Posts Tagged ‘Debut Author’

Netgalley November: Week One Round Up

netgalleynovember3Personal Target: To read and review eight netgalley titles and improve my approved/feedback rating.

Books read this Week: 2 ( + one non Netgalley read – Time Between Us)

Running total: 2

Netgalley Approved-Feedback: 53.1%

Currently Reading: Time After Time by Tamara Ireland Stone

General feedback: I am really happy with the progress I have made so far this week. I was a little concerned at the beginning of the week as, not only was late starting the challenge but I also had a schedule filled with Allegiant themed activities; I finished reading it later than planned, spent an evening filming the vlog with Faye (see above) and then spent another evening meeting Veronica Roth.

Another small set back was that the next read on my TBR, Time After Time, is a sequel and I hadn’t managed to read the first book, Time Between Us, prior to the start of the challenge as I had originally planned. Hence the non netgalley read this week.

The Name On Your Wrist by Helen Hiorns

name on your wristIt’s the first thing they teach you when you start school. But they don’t need to; your parents tell you when you’re first learning how to say your name. It’s drummed into you whilst you’re taking your first stumbling steps. It’s your lullaby. From the moment it first appears, you don’t tell anyone the name on your wrist.
In Corin’s world, your carpinomen – the name of your soul mate, marked indelibly on your wrist from the age of two or three – is everything. It’s your most preciously guarded secret; a piece of knowledge that can give another person ultimate power over you. People spend years, even decades, searching for the one they’re supposed to be with.
But what if you never find that person? Or you do, but you just don’t love them? What if you fall for someone else – someone other than the name on your wrist?
And what if – like Corin – the last thing in the world you want is to be found?

I was introduced to The Name On Your Wrist at a bloggers event over the summer. Learning about the conception of the book, via the Sony Young Movellist Award, and hearing the synopsis, I was very keen to get my hands on a copy. Despite not being able to fit the book in to my reading schedule earlier, I was still so excited to get my teeth in to this book that I decide to go against my original plan for Netgalley November and read it first.

I absolutely loved the premise of this book, which was executed well, but for me the book dragged a little around the explanation element of the world building. I found myself disappointed that it wasn’t as original as I had first anticipated, and I recognised similar elements form other dystopians I have enjoyed.

As a protagonist, Corin was unusual for me in that I didn’t warm to her until a significant way in to the book. She came across as superior and know it all in her cynicism of her word and her distain for others who didn’t that cynicism. Despite being initially unlikeable her story was no less compelling. I loved how Colton looks beyond Corin’s sharp edges and spiky corners, exposing the lonely, hurt and much more likeable girl within.

What made this book for me was the ending. It was breath-catchingly original, brave and thought provoking. Unusually for me, I didn’t see any of it coming. It’s the kind of ending which throws all of your carefully built assumptions on their head and has you wanting to flip the book over and immediately re-read it so that you can process how this new perspective impacts your interpretation of events and actions within the story.

Verdict: I look forward to the authors future work.

Publisher:Random House
Publication Date: July 2013
Format: eARC
Pages: 185
Genre: Dystopian
Age: YA
Reviewer: Caroline
Source: Netgalley
Challenge: Netgalley November,
British Book, Debut Author

After Eden By Helen Douglas

after eden 2Eden Anfield loves puzzles, so when mysterious new boy Ryan Westland shows up at her school she’s hooked. On the face of it, he’s a typical American teenager. So why doesn’t he recognise pizza? And how come he hasn’t heard of Hitler? What puzzles Eden the most, however, is the interest he’s taking in her.
As Eden starts to fall in love with Ryan, she begins to unravel his secret. Her breakthrough comes one rainy afternoon when she stumbles across a book in Ryan’s bedroom – a biography of her best friend – written over fifty years in the future. Confronting Ryan, she discovers that he is there with one unbelievably important purpose … and she might just have destroyed his only chance of success.

I can not resist a time twisting tale (I blame The Time Travellers Wife), so when I read the synopsis of After Eden I just had to request the eARC. Unfortunately for Eden and Ryan, I experienced their story after the mind blowing awesomeness of All Our Yesterdays, and they just weren’t in the same league.

While the world building was interesting, the characters likeable and the read enjoyably light and quick, overall the plot was a little too simplistic and predictable for my tastes.

I liked that the Eden and Ryan didn’t suffer from insta-love, that their relationship started as mutual attraction, leading to friendship and eventually more. However, because the plot skipped ahead by some weeks, we were told about their deepening friendship, rather than experiencing the development for ourselves.

With its sweet and chaste romance and simplified explanations of time travel, I think that this book would best suited to a younger YA reader. If it weren’t for the social drinking and illegal driving I would be happy to recommend it to a mature middle grade reader taking their first foray in to YA and/or time travel.

Verdict: A quick and easy time traveling tale.

Publisher:Bloomsbury Children’s
Publication Date:November 2013
Format: eARC
Pages: 288
Genre:Science Fiction
Age: YA
Reviewer: Caroline
Source: Netgalley
Challenge: Netgalley November,
British Book, Debut Author

Reviewed by Caroline

To learn more about the reading challenge and to sign up visit here

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When The World Was Flat (And we were in love)

Ingrid Jonach
when the world was flatLooking back, I wonder if I had an inkling that my life was about to go from ordinary to extraordinary.
When sixteen-year-old Lillie Hart meets the gorgeous and mysterious Tom Windsor-Smith for the first time, it’s like fireworks — for her, anyway. Tom looks as if he would be more interested in watching paint dry; as if he is bored by her and by her small Nebraskan town in general.
But as Lillie begins to break down the walls of his seemingly impenetrable exterior, she starts to suspect that he holds the answers to her reoccurring nightmares and to the impossible memories which keep bubbling to the surface of her mind — memories of the two of them, together and in love.
When she at last learns the truth about their connection, Lillie discovers that Tom has been hiding an earth-shattering secret; a secret that is bigger — and much more terrifying and beautiful — than the both of them. She also discovers that once you finally understand that the world is round, there is no way to make it flat again.

