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[Guest Post] Dualed Blog Tour, Interview with Elsie Chapman + GIVEAWAY!

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Dualed by Elsie Chapman
Dualed (2013)
by Elsie Chapman
Publication Date: February 26, 2013
Goodreads.
Amazon.
Barnes and Noble.
IndieBound.

I’m very excited to be featuring Elsie Chapman today as part of the Dualed Blog Tour!

Two of you exist.
Only one will survive.
The city of Kersh is a safe haven, but the price of safety is high. Everyone has a genetic Alternate—a twin raised by another family—and citizens must prove their worth by eliminating their Alts before their twentieth birthday. Survival means advanced schooling, a good job, marriage—life.

Q: Share with us some of the inspiration behind DUALED! How long did it take you to write and sell DUALED? And now that you are a 2013 debut author, how does that effect your writing schedule??

The first draft of DUALED took me five weeks, but revisions and took me much longer. In the end, almost everything evens out, it seems. And I think it took me about three months to sell DUALED.

I couldn’t be happier with how it all worked out! But I’m definitely feeling more of a time crunch now that there’s one book already in the works. Because with follow-up books that you might be drafting or editing, you’re still having to edit or promote your first book at the same time. I’m still struggling with better time management, and I’ve learned it is wholly possible to survive on four hours of sleep a night.

Q: You or your Alt? If you lived in Kersh, who do you think would win the dual? What would you use to fight your Alt (weapons, strategy, fighting skills)?

I hate to say it but I think my Alt would probably kick my butt. Not only do I know my own tendencies and weaknesses, I also couldn’t imagine she’d be any worse. But of course it would still have to come down to a battle, so I think if I stood any chance at all, I’d probably have to rely on doing something sneaky.

Don’t forget to check out the other blog tour stops and enter the tour-wide giveaway for a finished copy of Dualed (open internationally, as long as The Book Depository ships to your country.)

Click here to go to Rafflecopter giveaway!

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[review] Cinder (Lunar Chronicles #1) by Marissa Meyer (2012)

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Cinder (Lunar Chronicles #1) by Marissa Meyer (2012)
Cinder (2012)
by Marissa Meyer
Hardcover Edition
Publication Date: January 3rd 2012
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Buy a copy via Amazon.
Synopsis from Goodreads.

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . .

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

My Thoughts:
I love sci-fi and fairytale re-telling. With all the praise surrounding Cinder, I was certain this would be my book. It wasn’t. I enjoyed Meyer’s futuristic interpretation of Cinderella, she had an interesting concept–unfortunately the execution was lacking, especially the clumsy world building. Perhaps I’m Chinese that I am particularly critical of how my culture is being portrayed, and Cinder irritated me on that front. It was also on the predictable side, where we all knew the plot-twist before page 100–yet I was still eager to keep exploring Cinder’s eccentric characters.

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[review] The Promise of Stardust by Priscille Sibley (2013)

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Promise of Stardust by Priscille Sibley (2013)
The Promise of Stardust (2013)
by Priscille Sibley
Finished Paperback, Read for a TLC Book Tour
Publication Date: February 5th, 2013
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
buy a copy from Amazon.
Goodreads.

Priscille Sibley

A few people always know what they want to do when they grow up. Priscille Sibley knew early on she would become a nurse. And a poet. Later, her love of words developed into a passion for storytelling.

Born and raised in Maine, Priscille has paddled down a few wild rivers, done a little rock climbing, and jumped out of airplanes. She currently lives in New Jersey where she works as a neonatal intensive care nurse and shares her life with her wonderful husband, three tall teenaged sons, and a mischievous Wheaten terrier.

Filled with grace, sensitivity and compassion, The Promise of Stardust is an emotionally resonant and thought-provoking tale that raises profound questions about life and death, faith and medicine, and illuminates the power of love to divide and heal a family in the wake of unexpected tragedy.

Matt Beaulieu was two years old the first time he held Elle McClure in his arms, seventeen when he first kissed her under a sky filled with shooting stars, and thirty-three when he convinced her to marry him. Now in their late 30s, the deeply devoted couple has everything-except the baby they’ve always wanted.

When an accident leaves Elle brain dead, Matt is devastated. Though he cannot bear the thought of life without her, he knows Elle was afraid of only one thing-a slow death. And so, Matt resolves to take her off life support. But Matt changes his mind when they discover Elle’s pregnant. While there are no certainties, the baby might survive if Elle remains on life support. Matt’s mother, Linney, disagrees with his decision. She loves Elle, too, and insists that Elle would never want to be kept alive on machines. Linney is prepared to fight her son in court-armed with Elle’s living will.

