Book Review: Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson

Suite Scarlett (Scarlett, #1)

Title: Suite Scarlett (Scarlett #1)
Author: Maureen Johnson
Genre: Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, Chick Lit
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Publication Date: November 2013 (first published May 2008)
Pages: 368
Rating: 3.5 stars

Synopsis (from goodreads):
If living in a famous art deco hotel minutes away from Central Park sounds like your idea of a pretty sweet deal – you should talk to Scarlett Martin. Having a hotel for a home really isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, especially when you’ve got no guests, no money and no prospects for any fun thanks to your parents putting you to work all summer. Luckily for Scarlett, the Hopewell is about to be shaken to its foundations with the arrival of Mrs Amberson, a glamorous travelling socialite who’s planning on putting down some roots for a while – and hiring Scarlett as her assistant. With a new job, new friends, and (maybe) a new boyfriend on the horizon, Scarlett’s summer is beginning to look a lot more interesting…

My Review:

If all the world’s a stage, New York City has the best scenery.

Scarlett Martin’s friends are all having the summer of their lives but she is stuck in working in her family’s run down and barely functioning hotel. When a slightly eccentric guest checks in and appoints Scarlett as her personal assistant, Scarlett’s summer starts to look up. She gets involved with trying to save her brother’s acting career and has a flirtation with a gorgeous North Carolinian named Eric. But things start to fall apart around her and Scarlett needs the help of her family to help everything from becoming a disaster.

I’ve not read a Maureen Johnson novel before but quickly found myself absorbed in Scarlett’s story. The book begins on her fifteenth birthday but Scarlett is fairly wise and mature for her age. She’s a little irritated that she doesn’t have the opportunities that her friend have but she is responsibly enough to understand that her family isn’t like others. Her older brother Spencer is trying to do everything he possibly can to become an actor however realistically he knows that if he doesn’t make it soon he will need to find a more sensible career path. Lola, Scarlett’s older sister, is facing a dilemma due to her family disliking her boyfriend and her little sister Marlene – well… Marlene is slightly spoilt and people are afraid of hurting her feelings. I really liked the family dynamic within this novel. The Martin family are tight but not without their problems. They are financially challenged and things are changing with Scarlett’s older siblings after having finished high school and are now moving in different directions. I liked how they interacted with each other and that Ms. Johnson didn’t give Marlene a free pass to do as she pleased just because of her past.

Scarlett is a great character. She’s a writer who, despite her tender age, isn’t lacking for life experience. Her encounters with Mrs Amberson are humorous with the hotel guest having a flair for the dramatic. Scarlett gets herself into some quite outlandish situations but somehow manages to handle them. I liked that Scarlett is genuinely a good person. She gets placed in situations – at times due to her own doing – that cause her to question her actions and as a reader you could feel the moral dilemmas she was facing. This is a book where I felt with 97% certainty that things were going to end up being okay for everyone involved but the fun was seeing just how everything turned out. The romance in this book wasn’t quite what I was expecting but that only added to the realistic nature that love doesn’t always play out how you’d like it to.

This book was highly enjoyable. It’s cute and fun and shows off New York City in a delightful way. The characters are quirky and a little off centre but there’s a lot of love in the Martin family. I’m delighted that Maureen Johnson has written a second novel, Scarlett Fever, that continues exploring Scarlett’s adventures.

Thanks to Hot Key Books for the review copy

Purchase the novel from:

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Book Review: All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill

Title: All Our Yesterdays (All Our Yesterdays #1)All Our Yesterdays
Author: Cristin Terrill
Genre: Time Travel, Science Fiction, Dystopia, Young Adult
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Publication Date: August 2013 
Pages: 362
Rating: 5 stars

Synopsis (from goodreads):
Em is locked in a bare, cold cell with no comforts. Finn is in the cell next door. The Doctor is keeping them there until they tell him what he wants to know. Trouble is, what he wants to know hasn’t happened yet.

Em and Finn have a shared past, but no future unless they can find a way out. The present is torture – being kept apart, overhearing each other’s anguish as the Doctor relentlessly seeks answers. There’s no way back from here, to what they used to be, the world they used to know. Then Em finds a note in her cell which changes everything. It’s from her future self and contains some simple but very clear instructions. Em must travel back in time to avert a tragedy that’s about to unfold. Worse, she has to pursue and kill the boy she loves to change the future.

