Thursday, October 31, 2013

Book Tour: If Only We by Jessica Sankiewicz


Today I'm thrilled to have Jessica Sankiewicz here to talk about her debut novel, IF ONLY WE. I have a totally awesome guest post for you guys today about the rewards and challenges of genre blending, thanks to the time travel mechanic that is such an important part of what makes this book unique.

On Genre Blending

When If Only We began, I had no idea it would become what it is: a contemporary featuring time travel. The original idea was just one scene—the one in the first chapter. As I started to work that scene into a story, the time travel aspect just happened. It wasn't my intention to write such a complex novel right out of the gate, but this story just couldn't be told any other way. Although I enjoy reading books and watching movies with those kind of elements, writing one is entirely different.

I started writing it during NaNoWriMo 2011. It was underdeveloped in my outline, but I figured I would be able to fill in the gaps after the month was over during rewrites and revisions. I am positive that a decent amount of what I wrote that month was out of place in the storyline. It didn't matter at the time, since it was NaNoWriMo, but it definitely mattered once I came back to it later.

One of the hardest things about writing this kind of story, is keeping your time-line. I had to have it firmly set in mind as I wrote, being careful not to mix up the days and to keep everything consistent. Since Adrienne is reliving practically three whole months, she knows a lot of what happened the first time around. So I had to make sure that she recognized these things, acknowledging them without giving herself away to the people around her who aren't reliving the summer.

Another challenge is making it believable to your audience. Is it possible for someone to travel back in time like Adrienne does? If it were science fiction, I could get away with it. But since it's contemporary, and phenomenons like this don't happen in real life, most people wouldn't be quick to believe it. What I think helps my story is the focus on second chances. Adrienne's experience is more about fixing things than how it happened, and that's something everyone can relate to. Plus, it's nice to imagine the possibility, isn't it?

Writing If Only We was bumpy here and there, but it was very satisfying how it all came together in the end. So if you ever decide to combine two different genres, be it time travel in a contemporary or otherwise, be sure to map it out well. The results will be well worth it.

They say all it takes is one wrong move and you lose the game. One false step and you’re trapped. One slip-up in your choice of words and you ruin a friendship forever. That is what they say. They say I lost.

I do not believe them.

At the end of the summer after graduation, Adrienne wonders what happened to cause her life to be in ruins. She isn’t getting along with her mom, her stepsister isn’t talking to her, and, to top it off, the boy she’s been in love with doesn’t want anything to do with her. She believes the turning point was a choice she made at graduation. When she wakes up the next day, she has been transported back three months to that moment, the one where everything started to fall apart.

Adrienne realizes she has been given a second chance—and this time she doesn’t want to mess anything up. Reliving the entire summer, though, turns out to be a lot harder than she thought. As the same days and weeks go by, she starts to see how simple decisions can make a huge impact on the world around her. Despite knowing some of what lies ahead, there are some things she didn’t anticipate. She thought she knew what mistake led her to where she ended up the first time. She was wrong.

And by the time summer is over, she discovers what was really at stake.
Intrigued? Add it on GoodReads!
Jessica is the 28 year old author of IF ONLY WE, a YA contemporary. You can often find her either reading or marathon watching TV on DVD, her favorites being Castle and Veronica Mars. She frequently mismatches her clothes and giggles uncontrollably. She knows almost every Billy Joel song by heart. She collects books and toys, and she has an intense love of cats and lemurs. Currently in the midst of her quarter-life-crisis, she is still takin' names and getting very close to reaching an epiphany.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

So, are you planning to read IF ONLY WE? Feel free to share your thoughts! :) 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Going Digital #1: Print Books vs. E-Books

Going Digital is a blog article series I came up with when I decided that I'm either getting a new eReader or Tablet this holiday season. I thought it might be fun to share what I learn with here, and to see if you guys have opinions or experiences to share about choosing a new reading device, too. If this goes well it should lead to a smart purchase, rather than an impulse buy. It may also help other bloggers in the market for a new eReader or tablet make a more informed decision, too.
About two months after I started blogging back in 2011 I decided to buy myself a Kindle Keyboard when I discovered they were available at The Source. Now, before I start to bad-mouth this poor thing, let me say that my issue is in no way with the quality of this eReader. It's been a great little device and for the most part I love it. But it has a few drawbacks that have kept me from making a proper (or at least more active) switch from print books to digital ones.

