10/22/2014

Waiting on Wednesday #87: Black Dove, White Raven by Elizabeth Wein



Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature created by Jill at Breaking the Spine. This is where you showcase an upcoming release you're anxiously awaiting!

This week, I'm waiting on:
Black Dove, White Raven by Elizabeth Wein.

Expected Publication: February 3, 2015.
by: Disney-Hyperion.

Goodreads Synopsis:
A new historical thriller masterpiece from New York Times bestselling and award-winning author Elizabeth Wein

Emilia and Teo's lives changed in a fiery, terrifying instant when a bird strike brought down the plane their stunt pilot mothers were flying. Teo's mother died immediately, but Em's survived, determined to raise Teo according to his late mother's wishes-in a place where he won't be discriminated against because of the color of his skin. But in 1930s America, a white woman raising a black adoptive son alongside a white daughter is too often seen as a threat.

Seeking a home where her children won't be held back by ethnicity or gender, Rhoda brings Em and Teo to Ethiopia, and all three fall in love with the beautiful, peaceful country. But that peace is shattered by the threat of war with Italy, and teenage Em and Teo are drawn into the conflict. Will their devotion to their country, its culture and people, and each other be their downfall or their salvation?

In the tradition of her award-winning and bestselling Code Name Verity, Elizabeth Wein brings us another thrilling and deeply affecting novel that explores the bonds of friendship, the resilience of young pilots, and the strength of the human spirit.


Why I'm excited:
I am absolutely in love with Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire so I am ecstatic to have another book from Elizabeth Wein on the way! It sounds amazing, it's historical, it has diversity and war and especially friendship - which Wein does amazingly. I can't wait!

What are you waiting on this week?

10/21/2014

Blog Tour Review: Earth & Sky by Megan Crewe


Earth & Sky by Megan Crewe.

Series: Earth & Sky #1
Published: October 28, 2014.
Published by: Razorbill Canada.
Source: Received an ARC for review purposes for the blog tour.

Goodreads Synopsis:
Seventeen-year-old Skylar has been haunted for as long as she can remember by fleeting yet powerful sensations that something is horribly wrong. But despite the panic attacks tormenting her, nothing ever happens, and Sky’s beginning to think she’s crazy. Then she meets a mysterious, otherworldly boy named Win and discovers the shocking truth her premonitions have tapped into: our world no longer belongs to us. For thousands of years, Earth has been at the mercy of alien scientists who care nothing for its inhabitants and are using us as the unwitting subjects of their time-manipulating experiments. Win belongs to a rebel faction seeking to put a stop to it, and he needs Skylar’s help--but with each shift in the past, the very fabric of reality is unraveling, and soon there may be no Earth left to save.

My Review:
I really enjoy Megan Crewe's books so I was very excited to read Earth & Sky. Science fiction is not what I usually gravitate towards, but between a unique main character, some historical fiction woven in, and strong logic behind the science fiction, I was quite impressed.

Earth & Sky combines a science fiction base with flashes of historical fiction, which I absolutely loved. I am a big fan of historical fiction, so having Skylar and Win jump to different time periods on their quest -- and to get to explore these time period a bit, not just hop in, hop out -- was a lot of fun for me. I think Crewe did a wonderful job of trying to capture the feeling of each location and time period and I wish I could have spent more time in each of these places because I was enjoying that a lot.

When it comes to the actual time travel element that made those history visits possible, I was impressed with the logic. I'm sure more experiences sci-fi fans than I will have some questions for Crewe, but as a casual (but reasonably intelligent) sci-fi fan, I was able to follow along with the explanations and logic behind the time travel and the aliens' actions that were messing with Earth. I didn't pick up on any glaring errors or inconsistencies that would have pulled me out of the story or made it completely unbelievable, and I think that made a huge difference because I was able to suspend my disbelief when it came to the alien aspect since the science aspect lined up well. In this sense, it was very well executed.

