Thursday, October 31, 2013

Review: Breaking the Reins by Juliana Haygert

Title: Breaking the Reins
Author: Juliana Haygert
Publish Date: April 14th, 2013

Horses, mansions, tea parties, and lies are twenty-year-old Hannah Taylor’s life. To others, her family and her relationship with Eric is perfect. But she knows the truth. She lives it.

After a fire takes her grandma's life and kills her horse, Hannah's immaculate life spirals out of control. Her father disapproves of her decision to run her grandma’s ranch instead of focusing solely on learning the family business; Animal Control brings her Argus, a mistreated horse that she can't turn away even though she's not ready for another horse; and her boyfriend, Eric Bennett, a world famous polo player, becomes possessive and authoritarian. Despite her best efforts to disguise it, Hannah grows wary of him.

Then, Leonardo Fernandes struts onto the polo scene. A cocky rookie with a messy life of his own, he’s drawn to Hannah and isn’t afraid of showing it, even when Eric makes it clear she is his and he’ll do whatever it takes to keep it that way. Hannah suffers for Eric’s jealousy. The abuse only gets worse when Leo steals the title of best polo player in the world from Eric.

But the title isn’t enough for Leo. He wants Hannah too, and she can’t deny her attraction to him either. Somehow, she must find a way to break free from abusive Eric before he breaks every bone in her body.

Breaking the Reins by Juliana Haygert puts a fresh twist on a cliche New Adult storyline. I know that this might not be the case with all NA romances, but, to me, the genre seems filled with interchangeable plots and characters. It's the reason I don't read New Adult as much as I read other genres. But, Haygert's story of a girl before she's able to escape her past and start a new life caught my attention. And I'm glad it did.

Stories about wealthy southern families, horses, and bad boys have always held a certain allure to me, and Breaking the Reins delivered in a way that had me turning the pages late into the night. Hannah is a strong female character who refuses to give into the men around her and who fights for what she believes is right, whether that's running her grandma's ranch or rehabilitating an abused horse. It doesn't take long until we see Hannah's life unraveling, but by the time she catches on will it already be too late to save herself and the ranch she loves?

Reading about Hannah being in an abusive relationship made it difficult for me to connect to her in some ways. I understand her being in a relationship with a man who slowly becomes more and more abusive as time passes, it's easy to miss certain signs, but blatantly ignoring them is another thing. To say you didn't realize your boyfriend had a temper when all you ever do is try not to get on the wrong side of it is ridiculous. It's not that people aren't blind to their loved one's flaws, but it made it hard for me to like Hannah at times, especially because as a reader, I knew what kind of man Eric was. It was hard to remind myself Hannah might not be connecting the same dots I was.

I imagine Hannah's constant back and forth over staying with Eric or leaving, loving him or finding new love with someone else, is pretty realistic to someone in her situation. Eric doesn't start out terribly abusive. Although the signs are always there, it's easier for her to justify them at first. But with that mindset, as the behavior progresses, so do Hannah's excuses for not leaving. He has a problem, she needs to make sure he gets help for his temper, etc. Eventually, when Eric's behavior got of control, Hannah's reason to stay with him was flimsy at best. It was the one part of the book that really got on my nerves because it just didn't seem reasonable. Hannah seemed like a smarter character then to fall for such a stupid threat. But, Haygert's storytelling won me over in the end and I liked how she brought everything together, even if it did come off more like a Lifetime movie than something that might happen in real life. But that's fine by me, since I happen to like Lifetime movies.

Throughout the novel a romance does develop between Hannah and the new-in-town Brazilian polo player, Leo. I liked Leo, right from the start. I liked how, even though there was instant attraction on both of their parts, the romance was more of an undercurrent to the story. It was there and sizzling hot when it needed to be, but it wasn't forced in there just to turn up the heat factor.

Breaking the Reins deals with a lot of tough subjects such as domestic abuse, animal cruelty and violence. There is also some sexual content that definitely makes this one for the older crowd. If you enjoy New Adult romances than I highly suggest Breaking the Reins. You won't be sorry, and you just might come away with a newfound interest in horses... and the beautiful cowboys who love them!

For more about Breaking the Reins check out these sites!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Three Scary Stories You Won't Want To Miss This Halloween!

I haven't read many scary books this past year, but I did read a few just in time for Halloween. If you're looking for a good scare on the 31st, without having to go to one of those creepy haunted asylums, then curl up with one of these babies.

The Farm and The Lair by Emily McKay:

Life was different in the Before: before vampires began devouring humans in a swarm across America; before the surviving young people were rounded up and quarantined. These days, we know what those quarantines are—holding pens where human blood is turned into more food for the undead monsters, known as Ticks. Surrounded by electrical fences, most kids try to survive the Farms by turning on each other…

And when trust is a thing of the past, escape is nearly impossible.

Lily and her twin sister Mel have a plan. Though Mel can barely communicate, her autism helps her notice things no one else notices—like the portion of electrical fence that gets turned off every night. Getting across won’t be easy, but as Lily gathers what they need to escape, a familiar face appears out of nowhere, offering to help…

Carter was a schoolmate of Lily’s in the Before. Managing to evade capture until now, he has valuable knowledge of the outside world. But like everyone on the Farm, Carter has his own agenda, and he knows that behind the Ticks is an even more dangerous threat to the human race...

You know know those vampire novels where the vampires actually kill people and not just animals? Oh, you'd forgotten about those kind, huh? Well, Emily McKay certainly didn't when she wrote The Farm series. Blood, guts, human concentration camps (Because actually hunting the humans would be much too much work, better to have them all conveniently located in "safe zones", right?), rebellions and morally vague vampires. The Farm will leave your hair standing on end, but it will also leave you swooning for more once you meet Carter. (Because you can never have too much romance, right? Even on Halloween.) Plus the sequel, The Lair, comes out November 5th! Perfect time to catch up on a fantastic series!

P.S. Don't even get me started on Sebastian. I don't care if he's a vampire with a thirst for revenge, I just can't get enough!

The Farm on AmazonB&NGoodreads

The Lair on AmazonB&NGoodreads

Poison Princess and Endless Knight by Kresley Cole:

She could save the world—or destroy it.

Sixteen-year-old Evangeline "Evie" Greene leads a charmed life, until she begins experiencing horrifying hallucinations. When an apocalyptic event decimates her Louisiana hometown, Evie realizes her hallucinations were actually visions of the future—and they're still happening. Fighting for her life and desperate for answers, she must turn to her wrong-side-of-the-bayou classmate: Jack Deveaux.

