Tag Archives: YA

Book Tour + Excerpt: Spell Book and Scandal

Welcome to the Spell Book and Scandal Book Tour, hosted by Xpresso Book Tours!

Title: Spell Book & Scandal [#1]
Author
: Jen McConnel
Publication Date: October 31, 2017
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal
GoodReads

Synopsis:

Shelby King is tired of living in her sister’s shadow. Just because Christina is the most powerful caster in school doesn’t mean Shelby’s any good at magic; she’s a scribe, like her mom, and everyone expects her to write spells for her sister, the way her mom always has for her dad. But Shelby’s spells fail spectacularly, and by the time she’s a sophomore, Christina won’t touch them with a ten-foot-pole; their parents aren’t much better. Shelby is fed up, and she decides to show the world she doesn’t care if she isn’t as good as her stuck-up sister, or as talented as their powerful parents. In fact, she decides it’s time to break all the rules, magical and otherwise, and she starts sneaking out to meet Jeremiah Smallwood, the second-best caster in school at illegal pop-up spell battles around town. She may not be able to scribe for him, but she doesn’t mind letting him think that she could; Shelby’s been half in love with Miah as long as she can remember, but he’s never paid attention to her until now, and she’s not going to risk her chances worrying about a pesky thing like the truth. But when Christina rats her out to their parents, Shelby can’t control her anger, and words come pouring out of her that she can’t take back even if she wanted to, threatening Christina’s future…and Shelby’s own chances with Jeremiah. It’ll take more magic than Shelby’s ever dreamed of to set things right, but no scribe has that much magic…right?

Buy Links:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo

Excerpt:

I glance around at the milling crowd of casters and scribes, but before I can ask another stupid question, a bell chimes and everyone falls silent. Their eyes swivel to a bench in front of the lion enclosure, where a tall, slender girl dressed in a black leather jacket over black skinny jeans stands looking out at the crowd. She grins, a wicked glint in her eyes. “First up, Sampson and Delilah.”

Sampson groans. “The names don’t mean anything!” He calls, but people around us are already laughing as he and Manuel break off from our clump and move toward the girl on the bench. A petite girl with curly auburn hair is already standing there, next to a guy with more piercings than I can count in his face. I take a step closer to Jeremiah. “Are you going to tell me what this is, or do I have to guess?”

He looks down at me with surprise, like maybe he forgot I was there. “Spell battle. Totally illegal, but wicked fun.”

I’m still completely confused, but Jessica slides her arm through mine and tips her head close to my ear. “You know how normies do stuff like poetry slams and rap battles?”

I nod. Our English teacher showed us a video of two poets eviscerating each other with their words at the end of last year, and it had been pretty amazing to see the power that non-magical words could hold. “This is like that? Only…with casters?”

She smiles. “Exactly. You can see why our boy here wants some of your spells; with a King on his side, Jeremiah would blast the competition to smithereens.”

Or get blasted by one of my crappy, backfiring spells. I lick my lips, hoping she can’t read my mind, and wonder why I let Jeremiah talk me into coming tonight.

While we talked, Sampson had been conferring with Manuel, their dark heads close together, shuffling through the stack of papers Manuel is holding. They’re his spells, I realize, and suddenly I understand his nervousness. I’ve never let anyone handle my notebook but me, but here he is, surrounded by people, with his spells ready to blow away in the first gust of wind. The girl, Delilah, hasn’t said a word to her scribe; she’s too busy examining her nails to seem like she’s paying much attention to anything around her. But when the girl in black leather claps her hands again, Delilah barely acknowledges Sampson’s polite nod before her lips are moving, casting the first spell.

Sampson tries to speak over her, but his spell is still half-formed when he begins to lift off the ground. It’s like there’s a rocket strapped to his back; he shoots into the air above us, and a few people clap and whistle, cheering for Delilah. I can’t hear what Sampson says, but clearly, the spell works, because in an instant, he stops flying and hovers in place, like he’s standing on a glass platform over our heads.

