Showcase Sunday #9: Easter Edition!

Showcase Sunday is a meme to show off all the books you've collected this week!  

The only thing that makes this an Easter edition is that it's Easter (Western Easter, anyway), but you could probably make some of the books Easter-themed if you really tried...  

acquired this week-ish 

The Complete Dramatic Works by Samuel Beckett {paperback} 
Three Novels by Samuel Beckett {paperback} 
Poison by Bridget Zinn {hardcover} 
Easy by Tammara Webber {paperback}{donated by Angie!} 
The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson {paperback} 
Panic by Sharon M. Draper {hardcover} 
Pretty Girl-13 by Coley {hardcover} 
17 & Gone by Nova Ren Suma {hardcover} 
The Worker by Ken Brosky {kindle} 
The Grimm Chronicles: Vol I by Isabella Fontaine and Ken Brosky {kindle}
The Grimm Chronicles: Vol II by Isabella Fontaine and Ken Brosky {kindle}
School for Evil by Danny Gregory {kindle} 
Some Quiet Place by Kelsey Sutton {kindle}{netgalley}
Thin Space by Jody Casella {kindle}{netgalley}
Sentenced to Life at Seventeen by Cynthia J. Faryon {kindle}{netgalley}
Zenn Scarlett by Christin Schoon {kindle}{netgalley}
Manicpixiedreamgirl by Tom Leveen {kindle}{donated by author!}
Dare You To by Katie McGarry {kindle}{netgalley}
BloodLight by Harambee K. Grey-Sun {kindle}{netgalley}
14 by Peter Clines {kindle}{netgalley}
Mania by Ronald K.L. Collins & David M. Skover {kindle}{netgalley} 
The Host by Stephenie Meyer {kindle}
Doorways by Tim O'Rourke {kindle} 


Review: Infernal Machines by Will Millar

The Review

title:  Infernal Machines

author: Will Millar

pages: 400

format: Kindle

isbn/asin: 978-1938750823

buy it: Amazon  Goodreads

rating: 4/5 [in the genre] or 7/10 [all books I’ve ever read].

recommended for:  Fans of Chuck Palahniuk or old-school horror.  Fans of psychological thrillers, classic horror movies, crime shows (like Criminal Minds), a darker Supernatural, and the human element in horror.

My Ratings Explained

the basics
Infernal Machines is a page from a classic horror movie.  Only this isn't a haunted house--it's a haunted town.  Not by ghosts or ghouls, necessarily, but by people--the strange, the evil, the ones with control of an even greater evil.  The focus on the characters makes it strong and gives you a peek into the psyches of several very different types of people.  The Nazi-next-door.  The video-game-playing good boy.  The dark magic shop owner.  It takes a little while to get the hang of the big cast, but once you do, you'll be pulled along deeper into more and more twisted adventures.  I found myself really enjoying the gritty procedural-like prose and the unexpected twists.  A must for fans of modern horror.   

plot . 4/5
It's difficult to tell what's going on for a while.  This isn't so bad in the long run, because the confusion builds a lot of suspense.  It just makes it harder to get into at first.  But once it picks up, it doesn't let go.  I found myself really getting invested in the secrets each character has.  The weird Cliff and his experimentation killing animals.  The mysterious Mr. Cardiff.  You're dying to know the whole time how all these stories are going to connect and what terrible things are going to happen.  It was an uncomfortable feeling in the way that psychological thrillers do best--the kind of uncomfortable that only authors with good atmosphere can produce.  

concept . 5/5
It's a cool concept.  A weird town.  There's something it reminds me of on the tip of my tongue but I can't pin it down.  Suffice to say, I loved the idea.  It's like a circus or something, with that small town feel.  I can't describe it.  There was just something inherently eerie about the isolated Washington woods location, the railroad bums, the river stores, the trailer park Aryan gang.  You get to know everything as well as if you lived there.  But the whole time, you know there's something evil bubbling under the surface.  

characters . 4/5
I knocked it down just because there are so many of them.  With around ten or so voices, it takes a while before you can really get into everyone's head, which is important for me in getting into a story.  I thought it could have stuck with just a few and done the same job, maybe with a few deviations along the way to add some scenery.  But besides the confusion, all the characters are remarkably well-explored.  I felt like I knew some of them right away (e.g. Cliff, Stoner) and it made it a lot easier to ground myself in the story.  

style . 4/5
The style has that gritty feel like crime procedurals.  There's even a cop!  I kid, but seriously, the style gives this story a really great atmosphere.  Dark, kind of grungy, even a little gory.  A little like Palahniuk only without his particular brand of psychopathic elegance.  More concrete.  I was really impressed with it and I think it made the story stand out a lot from the other indie horrors you see out there.  

mechanics . 4/5
I thought there could have been a lot more cut out.  I'm big on conciseness, so I like to see a lot of pruned adjectives, pithy descriptions, etc.  OR, if there is going to be floweriness ala Jane Austen, tight floweriness.  

take home message
The heartbreakingly beautiful story of what true horror does to the human spirit, and how it can be overcome.  

Note: I received this copy free from the publisher.  The price of the book and its origin in no way affected my stated opinions.

Blog Tour: Infernal Machines by Will Millar

Welcome to my stop on the Infernal Machines blog tour!  I'm happy to be hosting Will Millar and his exciting new horror novel.  Take a look! 