But she can't do either alone.

With his mile-long rap sheet, wicked grin, and bad attitude, Jack is like no boy Evie has ever known. Even though he once scorned her and everything she represented, he agrees to protect Evie on her quest. She knows she can't totally depend on Jack. If he ever cast that wicked grin her way, could she possibly resist him?

Who can Evie trust?

As Jack and Evie race to find the source of her visions, they meet others who have gotten the same call. An ancient prophesy is being played out, and Evie is not the only one with special powers. A group of twenty-two teens has been chosen to reenact the ultimate battle between good and evil. But it's not always clear who is on which side.

The Arcana Chronicles can't really be considered a horror series, but it's chock full of scary things like the apocalypse, zombies, cannibals and monsters. If you're looking for something scary, but not too scary, then this might be the series for you. Full of action and drama, both books will keep you on the edge of your seat this Halloween. Plus there's a hot boy mixed in there as well. A really hot one. *fans self*

Poison Princess on AmazonB&NGoodreads

Endless Knight on AmazonB&NGoodreads

The Heavens Rise by Christopher Rice:

New York Times bestselling author Christopher Rice brilliantly conjures the shadowed terrors of the Louisiana bayou—where three friends confront a deadly, ancient evil rising to the surface—in this intense and atmospheric new supernatural thriller.

It’s been a decade since the Delongpre family vanished near Bayou Rabineaux, and still no one can explain the events of that dark and sweltering night. No one except Niquette Delongpre, the survivor who ran away from the mangled stretch of guardrail on Highway 22 where the impossible occurred…and kept on running. Who left behind her best friends, Ben and Anthem, to save them from her newfound capacity for destruction…and who alone knows the source of her very bizarre—and very deadly—abilities: an isolated strip of swampland called Elysium.

An accomplished surgeon, Niquette’s father dreamed of transforming the dense acreage surrounded by murky waters into a palatial compound befitting the name his beloved wife gave to it, Elysium: “the final resting place for the heroic and virtuous.” Then, ten years ago, construction workers dug into a long-hidden well, one that snaked down into the deep, black waters of the Louisiana swamp and stirred something that had been there for centuries—a microscopic parasite that perverts the mind and corrupts the body.

Niquette is living proof that things done can’t be undone. Nothing will put her family back together again. And nothing can save her. But as Niquette, Ben, and Anthem uncover the truth of a devastating parasite that has the potential to alter the future of humankind, Niquette grasps the most chilling truths of all: someone else has been infected too. And unlike her, this man is not content to live in the shadows. He is intent to use his newfound powers for one reason only: revenge.

The Heavens Rise is an adult standalone horror novel that is way creepier than the cover lets on. I can't quite tell you how creepy this book is, mostly because then I might spoil the creepiness for you. But trust me, there is a serial killer with mind control roaming these pages, and he's got revenge on the brain. Seriously. Disturbing. And that's before the monsters even get involved!

What are you reading this Halloween?

Teaser Tuesday (58): Breaking the Reins by Juliana Haygert

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading.

This week's teaser is from Breaking the Reins by Juliana Haygert. I don't read much new adult, but I'm glad I picked this one up. It's not so much about broken people trying to escape their pasts and trying to find love again, as it is a girl who is learning that her boyfriend isn't who she'd always believed him to be and is trying to find a way to remove herself from a dangerous situation. It can be frustrating to read about an abusive relationship, but I can't seem to stop reading this one. I want to find out what Hannah does in the end, and if she'll be able to save herself and the abused horse she's trying to rehabilitate.

Do I look like I'm joking? We are selling this place, you will quit college, you will accept my marriage proposal, and we'll be married by the end of the year.

{Breaking the Reins, Chapter 18}

Synopsis of Breaking the Reins:

Horses, mansions, tea parties, and lies are twenty-year-old Hannah Taylor’s life. To others, her family and her relationship with Eric is perfect. But she knows the truth. She lives it.

After a fire takes her grandma's life and kills her horse, Hannah's immaculate life spirals out of control. Her father disapproves of her decision to run her grandma’s ranch instead of focusing solely on learning the family business; Animal Control brings her Argus, a mistreated horse that she can't turn away even though she's not ready for another horse; and her boyfriend, Eric Bennett, a world famous polo player, becomes possessive and authoritarian. Despite her best efforts to disguise it, Hannah grows wary of him.

Then, Leonardo Fernandes struts onto the polo scene. A cocky rookie with a messy life of his own, he’s drawn to Hannah and isn’t afraid of showing it, even when Eric makes it clear she is his and he’ll do whatever it takes to keep it that way. Hannah suffers for Eric’s jealousy. The abuse only gets worse when Leo steals the title of best polo player in the world from Eric.

But the title isn’t enough for Leo. He wants Hannah too, and she can’t deny her attraction to him either. Somehow, she must find a way to break free from abusive Eric before he breaks every bone in her body.

For more about Breaking the Reins check out these sites!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Interview: Lapo Melzi, author of Horse Sense

Today we have an inspiring interview with Lapo Melzi, author of Horse Sense. Lapo is an author who was brave enough to write about his own experiences with bullying as a child. Check out the synopsis for Horse Sense:

There’s nothing easy about being an eleven year old boy, especially for Jamie. As he takes the unsteady steps into adolescence, his days of knowing who his friends are and trusting the adults in his life are numbered. The only thing Jamie can really count on in this changing world is the love of his best friend, a horse named Acorn. Jamie and Acorn’s friendship has a magic that comes once in a lifetime—but the bullies around them want to rip that to shreds. Can their kindred connection survive as Jamie strives to carve out his identity?

When did you decide to be an author?

The conscious decision to become a fiction author was made about three years ago. I had been writing scripts for about fifteen years by then and was really tired of the limitations imposed by the medium. In particular, I was tired of being obliged to write only what I could produce and I was yearning to delve into the internal emotional and psychological life of my characters. I also had a hunch that I would write better novels than scripts. I wasn't sure I could write narrative though. In fact, I have always had the greatest admiration for books (much more than for movies), but I never thought I could write one. So I did a leap of faith and discovered, thankfully, that I could write.

You're novel, Horse Sense, was inspired by personal experiences you had growing up. Is there any specific scene in the book that drew directly from one of those experiences?

A good eighty percent of what you read in the book actually happened. There are entire pages of dialogue that I put down exactly as I remembered. The teacher and main villain of the book I actually had and she DID do and say the things I describe in the book. And my classmates actually did behave as I tell in the book. Seems unreal, but most of it actually happened.