The biggest issue I have with my Kindle Keyboard is how it organizes books. They sit on static lists on the front page. Yes, I can create lists and put books into them. But I've just never liked the setup. It's never been able to make the books feel "real" to me, if that makes any sense. I think if I can find a reader that works well and that lets me see my books AS books when I choose them (kinda like how my iPod touch lets me see my music?) that a big part of my issue will disappear. I like the reading experience on my Kindle. But I don't like the book selection or organization experience and that really bugs me.

My other major issue with the Kindle Keyboard is the keyboard itself. The thing is just too little for me and I find using it to search for things, make notes, highlight passages, etc. a pain in the rear end. These types of features, I think, are meant to be some of the advantages of an eReader--some of the things we get in return for the unavoidable sacrifices switching from print books to eBooks entails.

With those gains and losses in mind, I now present to you ten reasons I'm going digital, eight things I'll miss about print books and three exceptions to everything I've written here.
I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in saying "Print!" when someone asks me which I prefer. I'll answer that without batting an eyelash and it's true: I love print books. Heck, one of the things I'm most excited for with my own book next year is that I'll finally get to hold it.

But let's get real for a minute here. Print books may look beautiful. They may feel, for lack of a better word to describe them, alive. But no matter how much I love them, print books and I are having a few issues these days and I need to do something about them. All the pretty covers and beautiful formatting in the world is useless if the print books they're in are keeping me from getting reading done.

10 Reasons I'm "Going Digital":

1. Print size is mine to choose.

I'm legally blind, so being able to see what I am reading is a huge deal for me. I can read most print books, but sometimes I'll come across one that is a particular struggle, I won't want to deal with smaller print late at night, or I would just rather be able to choose the font by reading on my kindle. Font size and legibility of a book isn't an artform--it's like the user interface of a computer program or a video game. If I notice it's there and it's not for a cosmetic reason, it generally means something went horribly wrong. I find this happens to me less with eBooks.

2. Less chance of wrist strain.

I am prone to joint pain in my wrists because I've spent so much time with computers and gaming. Now that I am aware of this, I try to choose the things I do, and how long I do them for, with a lot more care. I also try to make sure things I am holding for a long time aren't too hefty--especially books. (C'mon, have you SEEN the Infernal Devices trilogy, or the Tiger Saga, or... You get the idea.) While there are some heavy books I would still want in my physical 'library' regardless, I would probably be better served to be reading them digitally from a health and wellness perspective.

3. Shelf space is limited.

I have two bookshelves in my room. It's currently so cluttered with books next to the other one that I can't open it. This is not how I want the books I choose to have on a shelf displayed. But with the fact that I keep all my stuff in a 10 x 10 room comes the reality that I don't have a lotta space!

Not only is this setup ugly as far as book displays go, it's also impractical. Have you ever experienced near death by book avalanche? Lemme tell you, it's not pretty! Plus when I move all of these to find the one I want, it also means I need to put them all back before I can sit down and read. One word sums that up: meh.

4. Portability.

Whether it's just wanting to be able to wander down to the dining room table or being in the car while my mother grabs stuff from Metro, there are loads of times when not only having a book on me, but rather the right book on me, would encourage me to get more reading done. I'm a moody reader and I am *not* afraid to DNF something that isn't working for me. But when it's the only thing I brought, I'm kinda nuked. With an eReader, though, I tend to sample before I buy whenever possible and I tend to make smarter purchases since I research my books before clicking Add To Cart.

5. Fast, easy access to the books I want--no car required.

Being able to try samples and download books at the click of a button is awesome. It only takes a few seconds for a book to go from Amazon to my Kindle and then it's there, waiting for me to read it, whenever I'm ready to dive in. That alone is a compelling reason, but when you couple that with the fact that I read a lot of authors, both trade and self published, the need for a good quality reader that will ensure a good reading experience skyrockets.

Oh, there's also the fact that I don't drive and I live half an hour away from the closest physical bookstore to me. Life before Kindle (or at least Amazon orders) really sucked for me as a reader.

6. Read more, pay less.

This one may not apply to everyone, but it definitely applies to a shopaholic like me. I tend to buy a lot of books when I'm out and about locally. Notice I said *bookstores* in my last point, not *books*. :) I can be a major impulse buyer and if I had a dollar for every time I've grabbed something and had buyer's remorse I'd probably be getting my new eReader / tablet for free!

While I'm a sucker for a sale, at least when books for an eReader go on sale they tend to be cheap or free, and if they cost money I have a LOT more time to check them out before downloading then I have to look something over in a store when I'm out with my family.