I thought Skylar was a great character, especially in the way she dealt with the crazy that Win brought to her life. She isn't one of those immediately over-trusting girls that seem to have cropped up since Twilight's Bella; she is immediately suspicious of Win once he starts showing up more than is reasonable. She also doesn't accept his story right away; it takes some convincing and some hard proof to get her on board, which I really respected. It was also interesting to have a main character who is so into math, as that seems to be unusual in a lot of YA, and especially so because it is math on which her compulsion that keeps her grounded is based (I'm not sure that's exactly the correct way to put it, but basically she seems to struggle with a mental illness that is associated with the changes the alien scientists have been making to Earth and math helps her keep it from overwhelming her). Now, I'm definitely not a very well educated judge on portrayals of mental illness, but I think Crewe handled it well and respectfully, and the way she associated it with the conflict in the world, thus tying Skylar in, was smart.

One thing I did struggle a bit with was keeping the other characters straight. Some of them were easy enough to remember, but when it came to people who were largely grouped together, especially Skylar's friends, it wasn't easy to remember who was who. They could have been distinguished from one another more, though I think that would have taken more scenes with them, which weren't necessary for the plot. This wasn't a huge detractor for me, but something happens at the end with one of the friends and it didn't have the impact on me that I think it was meant to because I didn't even remember which of the friends it was by just her name. Overall this was only a small issue, though.

Earth & Sky has a lot going for it and while there are a few things that held me back from totally loving it, there is also plenty to praise, including the fact that it worked so well for just a casual sci-fi reader like myself. I really appreciated that and am interested to hear what other readers -- sci-fi fans and otherwise -- think!

10/17/2014

Blog Tour Guest Post: Kiss Kill Vanish by Jessica Martinez


Kiss Kill Vanish by Jessica Martinez.

Published: October 7, 2014.
Published by: Katherine Tegen Books.
More from the publisher here.

Goodreads Synopsis:
Valentina Cruz no longer exists.

One moment, she was wrapped in Emilio’s arms, melting into his kiss. The next, she was witnessing the unthinkable: a murder in cold blood, ordered by her father and carried out by her boyfriend. When Emilio pulled the trigger, Valentina disappeared. She made a split-second decision to shed her identity and flee her life of privilege, leaving the glittering parties and sultry nightlife of Miami far behind.

She doesn’t know how to explain to herself what she saw. All she knows now is that nothing she believed about her family, her heart, or Emilio’s love, was real.

She can change her name and deny her past, but Valentina can’t run from the truth. The lines between right and wrong, and trust and betrayal, will be blurred beyond recognition as she untangles the deceptions of the two men she once loved and races to find her own truth.

Jessica on Travelling for Research:

I’m a big believer in doing my research on the ground, so I usually travel to the places I write about. For KISS KILL VANISH, that meant going to both Miami and Montreal.

The Miami trip was painless—I live in Orlando and I used to live in Miami, so it was just a matter of driving down and wandering around my old haunts.

Montreal was a bigger deal, though. I convinced my husband to come along under the pretense of taking a last vacation before the baby was born (I was five months pregnant with our third at the time). It required all sorts of organizing and babysitting for the other two kids, but it was going to be fun and so worth it. And it would have been both of those things if the night before we left I hadn’t come down with one of the worst flus of my life. My entire body was screaming at me to crawl into bed and stay there for a week. I couldn’t, though. I’d purchased expensive plane tickets, made all the necessary arrangements, and this was my only opportunity to do the research.

So. I took the two absolutely worthless Tylenols you’re allowed to take while pregnant, got on the plane (sorry other passengers), and tromped around Montreal for five days. I’m not recommending this course of action—IF YOU ARE PREGNANT AND YOU HAVE THE FLU, PLEASE GO TO BED. I pretty much felt like death, and those days all blurred together in a feverish soup of exhaustion, Vicks, and snotty tears. Good thing I took lots of pictures and notes, because I barely remember a thing.

And since then I’ve found myself wondering just how weird my brain and body might be. Because Valentina is miserable when she’s wandering around Montreal, and is it possible my body was forcing me into taking the research to the next level? Could I have needed to be miserable too so I could really understand her?

Umm, let’s hope not. Because that’s crazy. My misery mirroring Valentina’s misery—that was just a lucky/unlucky research coincidence. (Next research trip, though, I’m making sure my main character is plenty happy before I buy the tickets.)

Wow. That is a little crazy! I'm sorry you had such a miserable time in Montreal... I hope you give it another chance because it's a gorgeous city! Maybe next time you could have a character who is happy to be there. ;)

Thanks, Jessica!