What inspired you to use your experiences with bullying to write a novel?

I think that a lot of what is said and taught about bullying is very theoretical and not too useful to people who are actually being abused. I wanted to give a personal perspective about the issue and show to people my experience, how I was attacked, how (badly) it affected me, how insidious and multifaceted bullying is (it is not just physical abuse and it is not only delivered by your peers, but also by adults, even your parents) and how I overcame it. I think that when an experience is shared on a personal level, it affects much more the people that are having the same problem and can give them more hope and more tools to fight their own battle.

What message do you hope readers will take away from Horse Sense?

What made me want to write this book was the desire to show people that you can defy bullying, that there is hope, that animals are a safe haven when all people around you are hurting you and that a great strength lies inside everyone. Ultimately this is an hopeful coming of age story and a story of a great friendship. I hope young readers will find tools in the book to help them in the struggle against bullying and I hope that parents will find tools to help them understand what their children are going through and how they can help them without hurting them too.

What's your favorite line from Horse Sense and what makes it special?

If his mom’s love could have a shape, he thought, it would be this apple pie.
This line is special because it reminds me of when I was little, of how close I and my mom were, of how much I treasured the moments with her and how much I loved her apple pie. It’s a sweet slice of the past that I enjoy remembering very much.

For more about Horse Sense check out these sites!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Guest Post & Giveaway: Corcitura by Melika Dannese Lux

Today we're excited to have Melika Dannese Lux back to talk about her vampire novel, Corcitura, and how she imagined a vampire hybrid that truly terrifies. She's also giving away a copy of Corcitura so make sure to enter the giveaway below to win a copy just in time for Halloween! Check out Corcitura's synopsis:

Corcitura. Some call it hybrid, others half-blood, mongrel, beast. They are all names for the same thing: vampire—the created progeny of the half-wolf, half-vampire, barb-tongued Grecian Vrykolakas, and the suave but equally vicious Russian Upyr. Corcitura: this is what happens when a man is attacked by two vampires of differing species. He becomes an entirely new breed—ruthless, deadly, unstoppable…almost.

London, 1888: Eric Bradburry and Stefan Ratliff, best friends since childhood, have finally succeeded in convincing their parents to send them on a Grand Tour of the Continent. It will be the adventure of a lifetime for the two eighteen-year-old Englishmen, but almost from the moment they set foot on French soil, Eric senses a change in Stefan, a change that is intensified when they cross paths with the enigmatic Vladec Salei and his traveling companions: Leonora Bianchetti, a woman who fascinates Eric for reasons he does not understand, and the bewitching Augustin and Sorina Boroi—siblings, opera impresarios, and wielders of an alarming power that nearly drives Eric mad.

Unable to resist the pull of their new friends, Eric and Stefan walk into a trap that has been waiting to be sprung for more than five hundred years—and Stefan is the catalyst. Terrified by the transformation his friend is undergoing, Eric knows he must get Stefan away from Vladec Salei and Constantinos, the rabid, blood-crazed Vrykolakas, before Stefan is changed beyond recognition. But after witnessing a horrific scene in a shadowed courtyard in Eastern Europe, Eric’s worst fears are confirmed.

Six years removed from the terror he experienced at the hands of Salei and Constantinos, Eric finally believes he has escaped his past. But once marked, forever marked, as he painfully begins to understand. He has kept company with vampires, and now they have returned to claim him for their own.

Creating a New Breed of Vampire by Melika Dannese Lux:

Be honest. You’re wondering what on earth a Corcitura is, right? Well, I’d be more than happy to slake your curiosity! ;) Corcitura is the Romanian word for hybrid. It has no vampiric connotations whatsoever, but before I tell you why I chose this as the name for my new creature, how about a little backstory?
A year before I even got the idea for the Corcitura, I had seen a painting that sent my mind reeling with all the possible implications behind it. The painting was “Oh, what’s that in the hollow?” by Edward Robert Hughes.

I took one look at that painting and screamed “VAMPIRE!” There’s something so morbidly entrancing and enigmatic about that painting. Is he dead? The sheen of his nearly translucent eyes certainly seems to suggest it. But what if he’s just resting until the moon rises? I only recently found out that he is dead! But back then, I was still in the dark, and so I did what all good storytellers do: I totally ignored the inconvenient facts behind the painting and ran roughshod with my inspiration. Those translucent eyes were never far from my mind and inspired me so much that they found life in the book’s eponymous creature.

So, why vampires, after all? Out of all the monsters of myth, vampires had always been my favorites. I had always been fascinated by how they could be suave and alluring on the outside (or when the sun wasn’t up), but with the flick of a barbed tongue, turn into slavering, fang-toothed, bloodsucking beasts! The juxtaposition fascinated me, since in original folklore almost all vampires are essentially plagues. Some just know how to mask their true nature better than others.

I knew if I was going to write about vampires, they’d better be different and intriguing, and since I have always been crazy for folklore from different parts of the world, this idea gave me an excuse to explore vampire mythology. It’s fascinating reading, freaky, but fascinating.

Up until this point, I had the makings of a novel, but my vampire wasn’t being cooperative at all and just stayed hidden in the background, kicking through my mind until he finally got his act together and distinguished himself enough to set the story in motion. Until then, I had nicknamed him “Our Combo,” since he was going to be a hybrid—created after being bitten by two vampires of differing species. I knew I couldn’t continue calling him by such a McDonald’s Value Meal sounding name forever, so I took the next step in finding out what the word “hybrid” in Romanian was (since Stefan’s family has a long and torturous history deep in the soil of that country). I have Romanian ancestors, so digging into the country’s myths and legends was an added bonus. When I discovered that corcitura meant hybrid, I thought about it, and since I didn’t like any of the names I’d made up in the interim, it eventually stuck.

One huge thing that was clear in my mind from the outset was to make certain my novel took place before Dracula was even published. Dracula was such a tremendous milestone in vampire literature…and I didn’t want my characters to know about it at all. I wanted to create new myths, new ways of dispatching the creatures of the night, new fears and horrors—all things which would have been greatly hindered by a post-1897 setting. Where would the suspense be if my characters could fall back on what they’d read in Stoker’s novel? When they came up against pointy-toothed demons, I wanted no little lights going off in my characters’ heads, and definitely no saying, “Ah ha! This is exactly like what happened in Dracula! Quick, get some garlic!” I wanted my characters to have absolutely no frame of reference for dealing with the horrible situations they found themselves in, which is why all the action in the novel takes place from 1888 (there is also a very ripping reason for choosing that year, but you’ll have to read the book to find out why ;) through 1895.

