Monday, May 25, 2015

GIVEAWAY + Excerpt: The Merit Birds by Kelley Powell

The Merit Birds
Author: Kelley Powell (website | twitter)
Publisher: Dundurn Press
Publication date: May 2, 2015

Eighteen-year-old Cam Scott is angry. He's angry about his absent dad, he's angry about being angry, and he's angry that he has had to give up his Ottawa basketball team to follow his mom to her new job in Vientiane, Laos. However, Cam's anger begins to melt under the Southeast Asian sun as he finds friendship with his neighbour, Somchai, and gradually falls in love with Nok, who teaches him about building merit, or karma, by doing good deeds, such as purchasing caged "merit birds." 

Tragedy strikes and Cam finds himself falsely accused of a crime. His freedom depends on a person he's never met. A person who knows that the only way to restore his merit is to confess. "The Merit Birds" blends action and suspense and humour in a far-off land where things seem so different, yet deep down are so much the same.



Sunday, May 24, 2015

#BEA15: Who I Am and Where I'll Be (Also, Hiatus)!


Hi everyone, as some of you know, I'll be going to Book Expo America on Tuesday night - I'm super excited for all the books, the bloggers, the authors, and just to be in New York again (I used to live there)!

This is me:


If you're there and want to catch up, my best book buddy, Sarah of You Should Read This and I will most likely be in the following places:

Wed: 
2:30 - 3pm: Leila Sales' Tonight the Streets Are Ours galley drop - we're desperate for this one!
3:30pm: BloggerCon End of Day Networking - can't wait to meet all the bloggers here

Thurs: 
9:30-10:00am: Passenger by Alexandra Bracken signing - Sarah and I will be there crazy early!
1:30-2pm: Kissing in America by Margo Rabb signing
2:30-3pm: Anything Could Happen by Wil Walton signing

Fri: 
11:30-12pm: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell signing
2:00-3:00pm: Why Not Me by Mindy Kaling signing - we will be there insanely early just to be in Queen Mindy's presence
3:00-4:00pm: The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness signing
5:30 - whenever: #BEA15 Blogger Dinner and Drinks (still a few spots left, sign up!)

If you want to follow along, I'll be tweeting and Instagramming like crazy.

For those of you NOT going, no worries, I have some treats scheduled for you this week - a review of a great book, and giveaways! 

See you all in a week!

Love,

Tiff

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

"You've Changed": Hold Me Like a Breath by Tiffany Schmidt

Win a copy of Hold Me Like A Breath!

Hold Me Like a Breath (Once Upon a Crime Family #1)
Author: Tiffany Schmidt (website | twitter)
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children's
Source/Format: eARC provided by publisher via Netgalley (thank you!)
Publication date: May 19, 2015 (today!)
My rating: 2 out of 5 stars.
Buy It: Indigo.ca | Amazon.ca | Amazon.com | Barnes and Noble | iBooks | IndieBound | The Book Depository 

Penelope Landlow has grown up with the knowledge that almost anything can be bought or sold—including body parts. She’s the daughter of one of the three crime families that control the black market for organ transplants.

Penelope’s surrounded by all the suffocating privilege and protection her family can provide, but they can't protect her from the autoimmune disorder that causes her to bruise so easily.

And in her family's line of work no one can be safe forever.

All Penelope has ever wanted is freedom and independence. But when she’s caught in the crossfire as rival families scramble for prominence, she learns that her wishes come with casualties, that betrayal hurts worse than bruises, that love is a risk worth taking . . . and maybe she’s not as fragile as everyone thinks.

Review:

This is one of those books where you’re either going to love it or say “meh” to it – and unfortunately, it was the latter for me. Here’s the breakdown:

What I Liked:

The Concept: When I first heard the concept of Hold Me Like A Breath, I was totally in – mob family, organ transplants, and a girl who bruises so easily that she has to be kept inside at all times? Amazing. Tiffany Schmidt manages to blend all of these things together in an understandable way.

