Review: The Girl Who Loved Ghosts, by K.C. Tansley

The Girl Who Loved GhostsAbout the book, The Girl Who Loved Ghosts

 

  • Series: Unbelievables (Book 3)
  • Paperback: 302 pages
  • Publisher: Beckett Publishing Group (September 16, 2019)

She’d do anything to save her friends and family. But will that mean sacrificing the ghosts she’s grown to love?

Kat is trying to settle back into her senior year at McTernan Academy, but destiny keeps getting in the way of schoolwork and friendships. Continuing her magical training means abandoning her best friend, until an attack by a mysterious entity on campus proves that the only place they’ll both be safe is Dumbarton, the ancestral home of the Langley family.

Evan struggles with his coursework, a flirty new housemate, and his daunting responsibilities as the Kingsley heir and new owner of Ravenhurst manor. He tries to hold onto his normal college life, but he knows it’s only a matter of time before he and Kat have to travel into the past again… And Kat is in mortal danger every minute they wait to retrieve the last amulet they need to defeat the Dark One.

As her normal life slips further away, Kat must face the terrible cost that comes with time travel. Completing her quest in the present requires changing the past. She knows that the results of her actions can be disastrous–because the ghosts of her ancestors tell her of their tragic fates. A trip to eighteenth-century Connecticut might change everything. Kat tries to protect everyone she loves, but risks destroying every relationship that matters to her.

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KC TansleyAbout the author, K.C. Tansley

K.C Tansley lives with her warrior lapdog, Emerson, and two quirky golden retrievers on a hill somewhere in Connecticut. She tends to believe in the unbelievables—spells, ghosts, time travel—and writes about them.

Never one to say no to a road trip, she’s climbed the Great Wall twice, hopped on the Sound of Music tour in Salzburg, and danced the night away in the dunes of Cape Hatteras. She loves the ocean and hates the sun, which makes for interesting beach days. The Girl Who Ignored Ghosts is the first book in her YA time-travel murder mystery series.

As Kourtney Heintz, she also writes award winning cross-genre fiction for adults.

Connect with K.C.

Website | Facebook | Twitter


Melissa A. BartellMy Thoughts

I’ve been reading The Unbelievables series since the beginning, and it’s been a pleasure watching Kat grow up, just as it’s been a pleasure seeing K.C. Tansley’s writing get deeper and more evocative with every novel. Part of that, of course, is that her main character is getting older, but part of that is that when you’ve been writing in the same world for a while it becomes more and more real, just as it does when you’ve been reading it for a while.

At this point, I feel like Kat and her roommate/best friend Morgan, Evan, and even Seth are my friends, not just characters in books – they’re that well-drawn. When Kat feels alienated from Evan because his houseguest is getting flirty, I feel for her as keenly as I did when my own high school crush showed interest in someone else.

But this third installment in The Unbelievables series, The Girl Who Loved Ghosts, isn’t some teen romance. Sure, there are elements of romance in it, but it’s really about Kat’s calling to speak with ghosts, to help them solve their unfinished business, and for her combined work with Evan to unite their families, working with the living and the dead to do so.

This is a gripping adventure through time. It has moments of darkness and danger, but it also has moments of great poignance. It’s about honoring family, but it’s also about being true to yourself.

I loved revisiting Kat at her school, and joining her and Evan (and their friends) on their trans-dimensional trips to Dumbarton, but, as always, I was sad for the visit to end, and cannot wait for book four.

Goes well with beef stew and hard cider.

 

 

Review: Scion of the Fox, by S.M. Beiko

 

Scion of the FoxAbout the book, Scion of the Fox

  • Print Length: 440 pages
  • Publisher: ECW Press (October 17, 2017)
  • Series: The Realms of the Ancient (Book 1)

Roan Harken considers herself a typical high school student — dead parents, an infected eyeball, and living in the house of her estranged, currently comatose grandmother (well, maybe not so typical) — but she’s uncovering the depth of the secrets her family left behind. Saved from the grasp of Death itself by a powerful fox spirit named Sil, Roan must harness mysterious ancient power . . . and quickly. A snake-monster called Zabor lies in wait in the bed of the frozen Assiniboine River, hungry for the sacrifice of spirit-blood in exchange for keeping the flood waters at bay. Thrust onto an ancient battlefield, Roan soon realizes that to maintain the balance of the world, she will have to sacrifice more than her life in order to take her place as Scion of the Fox. 

American Gods meets Princess Mononoke in this powerful first installment of a trilogy sure to capture readers’ imaginations everywhere.

Praise for Scion of the Fox

“A thrilling tale underscored by excellent, deep, and unique world-building.” — Kelley Armstrong, #1 New York Times bestselling author

“A smart, complex, animal-based fantasy.” — Kirkus Reviews

“S.M. Beiko’s Scion of the Fox is the thrilling first installment in what will surely be an exceptionally imaginative trilogy. Roan Harken is an instantly relatable heroine, a girl with guts and moxie in spades, and Beiko moves her story from hilarious to heartbreaking with true literary grace. Evocative prose and crisp, crackling dialogue perfectly define this rich fantasy world. I can’t wait for Book Two!” — Charlene Challenger, author of The Voices in Between and The Myth in Distance

“In Scion of the Fox, S.M. Beiko introduces us to Roan, a wry, fierce young woman whose world changes in the blink of an infected eye. She’s more than she has ever imagined, and there’s enchantment everywhere — flying, running, and swimming around her — transforming everything and everyone she has ever known. Beiko’s magic-steeped Winnipeg is a marvel, and Roan is a delight. I look forward to following her into her next adventure.” — Caitlin Sweet, author of The Pattern Scars