I can’t quite put my finger on what initially grabbed my attention with Ingrid’s novel but I think it may have been the title. The play on words about the world being flat and there being love whilst now the world is round and bigger and far more complicated seemed to promise a whole dimension of intricacies.

And indeed so it was, but not in the way I’d expected.

To be completely honest with you although Ingrid Jonach’s love story was lovely it was rather simple and straightforward in itself. That said I take nothing away from it. But what truly made me appreciate this book was the symbolism that was woven into it and the concept behind it.

In this story initially Tom and Lillie’s love is like the world Lillie thinks they live in. As the title implies to Lillie the world is (metaphorically speaking) flat. It’s uncomplicated and three dimensional, what you see is what you get and is beautiful in its simplicity. But Tom knows better, and this world is not flat, in fact it’s not even round. To use his words as he teases Lillie “the world is hexagonal” and it is about to challenge Lillie’s beliefs and herself as an individual.

Ingrid chose to narrate this story from Lillie’s point of view but written in retrospect. The Lillie who tells us the story is the one at the end of it and although she attempts to keep in mind the thoughts of the Lillie at the time of the story occasionally she does slip up, and admits that what she thought back then when the world was flat was very mistaken and blissfully naïve. The recounting of her story was done in an almost clinical manner, and although she says how she felt the feelings felt delivered in a distant manner. Although this style of writing felt detached to the present day characters and limited my ability to bond with them, it allowed to underline the symbolisms, themes and bigger meaning of the tale.

For me the true beauty of this book did not lie in the characters themselves or their story but the world around them and how it affected them and their love. The way Lillie always repeats key words three times like a mantra, almost as though she needs the reassurance that everything is true, almost as though she already knows that something in this reality is off kilter. The way in which she turns sounds into words because her reality is speaking to her and warning her. How a love that transcends time and life is beautifully simple, because love in itself as a concept is not complicated. It’s the people and the world around them that taint it and twist it. So when the world is flat everything is smooth and straightforward, like it’s surface. But when you make it round, give it three dimensions….. everything is possible, and love becomes complicated.

Verdict: Reading this novel brought me back to my time at school in English literature where I learnt to appreciate the beauty and the intricacies of themes and subtleties left behind by the author to make us wonder and reflect.
Reviewed by Pruedence

Publisher: Strange Chemistry
Publication Date: August 2013
Format: eARC
Pages: 272
Genre: Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Romance
Age: YA
Reviewer: Pruedence
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: Debut Author
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Monkey Wars

Richard Kurti

monkey warsWhen the Langur monkey troop rises to power on the dusty streets of Calcutta, it is at a price. A brutal massacre drives the Rhesus troop out of the place they called home and forces them to embark on a dangerous journey. But one Langur monkey, Mico, is prepared to stand up to the tyrannical Langur regime and fight for truth, friendship and love. As Mico uncovers the secrets and lies at the heart of the corrupt Langur leadership, he quickly realizes he is playing a dangerous game. And when monkeys turn on each other, there can be no survivors…

The author has a flair for spectacular set-pieces and drama, honed during his time as a screenwriter. This is clearly on display in the opening chapter where a troop of Langur monkeys invade the cemetery where a peaceful group of Rhesus monkeys live, killing most of the residents leaving just a handful of refugees.

The first part of the book alternates between the experiences of Papina, a young Rhesus girl and Mico, a young boy in the militaristic Langur troop. Papina’s story tells of a small group of survivors, trekking the city to find a new home where they will be safe, and to pick up the tatters of their life. Mico is the runt of his family, far smaller than his brother, but with a sharp mind. By chance, he witnesses some of the Langur soldiers brutally kill a lone Rhesus, yet their leaders are claiming that the Rhesus are the aggressors leaving him conflicted and unsure who to trust. Langur boys all do military training, so he joins up and tries to fit in.

Papina sneaks into her old home through a secret entrance and meets Mico on a training exercise. They form an uneasy friendship, her stories of the Langur attacks contradicting the official reports he’s been told, adding to Mico’s doubt. Mico’s clever mind is noticed by Tyrell, one of the Langur leaders and he is promoted to the Intelligence Division.

In the middle section of the book, the Langur go on an all-out war against all the rest of the monkeys in Kolkata, with Mico stuck between following the orders of the increasingly paranoid Tyrell, and protecting Papina and her friends. The rest of the Langur, bred from an early age not to question orders, and fed with misinformation, revel in their bloodlust. There are certainly some shocking events in the book, though the book never gets too gory for the intended audience.

The novel also avoids melodrama, the fast pacing meaning there’s no time for characters to wallow in self-pity and introspection, or at least when they do it is implied and not on the page. The darkest character is probably Fig, a Rhesus mother who has lost everything from her life. Despite only being a minor character, she plays a crucial role in the story. I think an adult book may have fleshed out her depression more fully, though this is not really a criticism.

The world building is well done too, the descriptions of the locations around the city feel like real places, and are teeming with life (both human and animal).