7. Forget launch day. How about launch minute?

I've done this a few times with books and albums (on iTunes) now and it's great! Getting something right away and not having to wait for it in the mail or for someone to take me to pick it up can be a really good feeling. There are times when I feel like I can't just "go do something" because of not driving and where I live, but being able to decide "I'm getting (Insert Book Here) today." and being able to because of pre-order and digital delivery is fun. Especially when it's something I've been waiting on for months.

8. Useful for editing, revision and beta exchange.

There are certain things that have become part of my writing, outlining, editing, etc. routines that I would not give up. Among those would likely be the outlining method I use, my Scrivener software and reading my work on my kindle when I am editing it. I catch a lot of things that way that I wouldn't on a regular computer screen, or even in print (likely because of my eyes on the latter?). Plus it makes it a lot easier to beta for someone, because I have the Kindle in one hand reading the book and it leaves my PC free (no having to swap programs or files) to make notes as I go in my word processor of choice.

9. Potential to choose a device that integrates the reading experience, making it more social.

I would love to find a reader that will let me highlight a passage and share it on facebook, twitter, or GoodReads. I'd like to be able to see what my friends are reading and have things recommended by them if I pick something that has some kind of homescreen. I'm not totally sure if anything with these features will be available, but the fact that the possibility exists and that I am investing in that possible future is very encouraging.

10. Potential to better support authors I like by pre-ordering their work, getting more read (and reviewed) on this blog, and (in some cases) ensuring they get a better cut of the money I'm spending on the books I buy.

As someone who has spent almost two years studying self publishing, one thing I am very aware of is the fact that authors tend to make a lot more via digital sales than we do from print ones. While it's true that I don't buy every book I read, (many are given for review) when I do choose to buy a book I want the majority of that money to go to the person who wrote it--not to a giant corporation.

7 Things I'll Miss About Print Books:

1. The artistry and design of an actual book.

Who doesn't love pretty covers, thick, texture-edged pages, gorgeous title headers, and interesting internal matter like maps (in fantasy novels) or contemporary books that have lists, poems, etc. through them? (The Sky Is Everywhere comes to mind here.) Beyond that, the simple feel and even smell of a new book can be an almost heady thing. What an eReader will gain me in portability and access, it will cost me in individuality and tangible possession.

2. Going to book stores and buying physical books.

When I do get the chance to go to Chapters and actually choose new books by hand, there's not much I like better. There's something magical about being surrounded by all of the words and worlds and stories just begging me to pick them up and glance inside. Shopping online may give me more time to make decisions, but shopping in actual stores is an experience. Part of me feels that it's sorta like food. Even if someone invented a pill that would meet all your needs would you want to give up eating your favorite things?

3. Receiving packages with books I've bought in the mail.

I love getting mail. It may have something to do with living with my family and only having a cell phone bill? Regardless, little brings me as much joy as seeing something in the mail with my name on it. It's exciting. It shakes up my routine. It's usually something I really want, so I'm excited about it. Kinda the opposite of the "right this minute!" thing above. But we live in a world that wants everything now and sometimes it's good to have to wait for what we want. (Sometimes we even appreciate it more.)

4. Being able to do videos that show actual books to my readers.

Taking video footage of books on a Kindle, phone, etc. generally does not work. It can be done, but it doesn't have the same quality of connection, possession and passion that holding *the* book in my hands does. I've done both and this will likely be one of the things I miss most if I put as much of my focus on digital purchases as I think I will. (Provided I can get the right tool to read them.)

5. Knowing I own my books as opposed to questioning whether I'm just renting them.

This was one of the biggest reasons I held off on an eReader and one of the reasons I still predominantly buy physical books today. Look at countries in the world where some people are allowed to read while others aren't. Consider the idea that in the middle ages only a very small handful of people were literate. Consider that even two generations ago the average citizen probably had a fourth grade education. Then consider the quality of life that could be expected by each of this individuals.

My point is this: those who control books--and more importantly, their distribution--have the power to control the world. Do not make the mistake of undermining the power of fiction! For generations authors have been using the written word as a medium to express ideas, opinions, feelings and more. While I am not directly suggesting that the online booksellers are plotting a Roman style coup to take over the world, I am saying that readers need to be aware of what they are doing when they support large corporations in ways that could come back to bite us all on the butt in the future.

6. Being able to easily allow others to read my books.

eReaders and Tablets, when not being shared among a group of kids, are generally like Chihuahuas. They're a one man (or woman) affair. While I might be totally fine loaning someone a book, there's no way in hell I'd loan out my kindle! Seriously: what am I going to read on then? What if I want to read one of my other books? It's just not efficient. I know there are libraries that are working to get eBook collections available and that some online retailers are trying to set it up so books can be loaned digitally. But it will (likely?) never be as simple as, "Here. Read this and give it back when you're done." like I can do with a physical book.

