.
The first installment of The Dark Elements series introduces us to some amazingly lovable, and pretty damn sexy characters. Layla, the offspring of a demon and a warden, is introduced on the first page, and the story is written from her point of view. Now, with the likes of Katy and Alex being penned by Armentrout, I was expecting yet another kick-ass sassy character, and I wasn't disappointed. Infact, I was shocked at how incredible Layla is. She comes off as humble, yet confident. Beautiful, yet modest. Sarcastic, sassy and down-right awesome. Her character is shown to evolve throughout the first book, which is something I find a lot of authors actually miss out when they write their characters. They introduce a great character, however they aren't really that flawed or they have no room to grow throughout the series as the storyline progresses further. Layla starts off being pretty shut off and small minded about Demons. 
It is explained very early on that Layla was raised by Wardens. What are wardens, you ask? Well they're these guardian stone angel like creatures that are kind of like ninjas crossed with police men that have super powers, and they're on Earth because of the increasing demon population that is walking among humans, and whilst the humans have no idea that demons are actually real and on earth, they are fully aware of the wardens. What people don't know, including Layla's best friends, is that Layla is in fact half warden herself.

Yep, somehow, even though the human race know there are actual Angel creatures on earth, they still haven't connected that Demons exist. It's not really that far of a stretch, so this kind of confused me, however Jennifer managed to incorporate this piece of information so it didn't actually matter that much that humans have yet to connect Demons with Angels. To be honest, I think it's actually something that could happen, as the human race is pretty unaccepting of anything that different from us. We kill our own kind in really unnecessary wars all the time, so overlooking Demons is probably something we would do, as we wouldn't  be able to really accept the concept very easily or happily at all. 
I do however find it ridiculous that people haven't realised Layla isn't human - she's the only "human" to have ever, in the history of ever, lived with the Wardens. Come on. That's really not that difficult to connect the dots with. Ah well. 
In the next book, I would really, really love to see more interaction with Layla and her human best friends. There was a bit in this book, but I'd love to see more. I really enjoyed reading Katy's relationship with her mum and all of her human friends at school within the Lux series, so that's something I'm hoping Jen will expand on throughout the series.

Within White Hot Kiss, there are two, unbelievably wonderful smokin' hot men. Zayne - a warden, and brother like figure to Layla that she has been crushing on since forever, is tall and blonde and what I would expect an All-American boy to look like, or maybe one of those Abercrombie and Fitch models with rock hard abs (he is made of stone). On top of that, he's sweet and funny and kind and smart and just beautiful.

Enter Roth.

Roth is possibly the hottest, sexiest, most delicious book character I have ever had the fortune of meeting in my dreams. Despite the fact that he's a Demon, he's pretty perfect. Except, the fact that he's a Demon really doesn't phase me, because honestly? He's also sweet and he very clearly cares about Layla.
I wish I was Layla.

The story, as it evolves, shows us deeper levels of the characters, making them realistic and very likable, which is something that I need to make me fall in love with a book series. You can connected with these characters, and Jennifer Armentrout makes the reader feel as though they are there, living the life of Layla and experiencing everything she goes through. All the ups, the downs, the pain and the gain. Her first kiss, and slightly more. The hurt and joy she feels. All of her emotions are twisted in a powerful literary whirlwind and thrown right in your face. And I loved it.

Within the book, there are some beautiful quotes, that make you want to re-evaluate your relationships, and basically your entire life up until that point. White Hot Kiss is a work of incredible genius, and I would expect nothing less from an author such as Jennifer Armentrout.

I don't want to give away any spoilers, but I will say this.
You need to read this book. It's not a suggestion, it's an order.
If you are female, male, transexual, transgender, white, black, green, yellow, a glowy alien, old, young, a time lord, or anything in between, you need to read this book.
White Hot Kiss is a must-read for fans of books in general. Books of any age, type or genre. Forget To Kill A Mockingbird, or Jane Austen and read White Hot Kiss, a work of literature so great, it's in need of its own class.  

The only downside is, once you've read it, you have to wait until October for the next installment, Stone Cold Touch, to be released.

I am certainly counting down the days on my calendar until Stone Cold Touch.
Are you?

Friday, 22 August 2014

ARC Review: Trial By Fire by Josephine Angelini

Last month I received an Advanced Readers Copy of Trial By Fire by Josephine Angelini.