Infernal Machines

Paulie and Stoner aren’t bad seeds; they’re just a little too smart for their own good. They stole their first car in kindergarten, and as for the homemade rocket launcher in Stoner’s garage … well, it’s best just not to ask. With 9th grade just around the corner, Paulie and Stoner find themselves on the wrong side of some real bad kids, an older band of white supremacists that go by the name of “Twisted Cross.” When a rumble at a high school keg party turns fatal, it sets off a chain of events that test the limits of Paulie and Stoner’s friendship, and their very sanity. Welcome to Chapel Harbor, a town where everybody buries their secrets deep, and nobody is quite who they seem. A town where the ghost of a serial killer known as The Junkman is rumored to stalk the woods at night, and where an unassuming magic shop and its mysterious proprietor, Arthur Cardiff, may possess the key to an ancient and terrible evil. Packed with hairpin turns and twists that will keep you guessing until the very last page, Infernal Machines is a blood drenched, adrenaline fueled, roller-coaster of a horror story that’s at once a paean to the Pulp Horror classics of the early 80’s and a meditation on the enduring power of friendship.

Available Now:

Amazon: US | UK | Canada | France | Germany | Italy | Japan | Spain

About Will Millar

Meet Will Millar
Will Millar was raised in Commack, a quiet and unassuming town close to the northern shore of Long Island. As a kid, his primary passions were horror and hell-raising. As he tended to cultivate the latter to a greater extent than the former, by the time he was 17 years old, the whole town decided they’d had quite enough of his antics, and would he please just take his act on the road, thank you very much. He enlisted in the Marine Corps, where his penchant for fire, explosions and general mayhem were tolerated, if not somewhat approved. At this point, Will also discovered the writers of the Beat Generation and began to write more consistently, submitting his less profane poems to underground ‘zines and belting out the more terrible stuff to unsuspecting audiences at various open mike nights throughout the Pacific Northwest. Throughout the last 15 years, Will has worked as a writer in various mediums, though horror continues to remain his favorite. He sometimes contributes articles to Cracked.com, and his short stories are available in several different anthologies. Infernal Machines is his first novel. At the present, Will lives in Phoenix AZ. He is a father of four, owns two dogs and has a wonderfully understanding girlfriend, all of whom somehow manage to put up with all of his crap.

Connect with Will Millar


The Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Look out for the review later today!  In it's own post so this one doesn't get too long.  


Musing: Virals by Kathy Reichs (or, Sometimes the Universe Takes Things I Love and Tries to Make Me Hate Them; a.k.a. Spinoffs)

I should probably warn you.  I'm a little annoyed.  If you love this book, don't come throwing hammers at me, please.  (People do that, right?)  I'm not saying it's a bad book.  I'm not even saying I wouldn't enjoy it in another age.  But the fact is, I must ask:  Why, Kathy Reichs?  Why?  

Why did you feel the need to take a great crime series and spin it off?  Well, I can answer that with one word (hint: it's "money") but it still makes me sad.  The Temperance Brennan books are great.  Well, I haven't read them personally, but my mom adores them and I'm addicted to the TV show.  And what bugs me is that the original series is a realistic crime series with realistic crimes and no mention of superhero-causing parvoviruses.  Aka, what I think happened here is someone thought, hey!  Let's give Temperance a niece and write a series, because if we link it to Bones then people will want to read it.  And that's not fun enough so let's make them virus-enhanced animalistic super-beings.  


Yeah, sure, give Temperance a crime-solving niece.  I will still be a little peeved because I think spinoffs for the sake of name-recognition are annoying (though marketing-wise, savvy).  But really?  Did she have to be a crime-solving super-niece?  It would be one thing if the original Temperance books had science-fiction elements ala Dresden Files.  But, um, they don't.  So now we have this weird universe clash where Temperance lives in the real world and her niece is somehow in this other world where things like superpowers exist.  

Maybe I'm just nitpicky, but the genre-switch brings up all sorts of universe problems for me.  

So I ask you all:  what do you think of spinoffs of popular series?  That change genre?  What do you think of Virals?  Would you read it?  Especially interested to hear from fans of Reichs' other work, but I'd love for anyone to weigh in!  


New Release: Ruby by Kayla Curry, a Mystic Stones Story

My fellow blogger and writer Kayla Curry has just released a short story in the same world as her novel, Obsidian.  Check it out!  

Ruby: A Mystic Stones Jewel is now available! Ruby is a short story companion to the novel Obsidian: Mystic Stones Series #1 and can be read before or after the novel. The story will be listed at $.99, but I will be offering FREE copies for anyone interested. First, I'll post the blurbs for Ruby and Obsidian, then a little teaser from Ruby and last but not least, 4 ways to get Ruby for FREE!

Ruby: A Mystic Stones Jewel

Attraction pulls Ava Tanner to her client Tom Walker, but her professionalism prevents her from making any moves.
Tom wants Ava in more ways than one and his desires are almost too much to keep inside. He needs her, but he doesn't want to scare her away for fear of angering the council.
Will the spark between Ava and Tom turn into something more, or will Ava allow it to fizzle out?

Available Now

Obsidian: Mystic Stones Series #1

Ava Tanner finds herself in a world without satellite technology in a time of GPS, Smart Phones and Tablets. When she discovers that a corporation headed by vampires with a sinister motive is to blame, her world is turned upside-down. After a narrow escape, she learns a mystical secret about herself that could aide her in her fight against the vampires. Unfortunately, the vampires see her either as a valuable asset or a target for destruction.
When the world is on the brink of complete social and technological devastation, one must ask themselves: Would I give up my blood for the modern ideal way of life, or will I wage war with the overlords of chaos?

Available Now

Enjoy this teaser from "Ruby"!  