7. Being able to trade my books with other bloggers, donate them to libraries, etc. if / when I no longer need them.

This weekend I'm going to a blogging meetup in Toronto and one of the things that has been going on in the months leading up to that is a massive online-organized book swap. I'll be bringing over 30(?) books to trade with fellow book bloggers. These are either books I've read and enjoyed but no longer have room for, or they are books that didn't work for me. Either way, though...aren't THEY better served being read by someone else than they are sitting in my closet or on my shelf untouched? I think so. I have a very strong belief that books only live or breathe when a reader opens and reads them. If this is in any way true, it could be said that the digitization of books is suffocating literature. However, that also doesn't take into account the amount of opportunities it has opened up for readers to discover new books and for writers to share their stories with the world. It's a tough call.

3 Other Things To Note:

1. I will still be happy to get signed books from authors when I go to events. I will also still buy print copies of books written by my friends. (I wouldn't want Sealer's Promise to be lonely!)

2. If the book in question is any form of a reference guide, for gaming, writing, web design, etc. print will still be my top priority (most likely).

3. I'm not getting rid of ALL my print books, nor am I saying I'll never buy one again. I will say that my "keeper shelves" will actually be keeping books I love, though.

My Question To You This Week Is...
Print or eBooks? Do you use one? Both? How has the invention of eBooks effected you as a reader? As a blogger? Would you change anything about this if you could?
Articles In This Series:
Why Go Digital? | eReader or Tablet? | Kindle or ePub 
What's Best For Bloggers? | Help Me Choose!  
Kat's New Reader! 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Review: The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

After seeing this at WalMart for weeks and not buying it, I finally decided to look it up and find out what it was about. After finding out what it was about, the idea had to grow on me. Once the idea of buying this book happened, it didn't let go. And once I started reading The 5th Wave, I could not put it down.

I was a little wary of reading this, despite my growing interest, since it deals with aliens coming to Earth. (It's done in a very different way than how my Kindred do this, but I couldn't know that going in.) However, as an aspiring author I will add this prior to my actual review: I am very glad I read The 5th Wave when I did. It got me thinking *way* more about what effects another species coming to our planet would have on us as a whole, regardless of their intentions.

Okay, enough detours. Let's get to the review! :D

(Summary from GoodReads)
The Passage meets Ender’s Game in an epic new series from award-winning author Rick Yancey.

After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.

Now, it’s the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth’s last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie’s only hope for rescuing her brother—or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up.(
The idea of aliens doing something, anything, to our planet is a far cry from being new. But as with most plots or premises, it's not whether it's new in itself, but rather how it is used, that matters. For the record? The 5th Wave wastes absolutely none of the potential of this idea. In fact, it takes something that I would normally consider a very plot heavy idea and turns it on its head by having the story's characters be the driving force behind both what is going on and just how shocking / devastating / frightening the events going on actually are. 

The two things that really stood out to me about this book as a writer, aside from what I said in my opening, were the level of consequences that the events of the story had on the characters, and the way that Ethan's character was used. I had my theories about Ethan as the book progressed, and I was thrilled at what happened with regard to him. As for how plot effected character here, I love the fact that I slowly discovered just what the 5th Wave actually was, and how because of the pacing of that discover and how it coincided with my growing attachment to the characters, the discovery was possibly one of the most mind shattering things I've ever read in a piece of speculative fiction. 

The characters, from major ones like Cassie and Zombie, to more minor ones like Ringer and Dumbo, each had things about them that drew me in and made me care. In a story like this the height of the stakes is only increased more by the attachment formed to the characters, and I was really happy to see the potential for that not to go to waste. The situation these people were put into might not have been something I've encountered in real life, but the characters were real, and that sold me on them, their world, the conflicts they were facing, and ultimately their story as a whole. 

There is a bit of a romance here and while I love one aspect of it (who is Ethan?), the actual romance pacing isn't necessarily the best ever. That's okay, though. That's not really the core of this book and it does something so freaking cool that I'm willing to forgive it. (Plus I'm not really against insta-like / love unless it's totally stupid and this wasn't.) I think Rick Yancey struck a good balance here, and I (again!) love how the romance between these two played into the story overall. I don't think we see enough stuff like this. 
If you like science fiction or post apocalyptic reads I would strongly advise that you check this novel out. There is a lot of interesting stuff here and by the time you finish I assure you The 5th Wave will stick with you long after you turn the last page. It starts out a little odd and there are some flashbacks (not everyone likes those) but trust me: give this time to get going and you won't want to put it down.