Verdict: I really enjoyed this book, it is fast-paced throughout, constantly inventive, and my usual complaint of poor endings in novels doesn’t apply (a solid ending, with a few deliberate hanging threads). A great introduction for teens to the machinations of politics and complexities of war.

Reviewed by Keith

Publisher: Walker
Publication Date:May 2013
Format: ARC
Pages: 400
Genre: War
Age: YA/Teen
Reviewer: Keith
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: British book, Debut Novel
(previously a screenwriter)
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Nantucket Blue

Leila Howland

NantucketBlue-HighResFor Cricket Thompson, a summer like this one will change everything. A summer spent on Nantucket with her best friend, Jules Clayton, and the indomitable Clayton family. A summer when she’ll make the almost unattainable Jay Logan hers. A summer to surpass all dreams.
Some of this turns out to be true. Some of it doesn’t.
When Jules and her family suffer a devastating tragedy that forces the girls apart, Jules becomes a stranger whom Cricket wonders whether she ever really knew. And instead of lying on the beach working on her caramel-colored tan, Cricket is making beds and cleaning bathrooms to support herself in paradise for the summer.
But it’s the things Cricket hadn’t counted on–most of all, falling hard for someone who should be completely off-limits–that turn her dreams into an exhilarating, bittersweet reality.
A beautiful future is within her grasp, and Cricket must find the grace to embrace it. If she does, her life could be the perfect shade of Nantucket blue.

When it comes to selecting my holiday reads I’m attracted to books that are uplifting, set in interesting and exotic locations with a strong romantic theme, and the guarantee that even if the sky remains overcast and grey during my “stay-cation” in Blighty, I will at least get to experience sun, sand and sea within the pages of a book.

The cover of Nantucket Blue alone ticked a lot of my essential summer boxes: blue sky? Check; golden sandy beach? Check; Romance? Check. Reading the synopsis, a girl taking her first steps towards independence and making her own way and the dangling carrot of “forbidden” love, cemented my desire to add Nantucket Blue to my summer reading list. Thanks to the lovely Shane at Itching For Books Blog Tours (visit here) I didn’t have to wait long to soak up some virtual vitamin D.

Cricket is beyond excited to be turning her back on her usual summer of dividing her time between her father’s new family,
her dowdy and depressed mother and the babysitting job from hell. Instead she intends to spend the summer with her best friend, Jules and vivacious second family, working a glamorous job by day and flirting with her long-term crush by night. However, all too quickly Crickets plans for an idyllic beach holiday with her best, dissolved like a sandcastle with the rising tide.

Devastated and bewildered by her first experience of bereavement, excluded from her second home and pushed out by her best friend, Cricket clings on to her summer plans and the overwhelming desire to be there for Jules. With a determined single-mindedness, which at times borders on thoughtlessness, Cricket takes matters in to her own hands and follows Jules out to Nantucket.

Within a few pages Leila Howland transported me effortlessly back to a carefree time of girlie plotting and planning, the end of school year excitement and the anticipation of weeks of hazy, care free summer days and fun filled summer nights. But then, like Cricket, my plans for a carefree summer (read) were turned on its head.

Where I was expecting a fluffy summer romance with an undercurrent of a young woman striking out on her own for the first time, what I discovered was a bitter sweet coming of age tale of a girl who learns that the true transition to adulthood isn’t just about physical distance and financial independence from your parents.

When we first meet Cricket she acts younger than her seventeen years, particularly in the way she approaches her relationships.
So much of her own identity is wrapped up with her friendship with Jules and the family she has adopted as her own, that she doesn’t know how to be without them.

She has a hopeful naivety, which is simultaneously cringe worthy and endearing. I winced as she put herself out there time and again, stumbling from one awkwardly ill thought-out situation to another, all the while knowing that the knocks she was receiving were important for her growth. I imagine I just experienced a glimpse ten year in to my future as a mother with teenagers.

While I quickly reconciled myself that Nantucket Blue wasn’t so much a summer romance, as a coming of age tale pivoted off of a young woman’s changing relationships, I loved the sweet romantic relationship which developed between Cricket and her “off limits” beau and I can’t help wish that we had spent more time getting to know them as a couple. However, of all of the changing relationships explored by Howland, my favorite was the new understanding which developed between Cricket and her mother, facilitated by her mother’s teenage diary of her own eventful summer in Nantucket.

Verdict: Blue skies, sandy beaches and bittersweet life lessons.

Reviewed by Caroline

Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Publication Date: May 2013
Format: ARC
Pages: 304
Genre: Coming of age, Contemporary romance
Age: YA
Reviewer: Caroline
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: Debut Author
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Why I Chose to Set My Novel on Nantucket

We are delighted to host the latest stop on Leila Howland‘s blog tour for her debut novel, Nantucket Blue.

NantucketBlue-HighResFor Cricket Thompson, a summer like this one will change everything. A summer spent on Nantucket with her best friend, Jules Clayton, and the indomitable Clayton family. A summer when she’ll make the almost unattainable Jay Logan hers. A summer to surpass all dreams.
Some of this turns out to be true. Some of it doesn’t.
When Jules and her family suffer a devastating tragedy that forces the girls apart, Jules becomes a stranger whom Cricket wonders whether she ever really knew. And instead of lying on the beach working on her caramel-colored tan, Cricket is making beds and cleaning bathrooms to support herself in paradise for the summer.
But it’s the things Cricket hadn’t counted on–most of all, falling hard for someone who should be completely off-limits–that turn her dreams into an exhilarating, bittersweet reality.
A beautiful future is within her grasp, and Cricket must find the grace to embrace it. If she does, her life could be the perfect shade of Nantucket blue.

