Waiting on Wednesday (97) THE CURE FOR DREAMING by Cat Winters

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Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine, and is a fun way to share the books we’re excited about with other bloggers and readers. I’m SO excited about my pick this week. I absolutely loved Cat’s In the Shadow of Blackbirds, and this one looks just as spooky and wonderful. The cover was just revealed this week, check it out:

The Cure for Dreaming

The Cure for Dreaming by Cat Winters. Release date: October 14 2014 (Amulet Books). This is another paranormal historical, and I’m so excited for it to be October already! Don’t you love the textured overlay on this cover design? Here’s the book description from Goodreads:

Olivia Mead is a headstrong, independent girl—a suffragist—in an age that prefers its girls to be docile. It’s 1900 in Oregon, and Olivia’s father, concerned that she’s headed for trouble, convinces a stage mesmerist to try to hypnotize the rebellion out of her. But the hypnotist, an intriguing young man named Henri Reverie, gives her a terrible gift instead: she’s able to see people’s true natures, manifesting as visions of darkness and goodness, while also unable to speak her true thoughts out loud. These supernatural challenges only make Olivia more determined to speak her mind, and so she’s drawn into a dangerous relationship with the hypnotist and his mysterious motives, all while secretly fighting for the rights of women. Winters breathes new life into history once again with an atmospheric, vividly real story, including archival photos and art from the period throughout.

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What do you think? Are you adding this to your TBR? Let me know what you’re waiting on!

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Blog Tour & Giveaway: THE MAKING OF NEBRASKA BROWN by Louise Caiola

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Welcome to my stop on the tour for The Making of Nebraska Brown by Louise Caiola. You can read my review below, and at the end of the post, there are two chances for you to win something! Enter the Rafflecopter for a chance to win a $25 e-book gift card to the e-retailer of your choice, and leave a comment on this blog post to win an e-copy of the book! Big thanks to the publisher, Immortal Ink Publishing, for supplying these prizes, and also for providing a review copy.

Nebraska Brown 3D

The Making of Nebraska Brown by Louise Caiola
Publisher: Immortal Ink Publishing
Release date: February 2014
Source: e-book from publisher
Pages: 318

About the story:

The last thing eighteen-year-old Ann Leigh remembers is running from her boyfriend in a thick Nebraska cornfield. This morning she’s staring down a cool Italian sunrise, an entire continent from the life she once knew. The events of the eighteen months in between have inexplicably gone missing from her memory.

All at once she’s living with Tommy, an attractive, young foreigner asking for her continued love. Though he’s vaguely familiar, she recalls a boy named Shane in America who she reluctantly agreed to marry. Juggling a new world while her old one is still M.I.A is difficult enough without the terrifying movie scenes spinning a dizzy loop in her mind: glimpses of a devastating house fire, a romance gone wrong, an unplanned pregnancy, and a fractured family – each claiming to be part of who she once was – a girl and a past somehow discarded.

Ann Leigh must collect the pieces of herself to become whole again, but she doesn’t know who to trust especially when Tommy’s lies become too obvious to ignore. And above all, her heart aches to discover what became of the child she may or may not have given birth to.

The Making of Nebraska Brown tells the story of one girl’s coming apart from the inside and the great lengths she’ll go to reclaim herself and find her way home.

three and a half

The nitty-gritty: An engaging main character, a journey of self-discovery and a slow-brewing mystery.

Last thing I remember, Shane Kirkland had his left hand on my right boob, and I could feel the nub—the missing chunk of his pinky finger that got chewed off in the gristmill. So I ran, mostly because the idea of marrying him and his sad punk of a finger sent a shiver straight through to my bones.

I have to admit, when I read the blurb for this book, I could have sworn it had a time travel/paranormal feel to it. Or perhaps that’s what I wanted to see. In fact, The Making of Nebraska Brown is a contemporary story. I rarely read contemporary, and when I do, it’s mostly because it’s an author I love and I will read anything they write. And so as I was reading, I kept expecting to run into paranormal elements. When that didn’t happen, I decided to just go with it and enjoy it for what it was, a moving story about a girl who has lost her memory and the consequences she faces.