Thursday, October 24, 2013

What's Next? (1)


What's Next? is a weekly event hosted by Icey Books where you guys get to suggest what book I should read next from a list that I provide.

Some of you might have guessed I've been having trouble reading books lately! Between writing, family stuff and fall weather (which for some reason makes me really, really, sleepy!) the books on my shelves are doing that weird thing where all the words sorta meld together. But I need to take a pause between doing edit notes for Sealer's Promise and actually making the edits, and if I want those edits to come out well I know I need to read stuff. That's non-negotiable.

What's Next? seems like a win-win to me. I hopefully get some motivation to read something and you guys get to hear my thoughts on something, rather than wondering what random book I'll finally come back with. So without further ado, here are...
The Burning Sky
by Sherry Thomas
It all began with a ruined elixir and an accidental bolt of lightning…

Iolanthe Seabourne is the greatest elemental mage of her generation—or so she's being told. The one prophesied for years to be the savior of The Realm. It is her duty and destiny to face and defeat the Bane, the greatest mage tyrant the world has ever known. A suicide task for anyone let alone a sixteen-year-old girl with no training, facing a prophecy that foretells a fiery clash to the death.

Prince Titus of Elberon has sworn to protect Iolanthe at all costs but he's also a powerful mage committed to obliterating the Bane to avenge the death of his family—even if he must sacrifice both Iolanthe and himself to achieve his goal.

But Titus makes the terrifying mistake of falling in love with the girl who should have been only a means to an end. Now, with the servants of the Bane closing in, he must choose between his mission and her life.
Why I Bought It: Magic, a prince, and romance? What's not to love, it's right up my alley. :D

Why I'm hesitant: Things could go very bad for this couple. It's the first book in a trilogy. It's historical, which can be hit or miss for me--and I didn't know that when I bought it.

If You Leave
by Courtney Cole
26-year old Gabriel Vincent is a badass hero. Or he used to be, anyway. As an ex-Army Ranger, Gabe never thought he needed anyone. But after one horrible night in Afghanistan scars him in a way that he can't get past, he needs someone who can help him heal...even if he doesn't realize it.

25-year old Madison Hill doesn't need anybody...or so she thinks. She grew up watching her parents' messed-up abusive relationship and she knows there's no way in hell that she's ever letting that happen to her.

They don't know it in the beginning, but Gabriel and Madison will soon develop a weakness: Each other.

But Gabriel's got a secret, a hidden monster that he's afraid Maddy could never overcome... And Maddy's got issues that she's afraid Gabe will never understand. They quickly realize that they need each other to be whole, but at the same time they know that they've got demons to fight.

And the problem with demons is that they never die quietly.
Why I Bought It: I totally, madly, loved If You Stay. I bought If You Leave the day it released, but I've been so busy I haven't had time to even take a glance at the first page.

Why I'm Hesitant: A string of contemporary NA / Adult reads that didn't click with me is part of what caused me to need to take time away from blogging, so I'm not 100% sure this is the right thing to read as I dive back in.

Elsker
S.T. Bende
You don't win the heart of an immortal assassin without making a few enemies along the way. Kristia Tostenson prefers Earl Grey to Grey Goose and book clubs to nightclubs, but when she transfers from her one-stoplight town to Cardiff University in Wales she falls in love with Ull Myhr. Her new boyfriend isn't exactly what she was expecting. He's an honest to goodness Norse God - an immortal assassin fated to die at Ragnarok, the battle destined to destroy Asgard and Earth. Kristia's crazy visions are the only thing that can save their realms. Her orderly life just got very messy.
Why I Bought It: I love books based on mythology, and Norse myth is both interesting and less common. This was one of those books where I went "Oh, I have to read that." Yet it's still on my Kindle. Go figure.

Why I'm Hesitant: Mythology based fantasy is, to some extent, the driving force of my own novel. I've been very careful about what I read while doing the latest draft. However, I'm at the editing stages now so I should be okay. Still, it'll be weird to read this after the two months I've had.

Cinder
by Marissa Meyer
Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl.

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.
Why I Bought It: Cyborg Cinderella? Again, how could I resist. I honestly can't tell ya why I haven't read it. I've never even opened it. It just hasn't happened.

