November 30, 2011

Review: Blood Red Road by Moira Young

PhotobucketSynopsis (from Goodreads): Saba has spent her whole life in Silverlake, a dried-up wasteland ravaged by constant sandstorms. The Wrecker civilization has long been destroyed, leaving only landfills for Saba and her family to scavenge from. That's fine by her, as long as her beloved twin brother Lugh is around. But when a monster sandstorm arrives, along with four cloaked horsemen, Saba's world is shattered. Lugh is captured, and Saba embarks on an epic quest to get him back.
Suddenly thrown into the lawless, ugly reality of the world outside of desolate Silverlake, Saba is lost without Lugh to guide her. So perhaps the most surprising thing of all is what Saba learns about herself: she's a fierce fighter, an unbeatable survivor, and a cunning opponent. And she has the power to take down a corrupt society from the inside. Teamed up with a handsome daredevil named Jack and a gang of girl revolutionaries called the Free Hawks, Saba stages a showdown that will change the course of her own civilization.
Blood Red Road has a searing pace, a poetically minimal writing style, violent action, and an epic love story. Moira Young is one of the most promising and startling new voices in teen fiction.

Review: Saba lives her life in a dehydrated, barren world, yet she is content enough as long as she has her twin brother, Lugh. When Lugh is kidnapped by a group of mysterious horsemen, Saba knows she has to do whatever it takes to save him. This starts a rip-roaring adventure, with Saba facing unexpected dangers in her quest to bring Lugh home.

I have to admit, I was sold on Blood Red Road right from the synopsis and had very high expectations for the novel. Often these assumptions can affect a reading experience for the worst, but in this case my expectations were fully met. I loved every minute of Saba’s quest, and I enjoyed getting to know the richly drawn side characters, which include a kick-ass girl vigilante group, Saba’s down-trodden younger sister, and of course, a guy.

I’ll admit, it did take some adjusting to get used to the sparse writing style Young uses in this novel, but once I did it flowed perfectly. Even though there wasn’t a huge amount of description, I didn’t feel that anything was lacking and I could picture everything as if I was there with Saba - rare for any book. I grew to love the writing style - with so many authors bogging their writing down with unnecessary descriptions, it was great to read only what needed to be said and no more.

Saba was a refreshing heroine. She wasn’t portrayed in any way as perfect; in fact she began the novel as selfish, petulant, and just generally unlikeable. However, she went through some extraordinary growth throughout the novel, and by the story’s end she had developed many redeeming traits. I also enjoyed Saba’s relationship with Jack - it felt so real and actually took time to develop, no instant-love here, folks! Jack was adorable, and was never creepy or over-possessive. He and Saba actually worked as a team, and he wasn’t constantly saving her from danger - in fact, Saba would be more likely to save him. So all in all, just a healthy, realistic relationship that I loved.

Blood Red Road was such a fabulous adventure, plain and simple. It’s easily one of my favourite novels of 2011, and I know I’ll be coming back to it whenever I need fun, exciting read. I’m highly anticipating the sequel and can’t wait to see what’s in store for Saba, Jack and the rest of the gang.

Rating: 5 out of 5

November 16, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday (1)