As many of you may know, Josephine Angelini is one of my favourite authors in all of history. Her Starcrossed series is one which I have read multiple times, and I fall in love with it in a new way every time I read it. Angelini is such an incredible author, and I was so excited for Trial by Fire to be released. 

Can you imagine my reaction when I was sent an ARC?

It went something like this:

When I got the book in the mail, my first thought was how beautiful the cover it.
I know it's just a proof, but it is gorgeous.

Outside box/cover

The book:

Back of box/cover:

Isn't that just the most incredibly stunning cover you've ever seen? No? Well, you need your eyes checked.


"This world is trying to kill Lily Proctor. Her life-threatening allergies keep her from enjoying many of the experiences that other teenagers take for granted...which is why she is determined to enjoy her first (and perhaps only) high-school party. But Lily's life never goes according to plan, and after a humiliating incident in front of half her graduating class Lily wishes she could just disappear.

Suddenly Lily is in a different Salem - one overrun with horrifying creatures and ruled by powerful women called Crucibles. Strongest and cruellest of all the Crucibles is Lillian . . . Lily's identical other self in this alternate universe. This new version of her world is terrifyingly sensual, and Lily is soon overwhelmed by new experiences.

Lily realizes that what makes her weak at home is exactly what makes her extraordinary in New Salem. It also puts her life in danger. Thrown into a world she doesn't understand, Lily is torn between responsibilities she can't hope to shoulder alone, and a love she never expected.

But how can Lily be the saviour of this world when she is literally her own worst enemy?"

My Review:

"I also remember what I owe for my life - what I did to keep it. I remember what I must do, even if it makes me the villain of my own story" - page 37

When I first heard about Trial By Fire, I was so excited. I am a huge fan of witches, magic and all things supernatural. The synopsis itself tied my stomach in knots with anticipation of reading this book, so it's safe to say I had pretty high hopes for not only the book, but the characters and Josephine Angelini herself. I had no idea how she could top the Starcrossed series, and I was slightly worried that the first book in the Worldwalker Trilogy would fall short of my expectations.
From the very first page, my nerves were calmed and my expectations met. For the first two chapters, the book follows modern-day real world Lily Proctor, who is dying of her allergies. In the very first line, we are introduced to this incredibly sick girl, running in to the girls bathroom at school in need of vomiting intensely. Not the most pleasant of introductions, but for some reason, it shone Lily in an endearing and humbling light. 
From the first chapter, it became obvious how much family would be a vital part within this book, and that is something that I adore. Family is the most precious gift we are given in this world, and when we lose our family, that is when we are truly alone. Angelini manages to create family bonds throughout all of her universes within the World Walker series, talking about how no matter what universe they are in, there isn't a single Juliet (Lily's sister) that doesn't love Lily. It is very clear to me when reading that Lily's Mum, a diagnosed schizophrenic in one world, is actually able to see through the dimensions and see other versions of the people around her, whilst everyone else just assumes that she is crazy. 
As the book unfolds, the story grows more complex and fascinating. I felt compelled to read page after page, even into the early hours of the following morning. Bravo Josephine Angelini. It is very rare that I will give up my precious sleep for anything less than genius, and in all honesty, genius is what this book is.
Within the writing, Angelini has included little gems of writing and quotes that rival the likes of J K Rowling.

"She'll be back."
"How do you know?"
"Because you can't run from yourself forever." - page 51

