Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Review: Blackwood by Gwenda Bond

by Gwenda Bond
Published: September 4, 2012
Publisher: Strange Chemistry
Available: Amazon


On Roanoke Island, the legend of the 114 people who mysteriously vanished from the Lost Colony hundreds of years ago is just an outdoor drama for the tourists, a story people tell. But when the island faces the sudden disappearance of 114 people now, an unlikely pair of 17-year-olds may be the only hope of bringing them back.

Miranda, a misfit girl from the island’s most infamous family, and Phillips, an exiled teen criminal who hears the voices of the dead, must dodge everyone from federal agents to long-dead alchemists as they work to uncover the secrets of the new Lost Colony. The one thing they can’t dodge is each other.

Blackwood is a dark, witty coming of age story that combines America’s oldest mystery with a thoroughly contemporary romance.

For some reason I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed Blackwood. I wasn't expecting to not like it, so maybe it was because it had been a while since I requested it and downloaded it that I'd forgotten what it was that had intrigued me. Whatever it was, I'm glad that I finally sat down and read it.

Blackwood manages to walk a fine line between creepy and creeping me out. I hate ghost movies and books, simply because to me of all paranormal activity it seems most likely. When Bond first introduces the paranormal to the book, the main character Miranda believes that she has hallucinated it, yet she doesn't need to suffer thinking that long, because Bond moves the plot along quickly. The fast pace doesn't let up much and it made for a really fast read. I finished in one sitting of maybe 3 or 4 hours.

Miranda is an outcast in her small town. She is harassed and bullied, yet she is not a victim. She hits back (verbally) and doesn't wallow in self-pity. I liked that she stood up for herself when she felt like it and ignored the bullies when she didn't. Phillips was a bit harder to connect with. I felt that when in his perspective it was further removed from him than when in Miranda's perspective. There seemed to be so much more to his character than we get to see and I wish Bond had revealed more about him.

The one thing that kept me from absolutely loving this was the lack of depth in Miranda's dealing with her father's death. She alternates between being sad, devastated, and coming forgetting about it. Considering he was an inattentive, negligent, alcoholic father, I could have believed her lack of emotions at certain times, if it had been consistent.

Overall, Blackwood was a good read, and I think it has potential to appeal to some male readers as well since it alternates perspectives and the focus is on the ghost mystery and not some insta-love.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Review: Hanging by a Thread by Sophie Littlefield

Hanging by a Thread 
by Sophie Littlefield
Published: September 11, 2012
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Available: Amazon

Summer is the best part of the year in Winston, California, and the Fourth of July is the highlight of the season. But the perfect town Clare remembers has changed, and everyone is praying that this summer will be different from the last two—that this year's Fourth of July festival won't see one of their own vanish without a trace, leaving no leads and no suspects. The media are in a frenzy predicting a third disappearance, but the town depends on tourist dollars, so the residents of Winston are trying desperately to pretend nothing's wrong.

And they're not the only ones hiding something.

Clare, a seamstress who redesigns vintage clothing, has been blessed—or perhaps cursed—with a gift: she can see people's pasts when she touches their clothes. When she stumbles across a denim jacket that once belonged to Amanda Stavros, last year's Fourth of July victim, Clare sees her perfect town begin to come apart at the seams.

In a town where appearance means everything, how deep beneath the surface will Clare dig to uncover a murderer?

Hanging by a Thread started off pretty good. Clare was an interesting character, with a mysterious family background, a love of fashion and the ability to read the past from fabric. That said, I quickly lost respect for her. She is judgement of her new friends lives, lies to her, says that she doesn't care who she has sex with the first time as long as it happens that summer, constantly thinks about how wonderful her friends were back at her old school but never calls them, and becomes angry with her mother for worrying about a killer being on the loose in their small community. Despite Clare's turn for the worse, I kept reading, because really she did at least seem like a believable character.

For me, the high points of the story were when Clare was having her visions. It's were pretty much the only action was and where it actually felt like there was a point to the story. I've read a few other reviews complaining about the over abundance of sewing and fashion talk, but it didn't really bother me. I felt like it was the best drawn part of Clare's character, and that it tied her ability to read fabric into her so deeply. That said, some of her 'creations' sounded like bejeweled messes.