My Review:

“Time travel isn’t a wonder; it’s an abomination.” 

Finn and Em are trapped as prisoners by the Doctor. Somewhere – some time – everything went wrong. But together they have a chance to change the past to avoid this future.

I adored this book. Time travel is one of those concepts that doesn’t always connect with me but I admired how Cristin Terrill approached the idea. Travelling back, having two of one person in a certain time, was never confusing in this novel. Em, Finn, Marina and James are all well-rounded characters. Em is world wise and I really liked how her personality contrasted with the somewhat sheltered Marina. Finn is the same and yet different in his past and present forms and James is interesting. I found myself enjoying how oblivious and vague he was regarding Marina.

The time travel in this book is easy to grasp. There is  a changing in point of view from Em to Marina and back however for the most part of this novel events happen in the present time. There’s no confusion as to what is happening to whom and when. I loved the ideas in this book. It’s a cereal for dinner kind of book – the kind where instead of stopping to make a meal you just eat something easy and able to eat with one hand (so you can hold the book with your other hand)! There are a lot of twists and turns but they progressed in a way that felt natural and not just added to create some faux suspense. Em and Finn have some great chemistry and do a great job at moving the story along. There’s some heart-break and moments when I really felt for the characters and the trouble Terrill put them though. One of the things that stuck with me throughout this book and well after reading it was how much I liked Em loving Marina. I think it’s lovely that throughout it all, Em saw that she was a person worth loving and was proud of herself as a person.

This book works perfectly as a stand alone and I’m interested and surprised that All Our Yesterdays is the first book in a series. I can’t wait to see what Ms. Terrill comes up with next to put her characters through. This book has been one of my favourite reads of 2013 and I highly recommend it to lovers of well writing and interesting young adult novels.

Thanks to Bloomsbury Australia for the review copy

Purchase the novel from:

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Blog Tour: Captivate by Vanessa Garden

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Happy Friday the Thirteenth! On this very auspicious day I’m very honoured to be a part of the Harlequin Teen Australia blog tour for Vanessa Garden’s debut novel. Captivate. The cover is gorgeous and the book is a great read. Hope you enjoy my review and character spotlight on Miranda! 🙂

Title: CaptivateCaptivate
Author: Vanessa Garden
Genre: Mermaids, Paranormal, Fantasy, Young Adult
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Date Published: January 2014
Pages: 304
Rating: 3 stars

Synopsis (from goodreads):
In a glittering underwater world, nothing is as it seems…

For the past twelve months since her parents’ death, seventeen-year-old Miranda Sun has harboured a dark secret — a secret that has strained the close relationship she once shared with her older sister, Lauren. In an effort to repair this broken bond, Miranda’s grandparents whisk the siblings away on a secluded beach holiday. Except before Miranda gets a chance to confess her life-changing secret, she’s dragged underwater by a mysterious stranger while taking a midnight swim.

Awakening days later, Miranda discovers that she’s being held captive in a glittering underwater city by an arrogant young man named Marko…the King of this underwater civilisation.

Nineteen-year-old Marko intends to marry Miranda in order to keep his crown from falling into the sinister clutches of his half-brother, Damir. There’s only one problem. Miranda is desperate to return home to right things with her sister and she wants nothing to do with Marko. Trying to secure her freedom, Miranda quickly forms an alliance with Robbie — Marko’s personal guard. However, she soon discovers that even underwater, people are hiding dangerous secrets…

My Review:

A few days before the first anniversary of her parents’ death – and her seventeenth birthday – Miranda, her older sister Lauren and their grandparents holiday at their beach side shack on Bob’s Bay to try and escape. But during a midnight swim with Lauren, Miranda gets taken. Waking up in a mysterious place, Miranda is determined to get back to her family and her life. But a break out is not an option because Miranda has been taken to an underwater city known as Marin and she’s a very valuable asset. King Marko needs Miranda to save the city from his enemies and isn’t likely to let her go any time soon. Miranda’s only hope of escape is to hope that Robbie, the King’s personal guard, best friend and the very person who took Miranda in the first place, will help her return to her family. But with the dangers lurking below and Marin’s version of a sun memorizing her into forgetting her past, Miranda might be captive and captivated in Marin forever…

It took me a little while to get into this book and some time to warm to Miranda but once I did I loved getting to experience the world of Marin. The world building is one of its strengths and I thoroughly enjoyed learning as Miranda did about day to day life and the origins of the incredible underwater city. Whilst the citizens are not mermaids, I still liked the mermaid elements that we got to see.