That settled, I turned my attention to sunlight. Yes, sunlight. That was the real impetus behind the idea of having the victim be a hybrid, and was how the whole “combo” concept was born—finding a way to make sure my vampire would be able to frolic around during daylight hours without being charred to ashes by the sun’s rays. For three months, I went back and forth on how a vampire could achieve this, during which time I whittled down my choices for favorite vampire candidates. Once I started seeing how different the strengths and weaknesses were, and understanding how much more indestructible the combined blood of two vampires would be (plus the human blood of the original victim), I knew I was on the right path, and settled on the Vrykolakas (from Greece) and the Upyr (from Russia) for the creators of my new vampiric species.

The Vrykolakas (referred to as the Vryk from this point forward) was a jackpot find for me, mainly because he’s a virtual unknown in literature, but mostly because it is unclear if the Vryk is a vampire or a werewolf. You see where this is going, right? Just before I hit the halfway point of the novel, I realized I would have to be crazy not to exploit that gray area to the hilt. It only made sense to embrace this ambiguity, which led to a whole new story arc being created for my two female Vryk protagonists later on in the novel. I am so happy I did this because it launched the second and third halves of the novel onto a completely different plane, with the book beginning to essentially write itself from that point on. To quote Colonel Hannibal Smith, “I love it when a plan comes together!” ;)

The Upyr and the Vryk are two sides of the same coin. Where the Vryk was plague-ravaged, nasty, and didn’t do anything to hide his true nature, the Upyr moved heaven and earth not to show his hand. My Vryk was rabid and couldn’t do much to control it. But the Upyr…he was a bird of an entirely different breed. Debonair on the outside, but blacker than the foulest dungeon, he was ten times more deadly than the Vryk and no one would ever be able to tell. He was my linchpin and turned out to come on scene much quicker than expected, which goes to show you that when the character wants out, you’d better listen, because from the moment he waltzed into the story, everything was transformed.

I began this process thinking I would just write a vampire novel with a new twist, but what started as a story about hybrid vampires quickly morphed into something beyond what I had been planning to write. Probably more than anything else, Corcitura became the story of the corruption of a soul and how this has a domino effect on all those who encounter him—life is overturned for everyone; everything they have ever known is distorted past recognition; nothing can ever go back to the way it used to be, for now they live in danger, fear, and some that loved him most meet their ends at his hands.

After everything was said and done, and the book marinated and went through countless edits, I realized that Corcitura is, in fact, a horror novel, but not in the normal sense. It’s horror on many levels. The first part deals with the visceral, blatant horror of the vampires and the terror of having no way of stopping these creatures from corrupting you, body and soul; the second with the horror of deception, lying, treachery, betrayal, with thinking you know someone but discovering they have lied to you about practically everything; the third with the horror of abandonment; and lastly with the horror of the unknown—the uncertainty of things to come.

But Corcitura is also a historical novel, a thriller, a book with that unnerving Gothic feeling that permeated the stories I grew up with—novels you could lose yourself in for days at a time, tales filled with characters you’d miss when the final page was turned. That’s what I set out to write, even more than a straight up vampire novel, because it’s really not about vampires in the end.

It’s about the people whose lives they destroy, the people who choose to fight against them, who team up with vampires who have decided that it doesn’t matter what the legends have taught them, they will do everything in their power to stop the undead from claiming even more souls.

Nine years, thousands of revisions, and 700 pages later, Corcitura is finally here. Welcome to a world where an ancient Upyr plots your destruction and a half-wolf, half-vampire haunts your doorstep, its barbed tongue poised to rip into your throat the second you answer its call.

Button up your collar.

Keep the flame burning.

And come along for the ride.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

About the Author:

I have been an author since the age of fourteen and write Young/New Adult historical romance, suspense, supernatural/paranormal thrillers, fantasy, sci-fi, short stories, novellas—you name it, I write it! I am also a classically trained soprano/violinist/pianist and have been performing since the age of three. Additionally, I hold a BA in Management and an MBA in Marketing.

If I had not decided to become a writer, I would have become a marine biologist, but after countless years spent watching Shark Week, I realized I am very attached to my arms and legs and would rather write sharks into my stories than get up close and personal with those toothy wonders.

For more about Corcitura check out these sites!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Spotlight: The Contaminants by Devin K. Smyth

Today we have an excerpt from The Contaminants by Devin K. Smyth. The Contaminants is a unique sci-fi novel about a girl trying to find her father on an Earth ravaged by a nuclear holocaust. Check out the synopsis: 

When America attempts to "purify" earth to maintain its own dominance, it sparks a worldwide nuclear holocaust. Teen friends Jessil and Soraj are among the few survivors. They escaped on a cruiser that now orbits the planet and is designed to regenerate the earth's ecosystem.

But when Jessil discovers a message indicating her father may have survived the holocaust back on earth, she’s determined to rescue him immediately with Soraj's help. Can they succeed even though the planet they return to is very different from the one they left—and that their success could mean failure for the regeneration process?

Excerpt from The Contaminants:

