Sunday, June 30, 2013

Review: The New Hunger by Isaac Marion

The New Hunger (Warm Bodies, #0.5)Title: The New Hunger
Author: Isaac Marion
Release Date: January 28, 2013
Pages: 105, eBook
Goodreads Rating: 4.04 stars
My Rating: 4/5 stars
Content Rating: PG-16? (Some very violent scenes)

Summary from Goodreads: New York is a bayou. New Orleans is a reef. The entire country has been devastated by natural disasters and governmental collapse, and on top of everything else there is the annoying problem of zombies trying to devour you at every turn. But sixteen-year-old Nora and her younger brother Addis are about to discover the most frightening thing yet: being abandoned in this horrific world by their own parents.

Left with only a bag of clothes and a first-aid kit, Nora and Addis begin a harrowing journey to connect with anyone who isn't looking to rob them or eat them. A wounded man wrecks a meal of green beans and French fries at the top of the Space Needle in Seattle. An attempt to get a good night’s sleep in a fortified motel is ruined by an undead face staring at them through the window. And they just can’t seem to shake someone – something – that’s been following them everywhere they go…. 

Meanwhile, a girl named Julie is traveling toward the city in an SUV with her parents. She is only twelve, but has already seen friends die and her school burn. She has watched her father become nearly as cold and remorseless as the Dead. All she wants is someplace to call home, even if it never really will be.

And somewhere nearby, a tall man awakens in the woods, unsure of exactly where he is, or even who he is. As he struggles to remember details of his life, a single consonant comes to him: R. He is…a name that begins with R….

Isaac Marion once again demonstrates his remarkable gifts as a storyteller as he brings the world of WARM BODIES back to life. Grounding his characters in real emotion, Marion makes you root for them to save the world even as they simply try to stay alive.


I read The New Hunger as my June Random Read (I just barely got this read in June, but I did it!).  This is a novella prequel to Warm Bodies and I honestly wasn't that excited about reading it, but I'm very glad that I did!  I think I liked the prequel better than I liked Warm Bodies because it really delved into what it felt like to live in Marion's zombie world.  This novella gave us backstory on Julie, Nora and R!

  • The "cloud of hands."  Yes, I know it sounds weird, but I can't really explain it any better than that, which is why I have it listed as one of my negatives.  R keeps referring to a "cloud of hands" that is propelling him forward?  Or something?  I don't really know and I just never got it.  This is a small detail, but one that bugged me every time it came up.  Isaac Marion, I just need to know - what's with the cloud of hands?
  • There were a few other negatives, but they were small and I can't really talk about them without spoilers, so I'm just not mentioning them.
What I loved:
  • Nora.  Honestly, in Warm Bodies, I thought that Nora was fine, but I didn't love her.  But after reading her backstory and living through her horrors with her, I totally have a new appreciation for her character.  I care about her way more now than I did in the first (second?) book.  The prequel also explains a bit how she may have come to some of her beliefs about zombies.
  • The horror.  The last 25% or so of this book was pretty chilling and emotionally draining.  I definitely got a good sense of what it would be like to live in Marion's zombie world and I do not want to go there!
  • Intertwining stories.  I loved how Marion managed to tell us each character's backstory and give us little moments where their lives (or non-lives) were intertwined.  The ending was especially poignant to me and it really made the connection between R and Julie in Warm Bodies make more sense to me.  I don't want to spoil anything, but there is a moment in the end where R is really affected by something that he believes is being said to him (it's not, but the intertwining of the storylines here is masterfully done).  It gives us insight into why R might have been different from the other zombies to begin with - because thoughts were put in his head before he became a "true" zombie.  I loved this insight and felt that it actually improved my view of the original book.
This book is a definite must for fans of Warm Bodies.  If you enjoy zombie books, this is also for you.  It's a quick and enjoyable read that will keep your heart poundin!.  4/5 Stars.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Review: Poison by Bridget Zinn

PoisonTitle: Poison
Author: Bridget Zinn
Release Date: March 12, 2013
Pages: 288, Hardcover
Goodreads Rating: 3.93 stars
My Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Content Rating: G (A couple of chaste kisses and some fighting, but definitely appropriate for all YA and even MG audiences)

Summary from Goodreads: Sixteen-year-old Kyra, a highly-skilled potions master, is the only one who knows her kingdom is on the verge of destruction—which means she’s the only one who can save it. Faced with no other choice, Kyra decides to do what she does best: poison the kingdom’s future ruler, who also happens to be her former best friend.