Miranda is a character that I grew to like very much. Her bold personality and brave actions made her interesting to read and I wanted things to go right for her. She didn’t give up nor did she let her capture define or defeat her. I thought that she coped with her situation incredibly well. Her relationships with King Marko, Robbie and the other people of Marin were fascinating. I didn’t feel entirely convinced by the romance that bloomed between Marko and Miranda mostly because of the pacing but I do think they are a promising couple.

Captivate is a great start to what promises to be an interesting series. There are characters with some secrets and not entirely clear motivations, handsome love interests and a world that is nothing quite like any that I’ve read before. I’m glad I got to read this novel by Vanessa Garden and after the ending in Captivate am eagerly awaiting another instalment of Miranda’s Marin adventures.

Thanks to Harlequin Teen Australia for the review copy

Purchase the novel from:

Amazon | Booktopia | Book Depository | BookWorld

Character Spotlight!

Name: Miranda Sun

Nickname: Randy

Birth date: January 13th, 

Age: 16 (turns 17 during Captivate)

Appearance: Long chocolate brown hair, 

Family: Lauren (older sister), Nana and Pop (grandparents). Parents died on Miranda’s 16th birthday in a car accident. 

Personality: Miranda is brave, stubborn and determined. She believes she is dangerous to everyone she loves. She’s fiercely loyal and a fighter who will do what she can to protect her loved ones. 

Other Interesting Facts: 

• Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck is her favourite book

• Can appreciate beauty of Marin despite her captivity there

• Feels inferior compared to her sister, Lauren, and lives in her shadow

• Is not the most graceful dancer

• Feels responsible for her parents’ death.

AUTHOR BIO

Vanessa Garden

A bookseller and Young Adult author, Vanessa loves nothing more than immersing herself in the exciting world of books. When she is not raving about her favourite reads with customers, or mentally casting actors to play the characters in her next novel, she enjoys hanging out with those she loves most.

Vanessa is represented by Helen Breitwieser of Cornerstone Literary Agency.

Author Links:

Book Review: Angelfall by Susan Ee

Angelfall (Penryn and the End of Days, #1)

Title: Angelfall (Penryn & the End of Days #1)
Author: Susan Ee
Genre: Angels. Dystopia, Young Adult, Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Publication Date: May 2013 (first published May 2011)
Pages: 325
Rating: 4.5 stars

Synopsis (from goodreads):
It’s been six weeks since the angels of the apocalypse destroyed the world as we know it. Only pockets of humanity remain.

Savage street gangs rule the day while fear and superstition rule the night.

When angels fly away with a helpless girl, her seventeen-year-old sister Penryn will do anything to get her back…

My Review:

Angels have descended down to earth but they’re not the heavenly creatures people may have expected. Ruthless and lacking any trace of humanity, the Angels are ruling the world and treating humans no better than animals. When an angel takes her little sister Paige, Penryn plans to do the unthinkable. She wants to go into the Angels’ aerie – their home base – to save her. With an injured angel, Raffe, as her guide, Penryn tempts fate to save Paige and bring what’s left of her family back together.

I can understand why this book was an Internet phenomenon. Penryn is such a strong character. The angels have ruined the world. Millions are dead, modern civilisation all but demolished but there are still a few humans left struggling to exist in this new angel ruled world. In a post-apocalypse California, Penryn has been learning how to survive and taking over the parent role in her family. Her mother can not be relied upon for anything and has some strange ideas. But Paige keeps Penryn from getting too serious. Paige, although in a wheelchair after an incident when she was younger, would give up everything she had to help someone else. Penryn needs her little sister and when she’s taken, Penryn risks life and a fate worse than death to bring Paige back.