Buy, read, and discuss Scion of the Fox:

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About the author, S.M. Beiko

S.M. Beiko by Teri HoffordSamantha “S.M.” Beiko has been writing and drawing strange, fantastical things since before she can remember. She currently works as a freelance editor, graphic designer, and consultant and is the co-publisher of ChiZine Publications and ChiGraphic. Her first novel, The Lake and the Library, was nominated for the Manitoba Book Award for Best First Book as well as the 2014 Aurora Award. Scion of the Fox is the first book of the Realms of Ancient trilogy. Samantha lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Connect with Samantha:

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellWhile I grew up on science fiction and fantasy, I don’t really read a lot of either genre any more. I still love it, I just have broader tastes than I did when I was a geeky teenager. Scion of the Fox, the first novel in S.M. Beiko’s Realms of the Ancient series might have successfully lured me back, though.

Engaging from the very first page, this novel has the perfect balance of teenage angst, supernatural intrigue, fantasy mysticism, and even talking animals that manage to be neither cute nor precious (they’re not really talking animals, of course, but Denizens, a breed of… shapeshifter is the closest analogy, but that’s not really accurate).

Protagonist Roan Harken mixes the vulnerability of the smart girl who doesn’t really fit in, with the strength of the female heroes we love to see in contemporary media. She’d easily hold her own against Buffy Summers or Veronica Mars, and end up best friends with them at the end. Just as strongly written are Roan’s closest friends, Phae, who has been both supporter and sidekick since grade school, and wheel-chair bound Barton, who has a sort of instant kinship with Roan.

As with many YA stories, regardless of medium, the adults in this piece are largely ineffective (c.f. Aunt Dierdre, who means well, but doesn’t really take much action) or villainous (Uncle Arnas) while the younger generation tends to go off half-cocked, but that works in this story, and, fantastic elements aside, all of the relationships felt incredibly plausible.

Scion of the Fox was my first introduction to S.M. Beiko’s work, but I’ll happily read the rest of this series as it becomes available, and I’d recommend it to actual young people as well as adults who appreciate YA fiction.

Goes well with sliced apples dipped in peanut butter and a steaming mug of hot chocolate, whipped cream optional.

Scion of the Fox Blog Tour

Review: The Girl who Saved Ghosts, by K.C. Tansley

About the book, The Girl who Saved Ghosts

 

  • Print Length: 258 pages
  • Publisher: Beckett Publishing Group (October 17, 2017)
  • Series: The Unbelievables (Book 2)

The Girl Who Saved GhostsShe tried to ignore them. Now she might risk everything to save them.

After a summer spent in a haunted castle—a summer in which she traveled through time to solve a murder mystery—Kat is looking forward to a totally normal senior year at McTernan Academy. Then the ghost of a little girl appears and begs Kat for help, and more unquiet apparitions follow. All of them are terrified by the Dark One, and it soon becomes clear that that this evil force wants Kat dead.

Searching for help, Kat leaves school for the ancestral home she’s only just discovered. Her friend Evan, whose family is joined to her own by an arcane history, accompanies her. With the assistance of her eccentric great aunts and a loyal family ghost, Kat soon learns that she and Evan can only fix the present by traveling into the past.

As Kat and Evan make their way through nineteenth-century Vienna, the Dark One stalks them, and Kat must decide what she’s willing to sacrifice to save a ghost.

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About the author, K.C. Tansley

K.C. TansleyK.C. Tansley is the bestselling and award-winning author of The Girl Who Ignored Ghosts (2015). She lives with her warrior lapdog, Emerson, on a hill in Connecticut. Never one to say no to a road trip, she’s climbed the Great Wall twice, hopped on the Sound of Music tour in Salzburg, and danced the night away in the dunes of Cape Hatteras. She loves the ocean and hates the sun, which makes for interesting beach days.

Connect with K.C.:

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts:

Melissa A. BartellK.C. Tansley’s Unbelievables series captured my imagination when I reviewed the first book in the series two years ago. Now, with the second book, The Girl who Saved Ghosts, I feel like I’m revisiting old friends. They’ve grown and changed a bit since our last meeting, but Kat and Evan are still brave, kind, and a little bit reckless, the way we all wish we could be.

Kat, I felt, was the most changed, since her decision to allow ghosts back into her life is literally draining the life from her, but when she’s given a mystery to solve, she leaps into the task, and that’s what I really love about her.

Similarly, Evan is a strong support system – who doesn’t want a friend like him?

Author Tansley’s flair for vivid detail is even stronger in this novel, and one thing I really appreciated was that she managed to increase the risk and jeopardy for her characters without making them seem older than they should be.

As before, there’s an element of time travel in this novel, and Tansley handles the period sections of this novel most ably. Reading this book, you are no mere observer; you are transported into elite educational institutions, creepy estates, and old-world Europe, and it all occurs with the most delicious shiver up and down your spine, as if there might be a ghost standing next to you, just waiting to be noticed.

While this book is best enjoyed after reading it’s predecessor, The Girl who Ignored Ghosts, it’s equally satisfying as a stand-alone story.

Goes well with a Twix candy bar and a cold Dr. Pepper.