But, for the first time ever, her poisoned dart . . . misses.

Now a fugitive instead of a hero, Kyra is caught in a game of hide-and-seek with the king’s army and her potioner ex-boyfriend, Hal. At least she’s not alone. She’s armed with her vital potions, a too-cute pig, and Fred, the charming adventurer she can’t stop thinking about. Kyra is determined to get herself a second chance (at murder), but will she be able to find and defeat the princess before Hal and the army find her?

Kyra is not your typical murderer, and she’s certainly no damsel-in-distress—she’s the lovable and quick-witted hero of this romantic novel that has all the right ingredients to make teen girls swoon.


Poison is a delightfully cute and light fantasy novel.  The book is published by Disney Hyperion, which makes complete sense because it fits right into their wheelhouse - I could easily see this as a Disney movie!  The book was the perfect diversion from some of the darker fantasy and dystopian novels that I read and I loved it! 

The story centers around Kyra, a young potions master who is on the run after attempting to murder her best friend, the princess (I won't spoil why, but she did have good reason).  Kyra believes that she has to finish what she started, so she enlists the help of a cute little tracking pig to help her find the princess (who has been hidden away since the assassination attempt) while simultaneously avoiding the guards (along with her ex-fiance).  Along the way, she meets up with Fred, a sweet and charming guy who complicates her life, but who she can't help but fall for!

  • Not much.  As I said this is a light, fun novel.  So, if you're looking for something dark, serious or with more mature themes, this is not the book for you.  Some people might see this as a negative, but I like to switch things up a bit and read a fun novel every once in awhile.  That's just what this book was - fun!
What I loved:
  • The humor.  I really enjoyed the fun banter between Kyra and Fred.  It often had me laughing out loud!  In general, I just loved Kyra's wry sense of humor and her reactions to the crazy situations that she finds herself in (crossing the lake in frilly underwear with a pig on her head - totally normal, right?).  I smiled through the whole book!
  • The twists and turns.  There were quite a few twists in the story, which made it fun to read.  There were clues planted for each of the twists, but I definitely didn't have them all figured out (I hate it when I can see all the twists coming from a mile away).  While this was the type of book that you figured would end "happily ever after," it was still really fun getting there!
  • A romance that didn't overpower the story.  While the romance was definitely a key ingredient in the book, it didn't take center stage and out-shine the rest of the story.  Instead, it was just one element in a book that had a lot of interesting plot elements going for it.  Yay!
I would highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a fun, adventurous fantasy story.  It would be especially perfect for younger YA readers (but certainly not only for them!).  4.5/5 Stars.

One side-note: I was surprised and saddened to see that the author of this book actually died two years ago of cancer and never got to witness her book being published (at least not here on earth!).  She was a talented writer who would have had an amazing career ahead of her.  I'm so glad that her husband pursued her dreams for her and kept her legacy alive!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Read Chapter One of Branded by Abi Ketner & Missy Kalicicki - Releases today!

Branded Abi&Missy wrapFINAL.jpg

This is a book release that I have been really looking forward to!  Watch for my review coming up next month!  But, no need to wait, check out chapter one of the book right now (just scroll down) and buy it on Amazon for just $0.99 during its release sale!

Branded (Sinners, #1)

Title: Branded
Author: Abi Ketner & Missy Kalicicki
Release Date: June 28, 2013
Genre: Mature YA/NA, Dystopian

Book Description:
Twenty years ago the Commander came into power and murdered all who opposed him. In his warped mind, the seven deadly sins were the downfall of society. He created the Hole where sinners are branded according to their sins and might survive a few years. At best.
Now LUST wraps around my neck like blue fingers strangling me. I’ve been accused of a crime I didn’t commit and now the Hole is my new home.

Darkness. Death. Violence. Pain.

Now every day is a fight for survival. But I won’t die. I won’t let them win.
The Hole can’t keep me. The Hole can’t break me.
I am more than my brand. I’m a fighter.
My name is Lexi Hamilton, and this is my story.

BRANDED release sale promo FINAL.jpg
Buy It on Amazon
(or buy the paperback)

And Here's Your Chance to Read Chapter One!