JESSIL – DAY: 1,095; TIME: 0600
Another nightmare. But not really. That makes it sound like what happened in my dream didn’t really happen. Because it all did. Sirens blaring. People screaming. My dad shouting out Ben’s name, trying to find him, while holding on to Lo and me. Dad’s hand squeezing mine so hard I think he’s going to crush it as we run for the ship. The chaos of loading onto it. Explosions everywhere. The ship’s engines rumbling to life. Dad getting torn away from us—forever… 
I shake it all out of my mind, which is getting easier after three years. The hum of the ship fills my ears as I roll over and slide up the shade covering my porthole. Beyond the glass, the earth, sun, and black of space all greet me. It’s going to be a good day. Raj tells me to say that every morning. 
Squinting up at the ceiling of my blindingly white sleep pod, I notice the photo of my dad taped there. That always brings a smile to my face, memories of Dad. Raj printed the image from a recording he took after I told him how I didn’t bring anything of my own on the ship—we were in too much of a rush to escape earth. I touch the photo, which is a side shot of me and Dad. He always said how much I reminded him of my mom, especially our long, auburn hair, our pale faces, the patches of freckles on our cheeks. But I definitely have Dad’s eyes. So green—and his, always so intense, like he could stare right through you. I think being in the army makes you that way because like Dad, most of the soldiers on the ship are serious all the time. Not that there’s much to be happy about up here. 
Up here. I should probably stop saying that as if being on this ship is temporary. It might be home for the rest of my life the way things are going. Earth still looks as empty of life as the moon despite Dr. Guyat’s promise that we’ll be able to return one day. If this ship is where I spend the rest of my days, I figure I’ll be lucky to live to thirty, twice as old as I am now. Because this place won’t be able to support everyone forever. But that’s negative thinking. I’ve got to stop that, too. 
Going for a run helps clear my head, so I open up the clothes bin at the end of my pod. The fit is tight in here, but I can at least sit up to get dressed. My older brother Ben is a giant like my dad and can never extend his legs all the way straight in his pod, even when he lies down on the bed. I put on a sweatshirt, shorts, and the pair of track shoes Raj all found for me. 
Our quarters are connected to the lab, so when I flip open the door of my pod, I can see the banks of screens and meters and gauges lighting up the hallway between the two areas. I slide out of my pod, then stretch my arms and legs—even though I’m not quite as big as Ben, I’m tall enough that the pod cramps me, too. Walking down the hallway, I can see the glass-enclosed room in the middle of the lab where all of the most important controls are located. Only Dr. Guyat seems to understand what they do. Maybe Raj does, too. 
There’s a guard on duty making sure no one tries to get in that special room. He doesn’t even notice me though because he’s projecting a game through a SOLE like the one Raj has. I don’t know what the name stands for, but I don’t like it. The thing replaces one of your eyeballs so that you can always be connected to every bit of information ever thought of, captured on camera, or recorded in some way. Its lens makes holograms appear—people call them “fabs”—so that you can watch with the eye you have left. The fab can be a game like with the guard or a still like Raj took of me and Dad or even something from real life in real time. 
Besides the guard’s projection and the other screens, the lab is dark, including my station, because it’s still early. Even though the sun rises and sets every forty-five minutes, the ship keeps the rhythms of earth time—military-style to make it simpler to know whether it’s day or night—so that things seem normal. Except there’s nothing normal about our situation. 
I wake up early because it’s easiest to run before everybody is up, especially Lo, who I have to get ready for the day since he’s eight and still doesn’t know how to take care of himself. After I slip past the guard, I find the door for the stairwell and cross another much longer hallway. It’s dim, but the name of our ship stands out on the wall to guide me. Painted in fluorescent blue is “United States Orbiting Shuttle Colin Powell.” Right beneath it is the Lockheed-Monsanto logo that’s also on just about every cup, piece of clothing, and machine on the ship. 
When I get to the stairs, it’s only a few flights up to the ship’s main level—the Promenade Deck. But it’s like entering another world, where you can really see how enormous this cruiser is. Dad said that five football stadiums could fit inside the Powell and that fifty thousand people could—and were supposed to—live on it. The Promenade is where they were all going to play, I guess. It kind of looks like an amusement park for adults, and maybe an outdoor mall with how high the ceiling is and how open everything seems. The length is probably a quarter-mile from front to back. There are restaurants of every ethnicity, dance clubs, a casino, two theaters, and bars and more bars—all in a row like you’re bouncing from one thrill to the next. One level above, there’s a spa and salon, a playground, a massive pool, a video arcade, a library, even a zoo. Below the Promenade are suites and more sleeping pods where the others live, all spread out among the generators, kitchens, fire and police offices, and a jail, which is more crowded than it should be according to Dr. Guyat. There’s also a chapel, but I think it’s a supply room now because most people gave up hope a long time ago. 
Ringing the entire Promenade is a seamless wall of glass, twenty feet high, so that you feel like you could just drift off into space with another step. The view takes my breath away every time. But my wonder stops there—or at least changes—because the Promenade is abandoned. Not just abandoned—ruined. Walls are cracked with holes punched in them, tables are overturned, stools are scattered everywhere. One of the dance floors is covered in broken glass. Poker chips are littered around like confetti. Captain Monumba manages the rest of the ship as tightly as Armstrong Air Base was run back in South Dakota. But she’s let the Promenade fall apart. She probably has enough to worry about aside from if people can still entertain themselves. 
There’s a kind of trail through the mess that leads to a shopping area, which has about thirty side-by-side stores that curve around in an oval shape. This is where I like to run. At the very top of the ship is a dome that covers a playing field with a track surrounding it. But the grass that was planted died a month into our orbit, so the place smells funky—a bad funky. The shopping area doesn’t smell a lot better—it’s a little bleachy—but at least the area is clear because everything’s been picked clean. There’s not a stitch of clothing on a rack or a single shoelace on a shelf or any other trinket that remains. I have no idea where the people left on board have stored all of the stuff that used to fill these stores, but I know I didn’t get any of it, unless what Raj has given me is salvaged from here. 
Every night before I go to bed, I ask Raj if he wants to run with me in the morning, and he always says the same thing: “Maybe tomorrow.” The funny part about that is I believe he truly means he might. But often I have a running partner anyway—Captain Monumba herself. She’s beaten me here today, and in the glow of the security lights, I can see sweat already streaming down from her close-cropped hair to the collar of her gray sweatshirt that all the soldiers seem to wear when they’re off duty. 
“Good morning, Miss Jessil,” Captain Monumba says to me as I get in stride with her pace, which isn’t too hard considering she’s a half-foot shorter than I am. 
“Morning, Prez.” Calling her that is a lame joke of mine that she tolerates. With our ship likely the only one that survived the attack, Captain Monumba is probably the Commander in Chief. “You’re up early.” 
“Couldn’t sleep,” she says. “You know what today is, right?” 
I shrug as we round past the empty jewelry store. 