 

 

Review: Cease & Desist, by Stephen David Hurley

About the book, Cease & Desist Cease & Desist

 

  • Paperback: 362 pages
  • Publisher: RiverBrook Books (July 24, 2016)

What if the secret to being charismatic were actually a gene you could inherit, and pass along to your children. What if this “X-factor” could make you a star? Welcome to the world of Cease de Menich, a sixteen-year-old actress in New York City who gets cast as Joan-of-Arc in a reality-drama, only to discover her “acting gift” has been passed down through her bloodline for almost six-hundred-years. Cease finds the plot of the drama reveals dark secrets from her past–an abusive mother, a brother who committed suicide–and the reader must decide if she’s a reliable narrator or a terrified girl who’s succumb to the pressure of fame and the abuse of her past.

Cease & Desist is a dark, contemporary YA thriller with a supernatural twist. Readers of books like I Let You Go and The Girl on the Train will enjoy this coming-of-age story, which struggles with the realities of sexuality, violence as entertainment, and mental illness. Cease & Desist has excellent crossover potential into the adult marketplace.

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About the author, Stephen David Hurley Stephen David Hurley

Stephen David Hurley teaches and coaches at independent middle schools in San Francisco. He writes about fiction, faith and young people.

Connect with Stephen

Website | Blog


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

As a book-blogger, about seventy-five percent of the titles I review come from a publicists and book tour coordinators. Another fifteen percent come from my own purchases, or contests (“enter to win five beach books” and things of that ilk) and the remaining ten percent come from authors who have landed on my site for one reason or another, and contacted me directly.

Stephen David Hurley is one of the latter. He originally approached me about reviewing his YA novel Cease & Desist last summer, and while I was a little trepidatious when he mentioned that he writes about faith (see the line in his brief bio, above), I was hooked on his high-concept story – teenagers in a reality drama about historical figures.

Trustingly, Stephen sent me a Word doc – a WORD doc! – of his novel, and because I was curious, even though I was under a thousand deadlines, I started reading it on my phone within seconds of its arrival, and from main character Cecile “Cease” de Menich’s first introduction I was hooked. Here was a character who was smart, snarky, and seemingly successful, all while still being a supremely believable teenager.

I forced myself to set the novel aside, but I kept thinking about it. This is one of the things I love about Hurley’s writing. His characters live in a heightened situation (and I mean, heightened beyond the Hollywood reality-drama setting) but their voices are so clear, so present, so truthful, that they instantly take up residence in your brain, nudging you to come back and read more.

I’m glad I responded to that nudging.

Told in first person, from Cease’s point of view, this novel addresses subjects as varied as truth in performance and in the choice of how and when to embrace our own sexuality. Sex, violence, death – these are all handled with great candor, but in ways that remain true to the characters and world the author has created.

While Cease is the focal character, she is far from the only character. Nina – her aunt and guardian, Brad and Rex (two of the boys who are her castmates) and a myriad of publicists, producers, and other performers populate the pages of Cease & Desist, and while we do not get to experience the same level of intimacy with their thoughts and feelings that we do with Cease, there isn’t a single one of them who doesn’t feel like a real, dimensional person.

What I particularly liked about Cease & Desist was the way real history was worked into the Hollywood story. “This is Hollywood, not history,” is an oft-repeated mantra throughout the story, but for those of us who are reasonably familiar with the actual stories of people like Jeanne  d’Arc there are hidden treasures in what is, ultimately, a contemporary story.

I’ve often stated that I feel the Young Adult ‘genre’ is where some of today’s strongest female characters and most provocative stories can be found. Cease & Desist is the perfect proof of that statement. It is absolutely on the more ‘adult’ side of  young adult, going to places that are quite edgy, but I think even people my age (46) will find it to be a meaty and fascinating read.

Goes well with a brownie and a cappuccino, because (let’s face it) no one drinks actual milk anymore.

 

 

 

Review: A Thousand Salt Kisses, by Josie Demuth

About the book A Thousand Salt Kisses A Thousand Salt Kisses

  • Publication Date: April 2016
    Wise Ink Press
  • Series: Salt Kisses, Book One
  • Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy/Romance/Mer-Stories

Beautiful Crystal White is the new girl on the remote Starfish Island. During a party on the mainland, she goes for a midnight swim with other party goers where she meets the handsome, intriguing Llyr amongst the waves.

As she heads back to shore she realizes that he is not behind her and that nobody at the party remembers him. Crystal can’t seem to shake Llyr from her mind and returns to the beach in the hope of meeting him again. When she finally does, she realizes there may be more truth to the ramblings of the island folk than she thought.

To add more drama to her life, Crystal’s mother and her father are at war over a local power station that is devastating local marine life.

Over a sizzling roller coaster summer, it becomes apparent that all these events are not entirely unrelated and Crystal finds herself both caught up in a deep mystical romance and at the centre of an exploding environmental scandal…

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About the author, Josie Demuth Josie Demuth

Josie is a 31 year-old writer from London. Her Salt Kisses books became popular on Wattpad, and are now also serialised on Radish Fiction. A Thousand Salt Kisses is her third book.

For more information please visit http://www.saltkissesbooks.com/ and https://josiedemuthwriting.wordpress.com/.

Connect with Josie

Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Wattpad

 


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I got this novel later than I expected, had an exhausting weekend at Dallas FanExpo (Comic-Con) and have been fighting a slow internet server all day, so apologies to the author and BookJunkie Promotions (the tour host) for this review being late.

I thoroughly enjoyed the read. I call myself the Bathtub Mermaid, so you can guess that I was excited about any story related to mer-folk, and I often tell people that I believe the YA market is home to some of the most provocative stories and strongest female characters in all of contemporary fiction. Crystal is smart, feisty, and very much her own person, and while she’s initially less-than-thrilled about her new life on Starfish Island, a new friend, a new romance, and a new-found love of the ocean all conspire to change her perspective – a literal sea-change, if you will.