I’m buried six feet under, and no one hears my screams.
The rope chafes as I loop it around my neck. I pull down, making sure the knot is secure. It seems sturdy enough. My legs shake. My heart beats heavy in my throat. Sweat pours down my back.
Death and I glare at each other through my tears.
            I take one last look at the crystal chandelier, the foyer outlined with mirrors, and the flawless decorations. No photographs adorn the walls. No happy memories here.
I’m ready to go. On the count of three.
            I inhale, preparing myself for the finality of it all. Dropping my hands, a glimmer catches my eye. It’s my ring, the last precious gift my father gave me. I twist it around to read the inscription. Picturing his face forces me to reconsider my choice. He’d be heartbroken if he could see me now.
A door slams in the hallway, almost causing me to lose my balance. My thoughts already muddled, I stand waiting with the rope hanging around my neck. Voices I don’t recognize creep through the walls.
            Curiosity overshadows my current thoughts. It’s late at night, and this is a secure building in High Society. No one disturbs the peace here—ever. I tug on the noose and pull it back over my head.
Peering through the eyehole in our doorway, I see a large group of armed guards banging on my neighbors’ door. A heated conversation ensues, and my neighbors point toward my family’s home.
It hits me. I’ve been accused and they’re here to arrest me.
My father would want me to run, and in that split second, I decide to listen to his voice within me. Flinging myself forward in fear, I scramble up the marble staircase and into my brother’s old bedroom. The door is partially covered, but it exists. Pushing his dresser aside, my fingers claw at the opening. Breathing hard, I lodge myself against it. Nothing. I step back and kick it with all my strength. The wood splinters open, and my foot gets caught. I wrench it backward, scraping my calf, but adrenaline pushes me forward. The voices at the front door shout my name.
 On hands and knees, I squeeze through the jagged opening. My brother left through this passage, and now it’s my escape too. Cobwebs entangle my face, hands, and hair. At the end, I feel for the knob, twisting it clockwise. It swings open, creaking from disuse. I sprint into the hallway and smash through the large fire escape doors at the end. A burst of cool air strikes me in the face as I jump down the ladder.
            Reaching the fifth floor, I knock on a friend’s window. The lights flicker on, and I see the curtains move, but no one answers. I bang on the window harder.
            “Let me in! Please!” I say, but the lights darken. They know I’ve been accused and refuse to help me. Fear and adrenaline rush through my veins as I keep running, knocking on more windows along the way. No one has mercy. They all know what happens to sinners.
            Another flight of stairs passes in a blur when I hear the guards’ heavy footfalls from above. I can’t hide, but I don’t want to go without trying.
Help me, Daddy. I need your strength now.
My previous desolation evolves into a will to survive. I have to keep running, but I tremble and gasp for air. I steel my nerves and force my body to keep moving. In a matter of minutes, my legs cramp and my chest burns. I plunge to the ground, scraping my knee and elbow. A moan escapes from my chest.
Gotta keep going.
“Stop!” Their voices bounce off the buildings. “Lexi Hamilton, surrender yourself,” they command. They’re gaining on me.
I resist the urge to glance back, running into what I assume is an alley. I’m far from our high-rise in High Society as I plunge into a poorer section of the city where the streets all look the same and the darkness prevents me from recognizing anything. I’m lost.
            My first instinct is to leap into a dumpster, but I retain enough sense to stay still. I crouch and peek around it, watching them dash by. The abhorrent smell leaves me vomiting until nothing remains in my stomach. Desperation overtakes me, as I know my retching was anything but silent. My last few seconds tick away before they find me. Everyone knows about their special means of tracking sinners.
I push myself to my feet and look left, right, and left again. Their batons click against their black leather belts, and their boots stomp the cement on both sides of me. I shrink into myself. Their heavy steps mock my fear, growing closer and closer until I know I’m trapped.
Never did I imagine they’d come for me. Never did I imagine all those nights I heard them dragging someone else away that I’d join them.
            “You’re a sinner,” they say. “Time to leave our society.”
I stand defiant. I refuse to bend or break before them, even as I shiver with fear.
“There’s no reason to make this difficult. The more you cooperate, the smoother this will be for everyone,” a guard says.
I cringe into the blackness along the wall. I’m innocent, but they won’t believe me or care.