My Thoughts:
Please note that this is a DNF(did not finish) review. I very. very rarely DNF books, but I will tell you why.

I’m the minority of people who The Promise of Stardust just didn’t connect with. Perhaps it is because for me, there was no ethical grayness on the issue of saving the baby if the mother (who would’ve REALLY wanted a baby anyway) is on life support: “Well, of COURSE they should try save the baby. It is ONLY a few months. If Elle is already “brain dead,” it’s not like she’ll be in pain and she would’ve wanted the baby if she was alive.” I realize that this might be a careless thing to say, especially since I have no experience with having a family member on life support, but the “right” thing to do seemed right in front of me the entire time.

However, even though I was on Matt’s side, I can’t say I cared for him.
The story is from his point of view, so I was hoping to feel sympathetic towards him. Unfortunately, it never happened. He spent most of his time trying to blatantly convince me how angry/depressed/frustrated he was with verbose, uncompelling metaphors that left me bored–and fake, as if he was trying too hard to make me pity him. I wish more of his characterization was left to the imagination. I can tell you are angry, dude. You really don’t have to tell me. He was a flat character. He wasn’t real to me and felt more like a dramatized character formed out of Hollywood’s perception of what a depressed widow should act like. Mope around. Refuse help. Break stuff. *yawn*
I wanted more from Matt’s mother, hoping she would convince me to take her side. But for a woman that was supposed to be a confident nurse, she felt like a weak, clueless old lady.

I was also not a fan of the lawsuit or medical scenes, for the jargon left me befuddled most of the time. I think my confusion made the book seem longer than it was. I need a glossary.

dump the minutiae and get to the point.-Matt (from The Promise of Stardust)

My thoughts exactly.

I did not enjoy The Promise of Stardust as much as I hoped I would, but I’ve read many glowing reviews for it. I suppose I hoped it would be an enlightening, philosophical story about ethics. Or a heartwarming story that would make me shed a few tears. Unfortunately, I was left disengaged and annoyed with the stubborn, flat characters that I couldn’t get past the first hundred pages. I do plan on finishing it up soon to give a well-considered, complete review.

Rating: C (DNF Rating)

TLC Book Tours: The Sky's The Limit

Want to know what others thought of The Promise of Stardust? Check out the other TLC tour stops!

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[Guest Post] Harken Blog Tour, Interview with Kaleb Nation + TWO GIVEAWAYS!

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 Harken (2013)
by Kaleb Nation (twitter.)
Publication Date: January 13th, 2013
Read a 3 Chapter Preview.
Goodreads.
Amazon.


I’m very excited to be featuring Kaleb Nation today as part of the Harken Blog Tour!

After surviving an assassination attempt, teenager Michael Asher discovers that he is at the center of a worldwide conspiracy reaching higher than any earthly power. A supernatural organization desperately wants him dead. He doesn’t know why. Everyone who might have the answers has already been killed.

Q: Will Harken be translated into other languages? What language would you most like to see Harken translated into?

HARKEN is in English right now, but hopefully we’ll see some other translations soon. I’d love to see it translated into Japanese! I haven’t had any of my books in that language yet.

Q: What was the cover choosing process like?

The first cover designs looked nice but didn’t really capture the feel of HARKEN. You can see some of the rejected covers here.
I wanted a cover that captures something iconic from the book. What sets HARKEN apart from everything else out there?
Meanwhile, my readers were anxiously waiting to read HARKEN, which at that time was known as the #SecretKalebBook on Twitter. Some of them started to write #SecretKalebBook on their hands to show their support as I wrote.
That got me thinking. How could we design a cover that shows something special from the book but also gives a nod to the people who’ve been waiting for years to read it? That’s where the idea of using Michael’s scale-covered hand came from… and as an added bonus, the word HARKEN is over his hand, just like my readers had been doing! 

Q: Do you think you will have the urge to “fix” or tweak some things in Harken the more you read it?

YES! I am a perfectionist. I was altering tiny details all the way to my deadline. Books are such massive projects that it’s impossible to get everything entirely perfect, and yet I still find it hard to let it go. Because of this, I’ve never fully read any of my books after they were published – I know if I open it, I’ll want to change things!

Don’t forget to check out the other Harken blog tour stops and enter the tour-wide giveaway for a Harken themed Kindle Paperwhite and a Harken prize pack! I know I want it!