The Fairy Tale Allusions: If you’re a fan of fairy tales, Tiffany Schmidt has put in a ton of references, especially allusions to The Princess and the Pea (Penny and her brother purport to go see Once upon a Mattress, a musical version of that musical). Penny herself is a huge fairy tale fan, so it’s cute how she pokes fun at some of the tropes.

What I Didn’t Like:

Characters I Couldn't Connect With: Somehow I just never really connected with Penny, and I think this was in large part because Penny, as the fragile girl in the family, never got included in any of the Family’s doings. That outsider status made me feel like I only got glimpses at what was happening, so when things start going south in the novel, I just didn’t care about her or what was happening with her family. Penny has a good arc throughout the entire book, but I just…wasn’t invested. I think that had a lot to do with the next two issues I had with the book.

Major Insta-Love: Halfway through the book, a big, big thing happens to Penny, and it was like the book took a whole new turn. It was like reading a new book – and that book was chock-full of insta-love. I didn’t believe in the romance at all. And unfortunately, that relationship happened to be the linchpin of the entire back half of the novel.

Not Enough Theme: Hold Me Like a Breath started off pretty well, with a strong explanation of the Organ Act and some of the issues about legal and illegal organ transplants; as well as a good explanation of Penny’s disease. The problem was, I never felt like I got below the surface. Even though the concept (see above) of the book was there, the attempt to mix so many threads didn’t quite work – it felt like the narrative jumped from thread to thread in a clunky way, leaving me frustrated and not very connected to the story. I think more emphasis on the different families and transplant methods would have helped a lot.

Book Theme Song:

Penny’s dad is a huge musical fan, and even though the book mentions Once Upon a Mattress, I thought this song about how people change in a different environment fit both the themes of the book, and my own experience with it.

You've changed.
You're daring.
You're different in the woods.

We've changed.
We're strangers.
I'm meeting you in the woods.
Who minds
What dangers?
I know we'll get past the woods.
And once we're past,
Let's hope the changes last
Beyond woods,
Beyond witches and slippers and hoods,
Just the two of us

The Final Word:


Hold Me Like A Breath was just an okay read for me – I had major issues connecting with the characters and themes, and I really wished there had been more done to deepen my understanding of Penny’s disease and issues with organ transplants. An interesting, if flawed, fairy-tale retelling.

HOLD ME LIKE A BREATH is out today. Will you be picking it up? Does the concept of mob family + Princess and the Pea appeal to you? Are you okay with insta-love? How do you feel about books with a lack of theme? Let me know in the comments.

Win a copy of Hold Me Like A Breath!

Friday, May 15, 2015

GIVEAWAY CONTEST: May New Release Giveaway Hop!


Hey guys, remember when I was giving away books every month? Yeah, for some reason, I fell off that train, but now I'm BACK! And I'm so glad I'm restarting this month because there are so many amazing books out in May.

You know the drill: I'm giving away one young adult, middle grade, or new adult book released this month. In the interest of not making myself crazy, I'm only posting covers for the ones I'm super interested in reading, but feel free to comment with your own choices!




My review of 5 to 1                     Review to come!

Review to come!                      Review to come!


                                       Review to come!








Rules:

  • Giveaway open internationally provided you can receive shipments from The Book Depository.
  • You're welcome to choose a book I didn't mention here as long as it's May 2015 YA, MG, or NA new release.
  • I will not be responsible for lost or damaged packages from The Book Depository or Amazon. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Don't forget to visit the rest of the stops on the hop!


Thursday, May 14, 2015

5 Things To Know About The Heir By Kiera Cass

The Heir (The Selection #4)
Author: Kiera Cass (website | twitter)
Publisher: HarperTeen (Harper Collins Canada)
Source/Format: Purchased from Indigo
Publication date: May 5, 2015
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars. 
Buy It: Indigo.ca | Amazon.ca | Amazon.com | Barnes and Noble | iBooks | Google Books | IndieBound | The Book Depository | Audible

Princess Eadlyn has grown up hearing endless stories about how her mother and father met. Twenty years ago, America Singer entered the Selection and won the heart of Prince Maxon—and they lived happily ever after. Eadlyn has always found their fairy-tale story romantic, but she has no interest in trying to repeat it. If it were up to her, she'd put off marriage for as long as possible.