By the end there were just too many loose threads. Littlefield brought up so many things, such as the old school friends and spent so much time detailing them, that I felt let down that they never went anywhere. At other times, she completely skipped over things and had Clare come up with these amazing insights that I just didn't see how she came to. This lead to an ending that I just didn't buy. I couldn't wrap my mind around why the characters would think they would get away with what they had done. (I really want to explain more here, but doing so would spoil the ending since it would reveal who wasn't the killer) Overall, it was an okay read, but I don't think I'd search out more from Littlefield.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Blog Tour: Elemental by Shauna Granger *Promo Post

I am so excited to be hosting the next stop along the Elemental by Shauna Granger Blog Tour! For this stop along the tour Shauna is sharing an excerpt from Earth (Elemental, #1). Don't forget to enter the giveaway and then click on the banner to check out other stops along the tour!

Earth (Elemental, #1)
by Shauna Granger
Published: May 1st, 2011
Available: Amazon

Shayna and her two best friends have the abilities to manipulate and control the four elements, earth, air, water and fire. While learning to hone their growing powers, they discover a new and malicious presence in their sleepy beach town. Someone is performing blood magic and threatens to expose their small magical community. So far only small animals have been slaughtered, but then the nightmares start.

Shayna suffers nightmares of being chased and sacrificed only to wake up bloodied and bruised. She thinks her magical blood is the ultimate target for the final blood rite. When an innocent girl, Tracy, is kidnapped Shayna knows it's only a ploy to draw her out; she can't let someone die because of her.

 Excerpts for Earth (Elemental, #1)

I reached in my locker to grab my French book when it hit me; a sudden wave of dread. I dropped my book to the ground, fingers trembling and my mouth went dry.

“Shay?” Jodi asked hesitantly.

“Tracy,” I whispered almost too quiet for even me to hear.

“What?” Steven asked, placing his hand on my shoulder to shake me, but in my state the simple touch opened our channel in a flood. In an instant he knew what I knew and all the color drained from his face. I dropped everything, forgetting to shut my locker, and took off at a dead run, racing to the school parking lot.

“Steven, what the—” Before Jodi could finish her question Steven had grabbed her by the wrist and took off after me, pulling her along behind him.

“Something’s going to happen to Tracy if we don’t get out there!” Steven tried to explain in a rush as we rounded the office building and skidded to a halt on the asphalt of the parking lot, searching desperately for Tracy. Unfortunately the bell had only rung a few minutes ago so the parking lot was still full of cars, making it very difficult to figure out where we should be looking. Finally, after what seemed like too long, Steven pointed off to the right, “There’s Nick’s truck.” Again I took off like a shot, only to be hindered by the impatient line of cars that snaked through the aisles.

We weaved in and out, dodging between parked cars, trying to get closer to the truck. I felt like I was slogging through quicksand and the faster I went the harder it was to get to the truck. The mounting dread turned into pure panic when I saw Tracy’s black curly hair over the roof of the car next to the truck.

“Shay! What’s gonna happen?” I heard Jodi call behind me but I didn’t stop to explain.

“She doesn’t know,” Steven said helpfully. “She just knows something’s gonna happen.” He sounded like I would have if I could’ve forced myself to speak, but I was concentrating all of my energy on getting to Tracy. Suddenly, when we were still ten cars away from them, I heard Nick’s voice carry back to me.

“Just get in the goddamn truck!” Didn’t he know any other way to say that? Red colored the edges of my vision, tinting everything around Nick and Tracy. “Now damnit!” Nick yelled, grabbing her upper left arm and jerking her towards the truck and shoving her hard. She hit the side of the truck with her right shoulder and I could see her grimace of pain. I stopped short, knowing even with his broken collarbone, none of the three of us stood a chance against Nick.

I spread my fingers wide with my hands down at my sides, set my feet hip-width apart and drove my energy down past the asphalt into the ground. Steven and Jodi came up on either side of me, each placing a hand on one of my shoulders, lending their energy to me. This was no time for secrecy.

As I reached looking for the dormant fault lines beneath Nick I could still hear him yelling at her and calling her names, apparently no longer worried if people heard him treating her this way, the arrogant bastard. I took my anger and directed it to fuel my need, finally finding a wire-thin fault line. I grabbed hold of it, forcing the flow of my energy into it, guiding it to the place that Nick stood next to his truck.

I heard the crack and crumble of the asphalt as the fault line swelled with power, having gained enough control to keep the ground from shaking to give myself away. Inch by inch it came closer to Nick, opening a jagged line in the asphalt as it neared him.

“You just don’t listen!” Nick yelled, inches from Tracy’s face, and grabbed her collar and shook her roughly.

“That’s enough!” an unfamiliar, rough voice called out at him. I reigned in my energy, holding the fault line at bay just feet away from my target to look for the source of the voice. Ian came striding through the parking lot. The anger in his face and swelling of his shoulders made me wonder if he was just going to pick up and throw the cars that were in his way.