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. The feature was created because they are particularly fond of lists over at The Broke and the Bookish. They'd love to share their lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten lists! 
This is my first time participating in Top Ten Tuesday! This week's topic looked like a fun one to start on - and might actually motivate me to read at least some of the books on this list. 
Top Top Ten Books That Have Been On My Shelf For The Longest But I've Never Read:
1. Divergent by Veronica Roth - I was so excited when this book arrived in the mail, all shiny and new. I just had to read it, what with all the hype and awesome reviews surrounding it. But I just never got there and four months later it's still on my shelf, just begging to be read. Soon, I think. I'm in the mood for some action.
2. The Body Finder by Kimberley Derting - The synopsis for this one is really intriguing, and when the Kindle store had it on sale I couldn't pass the opportunity up. Despite this great deal however, The Body Finder remains unread. I'm determined to get to it one day though - it sounds so good!
3. 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson - I love a sweet contemporary read and this fits the bill perfectly. I honestly don't know why I haven't gotten around to reading this one, as it seems like a quick and adorable novel. 
4. Life by Keith Richards - This is totally left-field in this list, but I love me a good rock n roll biography! I pined for this, waited patiently for it to arrive at my book store, finally got my hands on it, and...that's where the story ends. I was desperate to read this, and now it's just gathering dust. I really want to get to it someday though.
5. Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr - This has been on my shelf for a shamefully long time. I think the problem is that I'm not fully drawn in by the synopsis. I've read some good reviews, but I've never read a book about faeries before. But there's a first time for everything, right?
6. A Blue So Dark by Holly Schindler - This one drew me in right away with its promise of a dark and twisted contemporary novel. I started it, but I just wasn't hooked so I set it right back down...and never picked it back up. I still have high hopes for this one, though.
7. Call Me Irresistible by Susan Elizabeth Phillips - I've never really read much chick-lit, but this one just had the right synopsis for me. I think I've never got round to it simply because it's a new genre - I've always got something more 'me' that I want to read first.
8. Shrinking Violet by Danielle Joseph - Just rereading that synopsis now makes me wonder why I haven't yet read this book. I love anything music related in a novel and this totally fits the bill. I need to get started on this one soon.
9. Five Flavors Of Dumb by Antony John - This is pretty much ditto what I said above. Although, through in a deaf girl managing the band and you're dealing with something different to the norm. I've read a lot of good things about this, so I really need to get started.
10. Sean Griswold's Head by Lindsey Leavitt - This sounds like such a sweet book, I honestly don't know why I haven't read it yet. Many of the things I look for in a contemporary are here, so I just need to get started!

So there's my ten. Hopefully nothing too outrageous on there! Leave your post links in the comments - I'd love to see what everyone else hasn't quite gotten around to reading yet.

October 12, 2011

Review and Contest: Fall by Jennifer Hurst

Synopsis (from GoodReads): Women and construction shouldn't mix. At least, that is what the client; Mr. Blackwell thinks when twenty-one year old Julia D. Halstead is promoted to project manager to remodel a turn-of-the-century schoolhouse into a bed and breakfast. However, the schoolhouse contains a dark secret that has been hidden for nearly a hundred years. A secret that will unleash the Furies of Hell and cause the Angels in Heaven to weep as ethereal brothers, Matthew and Nathan battle over Julia's very soul.

ReviewA promising new series begins here, with Jennifer Hurst’s debut self-published novel Fall. Although it’s not perfect, Fall was an enjoyable read with engaging characters and an exciting story-line. 
Julia, or JD as she prefers to be known, was a strong protagonist and had interesting quirks - she was completely organized when it came to her construction work, but also let her impulsivity take over a little too much in her normal life. She showed a strong work ethic, always wanting to prove herself in the very male-dominated industry she worked in. I enjoyed getting inside JD’s head - she made some very funny comments throughout the novel, but I would have liked to have seen her more fleshed out as a character. I felt like there was something deeper that the author could have explored, but I hope this will be resolved in the sequel.
The brothers, Matthew and Nathan, were compelling love interests. I feel like the two brother love triangle trope is a little worn out, but here it did work. Although I felt like JD rushed into things with the two a little too haphazardly, this was resolved and I came to understand her decisions better. I’m looking forward to more depth being added to both relationships in the sequel, I think this will be an intriguing love triangle to follow.
Overall, I found this a promising start to a new series. The characters were strong and the plot was gripping, with plenty of twists to keep readers interested. I definitely recommend this to anyone who enjoys reading paranormal romance, especially you’re interested in reading about characters more mature than the typical teen protagonists that dominate this genre. 
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 

Buy the book  
Jennifer Hurst's Website 

Contest Information

In conjunction with this blog tour, Jennifer is holding a contest.  It will involve any of the blogs that Jennifer visits or where her book is featured and will close on December 31st, 2011. The entrants have to answer three questions about the book they’ve read (bought, borrowed, or stolen - shame on you) and post a link to Jennifer's website on their Twitter, Facebook, or blog (need link for verification).