And I am glad I read this book, even though it isn’t my normal genre. Caiola has a way of evoking emotions from her readers without getting sappy. There is a huge mystery to this story—one that I will not share with you—that slowly builds until the final emotional reveal. You must go through the process of reading and experiencing all the clues for the full impact, which simply proves that Caiola knows how to tell a story. And even though there were things about the book that didn’t work for me, I did appreciate her overall storytelling skills, pacing and character development, certainly enough to recommend this book to lovers of contemporary fiction.

The good stuff.

Caiola’s pacing is excellent. She sets up her story by immediately telling us about the mystery that is Ann Leigh/Ana Lisa. By jumping back and forth between the two time frames—2002 and 2004—in alternating chapters, we slowly begin to realize that Ana Lisa, who lives in Campania, Italy with her Italian boyfriend Tommy, is troubled by a past she can’t remember. Flashes of that past keep coming forward, especially when she falls asleep and dreams about people and places that have nothing to do with Italy. As the clues to her “other” life start to stack up, she realizes that some very important things happened, and in order to move forward, she needs to figure out exactly what those things are.

But the story doesn’t completely take place in Italy. The chapters that take place in 2002 describe a girl named Ann Leigh who lives in Nebraska and and is getting ready to marry her boyfriend Shane. The real mystery is why can’t Ana Lisa remember anything about this other person? What exactly happened to her, and why is she living in Italy? Pieces of her memory are missing, and unfortunately they are important pieces. Caiola handles all of this with assured skill, drawing the mystery out until nearly the last page of the book. At 90% on my Kindle, I made a notation that said “What is going on???” Not being able to guess the mystery is always a good sign that the writer knows what she’s doing.

The emotions.

There were lots of poignant moments in the story, times where I had to catch my breath because I was overwhelmed with emotion. Many of these involved Ann’s sister Sissy and their relationship. Both of them have secrets, and both are terrified of their parents finding out. This creates a special bond between them that I really loved. One very emotional part near the end I can’t discuss, because it would be a major spoiler to a big plot point. But let’s just say I definitely had tears in my eyes at that point.

The story had a Wizard of Oz vibe to it because the main theme is that Ana is trying to find a family that she knows exists but that she can’t remember. Ana often tells Tommy that she just wants to “go home,” much like Dorothy trying to find her way out of Oz.

Some things that didn’t work for me.

As well-paced as the story was, however, I mostly had a hard time with Caiola’s prose. Her writing tends to be flowery and overblown, and while this style might work well for contemporary inspirational stories, it was too over-the-top for me. Phrases like

Tommy wore a heaving, swollen happiness with abandon, so much so he nearly burst open, bliss running out all over the place.

or

The wind was wrestled by the sun, held down by ghostly sun arms, and subsequently defeated.

made me roll my eyes or scratch my head in puzzlement. Likewise, some of her sentences were awkward and could have benefited from more editing, like “No boy to crane his neck over his ankles for me.” What?

I also had an issue with the way Ana was “handled” by Tommy (and I can’t say much more than that without giving some things away). Whenever female characters (or male, for that matter) are made to come across as frail because of a handicap—in this case, memory loss—and the significant other in their lives treats them as little more than problems to be dealt with, well, that doesn’t sit well with me. Ann/Ana has two men in her life and I couldn’t stand either one of them for that reason.

But aside from my personal issues, many readers will love this engrossing mystery and journey of self-discovery. Caiola certainly knows how to tug at your heartstrings, and I officially declare that mine have been duly tugged.

Find the book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBookstore

About the author:

Louise CaiolaAs a young girl who spent her allowance on Nancy Drew mysteries, Louise realized that one day, she might have a story of her own to tell. Maybe even more than one story. After years focused on raising her children she eventually reconnected with her passion for creative writing. She soon began to craft a large collection of short stories which were published in the inspirational online magazine, Faithhopeandfiction.com. Shortly thereafter, she authored her first novel, Wishless, a contemporary YA, released in 2011.

Find Louise: Author website | Twitter | Goodreads

And now for the giveaway! You have two chances to win: First, leave a comment on this post, and one commenter will be randomly selected to win an e-book of The Making of Nebraska Brown (contest ends April 30th).

And you can enter the Rafflecopter contest and enter to win a $25 e-book gift card to the e-retailer of your choice. Simply click the Rafflecopter button below:

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Coincidence & Synchronicity: SHE IS NOT INVISIBLE by Marcus Sedgwick – Review

She Is Not Invisible 3D

She Is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedgwick
Genre: Young adult contemporary
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Release date: April 22 2014
Source: e-ARC from publisher via NetGalley
Pages: 224

four stars

The nitty-gritty: A completely original story with a brave and plucky main character, filled with fascinating information about the nature of coincidence, and lots of heart and emotion to tie it all together.