The metal elevator doors glided open to the luxurious seventeenth floor of the Herrick-Peyton building. Fresh, colorful hibiscus flowers welcomed Ava as she stepped into the reception area. She glanced around and made eye contact with the man she was looking for: Tom Walker. His face lit up when he saw her, and his handsome grin made Ava’s own smile spread across her face.

“Miss Tanner, what brings you up to the seventeenth floor?” Mr. Walker asked.

“Well, it’s been almost a year since you signed your last lease, and since you seem so comfortable up here, I thought I’d bring up the renewal papers,” Ava said as she looked around the lobby.

“Wonderful! Let’s step into my office, shall we? I’ll sign them right away. Otherwise, they’ll get lost on my desk.”

Ava nodded and followed Tom to his office. He stopped short and let her enter first as he gently placed a hand on the small of her back. Butterflies erupted in her stomach.

He closed the door behind them and gestured at one of the guest chairs while taking the packet of papers from her. She could smell his cologne as he approached her. It reminded her of rain and fresh cut grass. He took a seat behind his large desk, which shined in the sunlight from the window behind him.

“So the papers would get lost on your desk, huh?” Ava asked.

“Well, I might have exaggerated a bit,” he replied. Silence followed as he flipped through the pages of the lease.

He cleared his throat, “So, since I’m signing papers—”

“Oh, no. Let’s not start that, Mr. Walker. You know I can’t work for you,” Ava said, before he got the question out.

“How did you know?” He grinned.

“You ask me every time we see each other.”

“I wish we would see each other more often. Then maybe I would wear you down.”

“I just don’t think I’d fit in at Psytech, and I like where I am now,” Ava replied.

Tom sighed. “I know you do. I just can’t figure out why.”

The pen dragged on the last page of the renewal papers as Tom signed his name with a flourish. He stood and rounded the desk with a predatory look on his face. It was one that Ava had seen often. She couldn’t convince herself it was only the look of a man who wanted her to work for him. To her, it sometimes seemed that he wanted so much more. She took a deep breath as he came closer. She was about to stand, but he surprised her by sitting in the guest seat next to her.

“I hope that one day you will say yes to me. Psytech could really use you—I could really use you.”

Want your own copy?  FOR FREE!? 

There are four ways you can get Ruby for free and these offers will stand for an UNLIMITED TIME. Here is how to get Ruby for free:

Leave a review of Obsidian.
Buy Obsidian.
Post about Obsidian/Ruby on your blog.
Post about Obsidian/Ruby on Facebook or Twitter everyday for one week.

Just pick one of the options above and fill out this form:

About the Author: Kayla Curry

Kayla Curry, author of Obsidian: The Mystic Stones Series, lives in North Platte, Nebraska with her husband and two children.

She likes spending time with family and friends when she’s not writing or marketing.

Her other hobbies include reading and arts and crafts. You can visit her website at http://sites.google.com/site/kaylacurryauthor/ to keep up on her progress in the Mystic Stones Series.

Links to Kayla Curry:


ARC Review: If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch

title:  If You Find Me

author: Emily Murdoch

pages: 256

format: Kindle, Netgalley ARC

isbn/asin: 978-1250021526

buy it: Amazon  Goodreads

rating: 5/5 [in the genre] or 8/10 [all books I’ve ever read].

recommended for:  Fans Crank by Ellen Hopkins, 34 Pieces of You by Carmen Rodrigues, or other books dealing with real teen issues.  Lovers of good writing, powerful stories, and deeply explored characters.  Fans of crime shows like Law and Order: SVU.

My Ratings Explained

A broken-down camper hidden deep in a national forest is the only home fifteen-year-old Carey can remember. The trees keep guard over her threadbare existence, with the one bright spot being Carey’s younger sister, Jenessa, who depends on Carey for her very survival. All they have is each other, as their mentally ill mother comes and goes with greater frequency. Until that one fateful day their mother disappears for good, and two strangers arrive. Suddenly, the girls are taken from the woods and thrust into a bright and perplexing new world of high school, clothes and boys.

Now, Carey must face the truth of why her mother abducted her ten years ago, while haunted by a past that won’t let her go… a dark past that hides many a secret, including the reason Jenessa hasn’t spoken a word in over a year. Carey knows she must keep her sister close, and her secrets even closer, or risk watching her new life come crashing down.

the basics
Stop back in December; I have a feeling you'll find this one on my top ten books of 2013.  Murdoch's novel richly depicts the most abject horrors a human can experience, and the transformative power of love.  This is no Lifetime original, mind you.  Narrator Carey is as strong-willed as she is abused.  She's been through hell and back, but though there are cracks, she's not broken.  It's a refreshing look at abuse and rape from the perspective of survivorship, showing that the victim may not emerged unchanged, but that they don't have to live marked and destroyed either.  Carey's voice with its "backwoods" accent, Southern colloquialisms, and often poetic inner monologue pulls you violently into a vibrant inner world.  And doesn't let go.  If you don't feel like crying during some point in this story, you're clearly not actually reading it.  

plot . 5/5
I think my main criticism is, "I got to the ending and was mad that it was over and I want more."  Not that I think the ending was mistimed--it was just so good that, like the finale to a great TV series, it left me yearning for more.  You can bet I'll be reading more Murdoch.  The plot begins in the middle, with Carey's father finding them in the woods.  The horrors have already happened.  What we see is how Carey readjusts to life in the outside world--a new family, a new life, comforts like a warm bed and real food that she hasn't had since her mother took her to the woods.  Comforts that her sister never had.  I thought it was a little unrealistic that Carey could not know things like state abbreviations and yet test above her grade level, but I was willing to suspend disbelief.  