Click here to go to Rafflecopter giveaway for a chance to win your very own HARKEN KINDLE PAPERWHITE!

And to thank you for reading (or scrolling) this far here’s a SECOND giveaway for a Harken prize pack right here on the blog!

  • – a giant HARKEN poster (signed)
  • – a HARKEN glow-in-the-dark wristband
  • – a Kaleb Nation postcard (signed)
  • – a HARKEN glow-in-the-dark silver ring

HOW TO ENTER:
Want to win a Harken Prize Pack? Leave a comment telling me if you’ve read Harken yet. (mandatory entry)
1 Winner, INTERNATIONAL, giveaway ends on February 26th, 2013 midnight EST, Good luck!

OPTIONAL Extra Entries (please list them in the same comment, don’t worry–I can do math):
+1 Like the Harken fanpage (leave Facebook name)
+1 Follow Kaleb Nation on Twitter (@KalebNation) (leave Twitter username)
+1 Follow me on Twitter (@noveltoybox) (leave Twitter username)
+1 Follow by email/Wordpress (leave the email/username you used in your subscriptionn)
+1 Share giveaway on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, or Blog Post (one entry per share, leave me a link)

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Stuff I Do When I’m Not Reading: Alternate Covers

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If you didn’t know (you don’t, stop lying,) I am a graphic design major. And sometimes (many times) drawing letterforms and designing bus schedules (if I see another row of times again…) makes me want to flip a table and be a bum instead. A few months ago, because I was tried of tracing letterforms, I entered a re-cover contest over at TotalBookaholic for their Haunted Halloween event. I forgot about it until I was contacted today as a third place winner. Then I thought I might as well share them, because it is kinda book related:

My favorite is the red Warm Bodies cover–but I ultimately didn’t submit that one because someone said the blue one was scarier and because I thought everyone else’s entry would be red…they were mostly blue. So much for that plan.

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[review] Mind Games by Kiersen White (2013)

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Mind Games by Kiersen White (2012)
Mind Games (2012)
by Kiersten White
Paperback ARC (Thank you, The YA Bookcase!)
Publication Date: February 19th, 2013
Publisher: HarperTeen
Buy a copy via Amazon.
Synopsis from Goodreads.

UK, Australia, and New Zealand Cover:

I want that cover!

Fia was born with flawless instincts. Her first impulse, her gut feeling, is always exactly right. Her sister, Annie, is blind to the world around her—except when her mind is gripped by strange visions of the future. Trapped in a school that uses girls with extraordinary powers as tools for corporate espionage, Annie and Fia are forced to choose over and over between using their abilities in twisted, unthinkable ways… or risking each other’s lives by refusing to obey. In a stunning departure from her New York Times bestselling Paranormalcy trilogy, Kiersten White delivers a slick, edgy, heartstoppingly intense psychological thriller about two sisters determined to protect each other—no matter the cost.

My Thoughts:
Did I hear “heartstoppingly intense psychological thriller”? Because I want in. Mind Games is a refreshing addition to the YA genre, especially when psychological thrillers is often exclusive to adult fiction. White delivered a interesting plot and a fierce female character (albeit she stole the the spotlight from everyone else) all in a fast-paced two-hundred page novel. We’ve seen all the elements before from crazy training schools (Ender’s Game, Insignia, Variant, The Vindico) to exploiting psychic abilities (Minority Report), but White takes these elements and weaves something her own. Unfortunately, despite the compelling premise, the delivery fell short, leaving much to be desired.

Poor Organization: I Usually Like Multiple Perspectives, Shifting Timelines and Fia Stealing The Whole Show
Fia and her older sister, Annie, both speak to us in first person. While usually perspectives alternate, Mind Games didn’t follow a specific pattern: there might be a present Annie chapter directly preceding a 18 month ago Annie chapter. Eventually I gave up trying to do the math to figure out the chronological order between chapters. I often had to flip back to the start of the chapter to find out why a character supposedly imprisoned in the last chapter could be roaming free in the next. I know chapters from the past aid in giving backstory, but the sudden transition confused rather than enlightened. Many times, I didn’t care what mundane stuff happened in the distant past, I want to get back to my “intense psychological thriller” already!

