Friday, January 20, 2012

Dreaming of Books Blog H0p Winners

According to the magical wizardry of, tah dah,
here are the winners of my giveaway:

BJ ~ winner of the Writers Pack

Krystal L. ~ Winner of the Royal Swag Pack

Thank you to everyone who entered. Hope you enjoyed hoping around.

Next month I'm participating in the Black Books Blog Giveaway Hop hosted by Sybil Nelson, so check back to see what books you can enter to win.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

In My Mailbox


I just received Deadly Cool, a YA mystery novel by Gemma Halliday. Since my book is mystery suspense, I'm especially interested in novels in the same genre. And I also got Matched by Ally Condie, because I'm on a futuristic kick and love seeing what inventive worlds people can come up with. I'm hoping they're good books. I usually read a few reviews with various ratings, and then if it sounds good enough, I'll buy it.

I know Kindles and other e-Readers are super hot, but there's just something extra special cool about a physical book that can't be matched. Sometimes you can miss out on lovely visual goodies. Like, the paperback cover of Matched is a sheeny, gorgeous, metallic green that you can't really see in a screen pic, and it also has a full color inner title page. So pretty, pretty. And Deadly Cool has wicked cute, full-bleed, winding cords on all chapter title pages. I know you get the same words, but you don't get exactly the same reading experience with e-Books.

Have you ordered anything lately? What's your preference? Paper or screen?

~ Signing off and sending out cyber hugs.

Book Review: The Apocalypse Gene

Author: Suki Michelle and Carlyle Clark
Publisher: Parker Publishing (June 30, 2011)
ISBN-10: 160043102X
ISBN-13: 978-1600431029


Global pandemic is raging. Olivya Wright-Ono's once loving home has been converted to a hospice for the dying. Her ability to see auras forces her to witness, with agonizing detail, the vibrant colors of life consumed by malignancy. The beautiful and troubled, Mikah, is an elite Empath in the ancient Kindred clan, led by the brooding, ever-morphing, monster named Prime. Mikah has learned a terrible truth . . . the plague is linked to Kindred origins. When Olivya sees evidence of disease creeping into her mother's aura, she has no one to turn to but Mikah. Can he unearth the Kindred secrets and find a cure? Can she trust this boy whose power allows him to manipulate her very emotions? With her mother's life, and that of the world, in the balance, Olivya and Mikah embark on a quest to stop the Pandemic, only to discover it is far, far more than a mere disease . . .


I love complex, hard-to-classify reads, and The Apocalypse Gene fit the bill perfectly. I’ve never read a book with three distinct worlds, one being a futuristic real world suffering from a raging pandemic that is pushing humanity toward extinction, Cyber Chicago, a virtual world, complete with an online school where students are represented by hologram simulations--holosims, and an underlining world of supernatural beings called the Kindred that have been around for ages. These worlds were superbly drawn and well-thoughout.

We first meet an aura-reading teen, Olivya, who’s half black, half Asian. Despite the death all around her, she manages to maintain an upbeat disposition by developing a friendship with an online schoolmate, Micah, and by creating some emotional distance with the Good-As-Dead patients living in her mother’s hospice home by giving them nicknames like Slim and Marigold. She has a deep respect for life, and she is proud that her home is one of the few not participating in assisted suicide. So, when she learns her mother has broken her promise for extra money, she flips out. Her sour attitude gets her grounded--Zeroed--but she finds a way to sneak out to finally meet Micah in person.

Because of the incurable disease and rampant miscreant groups running wild, Olivya doesn’t get out much and doesn’t have the best street smarts, but she’s able to muscle up and use her martial arts skills and her mouth when she has to. When she meets Micah, after a battle with said miscreants, there’s an instant attraction. Micah, a telempath, who can feel and manipulate emotions, believes the pandemic is linked to The Kindred he lives with, and the two decide to join forces to figure out what’s going on and if there's a way to stop it.

But Olivya’s mom stuffs her plans when she learns she sneaked out and puts greater restrictions on her, making it near-impossible for her to help Micah. Her mom is starting to show signs of cancer in her aura though, so Olivya must find a way to get out and find a cure.

Once I got to this part, it took me almost two weeks to finish the rest because I couldn't just glide through it. I had to push my brain through so much futuristic slang, weird spellings, clunky exotic names, and mythological detail, that it was hard to stay engaged and interested. I don't like to work that hard to absorb fiction. And the holosims were sometimes funny, but mostly annoying, and interactions with them gobbled up so much of the story, that I was really hoping they’d get stomped on and turned into dust. This left a lack of joint stage time between Olivya and Micah, and I was saddened by that. I'd hoped to see chemistry, sparks at play and their attraction bloom in a more natural way.