But a princess's life is never entirely her own, and Eadlyn can't escape her very own Selection—no matter how fervently she protests.

Eadlyn doesn't expect her story to end in romance. But as the competition begins, one entry may just capture Eadlyn's heart, showing her all the possibilities that lie in front of her . . . and proving that finding her own happily ever after isn't as impossible as she's always thought. 

Not sure if you should read The Heir after you LOVED The Selection? Here are five things to know about the next installment in Kiera Cass' bestselling series (Spoilers for the first three books, but honestly, you wouldn’t be here if you didn’t already know a little about it, right?):

1. The Selection in this book is NOT a welcome thing.

At least not for Eadlyn, the heir to the throne and our protagonist. She gets thrown into it as a distraction for the rest of the country while her dad, King Maxon, tries to figure out how to appease the masses. This is his “brilliant” idea, and obviously, it doesn’t go quite as well as we expect. See thing #2 for why.

2. Eadlyn is not America (and that IS a good thing)

Eadlyn is very much a product of her upbringing. Like Maxon, she was raised to rule, and that makes her a bit tougher and less open than America was. She's independent and fierce and ready to rule, with or without a man by her side. And yeah, she’s pretty spoiled – I mean, she has a tiara to go with every dress! But she’s also strong enough to get out of some pretty tough situations and you can kind of see why she has to be so hard-headed (also, she makes up for that tiara obsession by having a true and total interest in fashion – she’s a designer and some of the dresses in this book are amazing).

Here’s the thing, though: I think I’d be really annoyed if she was just like America. Eadlyn is way more interesting because she’s such a contrast to Maxon and America. She only shows love and compassion to her family, but
as the book goes on, you’ll see how her personality and who she is plays a big part in what Maxon is trying to do as King.

3. IMHO, there are at least three potential suitors in the mix.

Real talk: you guys kind of knew that Maxon and America would get together, right? From the moment America met Maxon in the garden, I think we all realized that this was going to be something special. Not so with Eadlyn and the Selected men in this book. She doesn't have that perfect feeling of finding the right one right away. And that's okay - I felt like this Selection was a bit more realistic because there were a few possibilities who could really be right for Eadlyn (slight spoiler: one of my possibilities is not even part of the Selection. Give that some thought). I’ve narrowed it down to three, but I obviously have a favourite. I’m looking forward to seeing who Eadlyn picks #EadlynKile4EVA

4. All will be revealed with your old favourites.

Fan of the other couples in The Selection series, or just Maxon and America? You will get updates on all of them - just keep in mind that they are a LOT older than when we last saw them - it was a bit weird to see them in parent mode, but kind of right, too.

5. It wasn’t quite as addictive as the rest of the books, but the ending will still leave you wanting more

This is actually one of the first times I haven’t loved one of Kiera Cass’ books – it was solid, but I kind of felt like the story was all over the place. That said, the build-up towards the ending was so great – we learn a ton more about the revolution in the country, and about Eadlyn and her family’s true natures. It’s a good set-up for the next book, which I hope is coming soon, because I obviously still need to know what happens!

The Final Word:


If you loved the Selection series, you probably already have (and inhaled) this book. But if you haven’t, this is a book with a pretty imperfect main character, trying to deal with a less-than-ideal situation. It’s not perfect, but it’s definitely a fluffy read that you’ll get through quickly and enjoy.

THE HEIR is out in bookstores now. Have you read it? Did you like it? Who is your pick to win Eadlyn’s hand? If you haven’t read it yet, have you read the rest of the Selection series? Let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday: Because You'll Never Meet Me by Leah Thomas


Because You'll Never Meet Me
Author: Leah Thomas 
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children's Books
Expected publication: July 2nd 2015

In a stunning literary debut, two boys on opposite ends of the world begin an unlikely friendship that will change their lives forever.