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[review] The Death of Bees by Lisa O’Donnell (2013)

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The Death of Bees by Lisa O’Donnell (2013))
The Death of Bees (2013)
by Lisa O’Donnell (Twitter.)
Publication Date: January 2nd, 2013
Publisher: Harper
Edition Read: Finished Hardcover, Read for TLC Book Tours

Buy a copy via Amazon.
Goodreads.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Lisa O’Donnell won the Orange Screenwriting Prize in 2000 for The Wedding Gift and, in the same year, was nominated for the Dennis Potter New Screenwriters Award. A native of Scotland, she is now a full-time writer and lives in Los Angeles with her two children. The Death of Bees is her first novel.

Today is Christmas Eve. Today is my birthday. Today I am fifteen. Today I buried my parents in the backyard. Neither of them were beloved.

Marnie and her little sister Nelly are on their own now. Only they know what happened to their parents, Izzy and Gene, and they aren’t telling. While life in Glasgow’s Hazlehurst housing estate isn’t grand, they do have each other. Besides, it’s only one year until Marnie will be considered an adult and can legally take care of them both.

Written with fierce sympathy and beautiful precision, told in alternating voices, The Death of Bees is an enchanting, grimly comic tale of three lost souls who, unable to answer for themselves, can answer only for each other.

My Thoughts:
Well, this was a pleasant surprise. Despite it’s twisted, morbid plotline of two sisters burying their parents in their backyard (and a dog that has an uncanny knack of digging up body parts from flowerbeds,) The Death of Bees filled me up with warmth and made me smile. Built with a unique cast of memorable characters, with their own fears and quirks, O’ Donnell crafts a brilliant tale about family ties. Sometimes real families aren’t formed by blood ties. Perhaps Marnie and Nelly are by far not the most innocent girls, but I still found myself cheering them on every one of those three hundred pages.

Characters:
I love multiple perspectives, and O’Donnell does it exceptionally well. We unravel the story with Marnie and Nelly (the two sisters) and Lennie (their 70 year old gay, misunderstood “sex offender” neighbor.) What usually happens in books with multiple perspectives is that the voices blend together and don’t sound like two different people. Perhaps because each character is so distinct from each other that there was never a problem differentiating between them. Marnie has a dark, rebellious edge, while Nelly autistic eloquence sounds like the Queen of England (with a bit of swearing). Nelly reminds me of Becky of Glee’s inner voice.
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[review] Insignia by S.J. Kincaid (2012)

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Insignia by  S.J. Kincaid (2012)
Insignia by S.J. Kincaid (2012)
by S.J. Kincaid
Hardcover Edition
Publication Date: July 10th, 2012
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (Harper Collins Imprint)
Buy a copy via Amazon.
Synopsis from Goodreads.

More than anything, Tom Raines wants to be important, though his shadowy life is anything but that. For years, Tom’s drifted from casino to casino with his unlucky gambler of a dad, gaming for their survival. Keeping a roof over their heads depends on a careful combination of skill, luck, con artistry, and staying invisible.

Then one day, Tom stops being invisible. Someone’s been watching his virtual-reality prowess, and he’s offered the incredible–a place at the Pentagonal Spire, an elite military academy. There, Tom’s instincts for combat will be put to the test and if he passes, he’ll become a member of the Intrasolar Forces, helping to lead his country to victory in World War III. Finally, he’ll be someone important: a superhuman war machine with the tech skills that every virtual-reality warrior dreams of. Life at the Spire holds everything that Tom’s always wanted–friends, the possibility of a girlfriend, and a life where his every action matters–but what will it cost him?

My Thoughts:
A disappointing, middle-grade version of Ready Player One (which was one of my favorite books of the year,) is the best summary of my reactions to S. J. Kincaid’s Insignia. The problems I found in Insignia reminded me of the ones I found in Wesley King’s The Vindico; both books had an compelling plot, creative ideas, but he execution failed to bring those ideas to life and grazed over heavy-handed issues in exchange for superficial cliches.

My Suspension of Disbelief is Straining, These People Need Anger Management!:
First of all, all these 14-15 year olds are supposed to be the cream of the crop with exceptional intelligence and abilities (Figure Skating Champion, Scholarship winners, etc.) With the aid of a neural processor in their brains they have become even smarter than usual. Actually, their intelligence is optional since they just “download” knowledge instead of learning. Whatever they don’t know their computer brains will look it up for them. They are also given perfect complexions and grow six inches in a week. Yet, despite their intelligence, their priorities only lie in teasing each other with stuff like “girly hands” and “man-hands.” Not sure what the intelligence changed in them. The knowledge certainly hasn’t made them any more empathetic, as they spend most of their time plotting to ruin each other’s lives (and are encouraged to do so!.)