Buy the book: Amazon // Barnes & Noble // Chapters Indigo // IndieBound // The Book Depository

About the author:
Jessica Martinez is the author of young adult novels Virtuosity, The Space Between Us, The Vow, and Kiss Kill Vanish. She was born and raised in Calgary, Canada. As a child she played the violin, read books, and climbed trees incessantly. She went on to study English and music at Brigham Young University, and since then has been an English teacher, a symphony violinist, and a mother. She currently lives in Orlando, Florida with her husband and three children.

Find her here: Goodreads // Twitter // Website




Go back and check out all the other stops on the Kiss Kill Vanish Canadian tour!
October 6th: Kathy (A Glass of Wine) - Review
October 7th: Kristie (Lost in Ever After) - Top 5 
October 8th: Emilie (Emilie's Book World) - Review
October 9th: Christa (More Than Just Magic) - Review
October 10th: Giselle (BO-OK Nerd Canada) - Character Interview
October 13th: Shelly (Read. Sleep. Repeat) - Review
October 14th: Angel (Mermaid Vision Books) - Review
October 15th: Ciara (Lost at Midnight Reviews) - Interview
October 16th: Lynne (Words of Mystery) - Review
October 17th: Jess (Read My Breath Away) - Guest Post

10/15/2014

Waiting on Wednesday #86: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard



Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature created by Jill at Breaking the Spine. This is where you showcase an upcoming release you're anxiously awaiting!

This week, I'm waiting on:
Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard.

Expected Publication: February 10, 2015.
by: HarperTeen.

Goodreads Synopsis:
Mare Barrow's world is divided by blood--those with red and those with silver. Mare and her family are lowly Reds, destined to serve the Silver elite whose supernatural abilities make them nearly gods. Mare steals what she can to help her family survive, but when her best friend is conscripted into the army she gambles everything to win his freedom. A twist of fate leads her to the royal palace itself, where, in front of the king and all his nobles, she discovers a power of her own--an ability she didn't know she had. Except . . . her blood is Red.

To hide this impossibility, the king forces her into the role of a lost Silver princess and betroths her to one of his own sons. As Mare is drawn further into the Silver world, she risks her new position to aid the Scarlet Guard--the leaders of a Red rebellion. Her actions put into motion a deadly and violent dance, pitting prince against prince--and Mare against her own heart.

From debut author Victoria Aveyard comes a lush, vivid fantasy series where loyalty and desire can tear you apart and the only certainty is betrayal.


Why I'm excited:
Do I actually have to say anything about this one? It sounds AMAZING and exactly like the kind of fantasy I love. Plus I've already heard great things from someone very in the know (can't wait to meet Mare, Suman!) so I'm counting on an awesome read!

What are you waiting on this week?

10/14/2014

Sophomore Spotlight: Cat Winters


I'm thrilled today to have Cat Winters on the blog chatting about her new book, The Cure for Dreaming. You probably know that I absolutely loved her debut, In the Shadow of Blackbirds, so to say I'm excited to help her spread the word about this new book is an understatement.

First, here's a bit about the book:
The Cure for Dreaming by Cat Winters.
Published: October 14, 2014.
Published by: Amulet Books.

Goodreads Synopsis:
Olivia Mead is a headstrong, independent girl—a suffragist—in an age that prefers its girls to be docile. It’s 1900 in Oregon, and Olivia’s father, concerned that she’s headed for trouble, convinces a stage mesmerist to try to hypnotize the rebellion out of her. But the hypnotist, an intriguing young man named Henri Reverie, gives her a terrible gift instead: she’s able to see people’s true natures, manifesting as visions of darkness and goodness, while also unable to speak her true thoughts out loud. These supernatural challenges only make Olivia more determined to speak her mind, and so she’s drawn into a dangerous relationship with the hypnotist and his mysterious motives, all while secretly fighting for the rights of women. Winters breathes new life into history once again with an atmospheric, vividly real story, including archival photos and art from the period throughout.
And now welcome Cat!

Jess: Can you Twitter Pitch The Cure for Dreaming (140 characters or less)?
Cat: In 1900 America, a man hires a young hypnotist to cure his daughter, a budding suffragist, of her rebellious thoughts and dreams.

