Sunday, October 30, 2011

Halloween Costume Giveaway!!!!!!

I love Halloween, but unfortunately, this year I have too many conflicting things going on to dress up and celebrate myself.  *big sad face*  So I thought I would have a little fun on my blog by celebrating Halloween vicariously through all of you!!!!!!

Here’s the deal...

Email me a photo of you in your Halloween costume at  I will then post the photos on my blog.  Every person who enters will received a free e-book copy of my novel, Four Thousand Miles.  Simple, huh? 

But that’s not all!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I will also chose one winner based on who I think had the best costume to receive a super secret prize package.  (Can’t tell you what will be in the prize package, because I haven’t made it up yet, but it will contain some of my favorite things.) 

Send me your photos now!!!!!!!!!!

FINE PRINT:  Entries will be closed on November 2nd.  The giveaway for the e-book is open internationally, but due to insane shipping costs, only U.S. and Canadian residents can win.  Sorry, but I’m a struggling writer.  

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Review: ‘Ashfall’ by Mike Mullins

“Many visitors to Yellowstone National Park don't realize that the boiling hot springs and spraying geysers are caused by an underlying supervolcano. It has erupted three times in the last 2.1 million years, and it will erupt again, changing the Earth forever.

"Fifteen-year-old Alex is home alone when the supervolcano erupts. His town collapses into a nightmare of darkness, ash, and violence, forcing him to flee. He begins a harrowing trek in search of his parents and sister, who were visiting relatives 140 miles away.

"Along the way, Alex struggles through a landscape transformed by more than a foot of ash. The disaster brings out the best and worst in people desperate for food, clean water, and shelter.  When an escaped convict injures Alex, he searches for a sheltered place where he can wait--to heal or to die. Instead, he finds Darla. Together, they fight to achieve a nearly impossible goal: surviving the supervolcano.”  -- Amazon description

In this world of gray and cold, the action is red hot!

My readers might not be aware of this, but I have a geek-streak for geology, specifically volcanoes.  When I heard that Mike Mullin was writing a YA dystopian novel based on the eruption of Yellowstone, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it! 

My first impression of this book is how incredibly well researched it is.  Not only did Mullin have the science down -- he calculated the exact spot in the country to set the story based on the ashfall projected from such an eruption -- but he also knew how the characters would feel, both physically and emotionally over what was happening around them.  The opening scenes where Alex is experiencing the first 24 hours of noise and darkness were amazing!  I felt like I was there right alongside him.  This feeling stayed with me throughout the book, putting me on the edge of my seat the whole time.

Alex as a character was very likeable.  He came across as a regular kid.  He had some background in martial arts, but even in dangerous situations, but he never turned into a crazy ass-kicking superhero.  Instead, he behaved like a good kid who was scared and determined to survive.  I also like the character of Darla.  I’ve known farm girls like her before.  She was smart and tough, but also kind.  She doesn’t immediately take to Alex, because she’s afraid of having to stretch her and her mother’s limited food and resources to accommodate another person, but you know it’s not due to selfishness -- she’s truly scared of starving to death.  The danger comes at the pair from all angles -- weather, no utilities, lack of food and water, dangerous bandits on the roads willing to kill to survive -- but even so, they exhibit warmth and compassion to those around them. 

Lastly, on a personal note...I grew up in this part of eastern Iowa, so this book struck a particular cord with me.  I asked Mullin on twitter about his research of the location and he told me he and his wife traveled there and drove around to get a feel for the land.  Not only was I impressed by his spot-on descriptions, but he also captured something in the essence of the people who live there that I felt honored the toughness of the Mid-Westerners I grew up with. 

Overall, I give Ashfall...

Plot - 5 bookmarks
Character Development - 5 bookmarks
Scientific Detail - 5 bookmarks (Good research without overloading the reader with facts.)
World Building - 4 1/2 bookmarks (The camps completely creeped me out!)
Dream Cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) - Aaron Johnson (Alex), Jennifer Lawrence (Darla) 

Monday, October 17, 2011

Review: ‘Scent and Shadow’ by Mercy Loomis

“For college student Amanda Bairns, nothing is more important than finally taking control of her life. But when the sexy, sociopathic vampire Gabriel Chapel forces her to drink his blood, Amanda has four weeks to discover which means more: her freedom and her humanity, or the power Gabriel offers.” – Smashwords description

Cover for 'Scent and Shadow'
Click the photo to purchase

Just in time for Halloween, Mercy Loomis releases this little gem of a vampire novel.  As most of you know, I have never met a vampire that I didn’t like.  That being said, Gabriel has to be one of my favorites so far.  He is everything that a vampire should be—cold, sexy, dangerous, animalistic…not in the least bit human.  I dig a good vampire romance as much as anyone, but this time of year, I’m looking for less romance and more horror.  Scent and Shadow delivers.  There are some hot, steamy scenes, but don’t go into this book looking for a happy little ending, tied up with a neat little bow. 