Ollie and Moritz are best friends, but they can never meet. Ollie is allergic to electricity. Contact with it causes debilitating seizures. Moritz’s weak heart is kept pumping by an electronic pacemaker. If they ever did meet, Ollie would seize. But Moritz would die without his pacemaker. Both hermits from society, the boys develop a fierce bond through letters that become a lifeline during dark times—as Ollie loses his only friend, Liz, to the normalcy of high school and Moritz deals with a bully set on destroying him.


A story of impossible friendship and hope under strange circumstances, this debut is powerful, dark and humorous in equal measure. These extraordinary voices bring readers into the hearts and minds of two special boys who, like many teens, are just waiting for their moment to shine. 

Real talk: I'm not usually into epistolary novels, but this one just spoke to me with the electricity thing, the loss of a friend, the bullying, and the way they find each other.

I was trolling quite a few online catalogues, and I found this wonderful sounding debut. It's kind of a cross between the TV show Pushing Daisies (see video below) and Becky Albertalli's Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda (which I loved), and I'm really, really looking forward to hearing these unique voices shine through their letters.



Are you interested in reading Because You'll Never Meet Me? How do you feel about books written in letters? How about the electricity thing? What are you waiting for this week? Leave me your WoW pick and I'll try to comment back! 

-----
"Waiting On Wednesday" is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that book bloggers are eagerly anticipating.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Five Reasons to Read 5 to 1 by Holly Bodger

Source/Format: ARC provided by Random House of Canada in exchange for an honest review (thank you!)
Publication date: May 12th 2015 (today!)
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars.
Buy It: Indigo.ca | Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | IndieBound | Barnes & Noble | Apple iBooks | The Book Depository | Google Books

In the year 2052, after decades of gender selection, India now has a ratio of five boys for every girl, making women an incredibly valuable commodity. Tired of marrying off their daughters to the highest bidder and determined to finally make marriage fair, the women who form the country of Koyanagar have instituted a series of tests so that every boy has the chance to win a wife.

Sudasa, though, doesn't want to be a wife, and Kiran, a boy forced to compete in the test to become her husband, has other plans as well. As the tests advance, Sudasa and Kiran thwart each other at every turn until they slowly realize that they just might want the same thing.

This beautiful, unique novel is told from alternating points of view-Sudasa's in verse and Kiran's in prose-allowing readers to experience both characters' pain and their brave struggle for hope. 


Here's why you should make 5 to 1 your next read:

1. The Diverse Characters

You probably already knew it from the synopsis, but not only are the characters not Caucasian, they’re also living in a future where Sudasa’s family has maintained some of the cultural trends that I saw growing up in an Asian family: that is, emphasis on saving face; desire for status and money, the importance of doing everything for family, and obeisance to elders. It was easy for me to relate to these cultural trends – in fact, some of them were so ingrained in the characters (and me!) that I didn’t notice them until they were pointed out by the protagonist.

2. The Unique Futuristic Concept

Sudasa’s country, Koyanagar, is one where men outnumber women five to one – thus, the need for more importance placed on women and child-bearing. The women who run this gender-dominated country purport to have solved the problems of society by revering women and subjecting men to physical labour or servitude. What’s scary about this world is that it could actually happen – China already has a one-child rule, and families there are often obsessed with having sons that can bear the family name. Female children end up abandoned – and if it got to an extreme, I could see this “solution” happening.

But what’s even more interesting about this concept is how even current issues with sex and gender come to light when placed side-by-side with the world of Koyanagar.

3. Prose AND Poetry

One of the coolest things about this novel is that Holly Bodger writes Sudasa’s sections in first person verse, while the main boy in the novel (known only has Contestant Five) speaks in prose. This separation feels like an homage to Shakespearean plays, where often the higher-born people would speak in verse, while the lower people spoke in prose. It’s just another way that the author shows how castes and privilege divides people. I enjoyed the verse parts, but I thought a few of the typographical choices used were a little heavy handed (changing the margin to the right when Sudasa talks about “stage right”, etc). I actually enjoyed Contestant Five’s spare prose more.

Also, speaking of poetry: Sudasa herself is obsessed with William Blake’s poetry, so you’ll see quite a few references in the novel, and that’s a bonus for me!