The next instant, my face slams into the pavement as one guard plants a knee in my back and another handcuffs me. A warm liquid trails into my mouth. Blood. Their fingers grip my arms like steel traps as they peel me off the cement. The tops of my shoes scrape along the ground as I’m dragged behind them until they discard me into the back of a black vehicle. The doors slam in unison with one guard stationed on each side of me, my shoulders digging into their arms.
Swallowing hard, I stare ahead to avoid their eyes. My dignity is all I have left. The handcuffs dig into my wrists, so I clasp them together hard behind me and press my back into the seat, unwilling to admit how much it hurts.
 Did they need so many guards to capture me?
 I’m not carrying any weapons, nor do I own any. I don’t even know self-defense. High Society frowns on activities like that.
The driver jerks the vehicle around and I try to keep my bearings, but it’s dark and the scenery changes too fast. Hours pass, and the air grows warmer, more humid the farther we drive. The landscape mutates from city to rolling hills. They don’t bother blindfolding me because they escort all the sinners to the same place—the Hole. Twenty-foot cement walls encase the chaos within. There’s no way out and no way in unless they transport you. They say the Hole is a prison with no rules. We learned about it last year in twelfth grade.
To the outside, I’m filth now. I’ll never be allowed to return to the life I knew. No one ever does.
“All sinners go through a transformation,” one of the guards says to me. His smirk infuriates me. “I’m sure you’ve heard all kinds of stories.” I don’t respond. I don’t want to think about the things I’ve been told.
“You won’t last too long, though. Young girls like you get eaten alive.” He pulls a strand of my hair up to his face.
 Get your hands off me, you pig. I want to lash out, but resist. The punishment for disobeying authority is severe, and I’m not positioned to defy him.
            They’re the Guards of the Commander. They’re chosen from a young age and trained in combat. They keep the order of society by using violent methods of intimidation. No one befriends a guard. Relationships with them are forbidden inside the Hole.
Few have seen the commander. His identity stays under lock and key. His own paranoia and desire to stay pure drove him to live this way. He controls our depraved society and believes sinners make the human race unforgivable. His power is a crushing fist, rendering all beneath him helpless. So much so, even family members turn on each other when an accusation surfaces. Just an accusation. No trial, no evidence, nothing but an accusation.
I lose myself in thoughts of my father.
“Never show fear, Lexi,” my father said to me before he was taken. “They’ll use it against you.” His compassionate eyes filled with warning as he commanded me to be strong. That was many years ago, but I remember it clearly. My father. My rock. The one person in my life who provided unconditional love.
“Get out,” the guard says while pulling me to my feet. The vehicle stops, and I’m jerked back to reality. The doors slide open and the two guards lift me up and out into the night. A windowless cement building looms in front of us, looking barren in the darkness.
The coolness of the air sends a shiver up my spine. This is really happening. I’ve been labeled a sinner. My lip starts to quiver, but I bite it before anyone sees. They shove me in line, and I realize I’m not alone. Women and men stand with faces frozen white with fear. A guard grabs my finger, pricks it, and dabs my blood on a tiny microchip.
 I follow the man in front of me into the next room where we’re lined up facing the wall. Glancing right, I see one of the men crying.
“Spread your legs,” one of the guards says.
They remove my outer layers and their hands roam up and down my body.
What do they think I can possibly be hiding? I press my head into the wall, trying to block out what they’re doing to me.
“MOVE!” a guard commands. So I shuffle across the room, trying to cover up.
Five of us sit in the holding room. One by one, they pull people into the next room, forcing the rest of us to wonder what torture we’ll endure. An agonizing amount of time passes. I lean my head back and try to imagine a place far away. The door opens.
“Lexi Hamilton.”
            A guard escorts me out of the room, and I don’t have time to look back. As soon as the door closes, they pick me up and place me on a table. It’s cold and my skin sticks to it slightly, like wet fingers on an ice cube. Then they exit in procession, and I lie on the table with a doctor standing over me. His hands are busy as he speaks.
“Don’t move. This will only take a few minutes. It’s time for you to be branded.”
A wet cloth that smells like rubbing alcohol is used to clean my skin. Then he places a metal collar around my neck.
Click. Click. Click.
The collar locks into place, and I struggle to breathe. The doctor loosens it some as I focus on the painted black words above me.