I really appreciated the way author Josie Demuth made sure Crystal’s parents had their own story, rather than making them mere ‘props’ for Crystal’s tale. While some of the plot twists were a bit predictable for me, aged 46, I suspect my teen self, and contemporary teenagers who might read this, would find them less so.

I have only two major complaints about what is, essentially, an engaging, well written novel that gives us a version of mer-culture that is unique to this author:

  1. Some of the dialogue is a bit ‘off.’ I don’t know if it’s my American ear reading a London-based writer’s work, or if Demuth was having trouble channeling her inner teenager – it’s not every scene, and it in no way detracted from my enjoyment of the story.
  2. It’s very much a ‘first in the series’ novel, and I felt there wasn’t quite enough resolution. On the other hand, I absolutely want to know what happens NEXT, so in that, author did her job incredibly well.

If you are looking for a literary work of art, to be discussed in English classes for the next century, this is not the book for you. If, however, you want a fun, romantic, beach-read that you and your teenage daughter/sister/cousin/friend can share with no worries about adult content (there is implied sex, but nothing explicit) this would be an excellent choice.

A Thousand Salt Kisses will make you long for a day at the beach and a hot mer-guy to hang out with

Goes well with a hot dog and crinkle-cut fries, served from a beach concession stand. Frosty root beer optional.


Giveaway A Thousand Salt Kisses

To enter the giveaway for a signed copy of A THOUSAND SALT KISSES, please see the GLEAM entry form below. Three copies are up for grabs!

Rules

– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on July 8th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to US residents only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

CLICK HERE TO ENTER GIVEAWAY!

A Thousand Salt Kisses


Blog Tour Schedule A Thousand Salt Kisses Blog Tour

Monday, June 6
Review at 100 Pages a Day

Thursday, June 9
Excerpt at Brooke Blogs

Friday, June 10
Review at Bibliotica

Monday, June 13
Interview at I Heart Reading

Tuesday, June 14
Spotlight at To Read, Or Not to Read

Wednesday, June 15
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!

Friday, June 17
Spotlight at AC Reads

Monday, June 20
Excerpt at Eclectic Ramblings of Author Heather Osborne

Tuesday, June 21
Spotlight at Fiction Conviction Book Blog

Friday, June 24
Spotlight at A Leisure Moment

Monday, June 27
Spotlight at It’s a Mad Mad World

Monday, July 4
Review at A Book Drunkard

Tuesday, July 5
Spotlight at CelticLady’s Reviews

Friday, July 8
Blog Tour Wrap Up at Book Junkie Promotions

In Their Words: Q&A with Emily Ross (@emilyross816), author of Half in Love with Death

About the author, Emily Ross Emily Ross

Emily Ross received a 2014 Massachusetts Cultural Council finalist award in fiction for HALF IN LOVE WITH DEATH. She is an editor and contributor at Dead Darlings, a website dedicated to discussing the craft of novel writing. Find out more at emilyrosswrites.com or follow her on Twitter @emilyross816.

HALF IN LOVE WITH DEATH was inspired by the disturbing case of Charles Schmid, ‘the Pied Piper of Tucson.’

Connect with Emily

Website | Twitter


Q&A with Emily

Tell us about you. If every five-ten years of your life had a chapter heading, what would it be? What are the highlights (or low points) of each chapter?

  1. School Days and Death

In elementary school I dreamed of being a pathologist or a ballerina, though I was weirdly squeamish and couldn’t dance. But after my cat died and my friend’s sister drowned, I had the awful realization that I wasn’t immortal. It was like I’d fallen down a well.

  1. A Teenager in Love

By the time I got to high school I no longer wanted to be a pathologist or a ballerina or anything. I hated homework and loved clothes and boys. Not sure which I loved more, maybe boys, though clothes made me happier. I still remember my white boots, fishnet stockings, herringbone mini-skirt, navy blue pea coat, and my first bell-bottoms and suffering greatly from unrequited love.

  1. Student teaching hell
  2. Emily's Workspace

    Emily Ross’s workspace

The only thing I could figure out to do with my English degree was to teach high school. During student teaching, I developed a hacking cough that didn’t go away until I was done. When one of my students picked me up and spun me around, it became pretty clear that teaching wasn’t for me. I had no idea how to support myself but a friend told me if I passed a test, an insurance company would train me as a computer programmer. I barely knew what a computer was, but I did pass the test and began a career in IT.

  1. Married with Children

I did a lot of things that I’d never done before—got married, bought a house, and wrote my first story when I was pregnant with my first child. Each of these things was exciting, surprising, and harder than I expected. Being a parent was the most rewarding and hardest thing of all. I was totally exhausted most of the time, but I did discover that the world is lovely and spectral at 4AM.

  1. Writing While Working and Married with Children

I juggled a demanding job, raising kids, my writing, and dropped a lot of balls. I spent a lot of time driving kids to dance lessons or soccer games while worrying about work. But it’s the dance lessons and soccer games I remember now. I’m glad I made time to try to do everything even if life was a little chaotic. Somehow I finished my novel in the midst of all of this.

What gets you to sit down with a computer (or pen and paper) and start writing? What keeps you going?

I force myself to put my butt in the chair and write at least a little every day. Once I’m there in the chair and have gone through my usual distractions (Facebook, Twitter, etc) the words and thoughts suck me in. My inner editor keeps me going. I might think I’m done but there’s this voice that keeps saying it’s not right, go back, fix it, and I do go back obsessively tweaking things. On a good day I make some forward progress.