I held Benjamin until he stopped sobbing, and I told myself I wasn’t alone. We weren’t alone. I told myself that again and again.

I had Benjamin with me, and Stan. We’d find Dad. We had to.

“I’m scared, Laureth,” Benjamin said. “I’m scared. I want Mum. Aren’t you scared?”

And then, that was it, I was crying, too.

Because, yes, I was. I am scared, almost all the time. But I never tell anyone. I can’t afford to. I have to go on pretending I’m this confident person, because if I don’t, if I’m quiet, I become invisible.

This was my first Marcus Sedgwick book. I’ve been trying to get to Midwinterblood for, well, forever, and it wasn’t until I received She Is Not Invisible from NetGalley that I finally put Sedgwick on my reading schedule. The book wasn’t quite what I expected in some ways, but in others I was thoroughly delighted. Laureth is indeed a wonderful character. She’s blind, for one thing, but because she was born that way, she’s never had sight and never feels as if she’s missing anything. This fact allows her to have an upbeat attitude, which gets her through some very tricky situations in this story. I thought the book was a near perfect balance of mystery, family drama, adventure tale, and educational piece about coincidences. I say “near perfect” because I was a little disappointed in the final reveal of the mystery (why Laureth’s Dad was missing), and some of the action scenes at the end felt out-of-place to me. But overall I enjoyed this book so much, and now that I have seen Sedgwick in action writing contemporary, I can’t wait to experience his horror stories.

The story.

Sixteen-year-old Laureth is worried. Her father, a once-famous writer named Jack Peak who is away from home on a business trip, has not returned any of her phone calls. And when she reads an odd and threatening email to her father from a man who claims to have found one of his private notebooks—in New York City, no less—Laureth decides to take action. She drags her brother along on a madcap adventure from their home in England to America, to meet the man with the notebook and hopefully locate their father. But finding him isn’t as easy as she thought it would be, and Laureth is going to need all her wits to figure out the clues that keep leading her closer and closer to the truth.

Yes, Laureth is blind.

One would assume Sedgwick isn’t blind himself—although I guess one should never assume—but “seeing” the world through Laureth’s first person narrative was a completely immersive experience. Since she’s blind, she pays particular attention to sounds and smells, and those things tell her almost everything she needs to know about the world around her. Sedgwick made the city streets of New York come alive, and never once did he describe how something looked (unless it was Benjamin doing the talking). At times as I was reading, I could almost imagine being blind myself, so clearly did he explain how Laureth can estimate distances by listening to the way sound bounces off the objects around her. Laureth tries so hard to blend in and appear as if she can see, and I loved the poignant moments when the strangers she interacts with discover she’s blind, and react poorly to her blindness.

But Benjamin is her eyes.

And Benjamin, be still my heart! I loved that boy. Benjamin is only seven, but he trustingly goes along with Laureth’s scheme to steal her mum’s credit card and fly to another country without any parental supervision or permission. I loved his stuffed raven Stan, his constant companion and security blanket. The way Laureth and Benjamin interacted was refreshingly upbeat, and even though Laureth isn’t completely honest about the reason for their trip, you can tell Benjamin loves his sister and will do (almost) anything for her.

I learned some fascinating facts about some famous coincidences.

One of my favorite parts of the story was when Laureth gets the notebook back and Benjamin starts reading it to her. In its pages they discover that their father has become obsessed with coincidence and synchronicity, and he gives some true life examples of coincidences in history, in particular one famous example that involves Edgar Allen Poe and Richard Parker. I had one of those “ah ha!” moments when I remembered that the name “Richard Parker” was the name of the tiger in Yan Martel’s Life of Pi, and that Martel had also cunningly used the eerie story of Poe’s novel The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket in his book. (Click on that link above, it’s worth the read!) There’s almost nothing I love better than when an author can take a riveting fact like that and seamlessly make it part of his story. And look for the number 354 in She Is Not Invisible. It pops up again and again…

But, then the story went off-track a bit.