The Seven Deadly Sins:

Lust ¾ Blue

Gluttony ¾ Orange

Greed ¾ Yellow

Sloth ¾ Black

Wrath ¾ Red

Envy ¾ Green

Pride ¾ Purple

 “Memorize it. Might keep you alive longer if you know who to stay away from.” He opens my mouth, placing a bit inside. “Bite this.”
Within seconds, the collar heats from hot to scorching. The smell of flesh sizzling makes my head spin. I bite down so hard a tooth cracks.
“GRRRRRRRRR,” escapes from deep within my chest. Just when I’m about to pass out, the temperature drops, and the doctor loosens the collar.
He removes it and sits me up. Excruciating pain rips through me, and I’m on the verge of a mental and physical breakdown. Focus. Don’t pass out.
Stainless steel counters and boring white walls press in on me. A guard laughs at me from an observation room above and yells, “Blue. It’s a great color for a pretty young thing like yourself.” His eyes dance with suggestion. The others meander around like it’s business as usual.
I finally find my voice and turn to the doctor.
“Are you going to give me clothes?” A burning pain spreads like fire up from my neck to my jaw, making me wince.
He points to a set of folded grey scrubs on a chair. I cover myself as much as I can and scurry sideways. Grabbing my clothes and pulling the shirt over my head, I try to avoid the raw meat around my throat. I quickly knot the cord of my pants around my waist and slide my feet into the hospital-issue slippers as the doctor observes. He hands me a bag labeled with my name.
“Nothing is allowed through the door but what we’ve given you,” he says.
I hide my right hand behind me, hoping no one notices. A guard scans my body and opens his hand.
“Give it to me,” he says. “Don’t make me rip off your finger.” He crouches down and I turn to stone. I don’t know what to do, so I beg.
 “My father gave this to me. Please, let me keep it.” I smash my eyes shut and think of the moment my father handed the golden ring to me.
“It was my mother’s ring,” he’d said. “She’s the strongest woman I ever knew.” With tears in his eyes, he reached for my hand and said, “Lexi, you’re exactly like her. She’d want you to wear this. No matter how this world changes, you can survive.” I turned the gold band over in my palm and read the engraving.
You can overcome anything… short of death.
 “You’re going to take the one thing that matters the most to me?” I say, glaring into the guard’s emotionless eyes. “Isn’t it enough taking my life, dignity, and respect?”
A hard blow falls upon my back. As I fall, my hands shoot out to stop me from smashing into the wall in front of me. The guard bends down and grabs my chin with his meaty fist.
“Look at me,” he commands. I look up and he smiles with arrogance.
“What the hell?” He staggers a step backward. “What’s wrong with you? What’s wrong with your eyes?”
“Nothing,” I respond, confused.
“What color are they?”
“Turquoise.” I glower at him.
“Interesting,” he says, regaining his composure. “Now those’ll get you in trouble.”
Reality slaps me across the face. I have my father’s eyes. They can't take them from me. I twist the ring off my finger and drop it in his hand.
“Take the damn ring,” I say. I walk to the door. He swipes a card and the massive door slides open to the outside.
“You have to wear your hair back at all times, so everyone knows what you are.” He hands me a tie, so I pull my frizzy hair away from my face and secure it into a ponytail. My neck burns and itches as my hand traces the scabs that have already begun to form. Squinting ahead in the darkness, I almost run into a guard standing on the sidewalk.
 “Watch where you’re going,” he says, shoving me backward. His stiff figure stands tall and I cringe at the sharpness of his voice.
“Cole, this is your new assignment, Lexi Hamilton. See to it she feels welcome in her new home.” The guard departs with a salute.
“Let’s move,” Cole says.
I take two steps and collapse, my knees giving out. The unforgiving pavement reopens the scrapes from earlier and I struggle to stand. A powerful arm snatches me up, and I see his face for the first time.

Author Bios:

Abi Ketner Is a registered nurse with a passion for novels, the beaches of St. John, and her Philadelphia Phillies. A talented singer, Abi loves to go running and spend lots of time with her family. She currently resides in Lancaster, Pennsylvania with her husband, triplet daughters and two very spoiled dogs.

Melissa Kalicicki received her bachelor’s degree from Millersville University in 2003. She married, had two boys and currently lives in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Aside from reading and writing, her interests include running and mixed martial arts. She also remains an avid Cleveland sports fan.

Abi and Missy met in the summer of 1999 at college orientation and have been best friends ever since. After college, they added jobs, husbands and kids to their lives, but they still found time for their friendship. Instead of hanging out on weekends, they went to dinner once a month and reviewed books. What started out as an enjoyable hobby has now become an incredible adventure.