Half in Love with Death was inspired by a true story. Can you talk a little about what drew you to that story, and how the book grew from that spark of inspiration? 

Charles Schmid, the charismatic young man known as ‘the Pied Piper of Tucson’, murdered three teenage girls, and buried them in the Arizona desert. He was popular with his teenage friends, and had many girlfriends. Though clearly a psychopath, he didn’t appear all that different from many boys I’d known in high school. I began to see him as a metaphor for the illusions teen girls have about love. Ultimately I had to put a lot of the facts aside in order to write my book, but this true crime led me to a story about sisters, lies, and a love that feels utterly real but may not be.

The story of Caroline’s search for her sister and the story of her falling in love with Tony are interconnected, but there wasn’t an exact moment when I decided to tell two stories. It just seemed likely to me that when her sister’s disappearance forces Caroline to step out of her quiet life into Tony’s exciting world, it would be inevitable that she would fall for him.

Half in Love with Death is both a YA and a period novel. (I’m hesitant to call it historical since it takes place in extremely recent history). What were some of the specific challenges and rewards of writing YA, and of setting the story in such a specific time and place?

I loved exploring the fashions, songs, and little details I needed to make that era come alive. One challenge was that most of the technological devices that define teen life today hadn’t been invented yet, so I had to think of aspects of the sixties that today’s teens would relate to. I felt they would be interested in the philosophy behind the sixties drug culture and, of course, love never goes out of style.

My biggest challenge was that some agents and editors thought there wasn’t a market for YA set in the sixties. I received a lot of pushback and this undermined my confidence in my choice to set my novel in this era. I actually removed a lot period references, and then on another revision put many of them back in. I second-guessed myself a lot – but deep down inside I knew I had to set this story in the sixties.

What one thing would you want readers of Half in Love with Death to take away from the novel?

I hope that readers will be moved by my teen narrator’s story. I also hope that they will come away with an understanding of how important it is for teen girls to find their own strength when navigating the murky waters of love and emotion.

My experience has been, as I think I said when I reviewed your book, that YA novels tend to have a lot of the strongest female characters and most provocative storylines in contemporary fiction. Do you agree? If so, why do you think that is?

I agree that YA novels have some of the most provocative storylines, and strongest female characters. Perhaps this is because the genre attracts innovative writers who are willing to take risks, and also because YA is about teens: an age group that’s volatile, creative, and that breaks rules. I think it’s great that YA authors tackle many of the issues facing teens today including rape culture, sexuality, and body image problems. Though these aren’t exclusively female issues, many YA authors recognize how important it is to provide teen girls with strong female characters as role models.

Writers, of course, are also readers. What are some of the books or authors who have influenced your life? What’s the most recent thing you read that really hooked you?

Raymond Chandler introduced me to noir. The voice in his polished prose is infectious and his books showed me that detective fiction can also be fine literary fiction. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier showed me how an absolutely compelling psychological thriller can be built around a quiet main character. I’m also a huge fan of Tana French and Gillian Flynn.

The most recent book that really hooked me was The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. I couldn’t put down this novel, whose maddeningly self-destructive and unreliable narrator glimpses a scene from a train window that unfolds into a twisty and unpredictable mystery.

If you were going to offer your 15- or 17-year-old self a piece of advice, what would it be?

Believe in yourself and don’t let love blind you. If someone is making you unhappy forget about him. There are no soulmates, no loves that are meant to be. You make your own destiny. Focus on yourself. Be strong.

What will your next project be?

I’m writing a novel about an aspiring ballerina who must prove that her Russian immigrant boyfriend and dance partner is not the mythical butterfly killer who murdered the captain of the high school dance team. The story takes place in my hometown of Quincy, a city that combines the charm of a small town with the gritty darkness of the inner city. I’m having fun writing about dance and murder!


About the book, Half in Love with Death Half in Love with Death

  • Print Length: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Merit Press (November 6, 2015)
  • Publication Date: November 6, 2015

It’s the era of peace and love in the 1960s, but nothing is peaceful in Caroline’s life. Since her beautiful older sister disappeared, fifteen-year-old Caroline might as well have disappeared too. She’s invisible to her parents, who can’t stop blaming each other. The police keep following up on leads even Caroline knows are foolish. The only one who seems to care about her is Tony, her sister’s older boyfriend, who soothes Caroline’s desperate heart every time he turns his magical blue eyes on her. Tony is convinced that the answer to Jess’s disappearance is in California, the land of endless summer, among the street culture of runaways and flower children. Come with me, Tony says to Caroline, and we’ll find her together. Tony is so loving, and all he cares about is bringing Jess home. And so Caroline follows, and closes a door behind her that may never open again, in a heartfelt thriller that never lets up.

Buy, read, and discuss Half in Love with Death

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Poet Anderson …Of Nightmares, by Tom DeLonge (@tomdelonge) & Suzanne Young (@suzanne_young) #giveaway #review

About the book, Poet Anderson …Of Nightmares Poet Anderson ...Of Nightmares

  • Print Length: 367 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 194327200X
  • Publisher: To The Stars…; 1 edition (October 6, 2015)
  • Publication Date: October 6, 2015

From the imagination of Tom DeLonge of Blink-182 and Angels & Airwaves and NY Times bestselling author Suzanne Young. Jonas Anderson and his older brother Alan are Lucid Dreamers. But after a car accident lands Alan in a coma, Jonas sets out into the Dream World in an attempt to find his brother and wake him up. What he discovers instead is an entire shared consciousness where fear comes to life as a snarling beast called a Night Terror, and a creature named REM is bent on destruction and misery, devouring the souls of the strongest dreamers. With the help of a Dream Walker—a guardian of the dreamscape, Jonas must face his fears, save his brother, and become who he was always meant to be: Poet Anderson.