Unfortunately, the book took a downturn for me near the end, when Laureth and Benjamin get mixed up in Jack Peak’s disappearance.  It felt as if Sedgwick was trying to throw in a dangerous element to add more action to the plot, but to me it came across as cartoonish and over-the-top.  But there are so many other little details about this story that I loved: the ongoing reference to Jack’s “funny books,” the “Benjamin effect” (OMG! I wish I could tell you what that is, but you need to read the book and find out for yourself), and a very sweet ending that ties up all the dangling emotional threads. Mostly I loved Laureth’s voice and her fierce love for her family, a love that sets her on an extraordinary path.

Many thanks to the publisher for supplying a review copy. The above quote was taken from an uncorrected proof, and may differ from the final version of the book.

You can find She Is Not Invisible here:

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Cover Reveal & Giveaway: THE NIGHT HOUSE by Rachel Tafoya

Welcome to the Cover Reveal for

The Night House by Rachel Tafoya

presented by Month9Books!

Be sure to enter the giveaway found at the end of the post!

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Bianca St. Germain works at a Night House, a place where vampires like the aristocratic Jeremiah Archer, pay to feed on humans, and she doesn’t much care what others think of her. The money is good, and at least there, she’s safe. Bianca also doesn’t care that the Night House is killing her. All she cares about is: nauth, the highly addictive poison in vampire bites that brings a euphoria like no drug ever could.

But when Bianca meets James, a reclusive empath who feels everything she does, for the first time, she considers a life outside of the Night House and a someone worth living for. But Jeremiah has decided to keep Bianca for himself; he won’t allow her to walk away.

As she allows her feelings for James to grow, she struggles to contain nauth’s strong hold on her life. If they are to have a future, James must make her see what she’s worth, what she means to him, before Jeremiah and nauth claim her for good.

add to goodreadsTitle: THE NIGHT HOUSE
Publication date: December 9, 2014
Publisher: Month9Books, LLC
Author: Rachel Tafoya

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Rachel Tafoya

Rachel Tafoya studied creative writing while at Solebury School and was published in their student run literary magazine, SLAM. She attended a writing program for teens at both Susquehanna University and Denison University, and the Experimental Writing for Teens class and Novels for Young Writers program, both run by NY Times bestselling author, Jonathan Maberry. Rachel is the daughter crime author Dennis Tafoya.

Connect with the Author: Tumbler | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

Wow, doesn’t this sound good? I’m ready for a good vamp story, maybe this could be the next one! What do you think? Are you going to add The Night House to your TBR pile?

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Complete the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win an e-book of The Night House & a $10 Amazon gift card! Open to international readers!

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Waiting on Wednesday (96) THE HELLSBLOOD BRIDE by Chuck Wendig

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Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature hosted by Breaking the Spine, where bloggers can share the upcoming books they’re excited about. This week Chuck Wendig had a cover reveal on his blog for a book I would literally kill for. Yes folks, there are not too many things I would kill for. My kids, definitely. My husband, maybe. But this book, for sure. This is the second book in a trilogy (I think it’s a trilogy), after The Blue Blazes, which if you regularly read this blog, you will know was my very favorite book last year. Here’s the cover for book two:

The Hellsblood Bride

 

The Hellsblood Bride (Mookie Pearl #2) by Chuck Wendig. Release date: January 1 2015 (Angry Robot). So, that woman who is being dragged down to hell is Nora, the kinda nasty daughter of Mookie Pearl. (That’s Mookie above trying to save her, I’m thinking.) Nora found herself in a pickle at the end of The Blue Blazes, and it’s been torture waiting to find out what happens next. Here’s a short description of the book from Goodreads:

Yes, we’re going back deep underground for another twelve rounds with Mookie Pearl. Father, barkeep, former Mafioso, ruler of his subterranean crime-kingdom. The Organization is back, and they’ll do anything to get Mookie on board, but Mookie has gone legit, and it’s taking every ounce of effort for him to keep his new bar from crashing and burning. To top it all, his daughter is missing, and when Nora’s not in plain sight, that’s usually a sign of bad things to come! On one hand, the Organization. On the other, Nora. Why can’t Family ever be easy?

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Seriously, urban fantasy fans, you need to read this series! You have until January to catch up, so what are you waiting for? Let me know what you’re waiting on this week.

 

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April New Release Giveaway Hop!