This is one of my favourite lines from the whole book. It is completely true, because even in a world without magic, eventually you have to stop running from yourself. You need to step up and accept who you are, and be proud of it. 
A conversation I regularly have with my friends is about fictional boyfriends and relationships within book series. I find it extraordinary that someway, somehow, authors can make us fall in love with a boy that doesn't exist. In some books, I'm not that bothered about the romance or the love. I really don't "ship" Katniss and Peeta, or Katniss and Gale. I didn't fall in love with either of them, however I completely fell in love with Rowan, and even more so with the relationship between Lily and Rowan. With every page turn, I was desperate for romance, desperate for the relationship to be taken that much further. His character infuriated me, made me laugh, cry, scream and at one point, my ARC even took a flying trip across the room I was so aggravated. And honestly, I loved it. Angelini took me on an emotional rollercoaster, turning me inside out and making me question everything I thought I knew about relationships and love.
Trial By Fire is, a Doctor Who style concept book, with magic and parallel universes. It is a must read for fans of Harry Potter and Doctor Who.
The series revolves around the concept that there are an unlimited number of parallel universes, each one slightly different from another. This is a theory that has actually been explored by many scientists before, and I am so fascinated by the concept that I couldn't wait to start a series that revolved around something that I am always eager to delve further into. Josephine Angelini successfully managed to take something that has been argued over for decades and turn it into this wonderful mashup of science, fiction and magic. 
In every book that I read, there are always certain lines and paragraphs that make me desperate to read more and finish the book, and this was certainly no exception. I finished the entire book in one sitting, and it took me just over three hours. The time flew by, and as it did, the book crept its way up my top ten list, surpassing the Covenant series by Jennifer Armentrout. 
In under 400 pages, Angelini manages to pack everything that any reader could ever want into a perfect combination of ingredients, forming what is without a shadow of a doubt the book of the year. Action, adventure, magic, science, romance and family bonds are all present within this mind-blowingly awesome roller coaster ride of a book. 

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

YA Author Event: Books to Bond Over

In Santa Monica Public Library on July 8th 2014, I attended my very first Author Panel Event.

I had been invited to the event through internet blogging friends, and was incredibly excited about the prospect of attending, especially when I discovered which authors would be there!

Melissa De La Cruz, Margaret Stohl, Andrew Smith, Ava Dellaira, Holly Goldberg Sloan and John Corey Whaley were the 6 incredible authors who would take part in the panel, with signings to follow. 

I am ashamed to admit that before tonight I had never heard of Ava Dellaira, Holly Goldberg Sloan or John Corey Whaley, however after tonight I am so eager to read their books, post reviews and have 3 new authors to fangirl over! *squeal*!

I had however heard of Andrew Smith, Margaret Stohl and Melissa De La Cruz.

Andrew Smith has been raved about all over the world, especially in my part of the country in England. I have not read any of his works, however I am eager to read Grasshopper Jungle. It sounds like an incredibly CRAZY and whacky concept for a book - I'm not even sure I can describe it as a concept - and it just makes me all the more excited to read it. I have a copy at home, so as soon as I get back to England, which is July 22nd, I will be taking a long shower-bath (showers are too short, baths make me feel dirty) and reading the book in one glorious sitting. 

Margaret Stohl, co-author of Beautiful Creatures and author of Icons and Idols, is a beautiful person inside and out. With such a star-studded reputation under her belt, I wasn't entirely sure what to expect from her on the panel, but she was definitely the life and soul of the party. I HAVE read Beautiful Creatures, and whilst it took me a little time to get into, the concept and writing was beautiful and I am determined to eventually finish the series (at some point haha!). I will however be reading Icons very shortly, because it's about aliens in a sort of post apocalyptic world (ohmygosh I love aliens and dystopian style books), and a review will shortly follow.

Melissa De La Cruz was the author I was most excited to meet and hear speak. I have followed her career ever since picking up Blue Bloods many years ago. I still feel such an emotional attachment to Schuyler, Jack, Mimi, Ollie, Kingsley, Bliss, and everyone else in the series. They evolved with me as characters, and so when I discovered I was able to meet one of the most perfectly genius authors to have ever existed - more genius than J K Rowling - I had to jump at the chance. I was not disappointed.

Holly and Ava

Andrew and John

I fangirled so hard over Melissa and Margaret's relationship. SO AWESOME.

Melissa De La Cruz is currently working on a book; the prequel to the upcoming Disney movie Descendants. It sounds like such an awesome concept, however she said she is already receiving some preeeetty crazy fan mail from hardcore Disney fanatics, with one demanding to know "what are you doing with Mulan? Mulan is MINE!". Not sure how i'd cope with that, but it sounds pretty funny.

John Corey Whaley is the author of Noggin and Where Things Come Back which won the 2012 Printz Award - the YA literature equivalent of the Oscar's! Such a prestigious honor, and he definitely deserves it.
The introduction of "Mad Scientist" Andrew Smith, author of Grasshopper Jungle included the opinion that Andrew also deserves a Printz award for the crazy writings that somehow came together in one book. Margaret Stohl swiftly pitted Whaley and Smith against each other, forwarding the question of which novel deserves the Printz award more. It must be said that if Margaret ever feels like a career change, she has a knack for Stand Up Comedy!