Anyway, the plot was well-paced and comfortably combined flashbacks and current scenes.  The reveal of Carey's dark secret didn't come until the end, but there were enough hints early on that it felt like an expected sign of character growth rather than a cheap trick.  Even when it seemed nothing big was happening, I was never bored.  Watching Carey grapple with new experiences and new emotions--including cutie Ryan--was intriguing enough.  And Ryan, the one piece I initially thought could be groan-worthy, actually turned out to be realistic and not insta-romance-y at all.  

concept . 5/5
There are books abounding that deal with children and teens amidst the horrors of abuse and other tragedies.  This book takes it a step further and looks at what happens after.  How do these teens grow once they're removed from the abuse?  How have their struggles made them who they are?  I found it particularly profound how much Carey struggled internally with her redemption, feeling at times blessed and at times undeserving and fearful that it would all go away in an instant.  The focus on survivorship took themes that often seem exploitative, like rape and violence, and explored them in an authentic, deeply moving way.  

characters . 5/5
Carey is instantly lovable.  She's smart, determined, and responsible, with a deep sense of duty towards her younger sister that casts her as both hero and martyr.  But not in a cheap or histrionic way.  She's no Mary-Sue.  She's just a girl who has come through hell and managed to maintain strength and even humor.  Jenessa was for me the one who got a little annoying, but then, I think part of that was seeing her through Carey's eyes.  Nessa was Carey's everything and, as such, was often described as perfect or angelic.  Which is annoying, but says something very important and useful about Carey.  The stepsister, Delaney, surprised me.  I feared Murdoch would go too far into "evil stepsister" territory, but we quickly find that Delaney's snottiness is far from flat.  Then there's Carey's dad.  He appears less than any other main character.  Even Mama, who doesn't factor into any of the present-day scenes, gets more screen time, and is present in both flashbacks and in Carey's way of relating to the world.  Yet dad is quieter and more in the background.  Only he's no less strong for it.  His silence makes him complex; it shows how much he struggles with this transition as much as Carey does, and makes his appearances all the more powerful.  

style . 5/5
Carey's accent is not only a cool viewpoint for the story, but also a great way to show her character.  She begins the first-person tale saying things like a'int and hangin' and using "backwoods" idioms.  When she leaves the woods, she vows to reclaim her g's and to talk like a "normal" person--and we see her voice change.  What her transition shows is not that she wasn't normal before, but that she's rejecting the way Mama talked and becoming more like her new family.  But those idioms are still there, because she hasn't forgotten who she was, even though she's changed in many ways.  Her voice is also beautifully descriptive.  I can't tell you how many lines I highlighted because they were so incisive or gorgeous or profound.  

mechanics . 5/5
Poetry figures throughout and so does music.  Books and violin were Carey's refuge in the woods, and it sticks with her.  She sees the world in musical terms and the poetry she loves filters into her new experiences.  This is best scene during the party scene with Ryan, where Tennyson's "The Lady of Shallott" is quoted at various places to describe, clarify, or add deeper meaning to what's happening outside of her head.  Pooh, Nessa's favorite, is also present in Carey's voice, from quotes to her referring to her home as the Hundred Acre Wood.  It's a cool way to incorporate other literature that doesn't feel overdone.  

take home message
The heartbreakingly beautiful story of what true horror does to the human spirit, and how it can be overcome.  

Note: I received this copy free from Netgalley.  The price of the book and its origin in no way affected my stated opinions.


Cover Love: Lullaby by Amanda Hocking

cover love 

I'm not really an Amanda Hocking fan.  I respect her hard work and her success, but I've read a lot of her novels and they just don't do it for me.  That said, the cover for Lullaby is freaking gorgeous.  I wish they'd offset the girl a little bit because it looks very symmetrical, but that's nitpicky.  Otherwise, it's everything a cover should be.  Limited color palette with accent color.  Unique font (with some fancy text design going on, I might add) which is really pretty and also fits the tranquil theme.  Matching (but not identical!) and not-too-big accent text.  It's really just well done all around.  And if you're into mermaid romance, go check it out the book too.  Just not my thing.  

x . x . x

This is one of my favorite covers.  It's "Time After Time" by Quietdrive, covering Cyndi Lauper.  And it's gorgeous.  They capture the sweetness and intensity of the original while adding some edge to it.  If you haven't noticed, I like me some edge.  Anyway, it's a really great example of a cover that goes beyond the original while still respecting the source.  Enjoy! 


Review: Stitch by Samantha Durante

title:  Stitch

author: Samantha Durante

pages: 322

format: Paperback

isbn/asin: 978-0985804602

buy it: Amazon  Goodreads

rating: 3.5/5 [in the genre] or 6/10 [all books I’ve ever read].

recommended for:  Fans of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and Divergent by Veronica Roth.  Romance lovers who like their stories to have some action and adventure too.  Anyone looking for a quick, fun read.

My Ratings Explained

Her heart races, her muscles coil, and every impulse in Alessa's body screams at her to run... but yet she's powerless to move.

Still struggling to find her footing after the sudden death of her parents, the last thing college freshman Alessa has the strength to deal with is the inexplicable visceral pull drawing her to a handsome ghostly presence. In between grappling with exams and sorority soirees - and disturbing recurring dreams of being captive in a futuristic prison hell - Alessa is determined to unravel the mystery of the apparition who leaves her breathless. But the terrifying secret she uncovers will find her groping desperately through her nightmares for answers.