Buy, read, and discuss Poet Anderson …Of Nightmares

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About the authors, Tom DeLonge and Suzanne Young

Tom DeLonge Tom DeLongeis the award-winning American musician, producer and director, best known as the lead vocalist and songwriter for the platinum-selling bands Blink-182 and Angels & Airwaves. Under his media production company To The Stars…, Tom has created transmedia entertainment properties that span music, film, comics and books. Poet Anderson …Of Nightmares will also coincide with an original soundtrack recorded by the band that you can listen to while you read.

Suzanne Young Suzanne Youngis the New York Times bestselling author of The Program series of novels for young adult readers. Young lives in Arizona where she also teaches high school English. Her novels include , The Program, The Treatment, The Remedy, The Epidemic, and Hotel Ruby

Connect with Tom & Suzanne

Tom’s Twitter | To the Stars Media Twitter | To the Stars Media Website | Suzanne’s Twitter | Suzanne’s Website


My Thoughts: MissMeliss

When the publicists for this novel invited me to be part of the blog tour, I asked if I could have Friday the 13th as my review date, and I was delighted that they agreed. But really, what better day is there to post a review of a book that involves dreams and nightmares.

As someone whose dreams are vivid, and whose favorite horror film is the original A Nightmare on Elm Street, it was a foregone conclusion that Poet Anderson …Of Nightmares would appeal to me. It has everything I love: a well-paced plot, richly drawn characters, an original setting, a provocative setting: a Dreamscape populated by dreamers and their creations, nightmare creatures born of unresolved emotional conflict and unhealed emotional trauma.

Protagonist Jonas (aka Poet in the Dreamscape) is a 16-year-old lucid dreamer with a brother in a coma, dead parents, and no one to take care of him. The part of me that is way too old to be reading YA wanted to gather him into a warm hug and make him some soup. The part of me that used to be a teenaged-girl wanted to figure out what made him tick. He leaped off the page and into my imagination, and was so dimensional, and so sympathetic (even during the moments when I kind of wanted to shake him into sensibility) that I was happy to follow his journey.

The few real-world people we meet were mostly (but not entirely) peripheral to the beings in the Dreamscape, but they served an important purpose. They grounded the story in the here and now-ish, so that young Jonas/Poet had an external anchor other than his brother.

The people (and scary monsters) inside the Dreamscape were more vivid, but their edges were blurry, as is typical for dream constructs, still, it is through them that Poet/Jonas learns his inner identity, hones his abilities, and navigates the twisting, winding world formed by the lucid dreams of many, many dreamers.

While I enjoyed Poet’s quest – because this is absolutely a quest novel, even if that’s not explicitly stated – I was equally fascinated by the world building done with regard to the Dreamscape. The notion that the nightmare creatures we create can grow strong enough to break into the waking world is chilling, but it also makes sense. How many of us are troubled from unresolved issues that haunt our dreams? How strange is it, really, that those hauntings would grow in power?

I have to admit that I never had access to the soundtrack that goes with this novel, but while I’m certain that would enhance the experience for some, I don’t feel it is truly necessary. I very quickly found myself immersed in the story, only coming up for air when I was desperately hungry, or had to wrangle dogs (I have five).

Authors DeLonge and Young should be commended for creating something completely engaging, original, and rich. I know the average teenager would dig this novel, but I’m equally certain that my own peers will find it compelling and worthy as well.

Goes well with a hearty chili and freshly made skillet corn bread, and a steaming mug of hot spiced cider.


Giveaway Poet Anderson Giveaway

Two (2) winners receive a personalized special edition signed copy of POET ANDERSON…OF NIGHTMARES and an Of Nightmares t-shirt (INT)
Ends 12/23

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Half in Love with Death, by Emily Ross (@emilyross816) #review

About the book, Half in Love with Death Half in Love with Death

 

  • Print Length: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Merit Press (November 6, 2015)
  • Publication Date: November 6, 2015

It’s the era of peace and love in the 1960s, but nothing is peaceful in Caroline’s life. Since her beautiful older sister disappeared, fifteen-year-old Caroline might as well have disappeared too. She’s invisible to her parents, who can’t stop blaming each other. The police keep following up on leads even Caroline knows are foolish. The only one who seems to care about her is Tony, her sister’s older boyfriend, who soothes Caroline’s desperate heart every time he turns his magical blue eyes on her. Tony is convinced that the answer to Jess’s disappearance is in California, the land of endless summer, among the street culture of runaways and flower children. Come with me, Tony says to Caroline, and we’ll find her together. Tony is so loving, and all he cares about is bringing Jess home. And so Caroline follows, and closes a door behind her that may never open again, in a heartfelt thriller that never lets up.

Buy, read, and discuss Half in Love with Death

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About the author, Emily Ross Emily Ross

Emily Ross received a 2014 Massachusetts Cultural Council finalist award in fiction for HALF IN LOVE WITH DEATH. She is an editor and contributor at Dead Darlings, a website dedicated to discussing the craft of novel writing. Find out more at emilyrosswrites.com or follow her on Twitter @emilyross816.

HALF IN LOVE WITH DEATH was inspired by the disturbing case of Charles Schmid, ‘the Pied Piper of Tucson.’