Delilah opens her mouth, but before she can get her next spell out, a blast of purple fire knocks her over. She summersaults and lands on her feet in an instant, but I can tell by the way she clenches her fists that she’s mad. “Sampson shouldn’t have done that so soon,” Jess murmurs next to me, and I can tell that she’s worried, too; the red-head may be small, but she’s clearly a powerful caster.

Just as that thought crosses my mind, the girl flicks her hand and Sampson begins to fall through the air. He doesn’t fall straight down, though; it’s like he’s caught by some powerful wind, and he falls sideways. With horror, I watch as he plummets into the lion enclosure. The crowd around me inhales sharply in excitement, and a few people whistle.

I grab Miah’s arm. “Shouldn’t we do something?”

He looks down at me quizzically. “He’s got this. You don’t think that girl would actually hurt him, do you? This is all just for fun, Shelby.”

But somehow, I’m not sure.

Sampson staggers to his feet and shakes his head like he’s trying to get rid of a bug, and over his shoulder, I notice one of the sleeping lions twitch. My heart is pounding in my throat, but Miah is right; by the time Sampson has taken stock of the situation, he’s already started to cast another spell. This time, he flips through the air like a gymnast, landing in front of Delilah outside the lion enclosure. She has a smug expression on her face, but her smile turns to a grimace as Sampson lashes out with his magic, pulling her legs out from under her. She lands in a puddle, and a few people chuckle.

Sampson raises an eyebrow, like he might ask the girl if she’s ready to give up, but before he can say anything, she lifts both hands and blasts him with a spell. Manuel sees it coming and hollers, “Use the counter spell! The one I wrote last week!” But Sampson is too slow. A whirlwind tears at his clothes, ripping the fabric and tossing him around in its embrace, even though there isn’t so much as a breeze where I’m standing. In an instant, the wind dies down, and somehow, Sampson has been stripped down to his plaid boxers, socks, and shoes. He flushes from the tips of his Mohawk all the way down to the waistline of his underwear, and then he hangs his head in defeat.

Everyone cheers, and Delilah takes a prissy bow. Sampson immediately casts a silent spell, and he’s dressed again like it never happened, except for the tell-tale blush on his face. Miah crosses to him and claps him on the shoulder, probably saying something encouraging, but I’m not listening. I glance behind me at the lion enclosure, and my eyes meet the golden gaze of a lioness. She’s awake, and she’s watching the people around me with a calculating expression. I almost imagine that I can hear her thoughts, sizing up the casters and deciding which ones might make the most delicious morsels, and I swallow my fear. After a moment, the lioness looks away and puts her head down on her paws, closing her eyes as if she’s asleep. Before I can worry needlessly about what could have happened, Jess gives my hand a squeeze.

“Not everyone fights like Delilah,” she says softly. “The next round should be fun.”

And she’s right; the rest of the battles are fast, furious, and frighteningly fun, and nobody else gets tossed in with any of the sleeping animals, but I stick close to Miah and his friends, knowing that I’d be toast if anyone decided to fly me in with the lions. Sure, the casters are the ones who are battling, but a little voice inside my head warns that things could turn ugly fast if anyone in that crowd had a score to settle with a caster… or a scribe.

About the Author:

Award-winning author Jen McConnel writes NA, YA, and nonfiction. When she isn’t writing, she can be found on her yoga mat or wandering off on another adventure. Visit http://www.JenMcConnel.com to learn more!

Author Links:
Website | GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook

Giveaway:

Enter to have your name in Book 2! Open internationally! Ends Nov 23/2017.

 

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Book Blitz: Haven

Welcome to the Haven Book Blitz, hosted by Xpresso Book Tours!~

Title: Haven
Author: Mary Lindsey
Publisher: Entangled Publishing
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal
Publication Date: November 7, 2017
GoodReads

Synopsis:

“We all hold a beast inside. The only difference is what form it takes when freed.”