Because what Alessa hasn't figured out yet is that she's not really a student, the object of her obsession is no ghost, and her sneaking suspicions that something sinister is lurking behind the walls of her university's idyllic campus are only just scratching the surface...

The opening installment in a twist-laden trilogy, Stitch spans the genres of paranormal romance and dystopian sci-fi to explore the challenges of a society in transition, where morality, vision, and pragmatism collide leaving the average citizen to suffer the results.

the basics
This is one of those books that I liked more the more I read it.  It's an exciting read that twists you around and makes you wonder, with the characters, what's true and what's not.  The science-fiction aspect was much stronger than the paranormal, but I liked that.  It also dips its toes into the New Adult class with a story that bases itself in romance but also broadly explores the crash of a world and the 1984-ish rebuilding.  I thought the prose could have been tightened more pre-publication, but it's clear that Durante has talent.  Her latter scenes in the dystopian world are much stronger and hopefully reflective of what the sequel will look like.  Overall, I really enjoyed the book and hope that Shudder hangs on to the parts that were strongest here and shows Durante's growth as a writer too.  The end definitely left me wanting to know more. 

plot . 3/5
I wish there had been no prologue, but even so, the plot really packs a punch.  You start with Alessa, orphaned college student, wondering at the ghostly apparition she's been seeing.  The sci-fi comes in when she begins to think that maybe her ghost is actually a vision of a real past person through a wormhole.  Only don't get comfortable there!  Durante jerks you around and reveals something even more sinister--a dystopian government, a rebel force, a horrifying technology that can override our most basic memories.  I won't give it away, but it's a satisfying turn.  I wish she'd explore the dramas more, because I think that's really the best and most original part of this story.  I hope to see more of it in Shudder.  I got a little hung up on the extent of all the flashbacks.  It was a little difficult to figure out where I was sometimes.  

concept . 5/5
The concept for this book masquerades as a paranormal romance of the ghost story variety but it's actually a clever dystopian sci-fi.  Trust me, it works.  I think the flashbacks could be blended a little more smoothly to make the relationship between the two less obvious.  But overall, it's a clever spin on the popular dystopian genre.  The idea of "stitching," fiddling with memories, is a really clever one.  Scientifically, you'll have to suspend some disbelief, but do that and it's really a cool set-up.  The idea of the "dramas" is also incredibly intriguing and was one of the main hooks that kept me curious and reading.  I didn't catch on to those right away and the reveal was very satisfying.  

characters . 4/5
I had a harder time bonding with Alessa than with Isaac or Janie.  The latter two seemed pretty distinct and interesting, with unique voices.  They just seem vibrant, and I responded to that as a reader.  Alessa, at times, felt flatter.  She was a newly orphaned young adult in love with a ghost--interesting, but I felt like, at times, her situation defined her more than her traits.  I would have liked to see her character show through more deeply.  Unique speech patterns.  Inner thoughts that ran more deeply than the confusion with Isaac.  Emotion, I think, was the biggest one.  She just didn't seem as emotional as I would have expected.  I think I liked her more in the second half, when she seemed more vibrant and more colorful.  

style . 3/5
The style showed a lot of promise but still needed a little more.  I tend to be pretty picky when it comes to prose, so I like to see a lot of polishing, adjectives pruned, every word clearly there for a purpose.  There just seemed to be too many extra descriptions that didn't need to be in there.  Actually, it reminded me of the prose in Twilight, so if you like that kind of writing, then forget my critique because you'll love this.  I liked it, I just didn't love it.  I could see Durante's writerly strengths shining through in many of the later dystopian scenes, which seemed more concise and more carefully constructed, and I really wanted to see that throughout.  That said, Durante's work has some beautiful descriptions and the voice really feels appropriate for the age of the character, which is something that not all authors can master.  

mechanics . 3/5
Again, I thought some of the extra words could have been cut to make the prose flow more smoothly.  

take home message
A genre-bending story with a twisty plot, a clever concept, and an ending that will make you pray for the sequel.  

Note: I received this copy free from the author.  The price of the book and its origin in no way affected my stated opinions.

Books by Theme: Underrated and Amazing Young Adult Books Vol. 2

In making the other lists, I realized that there were so many more I wanted to add!  Here are a few of no particular type that I truly love and want the world to know more about.  We'll start with a high fantasy, end with a high fantasy, and throw a few other gems into the mix.  