During the discussion, Margaret managed to squeeze in that her ambition used to be to be an Astronaut. When she accidentally moved to Las Vegas (as you do) she freaked out that she couldn't be anything she used to be - not a ballerina, or a violinist or an astronaut. She fixated her efforts on becoming an astronaut once and for all, and obsessively called NASA (totally normal right?).

SOMEHOW she got from that to being a successful author and an amazing writer, which I am pretty glad for. Her topic of discussion then settled into something slightly less crazy; her new book.
Aside from Beautiful Creatures - which is the book that I knew her for - she wrote Icons and the sequel Idols. Icons is a love-hate story, set in dystopian post-apocalyptic Los Angeles, and follows 4 teenagers during an alien occupation. Sounds awesome right? Discussing the second book was incredible. Idols is set in South East Asia, as part of the book contract states that Stohl will write each book of the trilogy in a different country. Most of Idols was written in a jungle in Thailand. Stohl is an avid traveler, and discussed her experiences, saying she learnt how to give elephants a bath, feed them bananas, and visited the places within her book. Stohl went through most of the experiences except the obvious alien invasion.
"I have never had the experience where the book just manifested itself. Everything is a smell and a taste and a color and a breeze. You don't have to work. It was incredible"
Growing up, Margaret was intrigued by the concept of what we worship, people constantly looking for hope, and the idea of false idols.

Ava, a debut author, is the writer of Love Letters To The Dead. When describing the book and what it was all about, it dawned on me how original and incredible the concept was. I have never read nor heard of anything like it. A big theme of the night was "elements" within the story. Ava explained that she has an avid interest in pop culture, and how it can be a safe place for people who feel alone or isolated or have had difficult experiences. In sharing something you are able to connect with people around the world, despite your obvious differences. Another important concept to Ava was how you can go on living without the person who matters the most to you. She described this element as being a personal journey, as she wrote the book a couple of years after losing her Mum. Within the book, Laurel - the main character - writes letters to deceased artists and musicians of pop culture, such as Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse, and feels a strong emotional connection to each of them and discovers that everyone has some sort of lesson to teach. Laurel is able to recover from her loss in the book, the same way writing the book helped Ava to move on from her loss.

From the concepts revealed in Ava's explanation sparked a discussion about Taylor Swift and her recent article in the Wall Street Journal, with this paragraph drawing a comparison to Ava's conceptual book and what Taylor is writing about:

"The way I see it, fans view music the way they view their relationships. Some music is just for fun, a passing fling (the ones they dance to at clubs and parties for a month while the song is a huge radio hit, that they will soon forget they ever danced to). Some songs and albums represent seasons of our lives, like relationships that we hold dear in our memories but had their time and place in the past." - Taylor Swift, Wall Street Journal

Margaret then suggested that we send a copy of Ava's incredible book to Taylor Swift, however the conclusion was drawn that Taylor would probably take it as a threat: 

Love Letters To The Almost Dead

Seriously, I can not put in to words how hilarious this group of authors were.

Holly's explanation of her book was brief but touching. She discussed how hers was a book about California, and it was a metaphor for a time and a place and a change in American culture. Her book contains serious themes, however she was hoping that it comes across as a comedy. I have never before read Holly's books, however I won an ARC of her newest release last night, titled Just Call My Name, and I will definitely be reading and reviewing this incredibly soon!

Melissa De La Cruz, one of my top three authors of all time, spoke about her book and I just wanted to run to the nearest store and buy it, despite having no money!
Her new book, Ring and The Crown, came about when she was reading the Ambassadors (i think that was the name), which is a book all about rich girls wanting to marry British Lords. Melissa wanted to write about how being a Princess isn't all it's cracked up to be, and had the original setting in an alternate history of the war of Independence, however she decided against it, and created a Franco-British Empire. This book contains magic, wonder and all round amazing literature, and is currently top of my TBR shelf! She continued the discussion by saying the book follows 4 girls, all eager to win the ring and the crown in the Court of St James. Melissa apparently gets her kicks and giggles from torturing and tormenting her characters, which is her element and spark. Sounds creepy, but with the way she writes, who cares!