Why I'm Hesitant: Every time I look at this book all I can think is "It's big.". That's silly--one of my favorite series is The Tiger Saga! If I was patient enough to get into that, Cinder should be cake. But at least I'm honest. :)

The Liberator
by Victoria Scott
Bad boy, meet bad girl.

Dante has a shiny new cuff wrapped around his ankle, and he doesn't like that mess one bit. His new accessory comes straight from Big Guy himself and marks the former demon as a liberator. Despite his gritty past and bad boy ways, Dante Walker has been granted a second chance.

When Dante is given his first mission as a liberator to save the soul of seventeen-year-old Aspen, he knows he’s got this. But Aspen reminds him of the rebellious life he used to live and is making it difficult to resist sinful temptations. Though Dante is committed to living clean for his girlfriend Charlie, this dude’s been a playboy for far too long…and old demons die hard.

With Charlie becoming the girl she was never able to be pre-makeover and Aspen showing him how delicious it feels to embrace his inner beast, Dante will have to go somewhere he never thought he’d return to in order to accomplish the impossible: save the girl he’s been assigned to, and keep the girl he loves.
Why I Bought It: The Collector was the most recent recipient of my writing award, the Kat's Meow. With how much I loved the first book, it only makes sense I want to read the second.

Why I'm Hesitant: Here's the thing, though. When I love a book that can prove a double edged sword. Will The Liberator be able to match The Collector? That'll be a tough act to follow! 
Now for the fun part. 
Leave a comment and tell me...

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Cover Reveal: The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year by Marie Landry

Today I'm thrilled to be part of the cover reveal for The Most Wonderful Time of the Year by Marie Landry. Anyone who's followed the blog for any length of time probably knows Marie and I have been friends a long time. And anyone who follows my reviews definitely knows that I think she's a fantastic writer--and I don't say that easily.

But you're not here for a history lesson, are ya? :D Scroll down and take a look at the cover and synopsis, then feel free to leave a comment about whether you'll be picking this up when it releases on November 5th, 2013!

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(Summary provided by the author)
Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, right? At least that’s what twenty-year-old Ginny Bailey’s grandmother always told her, and Ginny believed it until Grama died. She even put on a brave face the following two Christmases, carrying on Grama’s traditions and decorating her house and cafĂ© with Grama’s favorite decorations.

But Ginny can’t pretend any longer. When she finds out she’s going to be alone for the holidays this year, her Christmas spirit goes out the window, along with her luck. Everything that can go wrong does, and Ginny just wants to spend the holidays hiding under the covers...until Dean Riley comes back into her life. With a shared past, old feelings begin to resurface almost immediately, and Ginny thinks Dean might just be the Christmas miracle she’s been waiting for to help her remember why Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year.

Did that grab your interest? Add it on GoodReads

Marie Landry is the author of BLUE SKY DAYS (contemporary YA—January 2012), THE GAME CHANGER (women's fiction—November 2012), WAITING FOR THE STORM (contemporary YA—April 2013), and THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR (a new adult holiday novella-November 2013). Marie has always been a daydreamer; since early childhood, she's had a passion for words and a desire to create imaginary worlds, so it only seemed natural for her to become a writer. She resides in Ontario, Canada, and most days you can find her writing, reading, blogging about writing and reading, listening to U2, wandering around with a camera in her hand, watching copious amounts of TV on DVD, or having grand adventures with her nephews and niece. For more on Marie and her books, please visit sweetmarie-83.blogspot.ca



So, what do you think of the cover and summary? Do you think you'll read The Most Wonderful Time of the Year? I'd love to know, so feel free to leave a comment. :) 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

STAINED Blog Tour: Q&A and Giveaway!


Yesterday I posted my review of Cheryl Rainfield's new novel, Stained. Today I'm here with a fabulous Q&A with Cheryl and a pretty awesome giveaway, too. :) Read on to find out a bit more about the mind behind one of my favorite novels of 2013 and to enter for a chance to win some of Cheryl's books. Thanks for dropping by!
I've read or been well aware of several stories involving kidnapping and / or rape in YA in the past couple years. STAINED is far more gritty and stark then what I generally see. (Note: I commend you for this. It takes guts.) Did the way STAINED was told present any unique challenges for you as a writer? Were you ever worried about how readers might react to what is here, as opposed to what you are trying to say or what these characters' story needed?