Amanda is also a very interesting character.  She’s not your typical college student.  Amanda has some serious control issues.  When Gabriel forces his way in and begins to take over her life, she finds herself in a battle for her humanity.  The only problem is that the battle lines get blurred and it becomes hard for her to remember what it is she is fighting for. 

The world of the Aether Vitalis is a fully developed web of paranormal creatures, ranging from vamps and shifters to mages and fairies.  It’s a world both fascinating and terrifying at the same time.  I can’t wait to read more from Mercy Loomis!

Overall, I give Scent and Shadow

Plot – 5 bookmarks
Character development – 5 bookmarks
World building – 4 ½ bookmarks (For more information on the Aether Vitalis world, check this blog post out.
Dream cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) – Aidan Turner (Gabriel), Kat Dennings (Amanda)

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Review: ‘Going Too Far’ by Jennifer Echols

“All Meg has ever wanted is to get away. Away from high school. Away from her backwater town. Away from her parents who seem determined to keep her imprisoned in their dead-end lives. But one crazy evening involving a dare and forbidden railroad tracks, she goes way too far...and almost doesn't make it back.

“John made a choice to stay. To enforce the rules. To serve and protect. He has nothing but contempt for what he sees as childish rebellion, and he wants to teach Meg a lesson she won't soon forget. But Meg pushes him to the limit by questioning everything he learned at the police academy. And when he pushes back, demanding to know why she won't be tied down, they will drive each other to the edge -- and over....”

Going Too Far is the first Jennifer Echols book I’ve read, and I promise it won’t be the last.  I am a big fan of realistic YA characters.  In real life, teenagers are not perfect.  They make mistakes, say the wrong things, act before they think.  So many times in YA fiction, authors either make their teen characters unrealistically perfect, or they try to force them into being quirky to the point of ridiculousness.  Echols captured a realism in her characters that felt refreshing. 

Meg is a bit of a rebel.  She drinks, smokes pot and is promiscuous.  But it is clear from the first page that this behavior is a defense mechanism burying some serious pain.  John is nineteen-going-on-forty. Despite his good grades and talent for art, John has chosen to forgo college and go directly to the police academy.  Being a cop feeds his do-gooder side and his need to help others make good decisions.  When John sees the destructive path Meg is going down, he works with the local DA to make Meg ride along with him in his squad car for a whole week.  He wants her to see the possible consequences of her actions. 

The connection between Meg and John is immediate, but their romantic feelings for each other take a little time to develop.  Of course, the whole story take place over one week, so it is a fairly quick romance.  Given how quickly teenage emotions change, I didn’t find the speed with which Meg and John feel for each other unrealistic, especially given they each carried emotional baggage and desperately needed someone to turn to. 

There were a couple of minor issues that bothered me… Meg has blue hair.  I don’t have a problem with that, but I do have a problem with it being mentioned every other page.  Readers do not need to be beat over the head with these kinds of details over and over.  My other issue is that I wanted John to be just a little bit older.  In the beginning, Meg mistakes him for being forty-years-old due to his attitude and maturity.  I guess I pictured him in his early twenties, so when he reveals he is only nineteen, I didn’t buy it.  I also didn’t buy it that Meg and John were only a year apart in school, in a small town, had classes together in the past and had some social connections in common, yet she had no idea who he was.  It just didn’t make any sense. Lastly, I thought Meg’s reasons for being claustrophobic were lame.  It basically stems from one incident.  Given the debilitating claustrophobic problems her has, I would have expected more. 

Minor issues aside, I really enjoyed reading this book.  The characters were great.  I loved the setting.  The romance was swoon-worthy.  I can’t wait to check out some of Echols’ other books.

Overall, I give Going Too Far…

Plot – 4 bookmarks
Character development – 4 ½ bookmarks
Love story – 4 ½ bookmarks
Dream cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) – Gia Mantegna (Meg), Liam Hemsworth (John), Allison Siko (Tiffany), Nick Roux (Eric)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Review: ‘Die For Me’ by Amy Plum

“In the City of Lights, two star-crossed lovers battle a fate that is destined to tear them apart again and again for eternity.