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Welcome to my stop on the April New Release Giveaway Hop, hosted by Bo-ok Nerd! This month has lots of great book releases, in both young adult and adult. I’m offering one international winner (must be from a country that The Book Depository ships to)  a choice of one of the following books:

Young adult choices:

The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy by Kate Hattemer

Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira

Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

Adult choices:

Unwrapped Sky by Rjurik Davidson

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

I’m dying to read all of these, so I thought I’d offer up a wide variety of choices!

Ready to enter? Simply click the Rafflecopter button below:

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Don’t forget to check out the rest of the hops on this giveaway!

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OPERATION FOURTH STORY: Guest Post by Social Media Editor Lesley Conner

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I’m participating in Apex Magazine’s Operation Fourth Story this month, and today I’m thrilled to welcome Apex social media editor Lesley Conner to the blog! Operation Fourth Story is Apex’s digital magazine drive to promote the magazine and to hopefully get new subscribers. If they reach their goal of 250 new subscribers, they will add a “fourth” story to each month’s issue. You can read more about it here, and if you feel so inclined, you can subscribe to this awesome magazine here.

And now, please give a hearty round of applause to Lesley! Because Lesley is a stay-at-home mom, and a writer, and an editor, I asked her how she balances family life with her job at Apex.

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“Mom, can we make cupcakes?”

“Mom, what are we doing today?”

“Mom, come look! This is awesome!”

*sigh*

I look at the stack of Apex work waiting for me, think of the writing project I’m collaborating on with a friend, hide another friend’s novel that I really should be critiquing, and try to forget about the 3rd draft of my novel that needs a final polish before I can start submitting it to publishers. It’s all there, waiting for me, and I know that it’s going to have to keep waiting. The kids are calling.

The art of being an editor and writer and also a stay-at-home mom is not about balance. It really isn’t. For a long time I thought it was. I thought if I found this magical routine then I would be able to keep up with everything and finish it all on time. This is a mirage. A fantasy. A fairytale. It doesn’t exist.

After eight years of juggling my creative life with my domestic life – both integral parts to the whole that makes up who I am – it’s occurred to me that it isn’t balance that makes it all work; it’s flexibility.

I wrote the majority of the first draft of my novel while my younger daughter was an infant and toddler, stealing snippets of writing time when she napped, and then getting up at 5am every day to write when she declared at two and a half that “big girls don’t nap, and I’m a big girl.” Writing that way is agonizing. It’s slow and you can’t build a rhythm and I almost quit more times than I can count.

Now, several years later, both of my kids are in school and the majority of my day is dedicated to writing and keeping up with all things Apex – the blog, proofreading, managing our social media feeds, and marketing. All take time and all need my attention. And we had eleven snow days this year. You might be thinking “Yay! Snow day!” and part of me was too (at least in the beginning of winter, toward the end it was getting ridiculous) but I work from home. I can’t really call off due to snow, because I’m not driving anywhere. If you think about it, eleven days is the equivalent of having two energetic, needy pinballs stuck in your office for more than two weeks.

Then there’s summer. During the school year, I work more or less full-time from home. Sure, if one of the kids get sick then I’m out for a day, and if a friend wants to go out to lunch I’m not watching the clock so I’m home within an hour, I go and enjoy myself, but for the most part I’m at home working. For nearly two months, my kids are off for summer vacation and it would be incredibly awful for me to expect them to stay home every day and play by themselves while I’m tip-tapping away at my keyboard. Not only is that unreasonable, but it’s unrealistic. Small kids can only entertain themselves for so long before boredom drives them to whining, which means I’m not getting anything done. My solution is to cut my hours basically in half for the summer. I work from 5 to 9 am, and my kids know this is Mommy’s work time. They get up, feed themselves breakfast, and play quietly while I’m busy being Lesley the writer and Apex editor. Then by the time most people are getting to their day job, I’m heading to the park or the lake, slathered in sunscreen with two happy kiddos in tow.

All this flexibility isn’t perfect. Sometimes I fall behind and have to play catch up after I put my kids to bed. Sometimes writing goals slip by and blog posts get shuffled because snuggling up and reading one more chapter of an A to Z Mystery is more important. But the writing goals are set by me and can be readjusted, and Jason Sizemore, owner/publisher of Apex Publications, trusts me to get what needs to be done accomplished in more or less a timely fashion. So far I don’t think I’ve let him down, and that’s all because I’m flexible.