Rain Ryland has never belonged anywhere. He’s used to people judging him for his rough background, his intimidating size, and now, his orphan status. He’s always been on the outside, looking in, and he’s fine with that. Until he moves to New Wurzburg and meets Friederike Burkhart.

Freddie isn’t like normal teen girls, though. And someone wants her dead for it. Freddie warns he’d better stay far away if he wants to stay alive, but Rain’s never been good at running from trouble. For the first time, Rain has something worth fighting for, worth living for. Worth dying for.

Buy Links:
Teasers:
Buy Links:
About the Author:
Mary Lindsey is a multi award-winning, RITA® nominated author of romance for adults and teens. She lives on an island in the middle of a river. Seriously, she does. When not writing, she wrangles her rowdy pack of three teens, two Cairn Terriers, and one husband.

Inexplicably, her favorite animal is the giant anteater and at one point, she had over 200 “pet” Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches. The roaches are a long story involving three science-crazed kids and a soft spot for rescue animals. The good news is, the “pet” roaches found a home… somewhere else.

Author Links:
Giveaway:
Enter to win a $15 Amazon Gift Card! Open internationally – end Nov 2, 2017.

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Guest Post – Game Review: Oxenfree

Title: Oxenfree
Developer: Night School Studio
Release Date: January 15, 2016
Website

Synopsis:

Play as Alex, a bright and rebellious teenager who brings her new stepbrother Jonas to an overnight party on an old military island. The night takes a terrifying turn when you unwittingly open a ghostly gate spawned from the island’s cryptic past. How you deal with these events, your peers, and the ominous creatures you’ve unleashed is up to you.

Review:

First off, I have to say that walking simulators are nowhere near the top of my list of preferred genres. So what possessed me to play this game? In truth, it was mainly out of politeness to the buddy that gifted it to me, but the story also intrigued me. In my opinion, there are three cardinal aspects to a game: gameplay, story, and atmosphere. To be a good game in my books, it has to excel in at least two of these aspects. I’ll tell you how Oxenfree fares in these categories below.

To begin, the atmosphere in this game is great. The landscape is a wash of dark tones accented with hopeful islands of light. While the scenes are not pitch black, the sombre darkness will soon come to feel oppressive as the story ploughs on into the night. Fear not, as Alex has brought along a portable radio that you can use to stave off the growing dread with awesome tunes! Or at least that would be the case if you could listen to anything on it other than odd snippets of Morse code or long forgotten radio programs. The production values of these audio fragments effectively drive home the fact that things are not right on the island.

In-game screenshot.

In contrast, when compared to the atmosphere the gameplay is quite lacking. There is no challenge to this game at all if your sole objective is to progress the plot. The biggest challenge in the game is to find out which choices have an affect on the ending, as the epilogue varies based on how you’ve influenced those around you. In addition to that, there are a few collectables to scour the island for. As far as walking simulators go, this is the most gameplay I’ve seen in one, so I guess that’s good. But again, not very engaging and the few “puzzles” included were extremely simple.

 

As for controls, this game is very simple. Walk with the left joystick or WASD keys, select dialogue with the corresponding button or by mouse click, and tune your radio with the right joystick or mouse. Simple. I do recommend using a gamepad over the keyboard and mouse as that will make tuning Alex’s radio less of a chore.

In-game screenshot.

The story and characters are where this game shines. While Alex is a clearly defined character, you as the player can determine what nuances her character has. Is she a trash talking sass machine or is she a natural mediator? Maybe she’s the silent type? That’s all decided by the player, and your companions will react to that choice. Whether you build your relationships or burn all of your bridges, the choice is yours and you have to live with the consequences when the time comes.