Then the names will be entered in a random name picker generator ( and announced on Jennifer's website ( on January 31st, 2012. The winner will receive a gift certificate for a night’s stay at the actual bed and breakfast where the story takes place.

Other prizes include an autographed copy of FALL, and she will randomly select 3 contestants’ names to use in the sequel to FALL. Plus, they will receive a free copy of that book when it is published.

Each blog that Jennifer Hurst visits will have a different set of questions people can answer, and they may enter as many times as they want - but they can enter once per blog site that they visit. So the more sites you visit, the more you can enter your name, thus increasing your chances of winning the gift certificate, a copy of the book FALL, and your name in the sequel.

Get the book, read the book, and then read over the questions below.  Once you have your answers, e-mail them to Jennifer.

Your privacy is respected and your email address will NOT be used for anything but the contest.   Once the contest is over - your email address will be deleted from the database.

Here are the questions for you to answer:

What did JD buy for Missy for Christmas?
What famous outlaw called Torrey home for awhile?
What was Butch Cassidy's alias?

If you would like to visit the other sites, go here for the master list of all participating sites:

Best of luck, and thanks for participating!

August 22, 2011

Review: Across The Universe by Beth Revis

Synopsis (from Goodreads): Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules.

Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone - one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship - tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn't do something soon, her parents will be next.

Now, Amy must race to unlock Godspeed's hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there's only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming.

Review: Across The Universe is one of my first forays into the sci-fi genre, and although I didn’t love it, I still found it an enjoyable read with some great world-building.

The chapters detailing Amy’s claustrophobia while being trapped in the ice were, in my opinion, the strongest of the book. I could feel the horror right along with her, and I applaud Revis for being able to evoke that kind of response. These chapters really showed her strength as an author, and I wished more of this had been captured in the later chapters.
I enjoyed getting to know the ship along with Amy, all the rules and rituals that she saw. This world-building was the author’s strong point and was definitely a highlight. I liked all the secrets behind the Elder/Eldest plot and the Season was particularly disturbing. I hope we’ll see some stronger characterization in the next book now that this is out of the way, because I felt that sometimes it was lacking compared to the detail that went into the world-building. 
Now for the romance - or lack thereof. I’m not sure what I missed, but I just didn’t feel any spark between Amy and Elder. I actually wanted Amy to end up with Harley - and I’m sure that’s not what the author intended. I think the next book will explore the relationship more, so hopefully my mind will be changed.
Across The Universe is a solid debut that has some strong world-building and interesting characters. I’m eagerly awaiting the sequel and am excited to see where Revis takes this series.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

August 14, 2011

Review: The Day Before by Lisa Schroeder

Synopsis (from GoodreadsAmber’s life is spinning out of control. All she wants is to turn up the volume on her iPod until all of the demands of family and friends fade away. So she sneaks off to the beach to spend a day by herself.
Then Amber meets Cade. Their attraction is instant, and Amber can tell he’s also looking for an escape. Together they decide to share a perfect day: no pasts, no fears, no regrets.
The more time that Amber spends with Cade, the more she’s drawn to him. And the more she’s troubled by his darkness. Because Cade’s not just living in the now—he’s living each moment like it’s his last.

ReviewIt’s amazing that an author can create so much emotion from so few words, but this is exactly what Lisa Schroeder does in The Day Before. This is a book written entirely in verse, and is my first foray into verse literature. Although it took me a while to adjust to the sparse, minimalist writing style, I was ultimately won over by the amazing characters developed in this novel.
Amber is a girl that just wants a break from the huge decisions looming in the near future, and so takes a day-trip to a beach town where she has spent many a family holiday. Here, she meets Cade, a boy who seems to be doing exactly the same thing. The relationship between these two was so sweet. Even though the book only spanned a day, it never felt rushed or fake, instead it captured the sweetness of love in a way I hadn’t read in so long.
The day was perfectly paced, enough conflict to drive the story but not so much that it got unrealistic. There were so many sweet moments, so many heart-breaking moments and so many touching moments. I loved getting to know Amber, all her struggles and triumphs. She was so great and I related to many of the things she said. 
Honestly, I’m so glad The Day Before was my first verse book. It was an amazing book - I stayed up until 2 am reading it! I highly recommend this for anyone who loves contemporary novels or who is looking to challenge themselves by reading a novel in verse form.
Rating: 4 out of 5

I received this e-book free of charge from Simon and Schuster's galley grab program. This is no way affected my review.