Thursday, June 27, 2013

Review & Giveaway: Rift Healer by Diane M. Haynes

Rift Healer Tour

Title: Rift Healer
Author: Diane M. Haynes
Release Date: March 12, 2012
Pages: 306, Paperback
Goodreads Rating: 4.64 stars
My Rating: 4/5 stars
Content Rating: PG (There is kissing and mention of the word sex, but that's about it.)

rift healerSynopsis: Rift Healer is the first installment of the 'Forest Magic' series, a Young Adult Fantasy/Romance set in Central and Western Massachusetts. After a minor earthquake, the enchanted forest in Bidwell, MA, is infested with monster-spewing rifts. Gisele Westerfield's great nephew, the gifted Micah, and his distant cousin, Selena, arrive to assist. Together with Gisele's summer students, twins Haley and Lacey, they will try to heal the magical forest. Much to the consternation of the beautiful Selena, Micah identifies Haley as The One whom he'll share his future. But after witnessing a terrifying display of Micah's Gift, Haley cools to his advances and unexpectedly discovers her own Gift-- she can heal the earth. Monsters, mayhem, and teenage angst follow the small group as they confront evil in the forest and a dangerous prediction that 'one will fall'. Will they heal the rifts in time? Can they save the unicorns? And is Haley really destined to be with Micah?


Rift Healer was a fun and imaginative story that takes you on an adventure in a forest filled with magical creatures.  Because of a recent earthquake, the forest has become broken - full of huge rifts that allow evil magical creatures to escape out into the open.  Gisele, the keeper of the forest, has no one to turn to in order to help heal the forest except for a group of teenagers, who she is afraid to enlist lest they get hurt in the process.  But, when 14-year-old Haley discovers that she has an incredibly powerful earth healing gift, Gisele has no choice but to accept her aid.  The forest will be lost without her.  Meanwhile, Gisele's nephew Micah recognizes Haley as the girl who he has has visions about - his soul mate.  But, convincing Haley of that is more difficult than he expects.

What I loved:
  • The forest magic.  Haynes created a world filled with tons of amazing magical creatures (both good and evil).  There were typical creatures like dragons and fairies, but also many of her own interesting creations.  I also loved that the forest itself gifted the group with what they would need to heal the forest (although they had to figure out along the way what they were supposed to do with the magical items that they received) and that they sometimes used unexpected means to fight the evil creatures (like squirt guns!).
  • The characters.  I thought that all of the characters (with the possible exception of Selena) were well-developed and relatable.  I was rooting for Micah and Haley to get together and I felt like Haley especially seemed like a believable 14-year-old girl who was a bit overwhelmed and confused by the attention of a cute boy.
  • The pacing.  This book kept me engaged from beginning to end and never dragged!  At 300 pages, it still felt like a quick read.

What I didn't love:
  • Talk of marriage.  I have to admit that I couldn't quite get past the fact that Haley and Micah seriously talked about marriage when she is only 14.  Really?  I know they're supposed to be soul mates, but it just seemed odd to me.  On the other hand, 14-year-old girls might think that this is very romantic and sweet (I am a mom, after all, so I'm looking at it from a different perspective).  Oh, and the fact that there was even a mention of the possibility that they could have had sex also bugged me a little (Selena makes an offhanded remark asking them not to have sex in front of her and Haley momentarily tricks her twin Lacey into thinking she went skinny dipping with Micah).  But, I might probably a bit prudish when it comes to this - I know it happens, but as the mom of a pre-teen daughter, the idea of 14-year-old girls having sex is just scary to me!!
Overall, I thought that this was a fun, magical and engaging story, perfect for a YA audience (especially a younger YA audience).    4/5 Stars.

**Disclosure: This book was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given. All opinions are my own***

Author Diane M. Haynes

dianeDiane has lived in Massachusetts all her life where early on, her artistic talents were fostered, though her skills as an "excellent report writer" were often noted in previous employment. On her brother Rick's birthday, November 16, 2004, seven months after his death, she woke from an amazing dream which would not fade. She outlined the dream, made a few quick notes and days later produced a 12 page short story. After deciding her story was interesting but incomplete, she began writing her first novel, using her dream as its climax. She now believes the dream to be a 'Spirit Gift,' sent by her brother. Diane continues to reside in Central MA with her husband and a very naughty Basset Hound named Basil and his new adopted sister-Basset, Ruby, both of whom cleverly wreak havoc on the Haynes' formerly well-ordered lives. She spends her time writing, reading books about writing, talking about writing, painting with watercolors, antiqueing and attempting to train a very reluctant Basil and a willing, but highly comedic Ruby.

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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Book Blitz, Guest Post & Giveaways!! - Zombie, Incorporated by Jill Elaine Hughes


Zombie, Incorporated
Zombie, Incorporated by Jill Elaine Hughes 
Publication date: March 25th 2013 
Genre: New Adult zombie adventure fantasy

Twilight. With zombies.