When Kate Mercier's parents die in a tragic car accident, she leaves her life--and memories--behind to live with her grandparents in Paris. For Kate, the only way to survive her pain is escaping into the world of books and Parisian art. Until she meets Vincent.

Mysterious, charming, and devastatingly handsome, Vincent threatens to melt the ice around Kate's guarded heart with just his smile. As she begins to fall in love with Vincent, Kate discovers that he's a revenant--an undead being whose fate forces him to sacrifice himself over and over again to save the lives of others. Vincent and those like him are bound in a centuries-old war against a group of evil revenants who exist only to murder and betray. Kate soon realizes that if she follows her heart, she may never be safe again.”  -- Amazon description

Think Twilight with zombies and no sexual tension.  That being said, I didn’t hate this book…I just was a bit bored.  Kate felt like a Bella Swan rip off.  She becomes super obsessed with Vincent the moment she meets him and mopes around when he isn’t with her.  She has no friends at school, and she blows off her sister whenever she tries to ask her to do things.  Vincent is a little cooler, but he isn’t given much to work with in this book.  I like his bravery and back story.  I like the idea of the Revenants, but the thought of dating a guy who is literally a dead body three days every month is creepy beyond belief. 

My biggest problem with this book is that it just didn’t stick with me.  I listened to the audio book while I was packing for a move, and it kept my brain occupied enough to get through the boring task, but soon after it was done, I began forgetting part of it.  I honestly had to check the Amazon page to look up Kate’s name, because I completely forgot her.  The beginning two-thirds of the book is mostly info dumps about the world and back stories.  There really isn’t any good action until the final third of the book. 

If you are really into teen paranormal romances, you might want to give this book a try.  But I think you have to love the genre in order to get sucked into the story. 

Overall, I give Die For Me

Plot – 2 ½ bookmarks
Character development – 2 bookmarks (maybe if I hadn’t read Twilight first…)
Love story – 1 ½ bookmarks (Missing the sexual tension that made Twilight a success.)
Dream cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) – Diego Boneta (Vincent).  I have nothing for Kate, since she failed to make an impression on me.  

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Review: ‘Lola and the Boy Next Door’ by Stephanie Perkins

“Budding designer Lola Nolan doesn't believe in fashion . . . she believes in costume. The more expressive the outfit - more sparkly, more fun, more wild - the better. But even though Lola's style is outrageous, she's a devoted daughter and friend with some big plans for the future. And everything is pretty perfect (right down to her hot rocker boyfriend) until the dreaded Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket, return to the neighborhood.

When Cricket - a gifted inventor - steps out from his twin sister's shadow and back into Lola's life, she must finally reconcile a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door.”

Stephanie Perkins has done it again.  She has made me fall in love right along with her characters.  Lola and the Boy Next Door is a wonderful, contemporary teen romance novel with interesting characters that make you wish they were real. 

Lola is not a perfect girl.  She makes poor decisions and lots of mistakes, but that makes her real.  I have known many girls like Lola.  She lies when she is afraid to tell the truth.  She struggles with her identity.  Her heart is traitorous and out of control.  In other words, she is a typical teenage girl.  Lola’s costumes are both an expression of who she is and a mask to hide from the world. 

Lola has two guys in her life.  Her boyfriend, Max, is a 22 year old musician.  Max seems like a pretty good guy—he submits to all of the unreasonable dating demands placed on him by Lola’s overprotective parents.  He struggles with trusting Lola, but he has good reason for him doubts.  The other guy in her life is Cricket (aka: the boy next door).  Despite his terrible name, Cricket is a super cool guy who is clearly crazy about Lola.  Unfortunately, he broke her heart two years before, and she hasn’t forgiven him.   

Like Perkins’ first book, Anna and the French Kiss, Lola is at its heart, a great love story.  The chemistry between the characters is red hot!  Lola and Cricket didn’t leave me with heart palpitations in the way Anna and St. Clair did, but it was romantic and sweet.  Definitely an excellent second novel.  Can’t wait to read what Perkins come out with next.

I loved the themes explored throughout this book—self-identity, honestly, friendship, forgiveness, creativity, age & maturity, what it means to be in love, etc.  Perkins wove them throughout the story brilliantly.  I also liked the Anna and St. Clair made it into this book. 

Overall, I give Lola and the Boy Next Door

Plot – 4 ½ bookmarks
Character development – 5 bookmarks
Love story – 5 bookmarks
Dream cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) – Sarah Hyland (Lola), Diego Boneta (Cricket), Daveigh Chase (Calliope), Trevor Donovan (Max)