Thank you for visiting, Lesley! Find Apex: Apex Book Company | Apex Magazine

About Lesley:

Lesley Conner is a writer and the social media editor and marketing leader for Apex Publications. She spends her days pestering book reviewers, keeping the Apex blog in order, and chatting about books, writing, and anything else that crosses her mind. She’s currently looking for a home for her first novel The Weight of Chains, which she recently finished. For updates on everything Apex follow her on Twitter at @ApexBookCompany. For everything else, you can find her at @LesleyConner.

 

 

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High School is Not For Wimps: HIGH & DRY by Sarah Skilton – Review

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High & Dry by Sarah Skilton
Genre: Young adult contemporary
Publisher: Amulet Books
Release date: April 15 2014
Source: eARC from publisher via NetGalley
Pages: 272

four and a half

The nitty-gritty: A tantalizing mystery, an unreliable narrator, high school hijinks, and one of the worst fictional high schools I’ve ever run across.

When you find yourself tied up in the chem lab supply closet, surrounded by jars of formaldehyde, about to be maimed by a microscope-wielding thug, it’s a pretty good indication that something in your life has gone wrong.

High & Dry was not at all what I expected. I knew from reading Sarah’s first book Bruised that I would most likely love it, but I honestly didn’t pay much attention to the story synopsis before I started reading. This is always the best approach that I’ve found to reading if you don’t want to have your expectations squashed. In any event, I was surprised and delighted by this book and the sarcastic narrator whose life is more or less falling apart. High & Dry is a comedy of errors, as one unfortunate event escalates to another. Skilton’s dialog is some of the best I’ve ever read. Not only does she really understand the way teens talk, but her dialog is snappy and natural. The most surprising thing about this book, however, was the way the author depicts high school. Now, I understand that this is a fictitious school, set in a fictitious town, but I hope places like this don’t really exist. More about that later, because I have lots to say on the subject.

It’s Charlie Dixon’s senior year of high school, and his future is set. He’s planning on attending the local college where his father works, so he’s not scrambling around stressing out about college applications like his friends are. But Charlie’s life is less than perfect at the moment. His girlfriend Ellie has broken up with him, for no reason that he can see, and it’s ruining his life. He can’t concentrate on school and he’s been drinking more than usual.

One evening he decides to crash a party to talk to Ellie about their break-up, but after drinking way too much, a girl named Bridget insists on driving him home. The next morning Charlie finds out he’s been framed for the near-overdose (LSD) of a girl who was at the party. Now he has to prove that someone else dropped the girl off at the hospital (someone who “borrowed” his car). Not only that, but Bridget has blackmailed Charlie into helping her find a lost flash drive. With a large cast of characters who are also looking for the flash drive, it’s all Charlie can do to locate it first, try to get Ellie back, and graduate from high school before his life implodes.

High & Dry was a fast-paced caper with so many twists and turns it made me giddy. Skilton really knows how to pace her story, and just when you think you know what’s happening, she turns the tables on the reader and takes things in another direction. This book could also be called “The Journey of a Flash Drive,” because much of the plot concerns various characters trying to find the flash drive first—obviously there is something very important on it.

Charlie is a difficult character to love—at first. But I quickly grew to appreciate his snide remarks and sarcastic approach to looking at the world. His entire world is shaped by the fact that Ellie has broken up with him, and he’s suffering terribly because of it. He drinks all time—clearly he’s an alcoholic—mostly to dull the pain of being rejected. But he puts on a stoic face at school. He’s a star on his soccer team, or at least he’s developed a reputation for being aggressive and sometimes violent on the field. And because of soccer, he’s a well-respected senior. But Charlie has a vulnerable side, and it turns out he’s also got scruples. When he catches an old friend breaking the law, he manages to step up and do the right thing.

One of my favorite side-plots involves Charlie’s friend Ryder. Charlie and Ryder have drifted apart over the years, but they are forever bound by a poignant moment during a baseball game when they were younger. I loved the emotional impact their relationship had on the story, and how Charlie is unable to see Ryder as anyone other than the boy who helped him that day on the field.

I also loved Charlie’s grandfather, who is unfortunately the person who has taught Charlie how to drink (by giving him a flask for his birthday and offering to fill it up for him whenever Charlie visits), but who is also one of the few people in Charlie’s life that understands him and accepts him as he is.