I think sometimes abduction is shown as almost romantic or thrilling—or at least some TV shows and movies and even books gloss over the harsh reality, the pain and utter loneliness and despair and terror. I wanted to put readers right into Sarah—to have them feel what it’s like and hopefully come out of the experience grateful for the good things they have. I also wanted people who’d been through similar experiences, such as rape or confinement or bullying, to know that they’re not alone, that someone else understands, and that you can survive that and still be strong. To do that, I have to write honestly, emotionally, and deeply, and that’s what I did. I also focused on telling as good a story as I could—as real and emotional and heartfelt as I could, while keeping up the suspense.

Since I drew on my own trauma experience to write STAINED, at times it was painful or triggering of my own abuse when I wrote and edited the book. But I also knew that I was writing a strong girl character (and an emotionally strong boy character in Nick), and reminding others that survivors are strong and that we can save ourselves and heal. That felt important to me.

I love Nick. I felt that the way that having his POVs balanced against Sarah's provided a bit of breathing room and a way to cope or get my brain around what was happening. I also think that the connection between these two characters was unique, since we have Nick loving her from word go and Sarah realizing her feelings for Nick and having to deal with them in light of her own situation. Was there any particular inspiration for Nick? Did anything in particular help you come up with how the situation with him and Sarah would work?

I’m glad you love Nick and that you got some breathing room from having his POV! That’s lovely to hear. (smiling)

I put bits of myself into Nick. I’ve always loved comics and superheroes, so I enjoyed giving that love to Nick (and Sarah, too), and I love to draw, like Nick does. I also eat emotionally, or have, the way Nick does, and I’ve been uncomfortable with my body and weight. I’m also, like Nick, a geek and a bit of a loner and socially awkward—more so as a teen, but some of that is definitely still there for me. And like Nick I love my tech toys. (smiling)

When I created Nick, I also thought about someone I know who longed for a girl who didn’t reciprocate his feelings, and how long he hung in there hoping she’d change her mind. And I thought about how sometimes those of us who are geeky and awkward and deep are sometimes initially passed over for others who appear confident.

There have been a few contemporary books this year where super heroes or comics have mingled with a lead character's self perception and self worth. (Blaze and The Summer I Became A Nerd both immediately spring to mind.) Each of these books has had a very different feel and tone, but the interest in connecting image to heroes for female characters seems to be a 'thing' in 2013. How did Sarah's interest in comics come about? Were you already really into comics, or did writing this aspect of her character take a lot of research?

I am a comic and superhero geek. I’ve loved comic since I was a kid. When I was a kid being abused, I used to wish I could be like Superman and have the weapons used against me bounce off my skin the way they would Superman, or could rage like the Hulk and escape when I was imprisoned or being abused. A lot of the superhero material in STAINED comes from my own longings and thoughts over the years. I have a lot of Superman and Wonder Woman paraphernalia in my place, I love wearing superhero T-shirts, and (grinning) I’m dressing up my little dog Petal as Wonder Woman this Hallowe’en.

Petal, looking adorable in her
Wonder Woman Costume. :)
When I was a kid and teen, the focus for me in superhero comics and movies was the way the heroes could save and protect themselves and others, their goodness, the ways they couldn’t get hurt—or endured more than most people could, like me. I also identified with the ways they felt different or other, just like Sarah does. In later years, I also came to really appreciate well-written, powerful comic writing, and how much more appealing a good writer can make a super hero. How she or he can help us identify with them and care about them.

Cheryl Rainfield, a true
Superman fan. :)
I also think it’s important for us all to see strong girl characters and strong girl/women superheroes (in books, comics, movie, and TV)—there aren’t enough, and there aren’t enough that aren’t overly sexualized. White, straight, male superheroes still crowd out all the others, and there are very few female superheroes that actually feel strong to me. I love Batgirl (Cassandra) and Batwoman—they’re both my favorites.

Many people, much like the police and reporters in your book, have an assumption that if a missing person is not found within 48 hours they have likely been killed. I must admit that I was actually really surprised by the length of time that Bryan had Sarah before she got free. Did this present any particular challenges for you when writing STAINED? Was there a purpose or reason for going this route? (I will say that I felt it would leave a much more lasting impact on the character. It was also, as I said above, unexpected. Which is always welcome.)

One challenge I had over the length of time that Sarah was held captive alone was the worry that it would get boring without anyone else for her to interact with. But I believe that her memories, her attempts to get free, the visits from her abductor, and Nick’s POV interwoven with hers, along with the increasing threat to her life, help keep it interesting.