 

This ties into the previous section on gameplay when I said that a lot of the gameplay was weak. That may be mostly true, but the way Oxenfree handles dialogue is definitely the exception to this as it was implemented brilliantly. Each dialogue prompt you’re given has a countdown until the choice is taken from you and the game moves on. Just like in a real conversation, your friends will chatter on and leave you in the dust if you don’t cut in. It is incredibly refreshing to listen to your stepbrother grumble about strange occurrences only to have your buddy Ren interject with something about what he did last week that you totally should have seen!

In-game screenshot – choosing not to speak.

This serves to lighten the mood while you’re exploring the island, and reminds you that these characters aren’t just images in front of you. You’re reminded that they are Alex’s friends who are fully fleshed out people, and you’ll want to make sure that you help them last through the night.

As for the story itself, let’s say that like any good mystery and horror tale, you have to piece the mystery together with your friends. The goal is to simply live through the suspense and try to get out in one piece. To say much more would be to spoil the plot’s very well-executed delivery.

In-game screenshot.

So, despite being a game in a genre I don’t particularly like, I really have to recommend this one if only to get more people into the story. The characters are fantastically relatable, the setting is a great accompaniment to a creepy story, and while the plot may seem generic at first, that only scratches the surface of what there is to discover. Seriously, there’s a couple of twists I don’t want to spoil, but are definitely worth experiencing. Go play it.

Plot: 4/5
Characters: 5/5
Graphics: 4/5
Gameplay: 3/5
Overall: 4.5/5

Review by Eric Dieter.

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Review: Zero Repeat Forever

Title: Zero Repeat Forever
Author: G.S. Prendergast
Publication Date: August 29, 2017
Genre: Young Adult Dystopian Science Fiction
GoodReads

Synopsis:

He has no voice, or name, only a rank, Eighth. He doesn’t know the details of the mission, only the directives that hum in his mind.

Dart the humans. Leave them where they fall.

His job is to protect his Offside. Let her do the shooting.

Until a human kills her…

Sixteen year-old Raven is at summer camp when the terrifying armored Nahx invade, annihilating entire cities, taking control of the Earth. Isolated in the wilderness, Raven and her friends have only a fragment of instruction from the human resistance.

Shelter in place.

Which seems like good advice at first. Stay put. Await rescue. Raven doesn’t like feeling helpless but what choice does she have?

Then a Nahx kills her boyfriend.

Thrown together in a violent, unfamiliar world, Eighth and Raven should feel only hate and fear. But when Raven is injured, and Eighth deserts his unit, their survival depends on trusting each other…

Review:

When they advertised this book as being similar to the 5th Wave and Beauty and the Beast, I jumped on the chance to read it and I wasn’t disappointed! Also, that cover is so beautiful.

The beginning of the story was maybe a little too similar to 5th Wave. We have a girl who’s fighting for her life, who’s injured by an alien. Then we have Eighth who wants to help her. However, where 5th Wave was a lot of action and romance, this book was smack full of character development. Right from the beginning we have the dual perspectives of Raven and Eighth, and we immediately get into their heads. There’s so many more layers to this story.

Unfortunately, the pacing was off for me. The first half of the book was a little slow and I couldn’t get that into. Yes, the story was interesting, and the characters were set up well, but there just wasn’t anything that captured me in the first half. I found myself more invested in just finishing the book than actually reading it – I checked how many pages were left to the book a lot of times during this half.

However, come the second half I was enthralled. This is where the Beauty and the Beast aspect comes in. All that character development and world building came to fruition and I was enamoured with the story. I cried, I laughed, I got to the end and groaned in absolute frustration that I need to wait for the sequel. I got swept away by the story and the characters and I loved it.

Was it a little predictable, sure, but I was surprised where the book ended off. Can I see where the story might be going? I have my theories, but I’m willing to read the second book because the characters have completely captured my heart.

Also, the meaning behind the book’s title got me – like my heart just could not handle it. This book was well thought out, well written, and well developed. I am so looking forward to the sequel!