As soon as I decided to set my Young Adult novel on Nantucket, I knew it was the perfect choice. Despite what it looks like on a map, Nantucket is actually the easternmost point of the United States (next stop: the Azores), and you can actually feel that you are on the edge of a vast expanse. You feel that you are away; the word Nantucket means “the far away island.” I wanted my protagonist Cricket to feel far away from all that was familiar to her. I wanted her to feel far away from her old self so that she could find a new self.

Nantucket is also an awesome place to be a teenager. Teenagers are free! They can walk into town and let the evening take them where it will, and adults, trusting this place, let them go (while they have their own fun). Even though there are plenty of vices on Nantucket, there’s also an abundance of simple pleasures. Just to sit on a bench by the harbor and watch the boats rock gently beneath the moon turns a Monday night into poetry. Now add a chocolate ice-cream cone and a cute boy and forget it. Heaven! And an evening dip in the Nantucket sound? Paradise! All you have to do to get there is walk a half a mile and descend a staircase to the sand. I wanted to give Cricket that Nantucket-in-the-summertime freedom as she falls in love for the first time and teeters on the cusp of adulthood.

Also, the past feels alive on Nantucket. The cobblestoned streets, the stately old whaling captain’s homes, and the lack of chain stores and traffic lights evoke another era so consistently that the past is a living breathing being. This made it the perfect place for Cricket to reconnect with her mother, who in the present is lost in sadness, but who in the past was a wild spirit with whom Cricket would have had so much fun. Though no actual ghosts appear, Cricket and a younger version of her mom meet in their own way and are able to be together for the first time in ages.

Nantucket is the perfect setting for the story I wanted to tell. Forty miles out to sea with pristine beaches, whispers of ghosts, and sunsets so alarming you can’t help but stare at the sky in a kind of blissful, wide-eyed stupor, it lit my imagination on fire. If you can’t get there this summer by ferry or plane, hopefully NANTUCKET BLUE will transport you.

Guest post by Leila Howland

Leila Howland author pictureLEILA HOWLAND loves to read, explore L.A., and engage in funny and meaningful conversations with her friends and family, especially her brother who calls from Washington D.C. whenever he’s waiting for the bus. A lot gets discussed in those phone calls, but they tend to end abruptly when the bus shows up. She can really cut the rug, but wishes she could sing without people covering their ears. A graduate of Georgetown University, Leila spent five years acting in New York where she was a company member of the award-winning Flea Theater in Tribeca. It was a lot of fun and she often talks about “getting back into it.” The closest she has come was a stint as an extra on The Young and the Restless in 2010. Leila now lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two dogs. She teaches high school English and blogs for HelloGiggles. NANTUCKET BLUE is her first novel.
To learn more about Leila and her work you can her on Tumblr(here) or converse with her on Twitter (here)
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Nantucket Blue was published on the 7th of May 2013 by Disney Hyperion and is available to buy in hardback from Amazon.com (here) and Amazon.co.uk (click here)

Those lovely people at Disney Hyperion are giving US readers a chance to win a finished copy of Nantucket Blue. Simply fill in the rafflecopter form below.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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The Sweetest Dark

Shana Abe

the sweetest dark cover art“With every fiber of my being, I yearned to be normal. To glide through my days at Iverson without incident. But I’d have to face the fact that my life was about to unfold in a very, very different way than I’d ever envisioned. Normal would become forever out of reach.”
Lora Jones has always known that she’s different. On the outside, she appears to be an ordinary sixteen-year-old girl. Yet Lora’s been keeping a heart full of secrets: she hears songs that no one else can hear, dreams vividly of smoke and flight, and lives with a mysterious voice inside her that insists she’s far more than what she seems.
England, 1915. Raised in an orphanage in a rough corner of London, Lora quickly learns to hide her unique abilities and avoid attention. Then, much to her surprise, she is selected as the new charity student at Iverson, an elite boarding school on England’s southern coast. Iverson’s eerie, gothic castle is like nothing Lora has ever seen. And the two boys she meets there will open her eyes and forever change her destiny.
Jesse is the school’s groundskeeper—a beautiful boy who recognizes Lora for who and what she truly is. Armand is a darkly handsome and arrogant aristocrat who harbours a few closely guarded secrets of his own. Both hold the answers to her past. One is the key to her future and both will aim to win her heart. As danger descends upon Iverson, Lora must harness the powers she’s only just begun to understand, or else lose everything she dearly loves.
Filled with lush atmosphere, thrilling romance, and ancient magic, The Sweetest Dark brilliantly captures a rich historical era while unfolding an enchanting love story that defies time.

The first thing that drew my attention to The Sweetest Dark was the stunning cover. A beautiful girl in a gorgeous dress is a common occurrence in the YA book cover world. But in this incidence, it was the mysterious sweep of smoke, appearing to form the dress itself, which added an intriguing and original element to the cover, tempting me to investigate the synopsis.

While I found the earlier part of Lora’s life interesting, providing essential background to her strength of character and realism to the world building- how would society react to a sensitive child with an ambiguous past with unusual abilities and no social filter? -It wasn’t until Lora arrived at Iverson collage, with its impressive façade, secret passages, snobbish inhabitants and of course two very different, but equally compelling boys, that I truly got sucked in to the story.

Don’t be mistaken to believing that this is another frustrating love triangle to survive (I have complicated love-hate feelings toward s love triangles), there is no battle between “Team Jesse” and “Team Armand” to capture the fair maidens heart. It is very clear from the start where Lora’s affections lie. However, both Jesse, the golden haired, selfless, self assured and wise, groundskeeper, and snarky Lord Armand, who’s contrasting darkness isn’t only due to his hair color, have equally important roles to play in Lora’s acceptance of her true nature and her other than normal life.