Other books in the Elemental Series:

Release Date: 10/31/11
Available: Amazon
Summary :
It was a rough start to the school year for Shayna and her friends, Jodi and Steven, but thankfully summer break is near. Trying to sort out her feelings for the new guy in town, Shayna agrees to let Jensen join her on a group date with her friends. While out they end up at a local coffee house where their classmate, social outcast Jeremy McCormick, is humiliated by his baseball star brother. When Jeremy runs away from the jeering crowd, Shayna and Jodi hear the unmistakable sound of a thousand wings chasing after him, but no one else seems to hear them. These are not like any air elementals that Shayna or Jodi have ever encountered before and they fear Jeremy has gotten himself tangled up in something too dangerous for him to handle. But when Shayna tries to help Jeremy control his magical abilities she realizes it might be the biggest mistake of her life.

Release Date: 06/19/12
Available: Amazon

Shayna's first surfing session of the summer is interrupted by the screams of a mother who has lost her little boy in the water. Without regard to her own safety, Shayna swims out, rescues the boy, but must escape the clutches of something far worse than she could have ever imagined – mermaids.

Compelled to answer the sirens' call, the boys of Shayna's town are drawn to the sea, but when they return are afflicted by an unknown illness, a sickness which is draining them of their life force. Unable to tell anyone about the mermaids, Shayna and her friends are forced to solve the mystery before it's too late, and in doing so, Shayna will finally have to face the full force of her powers. Whether she’s ready or not, she will have to face her true nature.

About the Author
I don't do well talking about myself. So as basics go, I have recently self-published the first two books in my Elemental Series, Earth and Air, Young Adult Urban Fantasy novels. Look for the third installment, Water, coming in 2012!

I have been working on the Elemental Series for the last four years and plan for it to be a 5 book series. It was a hard decision to self-publish but it's been an exciting and terrifying ride.

You can find me on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Shauna-...

And to my readers (or fans of my covers), I have beautiful bookmarks that I would love to share with you. If you'd like one, drop me a note with your contact info and I'd be happy to send you one!


Thank you, Shauna for stopping by and sharing a look at Earth (Elemental, #1) with us!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Review: Henry Franks by Peter Adam Salomon

Henry Franks
by Peter Adam Salomon
Published: September 2012
Publisher: Flux
Available: Amazon


A dark, psychological thriller about a boy's search for himself

Four thousand, three hundred and seventeen stitches, his father had told him once. All the King's horses and all the King's men had put Henry Franks back together again.

One year ago, a terrible accident robbed Henry Franks of his mother and his memories. The past sixteen years have vanished. All he has now are scars and a distant father—the only one who can tell Henry who he is.

If he could trust his father.

Can his nightmares—a sweet little girl calling him Daddy, murderous urges, dead bodies—help him remember?

While a serial killer stalks their small Georgia town, Henry unearths the bitter truth behind his mother’s death—and the terrifying secrets of his own dark past.

Sometimes, the only thing worse than forgetting is remembering.

Henry Franks is unlike any book I've read this year, but I'm still not sure how I feel about it. There was a definite sense of originality that I liked. It didn't follow any formula and when it threatened to go down the easy route with character development or plot details it stayed true to the story. There are obvious connections to Frankenstein and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and yet there is still a uniqueness to the story.

I enjoyed the mystery aspect of the book. There were a lot of questions that Henry is attempting to answer and when they are finally uncovered it actually quiet sad to consider the lengths that were gone to in order to protect Henry. What accident caused Henry's injuries? His mother? What is his father hiding? Who is the killer? What is happening to Henry's body now?

So why am I so unsure of how I feel? Well, I think it's because I didn't really connect with Henry and at times his relationship with his neighbor Justine didn't feel authentic. It was all too easy. There is also the issue I had with the very end. I don't want to reveal what happens, but to me it didn't feel right. I just couldn't see the characters accepting the final decision they make. Then again, maybe if I had connected with them more, it would have worked for me.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Review: Shakespeare on Toast by Ben Crystal

Shakespeare on Toast
by Ben Crystal
Published: 2008
Publisher: Totem Books
Available: Amazon


Who's afraid of William Shakespeare? Just about everyone. He wrote too much and what he did write is inaccessible and elitist. Right? Wrong. "Shakespeare on Toast" knocks the stuffing from the staid old myth of Shakespeare, revealing the man and his plays for what they really are: modern, thrilling and uplifting drama. Actor and author Ben Crystal brings the bright words and colourful characters of the world's greatest hack writer brilliantly to life, handing over the key to Shakespeare's plays, unlocking the so-called difficult bits and, astonishingly, finding Shakespeare's own voice amid the poetry.Told in five fascinating Acts, "Shakespeare on Toast" sweeps the cobwebs from the Bard - from his language, his life, his time - revealing both the man and his work to be relevant, accessible and full of beans. This is a book for everyone, whether you're reading Shakespeare for the first time, occasionally find him troublesome, think you know him backwards, or have never set foot near one of his plays but have always wanted to ...It's quick, easy and good for you. Just like beans on toast.