Plot: 4/5
Characters: 5/5
World Building: 4.5/5
Pacing: 3/5
Writing: 4.5/5
Overall: 4.5/5
GoodReads Rating: 3.97/5

eBook obtained via Simon and Schuster Canada via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: It Started with Goodbye

Title: It Started with Goodbye
Author: Christina June
Publication Date: May 9, 2017
Publisher: Blink
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance Retelling
GoodReads

Synopsis:

Sixteen-year-old Tatum Elsea is bracing for the worst summer of her life. After being falsely accused of a crime, she’s stuck under stepmother-imposed house arrest and her BFF’s gone ghost. Tatum fills her newfound free time with community service by day and working at her covert graphic design business at night (which includes trading emails with a cute cello-playing client). When Tatum discovers she’s not the only one in the house keeping secrets, she finds she has the chance to make amends with her family and friends. Equipped with a new perspective, and assisted by her feisty step-abuela-slash-fairy-godmother, Tatum is ready to start fresh and maybe even get her happy ending along the way.

Review:

As a whole, this book was cute, but if you know me, cute doesn’t quite cut it.

Let’s start with the Cinderella idea – I honestly wouldn’t have instantly thought this book was a modern day retelling, but don’t worry! If you forget, the book will beat you with that fact repeatedly.

Tatum isn’t a helpless Cinderella per say. She is absolute piss at defending herself, but she manages to start her own freelance business which helps her make her own money. That’s like the the equivalent of teenage success. However, she was at the wrong place at the wrong time and she gets punished for being in the driver’s seat of a car. And honestly – I get it. When your parents need to pick you up at the police station, you know there’s a punishment at the end of the car ride home. She ends up grounded and her travels are limited to baby sitting, her community service, and her sister’s school events. Colour me surprised…

I get it though – some of the rules that were implemented were a little much, but I’ve heard of those punishments before in other books. Maybe it’s ’cause my parents are more restrictive than most, but I didn’t find the whole thing that weird or restraining. I get why she thought it was unfair, but her defence on the matter sucked. She barely stood up for herself and I wouldn’t have sided with her either if I’d been her parents.

With all that being said, I really liked the idea of Tatum being independent and earning her own money from baby-sitting and freelancing. She took something she excelled at and pursued it. I really like that this part was in the book as it’s the gate to a lot of what comes later, but also because it shows that if you enjoy something you should explore it and see where it leads!

The character development in this book was also pretty great. There are a lot of lessons to be learned here and I really liked how the characters grew with the story and how more and more is revealed about each character as time goes on. It’s so easy to judge people and I enjoyed seeing how the characters grew and changed from the MC’s perspective.

As a whole, this was a cute, light story that is fairly conservative when it comes to the romantic aspects of the novel. With all the more graphic romance books out there for teens, this was a breath of fresh air!

Plot: 4/5
Characters: 5/5
World Building: 4/5
Writing: 5/5
Pacing: 4/5
Overall: 4/5
GoodReads Rating: 3.82/5

 

eARC obtained via Blink via NetGalley.

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Cover Reveal: Liar’s Pact

Welcome to the Liars Pact Cover Reveal, hosted by Xpresso Book Tours!~

Are you ready?

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Tada!~

Title: Liars Pact
Author: Jacqueline Garlick
Publication Date: October 17, 2017
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal Romance
GoodReads

Synopsis:

What’s a Little Lie Among Friends?

A wild barn party. A disturbing sensation. A foolish prank. A near-fatal crash. 
Kyla Cooper wakes the next morning to find herself the center of an investigation, accused of triggering her estranged boyfriend’s attempted suicide.

Wrought with heartache and rocked by jealousy, she left the party early, haunted by formidable, telepathic-like visions of stolen kisses, speeding cars, twisting metal and breaking glass. Kyla now fears she may have ignored the warning signs of danger. Could the visions she was experiencing been a preview of what was to come?