Though TAG gets bogged down in detail at times, there are well-written kick-butt action sequences in every chapter, and the book does wrap up neatly with a great climax. And although this works as a stand-alone, it is also left open for a sequel, and I will definitely read it to see where the authors take it from here. I’m pretty sure with some history now out of the way, it will be amazing.

I give the authors high props for creating non-wimps and a fun, action-packed read. The book was very visual, so it is was easy for me to picture what was going on. And I enjoyed the intricate worlds that they created, I just wish that the info would’ve been condensed into more easily absorbed bites so the story didn’t get stilted by its own details and mythology--which was cool in concept, just burdened with minutia.

If you think a cyberpunk urban fantasy sounds like your thing or you like weird books, definitely get this. This is unique, highly imaginative and fresh in every respect.

*Off note: this book would make an AMAZING graphic novel.


~ Signing off and sending out cyber hugs.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Dreaming of Books Giveaway Hop

This hop is hosted by I Am a Reader, Not a Writer (HERE) and Martha's Bookshelf (HERE) There are hundreds of blogs participating and each has their own entry rules and geographic limits, so be sure to read the rules for each one and have fun hopping. I’m thrilled to be a part of The Dreaming of Books Giveaway Hop because it allows me to give away anything I want, and I have two cool prize packs to delve out. You can enter to win either or both.

The Writer's Pack
I love books on craft that go way beyond the nuts and bolts, and in this pack, you’ll get the faves I keep going back to, time and again.

The Fire in Fiction by Donald Maass is a-ma-zing. It so is. Most books skim the surface of character development, but this one's packed with tips on how to get more dimension and depth in your characters and bring out the absolute best in every aspect of the story: plot, motive, structure, cause and effect, how to make the unrealistic seem real. This book is like a writing coach, that gives you all the know-how to achieve greatness with your pen and plenty of exercises to practice. I really hate to give this away, but it NEEDS to be shared ... so I’ll just have to get another one for myself. Yep, it’s that good! This is, by far, the best book on novel writing I've ever read. And I'm offering it to you, oh, lucky one.

The other book in this pack is On Writing by Stephen King. This is considered a must-have by many writers. Half of the book is his personal story and the other half offers writing tips. It’s a shortie, but it’s heaped with wisdom.

... And, I will also give away Writing Great Books for Young Adults by Regina Brooks if the winner wants it. It’s pretty basic but still a wonderful book if you want to learn about writing for teens.

* Please note, these books are gently used. Surprising they’re not in pieces.

The Royal Swag Pack
For this pack, I’m excited to be giving away a signed copy of my debut YA suspense novel, Kings & Queens. Here's what it's about:

How would YOU stop a massacre … if you were only seventeen … if the cops didn’t believe you … if your mom never listened … if your friends thought it was a joke ... if the faceless nutjobs trolled your halls and somehow knew your every move before you made it?

Majesty Alistair, who’s biggest aims of late have been to best Grief and keep any nearby 2x4s from colliding with her crush’s head, has to figure that out and go all Veronica Mars when she overhears two fellow students planning a church shooting. Her pleas to investigate her father’s recent fatal accident and other possible crimes-in-the-works have totally trashed her cred with police, so she aims to ID the gun-toting freaks herself before they act.

But, their agenda turns out to be far bigger than she ever assumed, and soon, every guy in school's looking suspect, even her two best friends, Alec and Derek. It becomes clear that any move she makes will leave blood on her hands, the blood of someone she loves.

With Kings & Queens, you can expect a twisted, tense ride with suspense, mystery, romance, baseball and even a sprinkle of humor, oh! and weirdness, can't forget that.

In this prize pack, you'll also get some super cool swag too! Take a look.
  • a novel-sized notebook, that is soooo nice with the K&Q logo on black
  • a K&Q mug
  • a black book tote with red handles
  • 1 K&Q pen
  • a beaded book thong with a K&Q themed charm--Love it! Gonna make one for myself.
This giveaway is open to anyone 15+, living in the US or Canada.
This contest runs from 1.13.12 thru 1.19.12 midnight PT.
The winners will be chosen by on 1.19.12.
Winners are announced on Fridays!
Winner will have 48 hours to respond to email or a new winner will be chosen.
This giveaway is sponsored by me for TWO WINNERS.

To Enter:
  • You MUST follow me here
  • Follow me at Twitter
  • Like the K&Q page
  • Give 1 shoutout about my giveaway in a social media outlet. If tweeted, use #cvwriterhop
  • Fill out the form, signifying your choice of pack(s) ... and leave a comment below if you wish.

    And that’s it. Good luck! Hop around and see what other cool things you could win.

  • ~ Signing off and sending out cyber hugs.