“One year from now, we begin our descent,” she says, then turns to me, her eyes wide like she’s really excited. “Just one year and we’re back on earth—can you believe it?” 
“I can’t,” I reply. I should have remembered it’s a year because Dr. Guyat is always stressing about the countdown. But it still seems like such a long time that I don’t give it much thought. 
“Everything we’ve gone through, it will all be worth it if this works,” Captain Monumba says. 
I nod. The “this” is Dr. Guyat’s project, the one that’s supposed to create a “New Dakota” for all of us to land on and start over, I guess. So far the chances of his project working don’t seem likely—although Dr. Guyat would never admit that. But I’m trying to run away from dark thoughts, so I look out the glass pane beyond the storefronts. 
Besides the stars and planets that paint a mural for us to run past, there’s a half-finished propulsion ring floating nearby. It’s part of a series of rings Dr. Guyat says were being built to help with colonizing Mars. I’m not sure how they were supposed to work or why no one finished the rings. But there one is, rotating around like a huge horseshoe in search of a stake. 
After about three miles of running, I’m starting to get thirsty, mainly because the air is always so dry on the ship. But quenching my thirst isn’t a problem. One of the few things that operates on the Powell is the filtration system, so there’s plenty of water to drink. But I’m also getting hungry—which is a problem. Because the ship had to launch way ahead of schedule, lots of supplies weren’t loaded in time. Captain Monumba also said missiles destroyed several of the refrigeration units, so much of the food we did have spoiled quickly. Ever since, we’ve mostly been on rations, sharing army MREs, meals-in-a-bag that are supposed to last a decade—but the flavor definitely doesn’t last that long. 
I say “mostly” been on rations because for a short time, there was actual food that didn’t look like it had been dehydrated and rehydrated. That was about the time we noticed that of the few zoo animals that made it aboard the ship, most were disappearing from their cages. I still don’t know if the animals died from us eating their food—or from eating them.
“I’m just ready for this to be over,” Captain Monumba says, and even though I haven’t been listening closely to her, I know she’s not talking about our run. “It’s been a nightmare.” I’m not the only one who has them. On previous runs, the captain has told me how hard it was for her to launch the ship early knowing that she was leaving her husband and daughter behind. She’s a stronger person than me—I don’t think I could’ve followed those orders. 
It’s our last lap, and we race for our agreed-upon finish line—the SOLE store that doesn’t have a single one left. Captain Monumba bursts past me at the last second like usual. Heaving for breath, I set my hands on top of my head to let more air in. “I better check on Lo,” I say to her. “Thanks for the run.” 
Captain Monumba gives me a salute, then jogs off toward the stairwell that leads up to the bridge. I find the towel that I leave hanging off one of the racks in the bath and bedding shop, then wipe away the sweat dripping into my eyes. When I glance out at the propulsion ring again, it looks closer than ever. Probably just an illusion. 
As I head back to the lab, a few more people are roaming around the Promenade. I try to avoid them, which isn’t hard considering on the ship, there are only about a thousand of us left—none of them my friends and just my two brothers for family. Most walk with a dead look in their eyes that melts any optimism I have. A year until our descent probably seems like a long time to them, too. 
When I reach the lab, it also has a few more people roaming around. Dr. Guyat is inside the glass room frowning at a screen and pointing something out to Raj. They both start to nod, Dr. Guyat’s nearly bald head moving in time with his son’s thick head of hair. Each of them seems as though they’re sitting behind a terminal, but actually, they’re both just that short. I think even Lo could pass them by in a couple years. 
Speaking of Lo, he’s probably wondering where I am. I pass by the glass room with a wave to Raj, who can only acknowledge me with a lift of his eyes so that he doesn’t seem like he’s ignoring his dad. Back in our quarters, Ben’s already left for the medical ward, and Lo’s pod is open—and empty. Now I’m wondering where he is. 
I go back to the lab and ask the new guard on duty if he’s seen a chubby-cheeked, dark-haired, dark-skinned runt. The guard has no idea, so I continue the search for my little brother. 
Lo isn’t actually my real brother. He was adopted by us—by Dad. When we had to leave the base in Alabama after the state seceded from America, Lo’s mom was deported to Mexico or somewhere. Somehow she convinced Dad to take Lo, and he’s been my burden ever since. Worst of all, he’s the reason we had to stow away on the Powell, instead of getting aboard with what was called a “summons”—a certificate saying you’re “pure” by whatever standards there were to get on the ship. Dad said that because our whole family wasn’t approved, none of us would take a slot on the Powell. When the attack occurred though, Dad tried to save us all at the last second. A second too late because he got left behind. Lo cried and cried for Dad. I never loved the kid as much as I did then. 
He’s getting on my nerves right now though. “Lo, where are you?” 
Like that, he pops out of my pod with his arms raised and hands curled into claws. He growls like a rabid dog. “You can’t get away, Silly,” Lo snarls at me. I hate that he picked up Dad’s nickname for me. 
“Callate,” I say back, telling him to shut up in Spanish before Dr. Guyat hears. Sometimes Lo’s native language slips on to my tongue because that’s all he understood when Dad first adopted him. I peek over my shoulder, but luckily Dr. Guyat isn’t standing in our doorway with an angry look on his face. I turn back to Lo. “Get your clothes on. Your shot is this morning.” 
“I don’t want a shot,” Lo says. 
“Too bad. Now get dressed.” I don’t want the shot either, but Dr. Guyat has been giving us one every month since we were discovered on the ship. He says we need the boost to our immune system so that we can survive in space this long. Whatever’s in the shot must be working because neither Lo or me or Ben caught the strange flu that killed so many people last year, the epidemic cutting the number of us on the ship in half. That’s another reason I try to avoid others on the ship—too easy to catch something. And with Ben always saying how few medical supplies we have, the chances of shaking whatever made you sick are low. 
As Lo sulks off to his pod to put on clothes, I go to mine and get ready, too. I push the button on the air shower, which vacuums off my sweat, then perfumes me after so that I don’t smell like the dead grass around the fitness track. Next I put on my black unitard, then the lab clothes. They’re just a khaki jumpsuit that hangs off me like a deflated balloon and some boots that clomp with every step because they’re three sizes too big for me. Raj did his best to get me these, so I try not to complain too much. He did stencil my name on the back—J. CALLOWYCK—so that I seem more official in the lab even though about all I do is make sure my computer isn’t going haywire. 
I duck out of my pod and check on Lo. “You ready yet, hermanito?” 
He pushes himself out of his pod and nods. “Can Ben give me my shot?” 
“Sure, I think so.” Ben always wanted to be a doctor ever since I can remember. Dad would be happy to know that Ben is getting a chance to learn how because Dad never wanted any of us to be in the army. He said we could do better than be a grunt like him. But I don’t think Ben ever wanted to be a doctor because of Dad—the main reason is because no one ever figured out why our mom died. She’s barely a memory to me since I was so young when she got sick. But even though Ben’s only three years older than me, he remembers a hundred stories about our mom—how she made the best sweet rolls, how she taught him to shoot a gun, how she could make Dad laugh with the dumbest jokes in the world. That’s something I wish I could have kept in my head, an image of Dad laughing. I’d never need anything to remind me to stay upbeat then. “Let’s go, buddy,” I say to Lo. “It’s going to be a good day.”