Connect with Emily

Website | Twitter


My Thoughts MissMeliss

I’ve always believed that the stories in the YA / NA classification are some of the most provocative new stories being published, as well as being a great source of strong female characters. Emily Ross’s latest novel, Half in Love with Death only supported that belief.

In this novel, Ross has blended a typical teen’s coming of age story – first love, first kisses, being in the shadow of her prettier, more popular older sister – with a darker story – one that involves that older sister disappearing, ostensibly to chase her dreams in California…but it that really true? Because woven into the novel is a mystery. Tony, the sister’s boyfriend may not be what he seems, and other young people seem to know more than they should.

In her protagonist, Caroline, Ross has given us a very real girl. She’s fifteen, bright, observant, and a little bit innocent. Her sister Jess, who disappears very early in the novel, is more experienced, possibly more street-wise, definitely less book-smart. We don’t see a lot of Jess, but she struck me as being a fair representative of most upper-middle-class kids of the 60s (or any decade) – straining against parental control, even when that control might be providing the structure she very much needs.

Caroline, from whose perspective we witness everything that happens, was also incredibly dimensional. She covers for her sister out of misguided loyalty and sibling fear (“I’ll kill you if you tell!”), then starts hanging out with her sister’s ex, Tony, who was always nice to the tag-along sister. She’s smart, but she’s also naive, and it was sort of refreshing reading about a fifteen-year-old girl who is still a GIRL, and makes decisions that come out of her girlhood, rather than a too-wise-for-her-years womanhood.

Tony was both deliciously suave and delightfully creepy – I could see how teenaged girls would fall for him, ignoring that little warning that screams “not a good choice.” And Billy from across the street was both a great friend, and a well-written character. We never really get resolution: Do Billy and Caroline end up dating, or remain neighbors and friends – and that’s okay, because they work really well either way, and maybe to define that would be to diminish both characters.

My favorite part of this novel wasn’t a scene or a line of dialogue, though. It was that the protagonist, Caroline, essentially saves herself, something we don’t see enough of in any genre of writing.

I recommend this book to readers of all ages (13 and up, anyway).

Goes well with: Grilled chicken and corn on the cob.

 

 

 

The Girl Who Ignored Ghosts, by K.C. Tansley (@KourHei) #review #coming_soon

About the book, The Girl Who Ignored Ghosts The Girl Who Ignored Ghosts

  • Series: The Unbelievables Book 1
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Beckett Publishing Group; 1 edition (August 1, 2015)

She tried to ignore them. But some things won’t be ignored.

Kat Preston doesn’t believe in ghosts. Not because she’s never seen one, but because she saw one too many. Refusing to believe is the only way to protect herself from the ghost that tried to steal her life. Kat’s disbelief keeps her safe until her junior year at McTernan Academy, when a research project for an eccentric teacher takes her to a tiny, private island off the coast of Connecticut.

The site of a grisly mystery, the Isle of Acacia is no place for a girl who ignores ghosts, but the ghosts leave Kat little choice. Accompanied by her research partner, Evan Kingsley, she investigates the disappearance of Cassie Mallory and Sebastian Radcliffe on their wedding night in 1886. Evan’s scientific approach to everything leaves Kat on her own to confront a host of unbelievables: ancestral curses, powerful spells, and her strange connection to the ghosts that haunt Castle Creighton.

But that’s all before Kat’s yanked through a magic portal and Evan follows her. When the two of them awaken 129 years in the past with their souls trapped inside the bodies of two wedding guests, everything changes. Together, Kat and Evan race to stop the wedding-night murders and find a way back to their own time—and their own bodies—before their souls slip away forever.

Buy, read, and discuss The Girl Who Ignored Ghosts

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About the author, K.C. Tansley K.C. Tansley

K.C Tansley lives with her warrior lapdog, Emerson, and three quirky golden retrievers on a hill somewhere in Connecticut. She tends to believe in the unbelievables–spells, ghosts, time travel–and writes about them.

Never one to say no to a road trip, she’s climbed the Great Wall twice, hopped on the Sound of Music tour in Salzburg, and danced the night away in the dunes of Cape Hatteras. She loves the ocean and hates the sun, which makes for interesting beach days.

The Girl Who Ignored Ghosts is her debut YA time-travel murder mystery novel. As Kourtney Heintz, she also writes award winning cross-genre fiction for adults.

Connect with K.C.

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts MissMeliss

I love a good ghost story, and even though I’m really old (a month away from 45) I still love the young adult/new adult genre, because I think some of the strongest female characters and most provocative stories are coming out of it.

The Girl Who Ignored Ghosts is no exception.

First, in Kat, we have a strong young woman who has personal experience with “unbelievables,” the author’s term for ghosts and other supernatural creations – the things we’re not, as rational adults, supposed to believe in. She’s smart, but she’s also got flaws, and I like that she’s not s superhero, just a girl with an ability to see into the unseen, an ability that, at times, is a blessing and at other times is a curse.

Then we have a neo-Gothic ghost story – a family castle on a cliffside, a decades-old murder mystery, love, money, intrigue – it feels both contemporary and historical at the same time, and author Tansley balances that feeling really well.

Mix in a research project, Kat’s teammates/friends, and bit of time travel, and this story is gripping and compelling and eerie enough that I had to brighten the lights in my room while I read it. (This may have been because I read it at 3 AM).

Kat and her roommate and best friend Morgan both felt like ordinary young women thrust into extraordinary circumstances. Their dialogue was believable, and they served as perfect counterpoint to each other. Evan, Seth, and Adam, the young men we see the most of, were also well drawn. I especially liked that even when Kat and Even grew closer, he retained his ‘still kind of a jerk’ behavior. He is kind of a jerk, but he isn’t a MEAN jerk, more a smartass, and I appreciated that.