On the Journey to 100 Books - 3

Well, I just gobbled down Bumped by Megan McCaffery in one day, yet it left me with an empty, sour stomach. It's a thought provoking novel but it "rilly" fell flat for me in every other aspect beyond the concept. You can read more of my thoughts on the novel below. I'm about 1/4 through Everlost by Neal Shusterman. This is my first ghosty YA novel, so I'm looking forward to it. It's pretty good so far.

Other books to read within the next few days:

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor
The Iron Witch by Karen Mahoney
Firelight by Sophie Jordan

I have a goal to read 100 books this year and I'm getting a jump on it. I have three knocked out so far. What are you reading? Have you read any of these? If so, what were your thoughts? Got any recommendations on YA novels that totally gripped you? They don't have to be new.

~ Signing off and sending out cyber hugs.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Book Review: Bumped

Author: Megan McCafferty
Publisher: Balzer + Bray (April 26, 2011)
ISBN-10: 0061962740
ISBN-13: 978-0061962745


When a virus makes everyone over the age of eighteen infertile, would-be parents pay teen girls to conceive and give birth to their children, making teens the most prized members of society. Girls sport fake baby bumps and the school cafeteria stocks folic-acid-infused food.

Sixteen-year-old identical twins Melody and Harmony were separated at birth and have never met until the day Harmony shows up on Melody’s doorstep. Up to now, the twins have followed completely opposite paths. Melody has scored an enviable conception contract with a couple called the Jaydens. While they are searching for the perfect partner for Melody to bump with, she is fighting her attraction to her best friend, Zen, who is way too short for the job.

Harmony has spent her whole life in Goodside, a religious community, preparing to be a wife and mother. She believes her calling is to convince Melody that pregging for profit is a sin. But Harmony has secrets of her own that she is running from.

When Melody is finally matched with the world-famous, genetically flawless Jondoe, both girls’ lives are changed forever. A case of mistaken identity takes them on a journey neither could have ever imagined, one that makes Melody and Harmony realize they have so much more than just DNA in common.


My favorite thing about Bumped was the concept. In the not-too-distant future, a virus has destroyed fertility in adults, so the wombs of teen girls ignite bidding wars, getting pregnant is encouraged and glamorized, contraception of any kind is forbidden. Even though it's squeegy, I could actually see this occurring, burdoning young fertile ones to give their all for their country, for the world. Unfortunately, the concept is the only thing the story had going for it, while there are so many possibilities and nuances in that scenario that are never explored. I don't understand how books that are all concept and no substance are all the rage. As with Wake, this novel is fairly popular and well-received, but I just don't get it.

Bumped starts off very telly, with alternating, talky viewpoints that bounce between twin sisters, Melody, the sardonic, cold one, and Harmony, the hyper-religious one, as they introduce us to their dystopian world and contrasting ideologies.

Separated at birth, they're acquainting for the first time. Harmony is ecstatic about finding her sister, and Melody is beyond annoyed at her presence. After 20 or thirty pages, you finally get some scenes with dialogue, but everything is still kept sparse with very little description and hardly any sensory impressions that it makes it difficult to SEE or experience this world. The faintest strokes are drawn on every page for two unlikeable, thinly drawn characters. One can see how their different environments have shaped their dispositions, but knowing that doesn't help make them relatable. You never get to really sink into their shoes, feel what they feel and identify. At least I didn't. I didn't feel angry, hurt, sad, gleeful, just blah.

In addition to sketchy characters, Bumped also had no plot. For Seriously! It's just a window into this teen-preggo world. And the problem with a book without a plot is it has no hook, climax or stakes. It didn't go far, have a purpose or build to anything substantial. The characters did have decisions to make in the end, and they both softened up somewhat about five chapters from the end, but it was way too late to feel vested.

The most likeable character in the book is Zen. As with the story Wake, I liked the random male friend the most. If these MC's didn't have weird names, they'd be totally forgotten, like, tomorrow, and I have photographic memory.

Melody, groomed to be the prefect rental space, is under contract to "bump" with a stud, and not totally thrilled about her obligation. In contrast, Harmony is not only determined to do have a baby rightly through marriage, while enshrined in veils, gloves, long dresses, and more man-made traditions than scriptural ones, she hopes to convert her sister to do the same. Even though Harmony is the pushy one, at least she's sweet in the beginning, so I softened to her first, but they were both extremely obnoxious within their sturdy mindsets. I think if they'd been given many more layers and the story more complexity, scope and structure, it would've been a more enjoyable read. I also liked seeing a religious character in a book, but she was taken so far over the top into cultish territory that it made her passion just as flawed as her distortions.

Bumped did have a great concept, and it will definitely stir up plenty of conversation on ethics, it just never lived up to its potential.