I really enjoyed the early 20th century setting. Not only did the time period became even more significant as the story unfolded, but I also found it really interesting to explore the additional challenges a non-contemporary setting provided. Lora has to hide her unusual abilities and fledgling relationship from everyone while coming to terms with the life altering discovery of her true nature and she has to do so in an environment divided by social class and gender inequality, on the cusp of medical advances in psychiatry, while the ominous cloud of WWI provides an underlying tension.

Abe’s writing is beautiful. Lyrical prose and lush descriptions combined with the characters’ unique sensory perspective combine together to create an absorbing world. The romance was sweet and intense. While I will happily read steamy, descriptive adult scenes, I also love when an author has the ability wrap me so entirely within a romance, that they are able to induce exquisite, butterfly in stomach, heart racing tension from a simple brush of fingertips .

Verdict: Once caught in it’s clutches, I found myself racing through the pages of The Sweetest Dark and as soon as I had finished I found myself online investigating the sequel. Scheduled for publication in August, The Deepest Night is high up on my wish list.

Publisher: Bantam
Publication Date: April 2013
Format: eARC
Pages: 352
Genre: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Romance, WWI
Age: Young Adult
Reviewer: Caroline
Source: Netgalley
Challenge: Debut (YA)
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Amity and Sorrow

Peggy Riley

amity and sorrow coverIn the wake of a suspicious fire, Amaranth gathers her children and flees from the fundamentalist cult in which her children were born and raised. Now she is on the run with only her barely aged teenage daughters, Amity and Sorrow, neither of whom have seen the outside world, to help her. After four days of driving Amaranth crashes the car, leaving the family stranded at a gas station, hungry and terrified.
Rescue comes in the unlikely form of a downtrodden farmer, a man who offers sanctuary when the women need it most. However while Amity blossoms in this new world, free from her father’s tyranny, Sorrow will do anything to get back home. Although Amaranth herself is beginning to understand the nature of the man she has left, she needs the answer to one question; what happened to the other wives and children.

This has been one of the hardest reviews to write. I’ve started, deleted and started again. I ignored, re-scheduled and stared at a blank computer screen but enough is enough. I will attempt to express the complicated feeling I have for Amity and Sorrow.

I have to confess that had I not been offered this book to review, If I had simply seen Amity and Sorrow in a book shop, I probably wouldn’t have picked it up.

For me reading is escapism, an indulgence and a pleasure. I am all about the “Happily Ever After”. I admit that I avoid books that are likely to be too heavy, books that depict abuse, or books that are likely to make me feel too uncomfortable. God, Sex and Farming… To say that I was reading outside of my comfort zone would be an understatement!

Although I found the subject matter explored within Amity and Sorrow uncomfortable and harrowing, this book was so much more. I never felt as though Riley sensationalized her subject matter, three women escaping from a polygamist religious cult, to make a quick buck. But, much like the characters it introduces, this is a modest book, understated but no less heart wrenching.

Amity and Sorrow is told from the women’s 3rd person perspective as they find themselves attempting to acclimatize to their new, alien like, surroundings and make sense of their place within the world without the strict rules of their home or the guidance of their “Father God”. The present day narrative is seamlessly interspersed with flashbacks which take us in a reverse chronological journey, through the events that led to the decision to escape and beyond to the circumstances in which Amaranth first became involved with her husband and cult leader. Each flashback adds another layer to the quiet horror of the women’s story.

I found the ending distressing and unsettling, nevertheless it was completely right for the story. Riley has too much respect for her characters and their journey to belittle their traumas and their achievements or to tie up the book with a pretty bow, and a fantasy happy ever after. Instead she offers the reader a glimmer of hope and new beginnings, but ultimately leaves the reader with more questions than answers.

I read the book with a love-hate attitude towards most of the characters. Like family, no matter how much you fight or how much they frustrate you there are underlying threads of love and affection, which keep you rooting for them and in this case kept me turning the page.

While I applaud Amaranth for her strength of character for removing her daughters from a harmful situation, and I could even begin understand how she got herself entangled within the polygamous cult, I had the most issues with her decisions made following their escape. At times I felt like reaching into the pages of the book and shaking her, and saying ‘look at your daughters, see how they are still hurting, look at the dangers that surround them still.’ In retrospect I can see that she was in survival mode, doing the best she could in a undoubtedly difficult situation, while still broken and healing herself.

But then I guess that that is the difference between a good book and a great one. That very fact that over a month after finishing, I am remembering, and analyzing, and questioning and still wishing for that happily ever after.

There is no doubt that Amity and Sorrow is beautifully and sensitively written. The imagery memorable, easily transporting you into the dust and heat and hardship of rural Oklahoma, the pacing is perfect and the narrative borders are poetic.

Verdict: While it is unlikely that I will ever re read Amity and Sorrow I have no doubts that I will be buying Peggy Riley’s next novel.

Reviewed by Caroline

If you are intrigued by Peggy Riley’s debut don’t forget to pop back on the 18th of April when we will be taking part in the blog tour and hosting an INTERNATIONAL giveaway for a signed hardback!