Eighteen-year-old Katie Allred is socially awkward and unpopular at school. The only child of parents who had her right out of high school, Katie is herself about to leave the nest, even though she hardly feels ready. 

Katie’s new after-school job at the Zimble Box Corporation draws her into the complex social strata of high school cliques and backstabbing friends in ways she never imagined. Katie soon discovers there’s something very strange about the “in” crowd at school---and about her employer, too. Shortly after starting her new job, the Contagion breaks out, plunging her town and the entire nation into chaos as zombie shadow forces come out into the open, ravaging the streets. Katie goes into hiding and her parents disappear, along with almost everyone else she knows. 

But Katie soon discovers she has special powers that help her survive. She’s a Beacon, someone with the innate ability to help zombies produce children. It’s a power her employer — and what little remains of the U.S. government — both want to exploit for their own ends. Not only that, it runs in her family---which has a secret past Katie never knew about until now.

Enter Agent Morehouse of the FBI Special Zombie Control Unit. A reformed zombie working undercover, he suppresses his urge to eat human flesh in order to serve and save humanity. But Agent Morehouse can’t help but be attracted to a Beacon like Katie, and she to him. Even as they fight zombies the world over, they must fight their intense attraction to each other, hoping to keep Katie from suffering  Agent Morehouse’s terrible zombie fate.



by Jill Elaine Hughes

The book started out as a short story. My now-former literary agent was putting together a Zombie Romance anthology to shop with major publishers. Zombie Romance in itself is weird---when was the last time you wanted to make out with a zombie? I thought hard about the concept and wrote a short piece that eventually became ZOMBIE, INCORPORATED’s final chapter. But the short story didn’t fit with the ones from other authors so it didn’t make the anthology cut, even though the anthology sold to St. Martin’s Press.  I still wanted to do more work in the world I created though. After I parted ways with the former literary agent who asked me to write it, my new agent encouraged me to expand the idea into three chapters and a book proposal, so I did. That book proposal also went nowhere, since the setting for the story involved an 18-year-old girl who was embarking on her first job in the adult world---not the norm for the zombie genre, but it is the norm for the emerging New Adult genre. But I just couldn’t let the idea go, so I wrote what is now the first installment in a planned three-book series.

I completed the manuscript and my literary representation still showed little to no interest in a New Adult zombie series.  But I know readers are demanding New Adult paranormal books even if publishers aren’t putting them out, so I just went the self-publishing route instead of waiting for publishers to catch up with readers.  The worldbuilding and character development for this series is substantial, and Book One ends on a cliffhanger as the heroine’s zombie romantic interest finally makes his first appearance.

It’s ironic---I couldn’t get editors or my own literary agents to read the book because it was so outside the zombie norm (it’s a New Adult psychological thriller!), but reader response has been fantastic. Readers love the book and are demanding more, more, more!  My agent is now very interested, and has even asked a New York Times bestselling author (I’ll announce who it is later) to do a cover blurb for me. Goes to show that a good book will always find an audience, no matter how different it is!

I'm an independent author of New Adult (mature YA, 18-26) fiction as well as a full-time freelance journalist based in Chicago. I've contributed to the Chicago Tribune, Washington Post, Chicago Reader and many magazines as a journalist over the past 15 years.  And like most New Adult fiction authors these days, I've gone the self-publishing route for my work since most publishers haven't caught up to the readership trends in this emerging shelf category. My writing is usually laced with humor and also often has sexual and/or dystopian elements.


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Monday, June 24, 2013

Review: Girls Love Travis Walker by Anne Pfeffer

Girls Love Travis Walker
Girls Love Travis Walker
Author: Anne Pfeffer
Release Date: March 15, 2013
Pages: 323, eBook
Goodreads Rating: 3.92 stars
My Rating: 5/5 stars
Content Rating: R (Language and sexual content)

Summary from Goodreads: To nineteen-year-old high school dropout Travis Walker, women are like snowflakes--each one different, but beautiful in her own way.

He can charm any girl he meets, and yet down deep he fears he'll always be a loser like his jailbird father. As the landlady threatens to evict him and his sick mother, Travis takes a job he hates and spends his evenings picking up girls at a nearby night spot.

When he enlists in a teen program at the local fire station, he finds out he’s amazing at it. Then he meets the smoking hot Kat Summers, enlists Kat’s friend Zoey to help him woo her, and falls in love for the first time ever. 