4. The Gorgeous Design

Ok, I know this isn’t really a reason to READ a book, but man, are the pages of this book beautiful. The design team at Random House has taken the beautiful henna from the cover and splashed it all over each of the chapter headings, and it’s just a delight to see when you’re reading.



5. It’ll Make You Think

5 to 1 is a very fast read, but it gets to the heart of issues of choice, freedom, and dominance very quickly. I didn’t get quite to “feels” level with this book, and some of it was a little predictable, but it definitely got me thinking about silent and vocal protest, about our own gender issues, and about choice. This would be a great book for younger teens to read in a classroom, not only to learn about gender issues, but also to learn about the differences in style between poetry and prose.

5 TO 1 comes out today. Are you interested in reading it? Have you read many diverse novels? How about novels in verse? Hit the comments and let me know your thoughts!

"Are We Out of the Woods Yet?" Review: Halfway Perfect by Julie Cross & Mark Perini




Halfway Perfect

Authors: Julie Cross and Mark Perini
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Source/Format: eARC provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review (thank you!)
Publication Date: May 5, 2015
My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars. 
Buy It: Indigo.ca | Amazon.caAmazon.com | Barnes and Noble | iBooks | Kobo | IndieBound | The Book Depository

Bestselling author Julie Cross teams up with Ford model Mark Perini to pen a poignant and gritty YA novel about love and the dark side of modeling and the fashion industry

Eve's time as a fashion model nearly destroyed her-now she's determined to build a career behind the camera lens. But landing a coveted photography internship brings her face to face with her dark past-and her ex.


While Eve is snapping pictures, up-and-coming male model Alex is launching his career-which, for him, involves maintaining a fake relationship with his co-star, Elana.But Alex is falling for Eve, and Eve won't let herself get hurt again. If Alex can pull off a fake love with Elana, can he convince Eve to risk a secret affair with him?


Review:

Eve Castle was an up-and-coming supermodel at the tender age of 15, but on the eve (haha) of gaining a major campaign, she suddenly quits modeling and disappears. The press say she was in drug rehab, but what no one knows is that Eve had a secret affair with her much older agent, Wes Danes. Now Eve is back in the city, following her dream of being a photographer, and she ends up smack in the middle of a shoot with Alex Evans, an up-and-coming male model whose agent happens to be Wes. To complicate things more, Alex has been told that he needs to pretend to date French model Elana, who is only 14 years old (even though the tabloids say she’s eighteen). Meanwhile, Eve and Alex are attracted to each other and not sure what to do.

I’ve read a lot of stories about models and the darkness of the industry – Melissa Walker’s Violet on the Runway series comes to mind – but this one had a unique take – that is, the vulnerability of very young, underage models, and the mentally, emotionally and sometimes physically abusive relationships they can find themselves in.

The strength of the book is in the portrayal of this theme and how the characters in the book deal with and learn about what is okay and not okay in relationships. Eve characterizes her relationship with Wes as extremely intense, and makes it clear that she thinks it’s because of their combative personalities that the relationship falls apart. Eve seems to brush over the fact that Wes would occasionally hurt her physically (not to mention emotionally and mentally). And as the story goes on, you can see history repeating itself. It’s a dark take on the modeling industry, but it’s one that I think needs to be told – whether you’re a model or not.

But there are moments of lightness in this novel – Eve’s past with Wes contrasts fully with Alex and Eve’s relationship – these are two people who have found each other at just the right time, and it’s wonderful to see them grow together – there’s a lot of nuance in this relationship, with discussions of the silly and the smart all mixed together. There’s also a lot of heat to their relationship – this is definitely mature YA, and man, does Julie Cross get me with her romance scenes.

I did have a qualm with this book, which is that the back half of the book, while exciting, felt a bit unrealistic to me. I don’t want to spoil anything, but I did feel like things were wrapped up a bit too neatly for real life - I actually felt that the authors could have taken things even darker.

That said, the writing is clean and neat, and it’s a book I read in a few hours. A good, fast read.