August 7, 2011

Review: Instructions For a Broken Heart by Kim Culbertson

PhotobucketSynopsis (from Goodreads): Three days before her drama club's trip to Italy, Jessa Gardner discovers her boyfriend in the costume barn with another girl. Jessa is left with a care package from her best friend titled "Top Twenty Reasons He's a Slimy Jerk Bastard," instructing her to do one un-Jessa-like thing each day of the trip. At turns hilarious and heartwrenching, Instructions for a Broken Heart paints a magical Italy in which Jessa learns she must figure out life-and romance-for herself.

Review: So. My first one star review. And on a book I thought I would love, no less. I feel really bad giving Instructions For A Broken Heart such a low rating - I tried so hard to find something, anything, I liked, but ultimately I drew a blank.
Reading that synopsis, I was expecting a light, fluffy novel, probably in the same vein as Anna and the French Kiss. Instead, I got an annoying main character that squanders a trip to beautiful Italy by being the most petty, pathetic and just downright annoying female lead that I have read in a long while. I mean, I understood that Jessa was upset, she had every right to be. But her actions were just unbelievable. The things that should have made her mad, she completely ignored and things that were inconsequential had her in tears or performing a completely irrational response. I just could not relate or comprehend it at all.
The synopsis gave a hint that there’d be a romance with a cute Italian guy, but that never happened. Did I read a different book? Because the only romance (I use the word romance loosely here) I saw came in the last 10 pages and was utterly pointless and confusing. There was an Italian guy, but he was involved in some ridiculous sub-plot that had nothing to do with the main story and seemed totally out of place.
I honestly felt perpetually confused while reading this book. There was no rhyme or reason to any of the character’s actions and none of them were particularly likable. I kept reading only for the fact that I thought it must get better. Unfortunately, it starts badly and just continues going down-hill. A disappointing read that I had such high hopes for.
Rating: 1 out of 5

May 8, 2011

Blog Tour: Kea's Flight Review and Author Interview

Synopsis (from Goodreads): It's the 25th century, and humans have learned how to end unwanted pregnancies by removing and cryogenically freezing the embryos to save for later. But they never planned for how many there would be, or how much control people would want over their offspring's genetic makeup.
Kea was an exile before she was born. Grown from an embryo that was rejected for having autism-spectrum genes, she has been raised on a starship full of Earth's unwanted children. When a sudden discovery threatens their plan to find a home, Kea must join with other rejects to save the ship from its own insane government. 

Review: When I read the synopsis for Kea’s Flight it definitely got me interested, but I had no idea what an awesome book it would turn out to be. And by awesome, I definitely mean awesome - this is already one of my favorite books of the year. 
I’m not usually one for sci-if/futuristic space adventures, but there was just something about this novel that made it incredibly appealing. The characters were probably what did it for me, they were so well-drawn and felt very real. The characters are all teenagers who had been into space for having genes on the Autism Specter and I think it would have been easy to let them all blur together until they were all too similar. However, this is far from the case. The authors, Erika and John, have succeeded in creating relatable and flawed characters - Kea with her love of languages, Draz with his computer knowledge and emotional issues, Chris and his anger management troubles. I could go on forever, but the point is, I haven’t read characters such as these in a long time.
The plot was also great, with just the right amount of dialogue and action. There was a lot to wrap my head around in this novel, but the authors succeeded in creating a world that was believable and fairly easy to grasp. Some of it is quite daunting - for example, the computer knowledge involved - but I felt that it was all explained extremely well. There are a lot of ethical issues tackled in Kea’s Flight, and the authors did a great job with coming coming up with unique perspectives. The novel really made me think about a lot of things, and I loved all the differing opinions on some very real issues.
Overall, I honestly don’t think Kea’s Flight could have been better. It’s a self-published novel, but it certainly doesn’t read like one - I only managed to pick up a couple of spelling/grammar errors. For any 500 page book that’s an achievement! With richly drawn characters, and a plot to rival many of the novels out there at the moment, you really don’t want to miss this book. I highly recommended Kea’s Flight.
Rating: 5 out of 5

Scroll to the bottom of this post to find the places to purchase the book. You know you want to!