But he keeps the details of his life secret. His girl will never love him back if she knows the truth about him…


I saw this book on a blog that I follow (I wish I could remember which one, but I just can't) and the review that I read was so compelling that I had to immediately go and buy the book on Amazon.  Still, it was outside of my normal genre and I had so many books that I needed to read for reviews that I just didn't get to it right away.  How to solve the problem?  Sign up for a blog tour so that the book would go to the top of my To-Read list!  I'm so glad that I did! I LOVED this book!!

Why I loved it:
  • Travis Walker.  I have to admit that I was worried when I started the book.  Travis comes off as an arrogant womanizer at first and I thought, "Really, I'm supposed to love this guy?"  But it didn't take long before I started to realize that Travis' arrogance is really just a cover for a whole host of insecurities and a mask for the pain he feels because his life is crumbling around him.  Travis works hard to keep his life together, both for himself and for his mother, but no matter how hard he tries and no matter what he does, he can't seem to pull it all together.  And, worse, he feels like maybe he doesn't deserve any happiness at all - that maybe he is destined to follow in the footsteps of his felon father and that there is nothing he can do about it.  Travis is fighting for control of a life that is completely out of control, so he hides behind his arrogance and his cool guy persona.  Still, he's broken and he's terrified to share that brokenness with anyone.  The further into the story I got, the more I related to Travis and I felt for him.
  • The fire station storyline.  If you had asked me if I would really enjoy reading a book where one of the major subplots takes place in a student firefighters program, I would have said, "Um. No."  I honestly wouldn't have thought that it would be that interesting.  But, it was.  I loved hearing about their training program and all of the crazy drills that they did and I especially loved how Travis began to gain a sense of self-worth because of this program.  This subplot also provided suspense because you knew that this one perfect part of Travis' life was likely to implode (for reasons that I won't spoil).
  • The romance.  It was so refreshing to read a book where the romance wasn't built on insta-love!  This relationship felt real and it felt earned.  Travis grew as a person because of the relationship before it even became a romance - loved this!  And, while it was frustrating to see Travis mess up with the one person who really seemed to understand him, it just made you ache for him that much more and want everything to turn out okay.  I also loved that, while the relationship was definitely central to the book, this was not a story ONLY about a relationship.  The romance was just one element in a complete story.
  • The tears.  Yep, let me tell you that I totally cried like a baby during the last quarter of this book.  The things that were happening to Travis were so completely heart-wrenching that I almost couldn't stand it.  There were honestly a few times that I wanted to yell, "Travis, come on!  You could save yourself all this pain if you would just let someone into your life!  Tell someone what's going on!"  But, the character was so well drawn that I could honestly understand why he wouldn't do it - he was just too certain and too scared that he would lose everything - it became a self-fulfilling prophecy.  I was so absorbed in Travis' pain that I absolutely could not put the book down until I was finished (at 1:30 in the morning).  I like a book that makes me cry for all the right reasons.  This definitely did that!

What I didn't love:
  • The title and cover.  The title and cover of this book just do not do it justice.  Honestly, if I hadn't read a raving review about it, I probably would never have picked the book up.  Girls Love Travis Walker just sounds like a fluff novel about a guy you're not really going to care about and the coolio kid in his sunglasses doesn't really help to dispel that undeserved image.  Obviously, I felt like the book WAY outshone its title and cover, so don't let them fool you!
So, if you haven't figured it out by now, I was a BIG fan of this book.  It was emotional and heart-wrenching in all the right ways and I find myself still thinking about it days later (especially about how the book handled homelessness).  At the current $0.99 price point on Amazon, this book has got to be the bargain of the year!  5/5 Stars.

**Disclosure: This book was provided by the author (although I had forgotten at the time that I had already purchased it!) in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given. All opinions are my own***


Anne Pfeffer is the author of Any Other Night and The Wedding Cake Girl.  She lives in Los Angeles, CA.
Twitter @AnnePfeffer1

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Sunday Post 6/23/13

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer ~ It's a chance to share news~ A post to recap the past week on my blog, showcase books and things I have received and share news about what's coming up on my blog for the week ahead. 

Last week on FYFA:

    Coming this week on FYFA:
    • Girls Love Travis Walker by Anne Pfeffer (review)
    • Poison by Bridget Zinn (review)
    • Zombie Incorporated by Jill Elaine Hughes (book blitz & giveaway)
    • Rift Healer by Diane M. Haynes (review & giveaway)