Convinced what happened to her boyfriend is no accident, Kyla embarks on a dangerous journey to expose the truth. But the only one who knows what really happened, is her boyfriend Denver. And he’s trapped in a catatonic state unable to speak.

As Denver slips deeper and deeper into catatonia, Kyla rushes to embrace her newly-found powers in order to reach him, as all the while, a dangerous pact is forming, intent on making sure the truth is never unearthed. Navigating the landmine of the mean-girl cliques and runaway gossip that swirl the halls of her high school, Kyla’s fights against blame and time to free Denver from his catatonic prison, and expose the liars in their game.

Will Kyla’s power be enough to bring Denver back, or will the pact of liars get away with near-murder?

About the Author:

Jacqueline likes gritty stories with beating hearts, dislikes wimpy heroines and whiny sidekicks, and loves a good tale about an irresistible underdog.
Don’t you?

Lumière—a steampunk-fantasy, romance adventure—is the award-winning Book One in her young adult Illumination Paradox Series.

Jacqueline is a graduate of Ellen Hopkin’s Nevada Mentoring Program, and has also studied under James Scott Bell, Christopher Vogler and Don Maass, where she was the 2012 recipient of the Don Maass Break Out Novel Intensive Scholarship.

Jacqueline is available to chat with book clubs and welcomes pod casts, guest blogs, Skype interviews and speaking engagements, as well as comments and emails from her readers.

Author Links:
Website | Facebook | TwitterNewsletter | GoodReads

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Review: Alex and Eliza

Title: Alex and Eliza
Author: Melissa de la Cruz
Genre: Young Adult Historical Fiction, Romance
Publication Date: April 11, 2017
GoodReads

Synopsis:

Their romance shaped a nation. The rest was history.

1777. Albany, New York. 

As battle cries of the American Revolution echo in the distance, servants flutter about preparing for one of New York society’s biggest events: the Schuylers’ grand ball. Descended from two of the oldest and most distinguished bloodlines in New York, the Schuylers are proud to be one of their fledgling country’s founding families, and even prouder still of their three daughters—Angelica, with her razor-sharp wit; Peggy, with her dazzling looks; and Eliza, whose beauty and charm rival that of both her sisters, though she’d rather be aiding the colonists’ cause than dressing up for some silly ball. 

Still, she can barely contain her excitement when she hears of the arrival of one Alexander Hamilton, a mysterious, rakish young colonel and General George Washington’s right-hand man. Though Alex has arrived as the bearer of bad news for the Schuylers, he can’t believe his luck—as an orphan, and a bastard one at that—to be in such esteemed company. And when Alex and Eliza meet that fateful night, so begins an epic love story that would forever change the course of American history.

Review:

Despite the wartime backdrop, this was a light-hearted story of two people falling in love. But that all it was really. There wasn’t much fear of them not being together, because after the musical we all kind of saw it coming. It was kind of interesting delving into their romance itself, but in the end I had to ask myself how much of it was real and how much of it was fictionalized.

There’s also something I don’t like about Melissa de la Cruz’s writing. It’s… choppy? That’s the best word I have for it right now. But I just didn’t find myself connected to the characters or deeply engaged with the world. It was as if she just had a bunch of facts and was listing it off for me in book form and that was that. There was a lot more telling in this than showing. I guess that may be where this book fell short?

My favourite part of the book was the ball scene where Eliza and her sisters are ripping Hamilton a new one. It was funny and snappy and probably the only part of the book where I was like “Hey, I like these characters.” Otherwise, it was just who is with who, who wears what dress, is she wearing a wig, or is she not, etc. It was quite boring, to be quite honest…

As a whole, just a light, quick read. I don’t really know how much history you’ll get from it, but it was cute.

Plot: 2/5
Characters: 2/5
World Building: 3/5
Writing: 2/5
Pacing: 3/5
Overall: 2.5/5
GoodReads Rating: 3.7/5

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