John Corey Whaley discussed his newest book Noggin, which is all about a dying teenager who volunteers to have his head frozen, and then have his head reattached to a different body in 5 years. The punch line is that this teenager doesn't believe it will happen in 5 short years, however it does. The world is not much different from the one we live in today, however to someone who goes to sleep in one year and wakes up in another, the small changes are shocking. The book came about from Whaley's combination of complete desperation and needing something to write after the first book. His first book won several prestigious awards, thus Whaley felt the need to write something worthy of capturing his audiences attention a second time round. This book sounds absurd but wonderfully written, and the concept is so crazy it just might work.

Andrew Smith's book on the other hand is just a collaboration of one insane idea after the other. When asked what his book, Grasshopper Jungle, is all about and the concepts behind his idea, he said with complete sincerity and seriousness that he honestly had no idea what his book is about. Smith lives in a very rural remote area, where he can't even get mail, and he admitted that he goes running every day (probably because there is not much else to do!). The title is, I am assuming, in reference to all the grasshoppers that he hears when he runs; Grasshopper Jungle. According to Andrew Smith, the title of his book has drawn people to the conclusion that he loves bugs, when in reality he hates them! I can't blame him, bugs are gross, however I can see the reasons why people would make that assumptions. Fun fact: Grasshopper Jungle was never intended to be published. Smith quit writing and fired his agent, planning to never publish another work, and thus created Grasshopper Jungle for himself. I believe that this is truly the best way to do anything - because you love your own work, not because you want the money or attention. If that is what you want from writing, or any other job, in the end it's not worth it.

At the end of the discussion, there was the option to ask questions, and I put forward something I was honestly curious about.
I am 19, I write a YA book blog and I'm an avid reader of YA books, more so than any other genre. From this, I have received a fair bit of backlash, with people assuming that I am dumb or stupid or just downright ridiculous for reading books intended for teenagers. I was curious to see whether authors have received similar treatment in their writing of YA.

Their responses were incredible, and I will be dedicating an entire blog post to that subject, as I feel it is something that shouldn't just be thrown on the end of a post.
Stay tuned for that post to follow.

Ultimately, this event was one of the best nights of my life. I have never before experienced such an honest, open and in depth panel of authors who wanted to be there and truly loved their work.

Hats off to all of you, and I wish you luck in your future works,


Friday, 27 June 2014

Review of The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau

Title: The Testing
Author: Joelle Charbonneau
Release Date: August 1st 2013



Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Isn’t that what they say? But how close is too close when they may be one in the same? 

The Seven Stages War left much of the planet a charred wasteland. The future belongs to the next generation’s chosen few who must rebuild it. But to enter this elite group, candidates must first pass The Testing—their one chance at a college education and a rewarding career. 

Cia Vale is honored to be chosen as a Testing candidate; eager to prove her worthiness as a University student and future leader of the United Commonwealth. But on the eve of her departure, her father’s advice hints at a darker side to her upcoming studies--trust no one. 

But surely she can trust Tomas, her handsome childhood friend who offers an alliance? Tomas, who seems to care more about her with the passing of every grueling (and deadly) day of the Testing. To survive, Cia must choose: love without truth or life without trust.

My Review

I want to start by saying that it has been a while since I read a dystopian fiction book.
After the hype of Hunger Games, YA dystopian books blew up in the world of Hollywood and the lives of readers everywhere. For a while, I was caught up in the whirlwind of books that was Divergent, Enders Game, The Maze Runner and every other book that is, in reality, just a variation on the same concept. I became quickly bored and thus moved into the world of paranormal romance, vampires, Gods and Goddesses, aliens, and of course, cheesy chick-lit.
However I have recently overwhelmed my brain with too much of the same and decided to read something else. Currently being in California, I have enjoyed being outside with my kindle and just binge-reading anything and everything I find that seems remotely interesting.
A few months ago I spent a fair amount of money on books (I will not say how much because although I loved getting all those new books, the number is slightly too large to be deemed appropriate to spend in one go), and in my one-click-spree I purchased a book called The Testing.
Being a dystopian book, I quickly put it on my "to read at a later date definitely not soon" pile along with the Legends series and Article 5. 

THAT was my first mistake.

So, in my binge-read fest I decided to try another dystopian book. "Maybe this one will prove me wrong" I thought.