Bonuses:


Family Matters: The contrast between Eve and Alex’s family is pretty interesting to read – Eve is from a very dysfunctional family, while Alex’s family is a more traditional American family. I especially enjoyed Alex’s visit home and his siblings – that part read very, very true.







Models, Inc: Obviously a book about the modelling industry will have some serious insider looks at what happens at shoots, and I'm sure Mark Perini's background was huge in this, because it felt very real. I really liked learning about creating the concept for shots, but I also liked that this part wasn't heavy-handed - the focus was on the characters, and the environment was just a part of that.




Book Theme Song: 


Looking at it now
Last December (last December)
We were built to fall apart
Then fall back together (back together)

Remember when we couldn't take the heat
I walked out and said, "I'm settin' you free,"
But the monsters turned out to be just trees
And when the sun came up, you were lookin' at me
And I remember thinking, 

Are we out of the woods yet?
Are we in the clear yet? 

The Final Word:


Halfway Perfect is a compelling, slightly gritty take on romance and the modeling industry. It’s a fun and fast read, and it’s got some strong character development. I would recommend this to YA romance readers who like a little bit of maturity in their books.

HALFWAY PERFECT is in bookstores now. Are you interested in reading it? Have you read any of Julie Cross' previous work, like the Tempest series, or Whatever Life Throws At You (which I really liked)? Are you a fan of modelling stories, or of America's Next Top Model? How do you feel about dark, mature relationships in your YA? Let me know in the comments!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

"Don't Call Me Crazy" Review: Omega City by Diana Peterfreund

Omega City (Omega City #1)
Author: Diana Peterfreund (website | twitter)
Publisher: Balzer + Bray (Harper Collins Children's)
Source/Format: eARC from publisher on Edelweiss (thank you!)
Publication Date: April 28th 2015
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars. 

The first middle grade novel in an exciting new series from acclaimed author Diana Peterfreund, perfect for fans of The Goonies and The City of Ember.

Gillian Seagret doesn't listen to people who say her father's a crackpot. His conspiracy theories about the lost technology of Cold War–era rocket scientist Dr. Aloysius Underberg may have cost him his job and forced them to move to the middle of nowhere, but Gillian knows he's right and plans to prove it.


When she discovers a missing page from Dr. Underberg's diary in her father's mess of an office, she thinks she's found a big piece of the puzzle—a space-themed riddle promising to lead to Dr. Underberg's greatest invention. Enlisting the help of her skeptical younger brother, Eric, her best friend, Savannah, and Howard, their NASA-obsessed schoolmate, Gillian sets off on a journey into the ruins of Omega City, a vast doomsday bunker deep inside the earth,.


But they aren't alone inside its dark and flooded halls. For while Gillian wants to save her dad's reputation by bringing Dr. Underberg's secrets to light, there are others who will stop at nothing to make sure they stay buried . . . forever. 



Review:


Omega City has been described as similar to City of Embers and The Goonies, and having Googled these movies (didn't watch them - I KNOW, the Goonies is on my list), I think this description is very apt. It's a rollicking adventure full of surprises, twists and turns. I would describe it as X-Files meets Indiana Jones for 8-12 year olds.

One of Diana's strengths has always been complex plotlines that weave together seamlessly, and this one is no different. Gillian's father, a professor who specializes in conspiracies, published a book about an inventor called Dr. Underberg, who supposedly invented a battery that could last a hundred years in the middle of a Cold War. He lost his job because the facts were supposedly debunked, and Gillian and her brother Eric now live in the middle of nowhere Maryland so they can hide from the media scritiny. But when Gillian finds evidence that suggests that Dr Underberg's work might still exist, she embarks on an adventure with her brother Eric, her best friend Savannah, their classmate Howard, and Howard's brother, leading them into an underground world - and possibly into the hands of people who want to keep Dr. Underberg a secret.

“The sad truth is, sometimes it’s easier for people to stick with the problems they know than to try to imagine a new way of life.”

As usual, reading one of Diana's synopses is like unpacking an entire world, and as usual, I had my doubts - until I started reading. As an X-Files fan, I was fully drawn into Gillian's conspiracy-filled life. I liked how intrepid, curious, and questioning Gillian was. I liked how she was okay being the oddball in school, because she believed so passionately in her father and his work.