Underrated YA Books

The Assassin's Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke
Ananna will do anything to avoid marrying an allied pirate and losing her freedom--even if it means running away from everything she's known.  In the process, she meets Naji, an assassin sent to kill her.  When she inadvertently saves his life, his curse activates and he must protect her, or die.  The story of their journey to break the curse reminded me of Erroll Flynn movies or Pirates of the Caribbean meshed with Tamora Pierce.  Badass heroine, sexy but understated companion, unique magic system, nonstop twisty plot, Narnia-like world.  Yeah, I can't say enough good things about this book.  It's the book every high fantasy obsesser has been waiting for--and it should get way more credit for that. 
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Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler
Min and Ed broke up--and in this book, she tells him exactly why with humor, pathos, and  the objects of their relationship that frame each chapter.  Read Series of Unfortunate Events?  Well, imagine that snarky wit ramped up to teen level and combined with a girl who loves old films, a sheepish basketball player, and the myster of an aging film star.  It's a twist on a story that we've all been through at some point or another.  And it's funny as hell.  The use of art is brilliant, and takes the breakup box concept to another level.  What do those objects really mean?  What are the stories behind them?  And how do they lead you to the end?  Clever, witty, and genuine.
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Firelight by Sophie Jordan
One of the first books I reviewed on S&L, and though I haven't read the sequels yet, it's not for lack of desire so much as book ADHD.  Jordan takes something I hate--romance-focused plots--and turns it into something I loved with good writing, deeply portrayed characters, and a vibrantly original plot.  Jacinda is a draki.  That's a dragon, sort of, with special powers fire powers that her clan hasn't seen for many years.  Only the draki live in our world and must hide in human form to avoid being hunted by those who wish to study and exploit them.  Jacinda almost jeapordizes their entire world when huntersn early catch her, until a handsome human boy saves her life.  Now hidden as a human in a human high school, she crosses paths with her savior.  Her attraction to him is the only thing keeping her unused dragon form from withering, but being in love with a hunter has its own dangers.  It's seriously a clever book and the romance is well done and not saccharine or sappy.  Also, come on.  Dragons!?
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The Wish List by Eoin Colfer
I came across this again the other day and remembered just how much I loved it.  Colfer is better known for his wicked amusing Artemis Fowl series (which I still must finish; fail), and this book is often forgotten.  It doesn't deserve to be.  Enter Meg.  She's a teen caught up with the wrong people and the wrong fun--the kind that gets her killed.  Now Meg's spirit is in limbo, and the only way to get herself to heaven is to help the old man whom she died robbing.  That means helping him to complete his bucket list, and learning a few things about herself along the way.  It's clever, deep, and as usual with Colfer, irreverently funny. Yeah, I said it.  It'll surprise you and leave you with a smile.

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
I know this book has gotten a lot of attention, but I still think it should be bigger than it is. It took one of my favorite genres, YA high fantasy, and put new life back into it.  It also happens to be beautifully written and contain some really swoon-worthy characters.  Okay, yes, sometimes I'm a hopeless romantic.  Shove it.  Anyhoo, the story is of Celaena, the kingdom's best assassin, and her one chance for freedom--to compete in a contest of cutthroats and mercenaries and come out the champion.  Only things get complicated when someone is killing champions with old, forbidden magic and the prince sponsoring you is charming and won't leave you alone.  Everything I love about high fantasy is here:  the strong hero, the magic, the mystery, the beautiful writing, the romance, the twisty plot that leaves you craving more.  I can't wait to see it up with Cassie Clare some day. 
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Click the book titles to find out more! 

What are some YA books that you think deserve more press and more reads?  


Giveaway Winner: Reader Appreciation Survey

we have a winner! 

Thanks to everyone who participated in the Reader Appreciation Survey!  I know that I sent it out a while ago, but I've finally been able to focus on all of the feedback (now that my thesis is nearly done!).  I appreciate all the tips you guys had for making this site better.  I've already been trying to incorporate some of your feedback by doing fewer memes, more Books by Theme, Before There Was, and reviews, and random book recs and features. I'm going to be working hard over the next couple months to make a new, better Sarcasm & Lemons (with a brand new design to get rid of some of that blue!).  I'm happy to meet all my new followers and I'm so grateful to everyone for participating and sharing with others.  

Didn't win?  Look no further than the Giveaway Page for more chances to win great prizes! 

                     congratulations to
ruth! you won a book of your choice  for around $10 from amazon or the book depository!

( the winner has 48 hours to respond to the winning e-mail, otherwise a new winner will be chosen ) 

look out for the next giveaways and more reviews coming soon!  

we have a ton this month and next month, including gateway to reality by becca campbell and manicpixiedreamgirl by tom leveen! 

Giveaway Winner: Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway

we have a winner! 

Thanks to everyone who entered the Lucky Leprechaun giveaway! I'm happy to meet all my new followers and I'm so grateful to everyone for participating and sharing with others.  

Didn't win?  Look no further than the Giveaway Page for more chances to win great prizes! 

                     congratulations to
beth g.! you won a book of your choice from amazon or the book depository!

( the winner has 48 hours to respond to the winning e-mail, otherwise a new winner will be chosen ) 

look out for the next giveaways and more reviews coming soon!  

we have a ton this month and next month, including gateway to reality by becca campbell and manicpixiedreamgirl by tom leveen! 


Review: Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

i'm going to try not to say "OMGLOVE" the whole time. i swear. 

title:  Warm Bodies

author: Isaac Marion

pages: 256

format: Paperback

isbn/asin: 978-1439192320

buy it: Amazon  Goodreads

rating: 5/5 [in the genre] or 10/10 [all books I’ve ever read].

recommended for:  Lovers of dark comedies, phenomenal writing, weird romances, dystopians, and the undead.  Fans of Shaun of the Dead, Chuck Palahniuk, A Nightmare Before Christmas, Edward Scissorhands, Bret Easton Ellis, or dark YA reads like The Hunger Games, Delirium, and Wither.  

'R' is a zombie. He has no name, no memories and no pulse, but he has dreams. He is a little different from his fellow Dead.

Amongst the ruins of an abandoned city, R meets a girl. Her name is Julie and she is the opposite of everything he knows - warm and bright and very much alive, she is a blast of colour in a dreary grey landscape. For reasons he can't understand, R chooses to save Julie instead of eating her, and a tense yet strangely tender relationship begins.