Publisher: Tinder Press
Publication Date: March 2013
Format: ARC
Pages: 284
Genre: Fiction, Cults
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Caroline
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: Debut Author
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Back to Blackbrick

Sarah Moore Fitzgerald

blackbrickWhen Cosmo keeps his promise to go to Blackbrick Abbey, he unlocks the gate to the place his granddad once worked and finds himself in the forgotten corners of a distant past, one that his granddad has, strangely, never really talked about. Here there are new beginnings, memories are just being born, friendships come to life and everything is still possible…

Cosmo loves his Grandad, really honestly, but the only problem is that in his old age he’s gone slightly, how do you put it? well, crazy. So crazy in fact, that he regularly gets into long conversations with a lamp post. The only other problem is that other people have started to realise and ask embarrassing and hard to answer questions. Since Cosmo’s brother Brian died, his world has been slowly crumbling around him and because his mum couldn’t stand not having Brian around she went off to Sydney because there were apparently ‘better business opportunities’ leaving Cosmo to live with his granny and grandad where he enjoyed himself entirely…that was until his granddad started going crazy and losing his memory.

Life’s not so fun when your grandad stops remembering who you are. Cosmo and his gran started getting worried about him when he did a wee in the dishwasher. So they called a care home and they said they will do a memory test tomorrow to see if he can stay at home or will have to got into a care home. Cosmo tries to get his grandad to remember stuff but to no avail.

One day his grandad gives him the key to the south gates of Blackbrick Abbey where he used to work. While unlocking the gate, Cosmo unlocks his Grandad’s forgotten past…

Verdict: Amazing. Nothing else said.

Reviewed by Daisy (11)

Publisher: Orion
Publication Date: February 2013
Format: Hardback
Pages: 227KB
Genre: Time travel, Fantasy
Age: YA
Reviewer: Daisy (11)
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: Debut Author
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In The Shadow Of Blackbirds

Cat Winters

shadow of backbirdsDoes proof of the spirit world exist?
It’s 1918. Americans roam the streets in gauze masks to ward off the deadly Spanish influenza, the government ships young men overseas to the front lines, and neighbor accuses neighbor of spying for the enemy. In this stew of fear and confusion, sixteen-year-old Mary Shelley Black watches as desperate mourners flock to séances and “spirit photographers” for comfort. She has never believed in ghosts, but during her bleakest moment she’s forced to rethink her entire way of looking at life and death, for her first love – a boy who died in battle – returns to her as a spirit. Why has he returned? And what does he want from Mary Shelley?
Illustrated with haunting early-twentieth century photographs, this is a tense, romantic story set in a time eerily like our own.

The story begins with a long train journey from Portland to San Diego. Mary Shelley is moving to live with her aunt because her father was arrested and her mother had passed away some time ago. The train stinks of onions (widely believed at the time to prevent flu), and everyone is hiding behind their masks, mortally afraid of every cough and sneeze. Mary Shelley passes the time reading letters from her sweetheart Stephen, who has gone to war in Europe. As an opening chapter, it’s a well thought out way to set the scene and atmosphere of paranoia without heavy exposition.

As the book continues, we meet her Aunt Eva, who lives with her pet magpie, Oberon, works in the local shipyard and seems to spend the rest of her time making onion soup to ward off the flu. Eva likes Stephen’s older brother Julius, a spirit photographer who Mary Shelley already clearly dislikes and believes is a fraud. Mary Shelley meets Mr Darning, another local photographer who specialises in debunking spirit photography, though has so far failed to find any trickery in Julius’ studio.

After getting to meet the characters, we learn that Stephen has been killed in battle, and this is where the book really gets started. As the back cover says, Stephen starts to appear as a ghost to Mary Shelley, seemingly terrified of birds. The rest of the book depicts Mary Shelley becoming increasingly more determined and desperate to help Stephen to rest in peace, with some decent twists and turns along the way. A lot of the characters turn out to be not who they seem at first, and the final revelations are not ones I could have guessed.

When I first read the back cover, I half expected this book to be a silly romance between a young girl and the ghost of her boyfriend, but I’m happy to report that it’s far more interesting and worth reading than that. It draws interesting parallels with modern life – the irrational beliefs people have in placebo remedies for fatal illnesses; how shellshock, or post-traumatic stress disorder as it is now called, is seen as something to be ashamed of, rather than a mental illness that needs proper treatment and support.

One thing that isn’t so convincing in the book is the ages of Mary Shelley and Aunt Eva. Mary Shelley seems far too mature for her age of sixteen, whereas Eva reminds me of my Nan, not a woman in her mid-twenties as the text states. Perhaps people become more mature in desperate times of war and illness, but I’m not completely convinced by the book’s portrayal. That’s not to say they’re bad characters though.

The novel is apparently aimed at ages 12 and up, though I’d say it’s a little too gruesome for that age. It feels more like an adult novel to me than what would normally be in the YA category.

Reviewed by Keith

Publisher: Amulet Books
Publication Date: April 2013
Format: ARC
Pages: 416
Genre:Historical fiction, Mystery
Age: YA
Reviewer: Keith
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: Debut Author
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Lucifer Blog Tour: To Publish Is To Bleed

Yesterday we got to know awesome debut author Annabell Cadiz ( read the interview here). Today we ask that you sit back and relax with a cup of tea while Annabell shares the wisdom she gained during her journey to self publication.