Firstly, congratulations to Joelle Charbonneau for writing a book that instantly made my Top 3 books of ALL time, and secondly; THANK YOU for proving me wrong.
As soon as I started reading, I was hooked. I read the entire thing in one sitting, taking me just over 3 hours (my standard reading time if I am in love with the book). Once it was over, I had a serious lust and deep burning desire for the second book in the trilogy, Independent Study, and spent what little money I had on purchasing the sequel. I must say that I am pretty hard-up at the moment, however the book was so incredible that I couldn't imagine going another day let alone 3 weeks until I read it. 
Many of the quotes from reviews, articles and other bloggers stated that this is a must-read for fans of the Hunger Games, whilst others said things such as "Hunger Games meets Divergent in this fast-paced, thrilling story". That is true. If you enjoyed the Hunger Games, Divergent or any other dystopian book, the chances are you will like this novel too. If you didn't, you will probably still enjoy this book due to it's unbelievably genius writing, creativity and originality. 
This book is the best dystopian that I have ever read. It knocks the Hunger Games out of the park. There is no "hype" or build-up surrounding this book, meaning that I was able to form my own opinions without those of others clouding my judgement. 
It became clear quickly that Joelle Charbonneau was indeed influenced by the writings of Suzanne Collins and Veronica Roth, as there were aspects of the Hunger Games within the book, set in the classic "dystopian" themed setting. The main character is a female, there is a love story but it is not the main aspect of the book, The Hunger Games districts are called the colonies - the students are brought to Tosu City for The Testing, the same way the Hunger Games competitors are brought to the Capitol, and ultimately you either succeed or you die.
However, for me, that is where I draw the line at similarities.
I loved that the protagonist of the story was female, similar to the HG and Divergent, however in both those books I connected more with the male characters than the females. I also find that in real life, I seem to make friends more easily with men than women. The Testing presented Cia in a way that made me want to be her friend. It made me want to be a better person, seek her approval and gain her trust. I have never before felt that in any book I have ever read, and thus instantly Charbonneau sets the stage for a flawless performance.
Similar to the Hunger Games, there was a love story that was prominent however it was not essential. I was expecting the "love triangle" - 2 boys after 1 girl, and was pleasantly surprised when this was not the case. There was absolutely no romance in the first half of the book, bar some mediocre flirting between Cia and Tomas, and when romance did develop, I had seen the characters relationships develop as friends who trust each other, into romance and finally love. These were characters who had not just met at the Testing, but had grown up as children, studied together, danced, been in the same classes and had always been "friendly" but had never realised the potential for more until they were sent together for the Testing. The way the love story develops instantly makes me like Charbonneau's writing, as it steps outside of the conventional box into a class all of its own.
Whether intended or not, Joelle Charbonneau's book also passed The Bechdel Test - normally used to rate films however I am applying it to a novel within this context (obviously). The Bechdel Test requires that two females must talk to each other about something OTHER than a boy/man. A lot of novels do pass this test, however only by a few lines. The Testing passes with flying colours! There are huge passages where Cia talks to her mother, Zandri, Annalise, Ryme and other female characters about education, hopes, dreams - nothing romantic or male orientated. 
My main love of this book is that the competition was intellectual. Smart people for the win! To me, High School and University has always felt a bit like a competition, however the consequences of The Testing are much more severe. One of my favourite quotes from the book is by Dr Barnes: "Wrong answers will be penalised". This could simply sound like marks would be deducted however when you read the book you quickly discover that they mean something far more sinister. Some people have said in their reviews that they believe Cia is too smart - I do not agree. She simply works hard but obviously had an originally high level of intellect and logic reasoning skills. There are many people similar to Cia's intellect within the real world, and I for one find it refreshing that a female character is portrayed in a book to be smarter than the men around her, despite how they may have been brought up. Hermione Granger is really the only other female character that I feel can match Cia's intellect, however she is the sidekick to Harry who always seems to get the credit, whilst Cia is permitted to work independently and prove her worth to everyone around her who may have underestimated her abilities.
This book also promoted the underdogs - Cia, a young, smart, independent female from a colony which is often overlooked is given the chance to prove herself in a battle of the wits with 108 other students. They are told early on that only 20 will progress to the University to study to become the future leaders of their country. Her father was one of those who passed his tests, however when Cia was chosen he informed her of the horrors he suspected took place when he was there - all memories are wiped clean following the testing. I loved watching Cia progress and evolve as a character, and show that just because she wasn't from a big city didn't mean that she wasn't as well educated or intellectually talented.
Cia quickly became one of my female characters of all time. I loved her genuine kind heartedness. There was no malicious intentions within any of her actions, despite the cruelty of those around her. She proves time after time that she was raised well and simply wanted to help others; that she did not seek leadership for the attention, but to change the world in a positive manner. Cia was also one of the few who did not lose herself or her values within the competition. When forced into dealing with unpleasant things that put her life in danger, Cia acted upon common sense and instinct won out, however Charbonneau managed to show Cia's guilt and pain at having to do things she never wanted to or believed herself capable of, and thus showed that Cia is only human, and flawed like the rest of us. 
Like I mentioned earlier, I want to strive to be more like Cia. Charbonneau does not focus at all on her looks, in fact I am not 100% certain what Cia actually looks like. It is more about her personality - her intellect, hard working nature with honest, genuine and kind intentions in all that she does. Within the book she alerts Brick, another character, to possible danger in the team working round. This was not something that she had to do, or was encouraged to do, however she obviously has a conscience and was not comfortable with the weight of someone's death on her shoulders, whether she was directly responsible for the consequences or not.
Cia is cunning and wise, without being bragging. To me, she is the definition of a character truly defined by inner beauty. 