~ Signing off and sending out cyber hugs.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Book Review: The Final Hour (Book 4 of The Homelanders Series)

Author: Andrew Klavan
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (July 19, 2011)
ISBN-10: 1595547150
ISBN-13: 978-1595547156


Charlie West's memory is finally returning---and he realizes that he somehow knows when the terrorists are going to strike next. Whatever it takes, he can't give in or give up until they're stopped. But the clock is ticking! Does he have enough time?


The Final Hour is the last installment in the Homelanders Series. The story opens with young hero, Charlie West, in the slammer for a murder he didn’t commit. He only agreed to take momentary blame so he could infiltrate a terrorist ring, and the terrorists have mostly been rounded up, yet days, weeks, months go by, without a peep that tells him why he’s still locked up.

His cop contact Rose finally visits but delivers the bad news, that Washington wants to brush events under the rug, as the controversy could hurt their global interests, so getting him out isn't going to be as easy as Rose had thought. He promises to continue to fight for Charlie but doesn’t make any promises as to when he’ll be released, but says it will, at minimum, take weeks.

The missing year of Charlie’s life from taking a drug to erase his memory while captured by the anti-Americans is still trickling back in bits and pieces, and he begins to remember a terrorist plot that’s planned for New Year’s Eve. But with sketchy info to go on, no proof, no one to call, more than a million lives on the line, and the prison guards not only against him but abusing him too, he has no one to turn to and no way to out to stop it. Charlie doesn’t have weeks! Only days!

The Final Hour offers a gritty glimpse into prison life and contains some violence, but it never veers into the obscene. It’s in line with other thrillers of similar vein. This beginning unfolds more slowly than the previous because he's locked up, but Klavan does a good job of building suspense and keeping it taut throughout.

Even though there’s no hammering Christian message in this book, which I prefer in fiction, it still managed to feel, to me, a little preachy at times, even though it’s not talk but rather a string of moral dilemmas Charlie must wrestle through. And the current rhetoric that insists “terrorists hate America because we’re free” felt very heavy-handed as well and was clung to so mightily, it nearly topples the story. Terrorists have a blend of motivations and reasons for committing acts of terror, but with Klavan picking just this one and having the Homelanders be so blatant with their hate and anti-American speech, it made the recruitment of random, everyday Americans implausible. Even if this is the main drive of such radicals, one would think, to recruit, you'd exploit the susceptible where their hate can bloom into a desire to commit violence. You wouldn't really care if they believed the same as long as there was a willingness to act.

There were parts in the end, showing Charlie in action, which were almost laughable, but still, it does provide great escapism and this is the perfect series for teens, boys especially, who love thrillers. It’s hard to find good “boy books” and this is a wild, morally sound, action-packed ride. You don't need to be a Christian to enjoy this, just a YA thriller lover. If you enjoy books by Robinson Wells or Patrick Carman, you will love the Homelander Series.

* I received this book free through Booksneeze, but that in no way compromised or affected my review.


~ Signing off and sending out cyber hugs.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

My Goals for 2012

Wow. I'm feeling so lackluster at the moment. Ya ever get that way when you sit down to write a post, or anything really, and end up struggling to string words together? Yeah, that'd be me right now. I'd love a nice cup of peppermint mocha, but it's after midnight. I don't object to drinking coffee at this time, it doesn't jack me up like that, unless it's like four cups, I just don't feel like walking down two floors to get it. So, in the moment, I'm lazy, kinda sorta blah and deliciousness free.

I had a little bit of crazy 2011 due to my writing getting destroyed by a tornado storm, but I had only minor inconveniences like that, so I'm very thankful to God for his graciousness. Really, I am so, so blessed and I know that. I have a great family with messy but extremely sweet kids that everyone adores to pieces, everyone's healthy and happy, my parents are doing well, my sons are now BOTH on IEPs so they're functioning better in school, God has kept us all safe, my husband has a steady job, we squeaked out of foreclosure, and my house is still standing--some of my friends lost theirs in the tornado, and my car avoided being smashed by a tree in the October blizzard by mere inches. Oh, and my dead laptop came back to life TODAY with some dry-out time after my daughter spilled soda on it! Yipee!!! So, overall, I've had it pretty good.

I'm ready to carry that energy and cheer into 2012. This year, I'd like to write faster and be more economical with my time overall, as well as diligent in my marketing efforts.

Here are my career goals:

* Finish editing Sapphire Reign, the sequel to Kings & Queens, and get that out
* Finish my WIP, Genie, and get that out. I'm not sure yet, which book I'll release first, but barring any setbacks, it'll be both and maybe a 3rd, either StarStruck or Dropping Like Flies.
* Read 100 YA books

* Visit 100 blogs and comment each month

* Make 100 forum posts in various places each month

* Connect with local writers for book fairs and other events

* Do some kind of marketing every day

* Post at least 3 times a week on this blog

* Participate in at least one blog hop per month

Do you have goals for 2012? If so, what are they?

~ Signing off and sending out cyber hugs.