For more about The Contaminants check out these sites!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Spotlight: Uncaged by Joe Gazzam

Today we have an excerpt from Joe Gazzam's Uncaged, out today! Joe is a screenrwriter behind movies such as 21 Jump Street and Step Up: Revolution, and he's now trying his hand a YA Fiction. In his novel, Uncaged, a Scared Straight program goes wrong when teenage Jason gets stuck in a prison during a riot by the inmates. Check out the synopsis:

Jason seems destined to screw things up. After capping off a burglary and a bar fight with a car wreck, he quickly finds himself on the wrong side of the law. And since his father's the governor, that means his punishment is about as public as it gets. Jason's thrown into the first Scared Straight program Florida has ever run in their updated, state-of-the-art Blackenbush Penitentiary. Along with a documentary crew led by Sasha, a young woman in way over her head, and a handful of other kids a year and a strike away from jail, Jason comes face to face with his inevitable future on the other side of a heavily guarded prison wall.

But that's just the beginning. The tour has barely begun when one of the inmates makes a move. Before long the entire penitentiary is under siege, surrounded by the feds and overrun with prisoners let loose from their cells. Jason slips away with Sasha in the chaos, but they won't be able to escape without help. And the only thing worse than being stuck in prison, is being stuck in a prison run by the inmates.

Excerpt from Uncaged:

Sasha let her eyes wander down the hall and noticed copious access doors like the one they just exited. But, on the other side of the hallway, there was only one visible access door fifty feet away. It was much larger than the rest, and she knew where it led. The inner ring where the prisoners were kept. A chill went down her spine, and her imagination ran wild. She tried to focus on the task at hand. Anything to avoid thinking about that door. 
Sasha and her team moved off to the side as the kids filed out from the adjacent access door. Mike filmed the kids’ reactions as they were led down the curved hallway and up to the large, single access door Sasha had been eyeing. Above it read:

Center Cellblock 
The guard faced the kids and said, “Keep your arms and feet clear of the cells unless you wanna lose them. Don’t make eye contact or talk to any of the prisoners. Stay as far from the cells as possible. If you get too close, they will grab you. They will also attempt to spit at you, and throw things.Possibly urine, feces, or semen." men.” He paused a moment to let that sink in. “Follow me. Walk where I walk, and stay in single file.” 
Jason glanced at Travis who was grinding his teeth. His jowls protruded, then retracted over and over. Behind him Luther’s face was completely vacant, as if in some sort of fugue state. He didn't seem to be looking at anything, just staring forward, motionless. Jason turned to Pedro, who was a ball of nerves, moving back and forth on the balls of his feet. Antone and Quentin were the same, their eyes darting around, their hands balled into fists. The kids seemed suddenly a lot less cocky as the reality of this place smacked them in the face. The only one who seemed to maintain his composure was the big redhead, Corey. 
The lead guard swiped his access card across a small control panel and immediately a hydraulic door opened. As the group moved through the entrance, a random guard from behind gave Jason a firm shove with his billy club. Jason couldn’t bring himself to even look back. Instead, he followed the group forward, into the inner ring. 
The access door slammed shut behind them. Another barrier between here and the outside, Jason thought. That was the last clear thought he’d have for a while as a cacophony of noise assaulted his ears. Tangled voices, screaming, footsteps, metal clanging—all blurred together. 
As Jason stepped fully into the inner ring, he noticed that the very center of the prison was hollow. The precipitous drop was cordoned off only by a five-foot high cement wall with a thick metal railing bolted on top. Jason was shocked that this was the only barrier. He wondered how many prisoners or guards had met their demise being tossed over the side. 
He then turned his attention to the giant ring of prison cells that encircled the floor. A small semblance of diffused light seeped in through thin, begrimed skylights in the roof. Shadow dominated the curvature of the wall and barred cells. All of the inmates were pressed against their bars. Their twisted faces leered like warped jack-o-lanterns. 
A razor-thin prisoner slammed against the bars next to Jason. His face was ravaged from the effects of a prior meth habit. His mouth was caved in, and the baggy skin of his face was pallid, his eyes gray and watery. Jason could barely make out bits and pieces of what he said. “Look what we got here . . . you like being on your knees, pretty boy . . . ?” 
The lead guard boomed another order. “Stay in line and follow me.” 
Jason somehow willed his feet to move. He pressed against the railing and peered six stories down the throat of the giant tube. A latticework of narrow metal catwalks were the only things that extended across each floor. 
Someone bumped him from behind, startled him. He turned to see Sasha moving past, not acknowledging the contact, simply staring forward. Unblinking. Her features frozen. He tried to get her attention, to make sure she was okay, but her gaze was locked straight ahead. As Jason followed behind her, the entire group suddenly stopped in front of a reinforced glass elevator. The only elevator that traveled down the entire hollow center. In front of it stood a thick man with sunken eyes and a flat, veiny nose. His girth and manner made clear that he was the one in charge. This was the Warden. 
Jason stared at him, transfixed. The man's eyes reflected utter indifference. Any empathy he once had was long gone. One look and it was clear that the Warden couldn’t care less if this program worked, only that it entertained him. 
The man’s prime was quite a few years behind him and his hair long gone, save the landing strip around the bottom. He teetered around 250 pounds, which seemed heavy, even for his six-foot-three inch frame. His pockmarked skin drooped and caused him to look like he was perpetually frowning. All of these things, though not the least bit attractive, clearly helped him do his job. The permanent scowl was something he’d grown to appreciate. 
The Warden took a small step toward. “Welcome future convicts. This will be your home for the next three hours, and I will be your host. If you’ll follow me, we’ll begin our tour. I think you’re gonna love it here.” He then walked up to the glass elevator. It contained an access card security system, but he pointedly ignored it. 
Instead, the Warden opted to control the elevator with a small, hand-held computer tablet. He tapped the screen dramatically and the elevator doors opened with a hiss. He stepped through and announced, “Well, come on now. Everyone inside.” 
As they all filed in, Jason pressed against the back wall. He glanced at Sasha, noticed her picking at her fingers. She was picking so rapidly, that her nail flayed the skin and drew blood. She winced and sucked the tip of her finger. 
Another tap of the tablet screen from the Warden and the doors shut again. He glared at the kids and said, “We call this place—The Inferno. None o’ these fellas are here for singing too loud in the church choir. These boys have seen fit to break the law in all sorts of interesting ways. They are here because of the sins they’ve committed. And every level down represents a worse transgression.” 
He tapped the tablet again and the elevator began its descent. The Warden noted each floor as they passed. “Up top, on the sixth level, you've got drug distribution, forgery, and theft. Next level down, armed robbery, assault with a weapon. Fourth level, manslaughter, third ring, second degree murder.” He paused to let this soak in. “The last two levels are for the VIPs. Second level, murder in the first degree, rape, arson.” 
The elevator landed on the last floor with a booming clang. The doors slapped open and everyone except the Warden recoiled as the acrid smell of perspiration and urine billowed in. The Warden waved his arm dramatically and declared, “And this, my delinquent guests, is the bottom level. Home of the damned. Here we have your serial rapists, killers, and pedophiles. Those beyond rehabilitation. Beyond remorse or conscience.” A small smile registered on his lips. “Abandon all hope ye who enter here.”