J: What would you say are main character Olivia's best and worst traits? Would Olivia agree with your answer?
C: Olivia’s best traits are her compassion and her ability to grow stronger under difficult circumstances. Her worst trait is misjudging people and making assumptions based on appearances alone, which changes as she comes to view people’s true natures under hypnosis. By the end of the novel, she would likely agree that she was always too quick to evaluate people before getting to know them.

J: Interesting. I think that's something we've all been guilty of at some point or another, so that's definitely a relatable trait for her to have. 
Which character from TCfD other than Olivia are you most excited for readers to meet?
C: Henri Reverie, my young stage hypnotist. I won’t say too much about him so you can discover his secrets throughout the novel, but he appears in the first chapter as a dashing young performer with a French-Canadian accent who leaps out of a cloud of smoke on a stage. Olivia initially thinks he looks like the devil.

J: Oooh, I'm intrigued! And a French-Canadian accent, eh? Interesting choice! ;)
What was your favourite part of the book to write?
C: Even though I loved creating all of my atmospheric and emotional scenes, my favorite ones to write involved Olivia riding her bicycle through town. In turn-of-the-century America, as well as other parts of the Western World, women gained independence after the invention of the “safety bicycle,” with its two equal-sized wheels (as opposed to earlier bicycles with a giant wheel in front and a small one in back). Suddenly, females were able to ride around town without chaperones, getting exercise, feeling good about themselves. Olivia loves tooling around the streets of her hometown of Portland, Oregon, and I loved riding around with her. After focusing on such dark moments in both IN THE SHADOW OF BLACKBIRDS and THE CURE FOR DREAMING, it felt so refreshing to allow one of my characters to soar through the air and simply enjoy herself. My absolute favorite scene in the novel is one in which she’s pedaling through town with a young man hanging on behind her. I feel it encapsulates the sheer joy of being young.

J: What was the strangest or most interesting thing you researched for TCfD?
C: I loved reading about the horrors of Victorian dentistry—the gags used to pry open patients' mouths, public laughing gas demonstrations, the use of leeches to relieve inflamed gums, etc. Olivia’s father is a dentist, and she worries he wants to extract her dreams from her head the same way he enjoys pulling teeth out of people’s mouths (see the excerpt below).

J: Ohhh my goodness. Horrors is right. Dentistry was so primitive back then in comparison to what we have now. And people today are scared of the dentists! 
How did the publication journey for TCfD differ from that of your debut, In the Shadow of Blackbirds?
C: THE CURE FOR DREAMING ended up being a more difficult novel to write, and Amulet Books actually took longer acquiring it than they did with IN THE SHADOW OF BLACKBIRDS. The entire second half of the book kept changing. It started off dark, dark, dark, then it switched to something too light, and after my editor and I got through with it, we found a middle ground. I’m extremely proud of the results.

J: Did you change anything about your writing process for this novel after having written your debut?
C: This novel ended up being shorter than my debut, simply because I learned the skill of weeding out unnecessary parts. The original manuscript of IN THE SHADOW OF BLACKBIRDS was a huge, overflowing mess that gradually got pared down. All of my books now seem to be shorter. I’ve learned how to stay focused on the main story at hand.

J: That's probably a good skill to have. Time-saving for you, at the very least. 
Can you share a favourite quote from TCfD?
C: “You actually hired this person”—I pointed toward the still-seated hypnotist—“to extract my thoughts in your operatory, as if my brain were a decayed thing, like Mr. Dibbs’s disgusting bicuspid? Do you know how cruel and horrifying this is?”

J: In keeping with our theme here, are there any sophomore novels you've loved recently or are looking forward to?
C: I’m really looking forward to reading Carrie Mesrobian’s PERFECTLY GOOD WHITE BOY. Her debut novel, SEX & VIOLENCE, blew me away. I feel it’s a book all writers should read when contemplating how to capture the elusive quality of “voice.”

J: You're not the first to mention that one here. Sounds like one that I should be picking up right away! 
Can you share a little bit about your next project(s)?
C: I’m thrilled to say that I have two novels and one anthology under contract, with publication dates in 2015 and 2016. Here’s a little bit about each of them.