When I was in junior high I took a Shakespeare class from my favorite teacher ever. Mr. Stefan was not only a teacher, he was also an actor in the local theater production that year of Fiddler on the Roof. Why am I writing about him in my review? Well, Crystal points out something that I had never considered about Shakespeare, and it's something that I think Mr. Stefan would have 100% agreed with - Shakespeare is meant to be heard and seen, not read. The experience of being in a Shakespearean theater such as The Globe, seeing the actors use minimal props, and understanding the subtle references in the slight changing of word usage from thou to you or in moving from prose to verse, can never be fully appreciated by simply silently reading one of Shakespeare's plays.

Mr. Stefan's Shakespeare class was not about reading Shakespeare (which we didn't even do!). It was about watching his plays being performed on the screen - whether big budget or film student versions, and most importantly learning about his life and times. Crystal's idea is that Shakespeare shouldn't be read like a novel, or even a modern play, simply because what Shakespeare needed to accomplish in his writing was more in direction to the actors on how to perform than to a reader on how to enjoy. Maybe that's why whenever I read Shakespeare I can't help but read it aloud, and yes, I do use a cheesy accent that I'm sure would horrify my Welsh and British relatives.

I had never considered how important all of these pieces were until I started reading Shakespeare on Toast. Crystal manages to point out how easy Shakespeare is to understand when you put him in context. Knowing who he was writing for, how his work was being presented, and most importantly the cultural influences he was under, makes certain things much easier to relate to. I have to admit there were certain things I had never even thought of, such as Shakespeare's use of the iambic pentameter, yet when it was explained in the book, I quickly found myself testing it out on random selections of Shakespeare.

Now that I've finished Shakespeare on Toast, I am feeling an overwhelming urge to read, ad watch, some Shakespeare. My husband on the other hand is rolling his eyes at my continued efforts to make him discuss The Bard :)

Shakespeare on Toast is a great book for anyone struggling with understanding works by Shakespeare, or just a general obsession with him!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop

Welcome to the Next Big Thing Blog Hop! On this hop we will be hopping our way to various blogs to find out what fellow authors are working on.  At this stop, I will be answering 10 questions on my work in progress. Thank you Jeanne Bannon for tagging me to participate. 

What is the working title of your book? Lie to Me (A Touched Trilogy, Book 1) is in the editing stages and will be out late this year, and I'm also working on Heal Me, book 2 in the trilogy.

Where did the idea come from for the book?
I have no clue. I can't remember when I first thought of it, just that I started writing chapter 1 of Lie to Me, and suddenly by the end of the chapter I figured out it was going to be a trilogy. I tend to be a 'write and see what happens' kind of writer. Even with the trilogy, I have book 2 pretty solidly laid out, but the third book keeps changing in my head.

What genre does your book fall under?
YA Paranormal Romance

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? 

Phoebe - Naomi Scott from "Terra Nova"
Nathan -Avan Jogia from "Victorious"
Tonya - Zendaya from "Shake it Up"
Trevor - Jacob Artist from "Glee"
Lily - Sophie Turner from "Game of Thrones"
Chloe - Bridget Mendler from "Good Luck Charlie"
Bianca - Hayley Kiyoko from "Lemonade Mouth"
Owen -Jake T. Austin form "Wizards of Waverly Place"

Scott - Shane Harper from "Good Luck Charlie"

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? In lies intention is everything.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? Lie to Me will be published through Little Prince Publishing

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?  11 months

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? Hard question, I can't think of anything it compares to, but I'm going to consider that a good thing. :)

Who or What inspired you to write this book?  I was actually inspired by the character of Lily. For me she is the heart of this trilogy. I was going to write her story last, and build up to it, but I realized that I didn't want to wait that long to write her story, so poor Chloe has been bumped to book 3, and I'm debating what to do with her.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?  Phoebe is a bit of a smart ass, and is always getting into trouble through her verbal vomit.

Five authors I'm tagging:
Okay, I admit it. I'm a bit of a slacker :/ I totally spaced on this part of the post, but I am looking for authors I want to tag and will add them in as I find them!