luciferHave you ever wondered what could be hiding in the shadows?
Well, for eighteen-year-old Zahara Faraday, she doesn’t have to wonder. You see she comes from a lineage of Light Witches, those who have chosen to help protect and serve between the supernatural world and the human world. The only problem is Zahara, like her father Solomon, is as human as a human being can be whereas her mother, Mia, and her Aunt Catalina, were born as Light Witches. As a family they hunt down rogue supernaturals—creatures who harm humans or who have committed an act against their kingdom.
Zahara’s hunting skills are usually kept dormant since her parents would prefer she live life as a normal human girl without knowledge of the supernatural world. She plans on doing just that—except when she finds a couple being attacked by fairies, she has no choice but to step in. Before she can return to pretending to be blissfully ignorant, Zahara encounters a problem she isn’t the least equip to handle: Bryan Hamilton, the good looking new co-worker she has to help train. In a heartbeat, her best friend, Becca King, has set her up on a double date with herself and her new crush, Rekesh Saint-Louis, who happens to be the most powerful leader of the biggest Imago Coven in South Florida –supernatural creatures with the ability to control water . . . and suck out human souls.
Zahara has no time to focus on how she’s going to explain her double date with her best friend and the enemy they have a tentative truce with to her parents because soon one of the members of Mia and Catalina’s coven is found murdered with a strange tattoo of a snake with wings carved into his arm.
Zahara is then thrown into a whirlwind battle with an angel determined to have revenge against God, an Imago coven she doesn’t think they should trust, and slew of dream-eating fairies and powerful Nephilims, hybrid children of angels and humans, more than happy to rip her to shreds.
Normal just got a deadlier definition.

To Publish is To Bleed!
Ernest Hemingway once said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed,” while that is true for writing, the same could be said for publishing. Or well, it FEELS like sitting down and bleeding all your sanity out!
My journey to self-publishing was, thankfully, less like bleeding out my sanity and more like beating my head against a wall. I knew the basics about self-publishing but I had never ACTUALLY applied them since I had yet to publish a book, so the journey was filled with both HIALRIOUS and stupid mistakes, and was a DEFINITE learning experience.

My journey to publishing began when I was sixteen years old. I decided to write a book and in my naive mind, I thought that was all it would take. Write a book. Find someone who likes it enough to publish. Done.

Yeah, not so much.

Not only did I discover I needed an editor ASAP but I needed an entirely different book. I didn’t really focus on writing till years later when the FALLEN ANGELS SERIES kicked in, then SONS OF OLD TRILGY was born.
Through those years I learned how to be a better writer and how to create an ACTUAL plot with DEPTH, and I learned how to understand the ins and outs of publishing.

So here are some tips to up and coming authors to save you from making the same ridiculous (and comical) mistakes.
Enjoy!

Tips to Self-Publishing

Editor Is Your Best Friend (Even When He/She Sounds Like the Enemy): Every great author needs a support team and one of the main players on your team is your editor. Your editor is a third set of EXPERIENCED eyes and will not only become your confidant, but a trusted friend. Do the research. Make sure the person you choose to work with has done work either as a freelance editor or established editor in the past. Ask for references, history, and pricing. Find someone you vibe with well. You can use sites like The Association of Authors’ Representative, Preditors & Editors, and Writer Beware to help you.

The Curse of the Ugly Cover: Now, we all know the first element that will attract a reader to your book is the cover. As much as we’d love the old adage “Don’t judge a book by its cover” to be true, in the publication world, it just doesn’t work, and frankly, an ugly cover can be an extreme turn off. Once that book is published, you’re going to have to live with that cover, so make sure it’s one you REALLY love. AND make sure to look over every detail of the cover before officially announcing it to the world. When my cover was officially done and I did a Cover Reveal Tour, none of the reviewers, my best friends, myself or even my cover designer, Kim (from Hot Damn Designs) realized that the word TRILOGY was spelled TRIOLOGY! Thankfully, it was an easy mistake to fix and it was caught before the book was published *Whew* Some designers you may want to check out Hot Damn Designs, Dara England and Carol Green, WordSuger Designs, and Graphic Fantastic.

Converting From Hell: Formatting a book is HARD work, at least for those of us who do not speak computer beyond the basics. I was blessed that my best friend’s husband knows how to format Word Doc into the various ebook formats. But I know it won’t be so easy for everyone, so I suggest learning exactly what formats you want to convert your book into and what formats work for which site (i.e. Epub for Barnes and Noble, Epub for Amazon). Also, DO NOT PUBLISH YOUR WORD DOC DIRECTLY! Amazon and BN will tell you that you can just upload your book as Word Doc and they’ll convert it for you, which they will, BUT the conversion won’t come out so nice looking. Spaces will be off. Formatting will look weird. Paragraphs may not be indented probably. You don’t want to wind up with crappy formatted conversion because readers will get annoyed and will only be able to focus on the formatting instead of the story. Some great sites that can help you with conversion: Kinde Expert and Write Into Print.

Publish Here, Publish There, Publish Everywhere!: In case you were like me and didn’t know where the hex on Amazon and Barnes and Noble you’re supposed to go in order to publish your book, let me make it easier for you 😉

Amazon: No, you do not just go on your regular Amazon account to publish your book. Travel over to Kindle Direct Publishing. The steps will be explained for you and they are really simple. (Also, make sure in the section where it says “Contributors” that you put in YOUR NAME then click on the scroll bar and select AUTHOR or when you submit your book for publication on Amazon, it won’t go live. Yeah, I made that mistake. TWICE. *slaps forehead*) Amazon takes up to 12 hrs to publish your book in English and 48 hrs to publish your book in various other languages, so make sure to submit your book the day before your desired publication date! A great video that helps to explain Kindle Direct Publishing well is How to Upload Your Book on Amazon’s DTP (Kindle Marketplace). Also, once you finish publishing your book, head on over to Author Central and set up an author page for yourself 😉

Barnes and Noble: Again, you don’t head to your regular Barnes and Noble page that you use to buy books. Head on over to Pub It where the steps are explained to you the same way they are on Amazon. And again, remember in the Contributor section to do the same as with Amazon!! Barnes and Noble will give you a phone number you’ll need to call so they can check that your name and social security number are correct before they can send your book to be published live on their site. Barnes and Noble can take between 24 to 72 hrs to publish your book live so make sure to submit your book earlier than your desired publication date.
Other sites you may want to publish on: Smashwords (If you use Smashwords though, they will convert your book for you into various ebook versions). Kobo (in order to publish with them you will need to first attain an ISBN number).