The story itself was well-paced…just enough flashback to set up Kat’s ability, just enough of a glimpse at her present to connect her past and future, and then the mystery elements began to unfold, and everything clipped along at a glorious speed.

If you want something that defies pigeon-holing (It’s a YA, ghost, mystery, paranormal romance, time travel adventure) you definitely need to read this book. Afterward, we can bond over our mutual impatience for book two, because I believe that this series will take off, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Goes well with grilled chicken sandwiches, french fries, and sweet tea. (Trust me on this. )

 

 

 

Royal Wedding, by Meg Cabot (@MegCabot) #review @TLCBookTours

About  the book Royal Wedding Royal Wedding

Print Length: 448 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (June 2, 2015)

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Princess Diaries series, comes the very first adult installment, which follows Princess Mia and her Prince Charming as they plan their fairy tale wedding—but a few poisoned apples could turn this happily-ever-after into a royal nightmare.

For Princess Mia, the past five years since college graduation have been a whirlwind of activity, what with living in New York City, running her new teen community center, being madly in love, and attending royal engagements. And speaking of engagements. Mia’s gorgeous longtime boyfriend Michael managed to clear both their schedules just long enough for an exotic (and very private) Caribbean island interlude where he popped the question! Of course Mia didn’t need to consult her diary to know that her answer was a royaloui.

But now Mia has a scandal of majestic proportions to contend with: Her grandmother’s leaked “fake” wedding plans to the press that could cause even normally calm Michael to become a runaway groom. Worse, a scheming politico is trying to force Mia’s father from the throne, all because of a royal secret that could leave Genovia without a monarch.  Can Mia prove to everyone—especially herself—that she’s not only ready to wed, but ready to rule as well?

Buy, read, and discuss Royal Wedding

Amazon | IndieBound | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Meg Cabot Meg Cabot

Meg Cabot was born in Bloomington, Indiana. In addition to her adult contemporary fiction, she is the author of the bestselling young adult fiction series, The Princess Diaries. More than 25 million copies of her novels for children and adults have sold worldwide. Meg lives in Key West, Florida, with her husband.

Connect with Meg

Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts TLC Tour Host

It’s been a really long time since I indulged in a visit with Princess Mia. It’s been long enough, in fact, that I’d forgotten how much the Princess Diaries movies diverge from the novels. Even so, this last weekend was one that required a fun, fresh read, and sitting down with Royal Wedding was just the thing. My review was based on a digital ARC, and the formatting was kind of funky in places, but that in no way distracted from my enjoyment of the story.

In this novel, Princess Mia is twenty-five, and is faced with two major upheavals in her life: succeeding her father on the throne, and getting married. Of course, nothing in her life is ever simple, so there are disasters great and small that come up, all of which serve to increase the level of hilarity from a ten (where the novel begins) to about a 95 at the height of the action. Within the funny moments, though, are moments of candid honesty and poignant emotion, and it’s those sharp turns – from humor to pathos and back – that Meg Cabot writes so well.

I’ve often said that some of the most interesting and provocative contemporary fiction comes from titles labeled “Young Adult” or “New Adult,” and Royal Wedding is no exception. It uses a structure that mixes journal entries, email, phone calls, and text messages (as well as tweets and facebook status offerings) to appeal to a generation of readers who grew up in the Age of the Soundbite, but is still meaty enough for old-school fans, like me.

I also like that the novel is sometimes self-referential, often meta, and exists in a world where the pop culture we all know and love actually exists. Specifically, Mia comments that an unusually high percentage of her friends are high school classmates, and that an unusually high percentage of them stayed with/married their high school partners. Later, she references a specific episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer that she’s watching  (on Netflix, of course.)

We’ve already seen Mia come of age in these novels. In Royal Wedding she comes into her own power, accepting her abilities and her flaws, and truly embracing her future. I can’t tell if this is the last volume in the Princess Diaries saga, or if there are still more stories coming, but either way, Meg Cabot has delivered a satisfying story with some great moments and a good balance of old characters and new ones.

Goes well with a couple of Butterfingers and a shot of (stolen) 100-year-old brandy.


Meg’s Tour Stops TLC Book Tours

Tuesday, June 2nd: Seaside Book Nook

Friday, June 5th: booknerd

Wednesday, June 10th: Mom in Love With Fiction

Thursday, June 11th: Mel’s Shelves

Monday, June 15th: Bibliotica

Tuesday, June 16th: Book Loving Hippo

Wednesday, June 17th: A Chick Who Reads

Thursday, June 18th: 100 Pages a Day … Stephanie’s Book Reviews

Monday, June 22nd: Walking With Nora

Tuesday, June 23rd: View from the Birdhouse

Wednesday, June 24th: Spices Latte Reads

Thursday, June 25th: Ms.Bookish.com

Monday, June 29th: Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers

Tuesday, June 30th: A Bookish Way of Life

Wednesday, July 1st: Book Him Danno!

Thursday, July 2nd: Black ‘n Gold Girl’s Book Spot

Monday, July 6th: A Reader of Fictions

Tuesday, July 7th: A Dream Within a Dream

Wednesday, July 8th: In Bed with Books

Thursday, July 9th: Literary Lindsey

Monday, July 13th: Wall-to-Wall Books

TBD: Novel Escapes

TBD: Bibliophilia, Please

TBD: Read-Love-Blog