For more about Uncaged check out these sites!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Interview: Elena Perez, author of The Art of Disappearing

Today we have an interview with Elena Perez, author of The Art of Disappearing! This book takes the concept of fitting in in high school and gives it a supernatural twist. Check out the synopsis:

THE ART OF DISAPPEARING by Elena Perez (Alloy Entertainment; 2012) is by turns haunting, suspenseful, introspective, poignant, relatable and fun. For most people “seeing is believing” but for Delia Dark, it’s downright terrifying. Delia is a high school girl whose whole world is turned upside down after a psychic dream predicts the death of one of her classmates. As she struggles to understand if she’s psychic or just plain crazy, Delia is outcast from her best friend Ava and her other friends and her once-tight relationship with her Mom steadily begins to crumble. Her only options are to play by Ava’s rules and ignore her premonitions or accept permanent D- list status by the cool kids at school. Delia can see the future, but if she denies her gift she will be powerless to change the outcomes of her visions. Is being popular more important than being responsible and true to herself?

Why did you write THE ART OF DISAPPEARING?

Well, there’s the simple, kind of cliché fact that I feel like I have to write as, well, an extension of breathing. So that had something to do with it! But I decided to write a novel – and particularly this novel – in a moment of clarity I had 38,000 feet in the air. (Yes, I was in an airplane.) I had been considering my history as a writer and while I had spent time in so many genres, including poetry, short stories, short film and lyrics, I realized I hadn’t yet written a novel. It was always part of the plan, but I had put it off because I was… yeah: scared.

As I’m staring out at the wing of the airplane, it’s sinking in that writing a novel would to be a truly terrifying pursuit and that if I tried to do it and failed, I would no doubt hate myself forever and maybe even never write again. (Nothing like keeping the stakes low!)

So I decided I better get started immediately. And I did, right there on the plane.

Of course everything I wrote during that flight was fairly horrible and didn’t make the cut for the final project. But you have to start somewhere, right?

Elena, in writing THE ART OF DISAPPEARING, where did you start? Where did you find inspiration for the characters or the story?

The first thing I had to work with in THE ART OF DISAPPEARING, besides complete trepidation, was Delia Dark, the protagonist. Her name came to me in an instant and in that same instant I knew who she was: a young girl trying to find her path but struggling with a blurry and maybe misplaced identity. I knew she started out in a comfortable place – isn’t that usually the moment life throws its curves at us? And I knew that something major would happen to force her to look more deeply into her own identity. That something turned out to be two things – the witnessing of her classmate’s death and the realization that she dreamed about it the night before. I had to make sure her world was totally shaken up.

Because so much of THE ART OF DISAPPEARING is about a girl figuring out who she is, the other characters emerged based on their position in the same journey. For example, Ava, Delia’s best friend, seems to know herself all too well. She has a plan to be a star cheerleaderand she is so vigilant about it that she drags Delia along for the ride – or tries to, at least, until things fall completely apart. Trisha, the other friend in their trio, is more like Delia; she seems to be satisfied with tagging along with Ava but, when Delia goes off course, so does Trish. It’s like there’s a ripple effect of change that’s triggered by that one terribly tragic moment in the beginning.

Did you do a lot of research for this book?

The cool thing about writing about a psychic means that every time in my life that I had ever visited one suddenly qualifies as research. But one day in particular, when I had smashed into a merciless creative roadblock, I came across a reader in the East Village with a $5 dollar special. I stepped into that small little room with the small little table with tarot cards and crystals and a woman came out from behind a curtain. I was just a typical interruption as she kept house and cared for her kids. She instantly gave me the hard sell for the more expensive reading and was disgruntled when I stuck to the $5 special… Of course, if you’ve read THE ART OF DISAPPEARING, you might recognize some of this. My experience wasn’t as eventful asDelia’s visit to Linda, but when I got back to my machine the words started flowing again.

What is it like being a novelist?

Well, first – I absolutely love that I get to answer that question! As I mentioned before, I had always planned to write novels so having achieved such a specific life goal makes me really, really happy. But that lasts for a few seconds and then it’s time to think about the next steps in my current project. That’s the ‘work’ part of a novelist – you are your own source of discipline, so you have to do whatever you can to keep yourself focused.

But by far the best thing about a writer is being able to connect readers. As a teenager, I always had a novel in hand and even got up early so I could get some reading time in before school started. I seriously devoured books like some crazy-hungry bookworm, always looking out for the next great escape. Now I aspire to provide that same kind of nourishment for other hungry readers. And when I hear from someone who connected with THE ART OF DISAPPEARING, I kind of explode inside. But in a good way, you know? With happiness.

Who are your favorite contemporary YA authors and why?

My ‘favorite list’ is always changing as it’s built from the books I most recently enjoyed.

For instance, I read Rainbow Rowell’s ELEANOR AND PARK this summer and it blew my mind. There’s something so exceptionally fresh in her approach – she captured a rawness of relationships in a way that had me clinging to every word. I’m so looking forward to reading more of her work.

Another great was CODE NAME VERITY by Elizabeth Wein. I don’t really think of myself as a historical fiction fan, but yet I keep finding myself drawn to this time period. And Wein’s story about a young female spy in World War II had me hooked. It’s suspenseful and she gives us a unique, realistic take on what is a really wonderful trend of strong female characters. And the level of detail that Wein brought to the story is phenomenal.

About the Author:

Born and raised in New Jersey, Elena discovered a love for writing early on and was often crafting poems and stories. The author went on to major in English as an undergrad and was then awarded a graduate fellowship in Creative Writing from Temple University. Today Elena lives and writes on NYC’s Lower East Side with her boyfriend (also a writer) and her dog (who prefers naps to writing).

For more about The Art of Disappearing check these sites!

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