Being a middle-grade book, two things were a bit jarring for me. Firstly, there was a lot more description than I was used to - scene setting, especially as we get further in - becomes more and more important. For me now, there was a tad too much description, but I know that as a twelve year old, I would have eaten up every word.

“And it has been great. Mostly. Savannah’s different in the fall. Like how she spends more energy deciding where to sit at lunch than she does on the average quiz, and last week, she pretended not to know the answer to a problem in math class, even though she was the one who showed me how to solve it when we were doing our homework…”

Secondly, while I liked the secondary characters, I did feel they were a bit light on character development in service of a fast-paced plot. Don’t get me wrong - each of the characters was a normal kid, from Eric who only wanted to play video games, to Howard the space-obsessed, to Savannah, who wanted to be popular in school and has a crush on the pizza delivery boy. They all had fun and distinctive personalities, but, as an adult, I really wanted to get into their heads because I liked them so much. Again, as a twelve year old, I think I would have adored the characters, so I don’t think this is an issue, but there was a bit of a disconnect for me as an adult.

That said, for this book, plot was the main purpose, and I had so much fun trying to solve clues and run around on adventures with Gillian and her friends. The quest is just epic enough, the world is well-developed, the characters were funny and sarcastic, and at every turn, there was a twist. I definitely had heart-pounding moments where I was stressed for the characters, and I loved that.

Bonuses:


Sibling Rivalry: The relationship between Gillian and her brother Eric, and between Howard and his brother Nate really held this book together – their backtalk, friendly joshing and care for one another reminded me of my own relationship with my brother.

Hints of Romance: As a frequent romance and YA reader, I was totally seeing some major hints at flirting from two characters – I won’t say much else, but I sincerely hope this puppy love happens.

Talking Upwards: I’m not afraid to admit that there were a few ideas and bits of history in this book that I had to look up – and that that is one of my favourite parts of this book. Diana has written a middle grade that never talks down to younger readers – that encourages research, smarts, and innovation.

The Final Word:


Omega City asks readers to go on not only a classic adventure, but also an intellectual one; there are elements of The Westing Game and The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe here. For adults or older readers, this one if you love rollicking journeys. For teachers or librarians, I can totally see this book being read aloud to a group – or even better, placed in a 4th, 5th, or 6th grade classroom for a curious young mind to pick up on a whim and fall in love with reading.

OMEGA CITY is out in bookstores now. Are you interested in reading it? Are you into middle-grade? How do you feel about classic adventure books and movies like The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe or Goonies? Let me know in the comments!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

GIVEAWAY + Excerpt: Halfway Perfect by Julie Cross & Mark Perini


Hi everyone, I'm delighted to be part of the promo tour for Halfway Perfect by Julie Cross and Mark Perini. I'm a fan of Julie's (and part of her street team) after reading her mature YA novels Whatever Life Throws at You and Letters to Nowhere - she does great things with teens who are dealing with tough, pressure-filled worlds. I just started Halfway Perfect, and I'm pretty sure it's going to be spectacular as well. Stay tuned for my review, but first, check out an excerpt and giveaway from Julie and Mark!



Halfway Perfect

Authors: Julie Cross and Mark Perini
Release Date: May 5, 2015
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Genre: Young Adult

Bestselling author Julie Cross teams up with Ford model Mark Perini to pen a poignant and gritty YA novel about love and the dark side of modeling and the fashion industry

Eve's time as a fashion model nearly destroyed her-now she's determined to build a career behind the camera lens. But landing a coveted photography internship brings her face to face with her dark past-and her ex.

While Eve is snapping pictures, up-and-coming male model Alex is launching his career-which, for him, involves maintaining a fake relationship with his co-star, Elana.But Alex is falling for Eve, and Eve won't let herself get hurt again. If Alex can pull off a fake love with Elana, can he convince Eve to risk a secret affair with him?