THE UNINVITED (William Morrow/HarperCollins, Summer 2015): My adult novel debut marks my return to 1918 America, when the Spanish influenza and WWI disheveled lives. A young woman makes a break from her family’s home for the first time in her life after her father and brother murder a German-American in their small Illinois town. It’s also a ghost story.

SLASHER GIRLS & MONSTER BOYS (Dial/Penguin, Fall 2015): I have an as-of-yet undisclosed short story appearing in this YA horror anthology that also includes new fiction from April Genevieve Tucholke, A.G. Howard, Megan Shepherd, Leigh Bardugo, Marie Lu, Carrie Ryan, Nova Ren Suma, Stefan Bachman, Jay Kristoff, Kendare Blake, and several others.

THE STEEP AND THORNY WAY (Amulet Books/Abrams, Spring 2016): My third YA novel is a HAMLET-inspired tale set in the backwoods of Oregon in 1923. A biracial girl deals with Prohibition, the KKK, and the murder of her father in a region of America that has turned “less than kind.” Another ghost story.

I’ll include updates and reveal covers at my website, http://www.catwinters.com.

Thank you so much for hosting me, Jessica!

J: So much to look forward too! How exciting! Thank you, Cat! 

About the author:
 Cat Winters was born and raised in Southern California, near Disneyland, which may explain her love of haunted mansions, bygone eras, and fantasylands. She received degrees in drama and English from the University of California, Irvine, and formerly worked in publishing.

Her critically acclaimed debut novel, In the Shadow of Blackbirds, was named a 2014 Morris Award Finalist, a School Library Journal Best Book of 2013, a 2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults pick, and a 2013 Bram Stoker Award Nominee. Her upcoming books include The Cure for Dreaming (Amulet Books/October 2014), The Uninvited (William Morrow/Summer 2015), and The Steep and Thorny Way (Amulet Books/Spring 2016).

Cat lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband and two kids.  

Buy The Cure for Dreaming: Amazon // Barnes & Noble // Chapters Indigo // IndieBound // The Book Depository
Or order a signed copy from Cat's local indie, Powell's!

Cat has very kindly offered up a copy of the new paperback of In the Shadow of Blackbirds (with the Morris Award finalist seal on it!) to one very lucky winner from the US or Canada! Trust me when I say you definitely want this book. All you have to do to enter is leave a comment on this feature and make sure to include some way for me to contact you (email address or Twitter handle, preferably). Enter by Wednesday, October 29th for your chance to win this fabulous book, and get out and buy The Cure for Dreaming!

Some Rules (aka the not so fun but important part):
~ This giveaway is open to residents of US and Canada only (void where prohibited).
~ No P.O. boxes.
~ Must be 13 or older to enter.
~ Winner will be chosen randomly and contacted. The winner has 48 hours to respond, otherwise they forfeit their prize and I will choose another winner, who must abide by the same rules.
~ Cat and I are not responsible for lost or damaged packages.
No cheating! In this case, I have the right to disqualify entries as I see fit.
~ By entering the giveaway, you are agreeing to these rules.

Good luck!

10/09/2014

Review: Adrenaline Crush by Laurie Boyle Crompton

Adrenaline Crush by Laurie Boyle Crompton.

Published: September 23, 2014.
Published by: Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
Source: Requested an ARC from the Canadian distributor for review. Thank you, Raincoast!

Goodreads Synopsis:
When a daredevil teen pushes herself too far, she must choose between two boys: the one who wants to keep her safe, and the one who dares her to return to her old self.

Seventeen-year-old Dyna comes from a family of risk takers and is an avid thrill-seeker herself, until the day she splinters her ankle in a terrible fall. Her whole life goes from mountain biking and rock climbing to sitting at home and attending group sessions at the bizarre alternative healing center that her hippie mother found. The boy who witnessed Dyna’s accident believes her injury is a wakeup call and he encourages her mild new lifestyle, but a young Afghanistan War veteran she meets at the healing center pushes her to start taking chances again. Forced to face the consequences of her daredevil impulses, Dyna finds herself in danger of risking the one thing she’s always treated with caution—her heart.