1. Describe your novel in 10 words or less.

Oppressed children growing up with mental disorders-- in space!

2. How did the idea for Kea's Flight come about?
John and I got the idea together, when we were having a conversation
with his father about the controversy over abortion. I said something
like, "It would be so much better if people didn't even have to make
that choice. Wouldn't it be great if unwanted embryos could just be
removed alive and saved for later?" John just laughed and said "There
would be so many, we'd have to start sending them into space!" That
thought stayed in my head for a long time, stored wherever my brain
stores ideas for possible stories.

Then one day, I was thinking about how some people are against
abortion and birth control, and some people are in favor of both, and
some people are against abortion but in favor of birth control... but
nobody thinks birth control is worse than abortion. My mind loves to
explore weird scenarios, so I wondered: what if someone had an opinion
like that? How would they explain it logically? That developed into
the essay that the main character, Kea, wrote when she was twelve. I
was going to build a short story around that essay, but John
encouraged me to go bigger.

3. How did your own experiences with Asperger's Syndrome affect the
shaping of your characters and the situations they face?
It was hard to figure out what these characters would be like, because
their situation isn't like anything we know. Based on genetic
predispositions that might or might not lead to mental disorders, they
were rejected as embryos and sent away on a spaceship. They were
raised by robots and exiled convicts, they were treated as disabled
people for their whole lives, and at the same time they were under
constant pressure to be normal. In some ways they ended up a lot like
real people on the autism spectrum, and in other ways they ended up

I was diagnosed with Asperger's at the age of eleven, and John was
diagnosed at the age of twenty-four. We had very different
experiences, and we've woven them into the plot of the story as best
we could. Most of the main characters are somewhat inspired by
ourselves, but in different ways. Blaro has the impulse control
problems I used to have. Lefty is my scientific side, and the side of
me that gets panicked and overwhelmed easily. Draz is a lot like John,
with his computer skills, his tendency to make funny word mistakes,
and his subdued emotions... but Draz's emotions aren't quite as
subdued as John's. As the situation gets worse throughout the story,
Draz has more trouble controlling his anger and fear.

The narrator, Kea, has my language fascination, but she's better at
managing her panic attacks than I am, and she's better at the morale
aspect of leadership-- encouraging her friends to keep going, and
managing their conflicts with each other. I think her hard life has
forced her to become mature at a younger age.

I think the part where I took the most from my own experience was in
Kea's childhood interactions with the teacher she calls Screen Man.
His patronizing speech is very closely based on things I heard from
special ed workers when I was a kid: the sweet droning voice tone, the
use of "we" to mean "you," the frequency of phrases like "you need to"
and "good choice." The romance between Kea and Draz is also very much
inspired by my relationship with John.

4. Physics, language and computer smarts are all big parts of your
novel. How long was the research process and did you face any problems
that made you rethink parts of the novel?
I put together the rough draft in six months, but it was really just a
skeleton. John and I spent over five years fleshing out the book
together. We try to write what we know, even when we're writing about
a world that doesn't exist, so the language and computer aspects
didn't require much research; they were mostly things we were already
familiar with. I'm the language nerd, and John is the physics and
computer nerd. Kea's language lectures are mostly based around facts
that are common knowledge to students of Spanish and German, but her
insights are ones that I came up with on my own (like the realization
that Spanish is not completely gender-obsessed, and actually has some
words that are less gender-specific than their English equivalents).

We did end up having to rethink a lot of parts, mostly involving the
technology. Sometimes I would write a passage about how Draz hacked
into something, and John would tell me it had to be redone. He was
very successful at finding ways that my ideas could work. I would come
up with a scene I wanted to have, and he would lay the technological
foundation that would let us have that scene.