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[review] The Goddaughter by Melodie Campbell (2012)

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The Goddaughter by Melodie Campbell (2012)
The Goddaughter by Melodie Campbell (2012)
by Melodie Campbell (Twitter.)
Publication Date: September 1st, 2012
Publisher: Raven Books (Imprint of Orca Books)
Edition Read: E-book gifted by author for TLC Book Tours

Buy a copy via Amazon.
Goodreads.

Stolen jewels, a cross-country chase, and a reluctant mob goddaughter make for a whole lot of laughs!

Despite her best efforts to lead a law-abiding life, Gina Gallo cannot quite escape her mob family. Since she’s a certified gemologist, Gina has become a key player in the family’s gem-smuggling operations. Now she has met a great guy, a reporter named Pete, and she’ll do almost anything to keep him from discovering her shady side. But when a gem delivery goes awry, Gina has to take Pete along for the ride.

My Thoughts:
The Goddaughter was surely a rapid read at 134 pages and seemed like the perfect light, funny read to balance out the pile of post-apocalyptic reads I’ve been devouring lately–unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy The Goddaughter as much as I hoped. I’m afraid the short length might have ruined the book for me. For much of the book I was thrown in an unrelenting whirlwind of action and not quite enough character development to make me invested the the story.

I already knew that The Goddaughter was supposed to be short, and wasn’t expecting a deep story or complex characters, but I wanted more than just two gorgeous, sexy people jumping from one random place to the next. The story moves FAST, I was at chapter two before I began to grasp what was happening. Eventually I gave up and just believed whatever the author threw at me: Toronto? okay. Wait, they are back in the states now? If you say so.

I know Gina, the protagonist, was supposed to be snarky and funny, but I found her too impulsive. She easily steals the spotlight from Pete, which became just a guy that Gina dragged along. He was cute, but that was there was no depth. I’m not even sure what his background is, except he’s supposed to be the perfect guy. The only time that might’ve been funny was when she compared on Pete’s scent to yummy bread. I hope it was a joke and she wasn’t serious. Overall, if you are looking for a no-brainer, pick The Goddaughter up. There was a lot of action, so if you are looking for a fun read, this might be your thing. But for me, the story fell short as unmemorable.

Rating: C++

Want more of Melodie Campbell’s The Goddaughter? Don’t forget to check out the rest of the TLC tour stops!

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[review] People Who Eat Darkness: The True Story of a Young Woman Who Vanished from the Streets of Tokyo – and the Evil That Swallowed Her Up by Richard Lloyd Parry (2012)

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People Who Eat Darkness: The True Story of a Young Woman Who Vanished from the Streets of Tokyo - and the Evil That Swallowed Her Up by Andrew Gross (2011)
People Who Eat Darkness: The True Story of a Young Woman Who Vanished from the Streets of Tokyo – and the Evil That Swallowed Her Up (2012)
by Richard Lloyd Parry
Publication Date: May 22nd, 2012 (first published December 28th, 2010)
Publisher: FSG Originals
Edition Read: Paperback

Buy a copy via Amazon.
Goodreads.

Lucie Blackman—tall, blond, twenty-one years old—stepped out into the vastness of Tokyo in the summer of 2000, and disappeared forever. The following winter, her dismembered remains were found buried in a seaside cave.Richard Lloyd Parry, an award-winning foreign correspondent, covered Lucie’s disappearance and followed the massive search for her, the long investigation, and the even longer trial. Over ten years, he earned the trust of her family and friends, won unique access to the Japanese detectives and Japan’s convoluted legal system, and delved deep into the mind of the man accused of the crime, Joji Obara, described by the judge as “unprecedented and extremely evil.The People Who Eat Darkness is one of Publishers Weekly’s Top 10 Best Books of 2012Drawing on two real-life experiences from his own past, Gross has crafted a richly personal, yet utterly terrifying tale of two brothers, one successful, one wayward, trying to bridge the gap of what tore them apart.

My Thoughts:
After I finished the prologue, I already had chills going down my spine. It was not a good idea to start this in bed/before going to sleep, since there was this “a ghost is sitting on my bed smoking a cigar” scene. I’ve been reading a number of dark books lately, I didn’t know if I could get through another and still have a good night’s sleep (being the scaredy cat that I am.) I debated immediately returning the book to the library, but ultimately decided to stick it out. I had a plan where I would read at least fifty pages a day of People Who Eat Darkness, while I also read other happier books to “neutralize” the horror. So much for that plan, because I ate (pun intended) this book up in two days.

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