This has never happened before. It breaks the rules and defies logic, but R is no longer content with life in the grave. He wants to breathe again, he wants to live, and Julie wants to help him. But their grim, rotting world won't be changed without a fight...

the basics
Warm Bodies is by far one of the best books I've ever read.  I mean, come on.  It's like Tim Burton and Chuck Palahniuk wrote a love story.  Only don't get me wrong, Isaac Marion is no derivative.  (Also I may have a little crush on him.  What?  Hiding.)  Okay, so this book is not your average romance.  Zombie R, meet Julie.  And yes, I didn't notice the Romeo-Juliet parallel til the book.  Saw the movie?  It was great, but the book has layers and layers of depth that the movie misses.  Grappling with themes of progress and decay, cynicism and hope, despair and redemption, it pulls you into a world terrifyingly easy to imagine, where humanity's inward decay has become manifest.  Zombies.  But love saves all, and somehow, Julie and R forge a bond that overcomes the darkness around them.  It's sweet but not saccharine and bursting with writing as pretty as poetry, but still perfectly accessible to the average reader.  Don't worry; the plot kicks ass too, tearing you from one confrontation to another.  It's the book that every author wishes they could write.  So read it, yeah?  

plot . 5/5
You don't get bored, even though much of the beginning describes a vapid, listless zombie existence.  Marion has created a rich world inside of R's head.  Don't expect the movie.  You won't find a blow-by-blow.  What you will find is a lot of the same scenes fixed into a much richer narrative.  Perry's inner existence in R's head becomes much more important, and we find much of the plot centered around Perry's despair and R's hope, mixed together in one mind.  But there's plenty of fun too, and adventure; the change-hating Boneys; moments of acid humor and sweetness.  The end starts with a shock and leaves you feeling wistful and thoughtful and very much in love with love.  

concept . 5/5
I'm not sure I could have come up with a more original concept if I were trying for a parody.  I'd always joked about zombie romance in the past.  "Love at First Bite" and all that (though that might have been for a cannibal...).  But Marion takes it and makes it plausible, lovable, and meaningful.  R's condition is a foil for humanity.  Julie is the savior and young idealist.  Perry is the victim of the system.  And the world is something all too familiar--run by fear-mongerers who see isolation as the only survival.  Famous art is a useless bauble.  Nations are obsolete.  Marion uses a very compelling story to explore deep issues of societal corruption and the power of fear.  But if you don't want to dig that deep, the surface story is amazing in itself.  

characters . 5/5
Totally in love with R.  Especially the Nicholas Hoult version.  I mean...come on.  Anyway, book-R is a silent philosopher with a poetic view of the world.  He can't talk much, so he listens.  Observes.  Sees things that others can't see in a rich and surprising way.  Julie is a little annoying at times, but you grow to love her.  You can't help but get behind her fragile idealism.   And she's deeper than in the movie, with a darker past and uglier wounds.  Nora, Perry, M, and Grigio too are all explored on a deep level.  Even though we don't see them as much, we come to know them as clearly as if we were in their heads.  Marion has himself a real world here. 

style . 5/5
I could quote every other line, but I won't, because that's plagiarism.  Suffice to say, it's gorgeous.  Like what a painting would be in book form.  I'll borrow from Maggie Stiefvater's review: “I dream my necrotic cells shrugging off their lethargy, inflating and lighting up like Christmas deep in my dark core. Am I inventing all this like the beer buzz? A placebo? An optimistic illusion? Either way, I feel the flatline of my existence disrupting, forming heartbeat hills and valleys."  Don't be afraid of getting the story lost because of the poetry.  The beautiful, intricate lines are well mingled with less esoteric stuff, so the prettiness feels natural instead of overwhelming.  

mechanics . 5/5
Zombie narrator.  OMG.  

take home message
A love story between the most unlikely pair, with striking prose, a thrilling plot, and many thoughts to take away and keep forever.  

Note: I purchased this copy.  The price of the book and its origin in no way affected my stated opinions.


Author Interview: Samantha Durante

Hey, everyone!  Stop by and check out my interview with Samantha Durante, author of Stitch.  To learn more about this awesome book, keep stopping by the blog this week for a review...and check out more book details below! 

goodreads  .  twitter  .  author page  .  amazon 

Her heart races, her muscles coil, and every impulse in Alessa’s body screams at her to run… but yet she’s powerless to move.

Still struggling to find her footing after the sudden death of her parents, the last thing college freshman Alessa has the strength to deal with is the inexplicable visceral pull drawing her to a handsome ghostly presence. In between grappling with exams and sorority soirees – and disturbing recurring dreams of being captive in a futuristic prison hell – Alessa is determined to unravel the mystery of the apparition who leaves her breathless. But the terrifying secret she uncovers will find her groping desperately through her nightmares for answers.

Because what Alessa hasn’t figured out yet is that she’s not really a student, the object of her obsession is no ghost, and her sneaking suspicions that something sinister is lurking behind the walls of her university’s idyllic campus are only just scratching the surface…

The opening installment in a twist-laden trilogy, Stitch spans the genres of paranormal romance and dystopian sci-fi to explore the challenges of a society in transition, where morality, vision, and pragmatism collide leaving the average citizen to suffer the results.

Author Interview with Samantha Durante

So, let’s start with a bit about you.  What was your favorite childhood read, and what is your favorite adult read?
Childhood read was absolutely The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett.  To this day, I’m OBSESSED with having a secret garden… sigh, one day, one day.  Ooh, adult read is a bit tougher.  Even though it’s young adult fiction, I’d still have to go with the Harry Potter series – after all, I was an “adult” by the time I’d read half of it.  There’s just nothing like going back to Hogwarts.  When I want to get lost for a few days, that’s where I go.  :-)

What scene from Stitch did you most enjoy writing?
Definitely the big reveal when Alessa finds out what’s really going on!  I was DYING to get to that scene the whole book, and when I finally did, it was just the best day ever.  I was actually vacationing in Florida and working on the beach with my laptop, and I just remember sitting there beaming and listening to the waves crash and inhaling that beachy scent in the air after I’d finished.  I couldn’t wait to share it with my beta readers!