But as much as I loved this book, I was completely thrown off guard by Skilton’s portrayal of Palm Valley High. I’m sure there must be schools like this somewhere, but I fervently hope my own kids will never have the terrible experiences that these kids have. The school’s social structure seems to be built on a bullying system, where freshmen who don’t belong to one of the groups on campus are fair play for upper classmen attacks. (And when I say “attacks,” I mean they beat the shit out of the freshmen.) Groups like the “songbirds” (choir kids), “poms” (cheerleaders), “beckhams” (soccer players) or “chekhovs” (lit freaks who study Chekhov) are safe havens, but if you don’t have a group, watch out. Worst of all, the adults at this school seem to be either oblivious to what’s going on right under their noses, or they simply don’t care. Comparing this to my own kids’ school district, where something as innocent as shoving another student in the hallway can get you kicked out of school, you can see why I find this educational environment hard to wrap my head around. And don’t even get me started on why none of the teachers seem to notice that Charlie shows up at school drunk.

But as much as I hate the thought of bullying, I couldn’t help but love the story and the characters anyway. There is a tinge of noir to High & Dry—mostly in the way Charlie narrates—like these favorite lines of mine:

“I glanced down to where her curves seemed to be inviting my hands on a date.”

and

“She looked like a sad girl in search of a tragedy. I could steer her toward mine, but it would cost her a finder’s fee.”

Skilton’s California desert setting plays nicely with Charlie’s feeling of always being thirsty—both literally and figuratively, and when the play-on-words of the title hit me, all I could think was, BEST TITLE EVER! We eventually find out exactly how Maria, the girl at the party who winds up in the hospital, was dosed, and I have to say I learned more about LSD than I ever wanted to know! High & Dry ends on a reflective note rather than an action-packed ending, but I thought it was perfect. If you love quirky, multi-layered stories, High & Dry will surprise you too—in a good way.

Many thanks to the publisher for supplying a review copy.

Find High & Dry here:

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Filed under 4 1/2 stars, Reviews

Stacking the Shelves (52)

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Stacking the Shelves is hosted by Tynga’s Reviews and is a fun way to share the books you’ve acquired recently. Thankfully, I’ve had a very slow couple of weeks on the book acquisition front…I cannot even begin to tell you how behind I am with review books! I received a couple of surprises in the mail from Random House, and a couple of NetGalley titles:

In the mail:

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We Were Liars by E. Lockhart. Super excited to get this! I’m not sure if I entered a Publishers Weekly contest to get these two books, but I’m sure happy about this one. I’ve read some awesome reviews.

The Here and Now by Ann Brashares. This one, not so much. I have only read one positive review so far, and so I don’t know if I’ll be reading this anytime soon.

From NetGalley:

The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson. I’ve heard a lot of buzz about this title, and I’m pretty excited to read it!

Take Back the Skies by Lucy Saxon. The reviews on this seem to be mixed, but I’m still looking forward to it.

That’s it for me this week. Let me know what’s on your shelves!

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Cover Reveal + Giveaway: CALL ME GRIM by Elizabeth Holloway

Welcome to the Cover Reveal for

Call Me Grim by Elizabeth Holloway

presented by Month9Books!

Be sure to enter the giveaway found at the end of the post!

Call Me Grim

The truck should have turned Libbi Piper into a Libbi Pancake — and it would have, too, if Aaron hadn’t shown up and saved her life. The problem? Aaron’s the local Grim Reaper… and he only saved Libbi’s life because he needs someone to take over his job. Now, Libbi has two days to choose between dying like she was supposed to, or living a lonely life as Death Incarnate. Talk about a rock and a hard place.

And the choice goes from hard to sucktastic when her best friend shows up marked: condemned as a future murderer. Libbi could have an extra week to stop the murder and fix the mark… but only if she accepts Aaron’s job as Reaper, trapping herself in her crappy town forever, invisible and inaudible to everyone except the newly dead. But, if she refuses? Her best friend is headed straight for Hell.

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Title: CALL ME GRIM
Publication date: November 11, 2014
Publisher: Month9Books, LLC.
Author: Elizabeth Holloway

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Elizabeth Holloway

Elizabeth Holloway is a registered nurse living in Southern Pennsylvania with her two teen children, Bam-bam the dog, and Tinkerbell the cat. CALL ME GRIM is her first novel.

 

Connect with the Author: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

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Complete the Rafflecopter for a chance to win an e-book of Call Me Grim + a $10 Amazon gift card!

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Filed under Cover Reveal, Giveaways