EXCERPT

When I finally give the rack a closer look, I start to weigh the options. There’s a varying array of briefs, boxer briefs, and pseudo banana hammocks with full backs in every color under the sun—black, neon green, pink, yellow, gold, red, navy, bright fuchsia. As the stylist is looking through the rack and sizing me up, probably trying to match my coloring, I’m silently chanting, boxer briefs, boxer briefs…

He’s reaching a hand toward the banana hammock rack and I suck in a breath, trying to look cool with whatever.

But seriously. No one is cool with whatever.

“Nah, not these, they’re not relatable enough to the G.P.” the stylist says.

I let out a sigh of relief. But no sooner do I look back up and he has a pair of black briefs with neon green micro-polka-dots.

“These are perfect. You’re ready to be pounced on by the woman of your dreams,” he says.

“Great. Can’t wait to…try these suckers on.”

“You’ll look amazing.”

Yep. A dude just told me I’m gonna look amazing in skimpy underwear.

He hands me a robe and leaves without waiting for a response.

After a quick change and after they’ve lubed me up with some makeup and self-tanner, I’m off to set. The thing about shooting underwear shots is the light is important. Janessa has two guy assistants as stand-ins testing everything. I resist the urge to go talk to Eve and instead sit down on the couch. I’m not about to ask her out while wearing neon polka dots. That’s got failure written all over it.

As soon as Janessa sees me on the couch, she ushers me over to fill in for one of the assistant stand-in guys. I ditch the robe and feel the awkwardness Richter scale skyrocket. Out of the corner of my eye, I spot Eve standing out of Janessa’s line of sight. She’s trying not to smile, but she’s doing it anyway. At my expense. I decide it’s time to look the beast in the eye. I wave dramatically at her, like I’m flagging her down.

Janessa follows my wave all the way to Eve, who turns completely scarlet.

“Eve!” Janessa says. “Step in for Daniel. You’re closer to Elana’s height.”

Her eyes get really big and round, but her voice stays totally even. “Okay.”

Well, this should be interesting. Of course it would be much more interesting if she was also wearing neon polka-dot underwear.

“Guess your time in the spotlight isn’t over after all,” I say when she appears in front of me.

“This is not exactly the spotlight, nor do I have any choice in this matter,” she whispers, leaning in close so I get a whiff of her hair and something that smells like cinnamon.

Janessa interrupts us by shouting some directions. “Get really close!” I can totally do that. Just give me my pants back. “Alex, dip her down like you’re going to kiss her.”

I love pants. I will never take them for granted again. When I get the fragrance campaign, I’m donating a bunch of money to a pants-related charity.

But in the meantime, I don’t have a fragrance campaign and I’m not about to show any signs of fear. Fashion people can smell it a mile away and then ruin my chances.

“You heard the boss lady,” I say to Eve before hooking an arm around her waist and tugging her closer. My fingers brush over a strip of bare skin on her lower back and it sends my pulse racing so fast that I’m sure she can feel my heartbeat. And for a good long second, I don’t even care. Let her figure it out if she hasn’t already. I hadn’t planned on playing hard to get or any other equally frustrating mind games.

I move my hand up to the back of her neck before I lean her backward. My eyes are still locked with hers. I’m fighting the urge to undo her ponytail and run my fingers through her hair.

For the cameras. Of course.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Julie Cross is the international bestselling author of the Tempest series, a young adult science fiction trilogy. Julie lives in Central Illinois with her husband and three children. Her knowledge of the modeling and fashion world comes from viewings of the movies The Devil Wears Prada, and Zoolander, and her unwavering devotion to the first three seasons of Ugly Betty. On a recent trip to NYC, she also took the time to walk past both the Gucci and Prada stores, spending at least 15 seconds viewing items through the windows.


Mark Perini is a New York City-based author debuting his first YA novel, Halfway Perfect. Additionally, Mark is a featured author in the NA anthology, Fifty First Times.

Mark began his career as an international fashion model ten years ago, while simultaneously obtaining a business degree from Seton Hall University. He has a passion for traveling the world, and he’s made a blood pact with friends to see all seven wonders of the ancient world before he's thirty. Four down, three to go.


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