My Review:
I went into Adrenaline Crush hoping for a fun and uplifting read about a girl who finds the courage to get back up after being taken down... and hopefully meets a cute guy along the way. On that, I got exactly what I wanted. It wasn't a perfect read and there are definitely some things that could have been improved upon, but it lived up to the promises it made and it gave me a pretty great cast of characters to enjoy it with.

One thing that Adrenaline Crush definitely has going for it is its characters. Dyna herself is a pretty intriguing wild child. I am very much unlike Dyna in that regard so it was really interesting for me getting into her head as she craved going faster and higher, and it felt really authentic. Meeting Dyna's family shows where her daredevil side came from. Her parents are slightly unconventional tattooed motorbike riders who seem to have always encouraged Dyna and her brother to take life by the horns. The whole dynamic of the family and how it changes throughout Dyna's struggle unfolds in a way that felt very real. Dyna's parents and brother have to adjust their lives as Dyna is forced to adjust hers and that causes both conflict and progress for each of them. I loved that they were involved because family is such an important element in so many teens' lives, especially when something so life-changing happens to them. They were definitely a highlight of the story for me.

When it comes down the the main conflict of the book, we're looking at whether or not Dyna can return to living life to its fullest and pushing her own limits. Her new boyfriend, Jay, encourages her to give it all up and be safe -- no more risks, no more thrills. Honestly, the sections she was with him after her accident were kind of boring, I think because he was trying so hard to keep her from really doing anything, and because she was so focused on trying to convince herself that he was right about her life and right for her. Then there's Pierce, the war veteran she meets who tries to show her that falling down is no reason not to get back up again. While I enjoyed seeing Dyna struggle with this balance of fear versus love of adventure, the outcome of the whole book was predictable from the beginning. Not that I was disappointed with how it turned out -- it's the ending I would have wanted for Dyna -- but I called it from the start. That didn't make reading the book less enjoyable for me, just a little less exciting.

This book is short: only 192 pages. Often with books that short, I find I'm left wishing there had been more because things weren't fleshed out enough for my taste. This happened a little with Adrenaline Crush, but thankfully quite not as much as I had worried it would. I do wish Pierce had been explored more as a character. I liked him a lot and thought he was such a great addition to Dyna's life, but I wanted to know him more. It seemed like there was some unexplored potential that could have fleshed him out even more and made me like him even more. The same goes for the unconventional therapy group that Dyna finds herself forced to attend. The other patients made for such an interesting bunch; I just wanted to keep hearing their stories. I do think the different people in the group were there enough for their purpose in this story, Dyna's story, but I did find myself wishing I could spend a little more time with them, learning more about them and doing more fear-facing adventures. I don't think the book really suffered too much because of these specific things, though. Having more of these characters would have added to the book, but it still got its story across with what was within its pages.

Overall, Adrenaline Crush is a quick but predictable read that still managed to entertain. While it could have used more fleshing out of some of the characters, they were still a fun bunch that I enjoyed spending these near-200 pages with. The message it holds at its core of not letting your setbacks take you away from what you love most came through loud and clear and was one of the book's shining moments.

10/08/2014

Waiting on Wednesday #85: Skandal by Lindsay Smith



Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature created by Jill at Breaking the Spine. This is where you showcase an upcoming release you're anxiously awaiting!

This week, I'm waiting on:
Skandal by Lindsay Smith.

Sekret #2.
Expected Publication: April 7, 2015.
by: Roaring Brook Press.

Goodreads Synopsis:
The dramatic sequel to Sekret, this psychic Cold War espionage thriller follows Yulia to Washington, DC, where she fights to discover the truth about her family without losing control of her mind.

Life in Washington, D.C., is not the safe haven Yulia hoped for when she risked everything to flee communist Russia. Her father is reckless and aloof, and Valentin is distant and haunted by his past. Her mother is being targeted by the CIA and the US government is suspicious of Yulia's allegiance. And when super-psychics start turning up in the US capitol, it seems that even Rostov is still a threat. Ultimately, Yulia must keep control of her own mind to save the people she loves and avoid an international Skandal

Why I'm excited:
I thought Sekret was excellent (my review) and I loved the Russian setting and the psychic elements and the whole spy thriller-ness of it, so I am absolutely looking forward to seeing Yulia and Valentin take on Washington and try to deal with whatever crazy Cold War trouble is waiting for them there!

What are you waiting on this week?