Tell us a little bit about your process of publishing Stitch and why you decided to self-publish.
Sure!  I wasn’t sure at first what I was going to do with Stitch, so I did a lot of research into the different options for both traditional and self-publishing.  In the end, I decided to go the indie route for a few reasons: 1. I’m a control freak, and I hated the idea of letting anyone else make any decisions about my cover or synopsis or title or editing or anything really.  :-)  (I have issues, I know!)  2. I was really excited to share the book with readers, and I couldn’t fathom waiting the months (or likely years) it would have taken to find an agent and publisher and get the thing on shelves.  3. It just seemed like the economics worked better on the self-pubbed side – I could price my book WAY lower and still make the same amount per copy compared with traditional publishing, and since as a new author I’m pretty much expected to do all the marketing work myself even if I’d gone the traditional route, I figured why do all the work and share the profits?  So I decided to self-publish using the tools on Amazon and Smashwords, and so far I’ve been very happy with that decision.

Who is your favorite contemporary young adult author?  What about favorite young adult author of all time? 
I actually don’t read a ton of contemporary YA fiction (I’m really a sci-fi/fantasy nerd), but the one contemporary author I’ve really enjoyed is Komal Kant, another indie writer who I met during my blog tour.  She really knows how to write a steamy romance scene, let me tell you!  As for favorite of all time, that’s really hard to pick!  J.K. Rowling, Suzanne Collins, Stephenie Meyer… it’s a long list.  Depends what I’m in the mood for!

If you could rewrite Stitch, is there anything you’d do differently?
Yes – I would work a little more action into the first part of the book.  The story kind of builds up with this slow tension until you hit the twist, but I think it would have been stronger if there was a little more excitement with the ghost and some additional external conflict to keep the first half of story moving along.  This has been duly noted for the second book in the series, lol.  That one is action packed right from the first chapter!

What can you tell us about Shudder?
I’m SO SO excited to share Shudder with Stitch fans!  It basically picks up right where the first book left off, so this one is more dystopian in nature, but I’m still blending in some paranormal elements and a little bit of contemporary and even a hint of horror.  This book is a lot of fun since we got all the background stuff out of the way in Stitch, and now the story can just take off!  Expect more romance, lots of revelations about the history of Alessa’s world, lots more Isaac, and of course some big twists that will get your heart pumping. :-)

Are there any other projects you're working on outside of this series? 
Nope!  Just my day job (business writing with my own freelancing company) and being a first-time wife and homeowner!  (We just got married and bought our first home this fall.)  And mom to my spoiled cat, of course.

The obligatory question . . . what is your best advice for aspiring authors?
Don’t get hung up on trying to find the PERFECT story.  It took me 26 years to finally sit down and follow my dream of writing a book, because I always felt like every idea I thought of had been done before and I thought I needed this amazing, innovative plot before it would be worthwhile to put the time into writing.  But that was totally dumb, because I love to write and I should have just done what I like to do because I enjoy it.  Any story will be unique just be virtue of it being *yours* so just pick an idea you’d like to read about, and write that story.  And if you’re not sure where to start, think of other stories you like and how to combine your favorite elements into something fresh.  Whatever you do, just write.

Alright, last one.  Who is your fictional crush?
I’ve gotta go to back to classics on this one – Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice.  He was the original Christian Grey, plus he had one hell of a sexy accent to boot.

X . X . X 

Excerpt from Stitch

After four rounds of flip cup – bringing Alessa’s tally for the night to somewhere around three beers – the room started to spin, in a pleasant way.  The excitement of the game had brought out a zeal in her that she hadn’t felt in very long time, and the adoring looks that Nikhil was sending in her direction didn’t hurt either.  Alessa felt deliriously happy for the first time in over a year.  Damn the ghost.  Tonight she was having fun.

There was a break in the action as the first keg tapped out and a couple of the guys volunteered to set up the second one.  Janie took the opportunity to suggest that the four of them go dance, which sounded like a fabulous idea to Alessa.  Alessa looked inquisitively at Nikhil and he consented with an affable shrug.  Janie didn’t even give Josh a choice.  She grabbed his wrist and dragged him behind her, and he acquiesced with an amused smile.  Alessa and Nikhil followed.

Finding a clearing in the living room, Alessa noticed that the pounding music no longer felt oppressive, but freeing.  She could feel the beat pulse through her body and she let it move her as it pleased.  She danced with abandon, completely unselfconsciously, and it felt good.  She felt sexy, alive.

Nikhil and Alessa were pressed together ever closer by the crowd, their bodies moving as one in time with the music.  Alessa could feel the hair sticking to the back of her neck as her skin started to glisten, but she didn’t care.  She threw her arms up and tossed her head with the beat, reveling in the moment.

Nikhil gently placed his hands around Alessa’s hips, seemingly mesmerized.  The crowd swelled and they were pressed together once more, his arms wrapped around her waist, her hands on his taut swimmer’s chest and shoulders.  He leaned over, nudging his face so close to hers that she could feel the heat rising off his skin.  Alessa parted her lips and looked up at Nikhil, preparing to surrender to her body’s impulses.

But instead of the dark brown eyes she expected, she saw only blue.  Unfathomable, sparkling blue, glittering with facets of ocean and sky, boring deep into her soul and clutching at her heart.  Once again, a single word rose in the back of her throat – Isaac – and she knew this night was over.