Cover Tour, Launch Tour, Blog Tour? Speak English, Will You?!: There are a variety of ways an author can promote his or her book both before publication and after. It’s always great to set up interest for your book as early as possible and here are some ways you can do that.

Cover Reveal Tour: Before your book comes out, you can start getting word out there by setting up a virtual tour, otherwise known as a blog tour, that will reveal the cover of your book. The cover reveal will include not only the image of the cover, but also the synopsis of the book, mini bio about the author and links as to where the author can be located. It’s a fun and simple way to get people interested in your up and coming book. You will have to research out reviewers and request if they would like to sign up to participate in your cover reveal tour. This tour can go from one to two weeks long.

Launch Day Tour: This would be a blog tour that takes place on the day of publication for your book. You will have to set this up a few weeks in advance so every reviewer that chooses to participate can have all the info on time and so you can get a good amount of participating reviewers. Every post would include the cover of your book, the synopsis, author bio and links, and you may also want to include an excerpt (can be a scene from your book or half a chapter or a full on chapter) from your book. Or character profiles or a character interview. Something fun to go along with the promo of your book and give people an inside glimpse into what your book is either about or the characters.

Launch Tour: This would be like the Launch Day Tour but instead of just one day, this would last from one week to two weeks long.

Blog Tour: A blog tour is a lot more work and a lot of fun. It’s like setting up a book tour in the outside world except instead of stopping by bookstores for signings, you stop by reviewers blogs. This tour would include book reviews, interviews, guest posts and giveaways. This tour can last from two weeks to a month, so you will to set this tour up at least a month before the time period you want it to run. Usually between ten to twenty-five reviewers participate in the tour and they get to decide how they participate (i.e. review your book or conduct an interview with you or a character interview with a character from your book or give you a topic to write a post about to be featured on the reviewer’s site) With every type of post the cover image, the synopsis, the author bio and links will also be included.

Who the Author Are You??: A reader will become interested in not just your book but the author who created that book. You’re taken more seriously the better you establish yourself for your readership. Create a website or a blog or both (Weebly and WordPress are both FREE sites that allow you to set up a website for yourself). Write about your books, your writing journey, tips you may have, your everyday life. Let readers get to know you a bit so they can feel a connection with you. Create an account on a social media site like Twitter or Facebook. Twitter is a great place to network with fellow authors, editors, and publishers. Facebook lets you create an author page. Pinterest is a fun site to post images of stuff that can represent you and your book. Set up a Goodreads account. Goodreads is one of the biggest sites for readers and reviewers. It’s a great place to get know your readership and connect with them. They also have an Author’s Program you can sign up for. Having an online presence is a NECESSITY when you are publishing period, but even more so, when you’re self-publishing in your own work.

I hope these tips help you in along your publishing journey! =) You can also stop by TeamNerd Reviews to request having a blog tour set up for you *wink*

AnnabelleAnnabell Cadiz was born in the sweltering heat of South Florida. She was raised surrounded by Puerto Rican chefs and band of siblings that weren’t all related to her. A self-proclaimed nerd and book-a-holic (her room does hold much evidence to prove her claims are justifiable), she created TeamNerd Reviews to showcase her EXTREME love for novels where, along with her best friend, Bridget Strahin, she hosts book reviews, interviews, giveaways, Indie Shoutouts and much more. She also blog tour services for authors. She also had the pleasure of being published in three separate issue of Suspense Magazine. She also adores Cinnamon Teddy Grahams, has an addiction to Minute Maid Orange juice, and is a proud Jesus Freak. Lucifer is Annabell’s debut novel and the first book in the Sons of Old Trilogy.

You can find out more about Annabell and her work by visiting her website, Goodreads author page, Pinterest account, Facebook page,and her fabulous book blog. Alternatively, you can converse with her on twitter.

Lucifer, the first book in Annabell’s Son’s Of Old Trilogy, is available to buy now from Barnes and Noble, amazon.com and amazon.co.uk.

lucifer swag packENTER FOR A CHANCE TO WIN THE FABTASTIC SWAG PACK!
In honor of the two main female leads in LUCIFER, Zahara and Becca, Annabell created a fun swag pack for ONE very lucky winner!
Win a specially made makeup kit by E.L.F along with one DVD copy of the movie Sixteen Candles, a fuschia metallic manicure set, a Girl Power Superwoman wristband, a LOVE IS A BATTLEFIELD silver necklace, a silver bracelet with handcuff & key charms, Honey Sweetheart lotion (that smells INCREDIBLE!), two toned lip bloom (that is SUPER cute!), and gray colored cheetah printed socks that are SOOOO adorables and an ecopy of LUCIFER!
ANNNND if that wasn’t enough,FIVE other lucky winners will win a FREE ecopy of LUCIFER!
TWICE a week on MONDAYS & FRIDAYS a new clue from LUCIFER will be posted up. Enter the new clue inside the Rafflecopter every time a new one is posted and get more chances to win!
Stop by the BLOG TOUR page(here) to enter!

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