I chose to have Sarah held captive for a long period of time because I really wanted to show the impact of long-term trauma—it’s what I know personally, since I’m an incest and ritual abuse survivor, and I also don’t think that it’s often portrayed realistically or well or from an insider perspective, and I wanted to bring that. Some people who are abducted are held for longer periods rather than shorter—as seen by some recent cases in the news where the survivors managed to get free, and people who grow up abused and confined experience it on an ongoing basis. My own periods of confinement were shorter than Sarah’s, but they were repeated for years and years, especially during the summer months. I wanted people coming away from

STAINED to see the effects of trauma, but also to appreciate their own freedom and the good things they have. I think sometimes we need to be reminded that we have some good things in our lives right now, or that perhaps they’re not as bad as we think they are. And I wanted people who’ve experienced trauma and rape to find validation and empathy, knowing someone else understands. I wanted readers to remember that survivors are strong, and that we can fight back and find ways to save ourselves.

Because I grew up being abused and tortured, frequently raped, confined, having food and water withheld from me, and having my life threatened verbally and physically, I could never use phrases like “I’m starving,” “I’m dying,” or “that’s torture,” like people around me did, because I knew what those things really feel like. That’s an insight that I gave Sarah, as well as a renewed appreciation of being alive and a desire to live and follow her dreams.

Sarah is a very distinct and unique character, both based on the obvious (her port wine stain) but far more importantly because of the balance between determination and fear that we experience through her. How did STAINED come to you? Was this a situation where Sarah had a story to tell us, or where a story had need of Sarah? I don't think just any character could have made it through STAINED, so I'd love to know more about how the heroine came to be and what her role was in the story's overall progression.

I needed to tell the story I told, with all the threads it has, because it’s part of my own experience that has caused me so much pain. I want to make a positive healing difference in the world through my books. STAINED gave me a voice, and allowed me to remind others that they’re not alone, that someone else understands, and that they are strong and can find happiness even after trauma. I also hope to increase compassion in people who haven’t gone through similar experience through the power of emotionally honest story. Books are powerful; through them we can step into someone else’s experience and soul in a way that I don’t think we can so deeply through any other medium.

There is so much of me in Sarah—in her pain and her emotional strength, her doggedness to survive, the way she kept her soul and inner self intact and untwisted by mind control, the way she was able to protect others from bullies but not herself, the way she fought back psychologically and sometimes physically against her abuser, the ways she tried to and actually did save herself—multiple times. Like Sarah, I also struggled with body image issues and low self esteem, didn’t believe anyone really liked me or could like me or find me attractive, and was bullied. I don’t have a port wine stain, but I do have pretty visible scars on my arm and leg that people have stared at, made rude comments about, etc. And like Sarah, I’ve used writing as a way of healing, and I love superheroes and comics.

I drew on a lot of my trauma experiences and the effects to write Sarah. Like Sarah, I was confined, withheld food and water, repeatedly raped, and had my life threatened (only it was by my own parents, not a family friend), and the way those things affected me, affected Sarah. Like Sarah, I had to be the one to save myself—over and over again, in many different ways—telling people and asking for help, running away, fighting back against my abusers psychologically and sometimes physically—until finally I was completely and totally safe.

I believe books can help us heal, know we’re not alone, gain greater insight and compassion, and help us see our own strengths and new ways to cope. I hope readers find those things in STAINED.

Me: Thanks so much for dropping by I Write, I Read, I Review, Cheryl. I think this interview sheds a lot of light on some of the key parts of STAINED. Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions. :) 

Cheryl: Thank you so much, Kathy, for your thoughtful, insightful questions; I so appreciate it!
As if a totally awesome interview (complete with Petal in her totally cute Wonder Woman costume--makes me want to dress Coco and D'Argo up) wasn't enough, I also have a totally amazing giveaway for everyone to enter. :) 

This is your chance to win not one, not two, but THREE ebooks! Click the links under the covers to check 'em out on GoodReads, and then enter for your chance to win. (Trust me, you want these. :) There are some authors who have earned auto-buy status from me. Cheryl is one of them.) 

GoodReads
GoodReads
GoodReads
This giveaway is open internationally. It will run from today (October 2nd) until 12:00 EST on October 16th. On the 16th a name will be chosen and that person will win eBook copies of all three novels. For your chance to win, just use the Rafflecopter below! :) 

Good luck! :)


A tremendous thank you to Samantha Lien for contacting me and asking me to be a part of the Stained blog tour. Also, a tremendous thank you to Cheryl Rainfield for writing such an amazing book, and for taking the time to answer my interview questions.

So, are you ready to read Stained yet? :D Did you find Cheryl's interview interesting? And (just to remind you) who is your favorite super hero? 

Don't miss a single stop on the Stained blog tour. For a complete schedule, click here

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