I raise my glass and my literary praise to Joelle Charbonneau on creating the perfect representation of what a young woman in todays society should really be. 

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Cover Reveal: The Perfect Imperfection by Melissa Rolka




  The Perfect Imperfection is a standalone in the Perfect Series, it’s a novella about Matt and Quinn, who we first meet in The Perfect Distraction, Book One in The Perfect Series and continue to read about in The Perfect Emotion, Book Two in The Perfect Series.

Quinn Danner always appeared to have the perfect life full of big dreams, high expectations and popularity.  Living in perfection has always been harder than she ever made it appear.  Throughout her life she always found ways to rebel against the pressures she felt from friends, teachers and most of all her parents.  Unfortunately, these actions never benefited her and left her feeling empty.  She never experienced a first love until college when she met Matt Preston.

Matt came into Quinn’s life sweeping her off her feet and opening her eyes to possibilities she never dreamt of.  Both looked beyond their pasts and imperfections.  Soon their love was filled with only perfection.  While at college they were in a bubble that no one could burst, but when the realities of life away from college hit they separated.  Soon thereafter, they fall to their old ways, neither ever really letting go of their love or moving forward.

Now almost two years later, after avoiding each other at all costs and numerous failed attempts to move on, they reunite in the most unexpected way.  Matt’s determined to reconnect and show Quinn their love still exists, but Quinn’s life is filled with complications that may not align them to be together.

Matt and Quinn found love once, bonded and unbreakable until the strains and pressures of life broke them.  Can they find each other again and reunite their love?




about the author


Melissa Rolka grew up in the Chicagoland area all of her childhood and has always had a love of writing. She started by keeping a journal at a young age and then in high school she started writing poetry. A couple poems were published anonymously. Then in college she majored in Philosophy, which required lots and lots of writing. After graduating from Marquette University she traveled west to Los Angeles. There she worked for the Writers Guild of America and found herself submerged in the writers world. She worked on small writings, but never pursued them. On the side she became involved with a small theater group. Eventually she made her way back to the Midwest, where her heart belongs, and worked in business for several years. She found love, got married and has two beautiful children. Being at home has allowed her to keep following her love of reading and writing. The Perfect Distraction is her first full length novel. A second continuation of this story is in the works with hopes for a third. When Melissa is not writing she is caring for, playing with and loving her two kids. In between taking care of her family and writing she almost always has her nose buried in her Kindle.