We had to rewrite some parts several times, especially the parts
involving the hacker who sabotaged the food system. Almost everything
about that had to be redone: how long it took, how the hacker managed
to do it, and how Draz and Kea figured out who it was. We also had to
spend a lot of time revising the part about the power outage that
happened in their teens. For that John actually did a lot of research,
mostly relating to the kinds of sounds you would hear coming from the
ship if the temperature were changing rapidly.

5. There are a lot of political and social issues tackled in Kea's
Flight that are relevant today. How did you decide which issues would
still be prevalent 400 years into Earth's future?
There are many possible futures that we can extrapolate from what we
know today. This is one where the government has been taken over by
people who are not socially progressive, and want to maintain most of
the traditions they grew up with. All the other facets of the society
fell into place once we had that premise.

Diversity isn't accepted; even diversity of languages has been wiped
out. Censors patrol the internet and try to control what people can
say online.   Religion is allowed to dominate the culture, because the
dictators who came to power value it highly, but like most despots,
they bend religion to suit their wishes.

They've allowed some technological development, but only the kinds
that they find useful for their purposes. Artificial intelligence is
strictly controlled. There are no cyborgs, no human minds uploaded
into computers. Humans still have fully human bodies, and the use of
birth control is still left up to the individual people, so unwanted
pregnancies are still an issue. Genetically altering embryos is
illegal, and aborting them is illegal, so embryos with genetic
abnormalities still exist, but they're still unwanted. The government
maintains the hypocrisy of saying they want to accept children the way
God made them, but being unwilling to actually help families support
those children. Hypocrisy like that already exists in the present day,
and in a dystopian future, it's easy to imagine it infiltrating all of

I'm not sure that the world actually has a high chance of going
through those changes 400 years from now. As far as we know, it could
end up many different ways. We chose to explore a future that scared
us, because it made a compelling story.

6. Kea's Flight is a self-published novel. Did you face any unexpected
hurdles during the process?
My first book, "Born on the Wrong Planet," was professionally
published. Compared to that experience, self-publishing has been less
stressful; we've gotten to move at our own pace and make our own
decisions about what parts of the book needed to be changed.

When it came to marketing, though, we have encountered obstacles.
Promoting our own book is hard work. When we first went looking for
bloggers to review the book, most of the ones we found wouldn't even
consider anything that was self-published. The sites that come up when
you do a Google search for "book bloggers" are only a tiny sliver of
what's out there. We were able to find more reviewers through posts on
the Book Blogs community, and through services like Enchanted Book

We've been getting some help from the fact that my first book has a
following in the autism community. It's still too early to know how
successful "Kea's Flight" will be, but it will probably be more
successful than it would have been without the experience of
publishing "Born on the Wrong Planet."

7. Finally, do you have plans for a sequel to Kea's Flight or are you
working on any new projects?
We are working on a sequel, though it will be a few more years before
it's ready. Among other things, the sequel will address the question
of what happened in the rest of the galaxy while Kea and her friends
were traveling. They were going at almost light speed, which brings
temporal relativity into the equation: from their perspective it was
still the 25th century, but outside their ship it was a thousand years
later than that. Obviously many things happened to Earth and other
human-inhabited planets in that time, and the second book will explore
what happened.

Thanks for stopping by, Erika! I loved your interview answers.

Links to the author and places to buy Kea's Flight:

Author Bio:
Erika Hammerschmidt was born in Minnesota and graduated from Augsburg
College with two language majors and an art minor. She was diagnosed
with Asperger's Syndrome at the age of 11, and has written Born on the
Wrong Planet, a memoir about her childhood. Her husband John C. Ricker
was born in Hawaii, received a diagnosis of Asperger's at the age of
24, and studied computer science before working in vacuum technology.
They live in Minnesota with their parrot, Rain Man. Together they have
co-authored the science fiction novel Kea's Flight.

Places to buy the book:
ebook for Kindle on Amazon, for $3.89
ebook for Nook on Barnes and Noble, for $3.89
epub for iPhone, iPad, etc. on Lulu, for $3.89
PDF download on Lulu for $3.89
569-page paperback version on Lulu for $15.00, without ISBN, on standard paper