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Saturday, 3 May 2014

My Mechanical Angel Cover Reveal

Title: My Mechanical Angel
Author: Harmony Lawson 
Genre: Young Adult Reveal Host: Lady Amber's Tours
Synopsis: The small Wild West farming community of Whitcomb was afraid of Seraphton, the shining metropolis that lies along the horizon. Reverend Archibald preached that the city was forbidden, an abomination to the world, and evil demons lurk inside despite the celestial name. Emmaline had a feeling there was more to Seraphton than the Reverend let on. Emmaline Fortenbury had always felt out of place in Whitcomb and wondered if Seraphton was really like he said. He preached like he held a grudge. What were the secrets of Seraphton and how did it connect with Reverend Archibald?
Then a stranger comes to town and the meeting changes her life. Aleksander Galloway was feared by the townspeople, but she found him fascinating. She wanted more out of life for herself. She wanted the chance to explore the world, and he seemed to be the man to help her. He had silver metal wings and a mechanical eye. He was handsome in a way that wasn’t like the townspeople of Whitcomb. He was sophisticated, educated, and very interesting. How can their love grow when their two towns collide? Can their love bring everyone together for peace?
Harmony Lawson was born on a naval base in San Diego, California. Currently, she and her family live in Northern California in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Her education is in drawing, painting, and writing. When she read her first romance novel at age 16, she became a hopeless romantic.  Harmony is fascinated by angels, and she incorporates research in angels, the Nephilim, and fallen angels into her fictional stories. Many of the descriptions in her books reflect actual documentation found in religious documents.  While she has endured many hardships in life, she believes life will be better tomorrow. Life has its ups and downs, trials and tribulations, and Heaven and Hell. She believes the bad times are a test to prove a person's worth. Her books reflect on that concept. 
A little something extra about me:
I write fantasy/romance for young adults...seems to be the voice that fits me the best. My first book "Apocalypse of Angels: Seeing Angels" was published January 2013 (It was published under a different name in 2009 through iUniverse-the company wasn't working for me)...and I'm told I'm doing well for a first time published author---but I'm still learning the industry. I'm currently halfway finished with the first draft my 3rd novel (8 novels planned all together: not all are in the series: and my ideas keep growing). I've also dabbled a little with children's fiction, I've written and illustrated 3 stories, they aren't published as of yet. I've been writing since I was 16 (poems mainly) and dabbling in art since I was 4. I started writing seriously when I was 20. Most of my experience is self-taught but I have taken correspondence courses for writing children's fiction and I've taken several classes for art. My series was mentioned in the Sacramento Bee in May 2013 and I've been interviewed on our local radio station, KNCO.
“Who’s there?” I say trying to keep my voice calm.
No answer.
“If someone’s there, you’d better let me know,” I call out in a warning tone. I almost sound like Ma for a minute. I can’t help but smile at the thought. “I’ll go get my Pa’s gun!”
Still there is no answer. Maybe it is all in my head, and it is just the wind of the storm blowing things around. I turn to leave, but I’m stopped by an unknown voice that sends a shiver up my spine.
“Good evening, miss, and please don’t get your Pa’s gun,” his voice is soft and calming. I am not afraid of this voice. I grab a pitchfork just in case. I’m not dumb. A girl needs to be cautious. I turn around to see where the voice was coming from.
“You just come out of the darkness, and we shall see.” My voice wavers a little bit, but I hold the pitchfork and try to keep it steady. I don’t want him to see me shaking. I’m not sure if I’m shaking from fear or from being chilled. He is a stranger, after all. I’m not used to having strangers around.
He steps out of the shadows and into the light of the lantern. His dark features are beautiful and instantly has me enthralled, and I know where he comes from. His skin is pale and seems to glow in the lantern light. The light is casting strange shadows on his face. He definitely isn’t from anywhere around here. I’ve been raised to believe the inhabitants of Seraphton are devils, but this tall gentleman looks anything but normal. His dark brown hair is styled in a short spiky way. He is wearing a blue shirt, a shiny black vest with black pants with silver zippers all over, and black leather boots. He looks quite soaked from the rain. One glance from his dark eyes makes my heart do a flip-flop. There is something different about his eyes. And his silver metal wings on his back certainly interest me. How intriguing. I wonder if the wings are attached to his back. Who is this man?
Is this a coincidence or what? Here I am tossing and turning about Seraphton all night, and now one of its inhabitants is standing in front of me. Is this fate?
He steps closer, and I hold the pitchfork tightly. He stops and holds up his hands. “It’s ok, Miss. I’m not going to hurt you. I just crashed into your field, and with the strength of the storm, I had to seek shelter. My name is Aleksander Galloway.”