This is a book with a quest, deadly angels, magical weapons and characters I adored. Penryn is intelligent and focused – if not a little too single mindedly obsessed – with getting her sister back. The angels are ruthless and I loved how different they were from how I usually imagine angels. These angels are beautiful and breathtakingly formidable. They murder humans and think nothing of it. But they’re not invincible. They have politics of their own and a hierarchy that may not be as stable as the humans may believe. I liked Raffe the angel. He’s every bit as intimidating as his fellow angels but due to circumstances beyond his control he finds himself having to rely on a human. The dynamic of Penryn and Raffe was great to read and I enjoyed the lack of an overt romantic relationship between the two.

I really enjoyed this book and for me it lived up to the hype. The gorgeous cover, brilliant take on angels and a heroine who I wanted to read more about. The second book in the series, World After, was released a few weeks ago and I can’t wait to immerse myself once more in Penryn’s world.

Purchase the novel from:

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Book Review: Covert Assignment by Missy Marciassa

CovertAssignmentTourBanner

Title: Covert AssignmentCovert Assignment
Author: Missy Marciassa
Genre: Contemporary, New Adult, Suspence
Publisher: Self Published
Publication Date: December 2013
Pages: 234
Rating: 2.5 stars

Synopsis (from goodreads):
Covert Assignment is a New Adult, Coming of Age Novel with a strong romantic element. Elle is ready for graduation and full-fledged adulthood: no more living like the leftover of her parent’s divorce. She’s about to graduate with her degree in Information Science (the 21st century term for Library Science) and has a ten-year plan as well-designed as any model for analyzing metadata: earn her JD/MBA, enjoy a couple of years as a single professional, then marry her college sweetheart, Adam, and start her own family.

Yet Elle feels like she returned to an alternate universe her final semester. There are pictures of Adam with a classmate who must be surgically enhanced, but he insists he wants Elle. CIA recruiters show up on campus, and they aren’t just interested in recruiting Elle for future employment: turns out she’s already working for them since they’re funding her thesis. Hot operative Preston Raddick is tasked to work with her. Preston isn’t just hot: he’s hot for Elle, but is he offering happy ever after or happy for right now? A fling with Preston could be the beginning of a new life plan, which is exciting and scary, especially with espionage thrown in. Elle needs a predictive model to tell her which decisions have the greater likelihood for happiness…

My Review:

One semester from leaving her university in her past and preparing for adult life, Elle has it all worked out. Go to her father’s alma mater and double in law and business, marry her college sweetheart Adam and then settle down and start a family by the time Elle and Adam are in their early thirties. Sounds perfect, right? Spanner is thrown into the works when Elle returns from Christmas break to find intimate photos of Adam and someone who very definitely isn’t Elle.

Determined not to let Adam’s cheating ways ruin her final semester, Elle tries to work out if she wants to salvage that relationship whilst still working on her thesis project. A project that – unknown to Elle – is funded by the CIA. Working closely with a field operative, Preston Raddick, Elle manages to somehow prepare for adult life whilst making the most of her time in college.

I love the concept of this novel. It reminded me of the tv show, Chuck – with top-secret agencies cherry picking graduating classes for their newest recruits. Elle is apparently very logical and methodical which would make her a great analyst. However, I didn’t see very much of her analytical nature when it came to dealing with her personal life. Elle came across as incredibly judgemental and (especially with regards to the Adam situation) needed her friends to make her decisions for her. I think her reaction and actions to Adam’s betrayal were slightly hollow with Elle never talking about how she felt about the whole situation. It made me like her less as a character because I perceived her to be more upset about her future plans being ruined rather than having anything to do with feelings or heartbreak.

Spy wise – I like where this book was heading. Elle got a taste of exactly what life as an operative might entail. There’s drama and slight suspense although it only really occurred in the tail end of the book. Elle’s friends were a little over the top but fiercely loyal and Elle definitely needed that. I had some issues with some of the things that occurred in this book (like what was with Elle’s family at the end. That felt so completely out of character) but overall it was an entertaining read and a new adult novel that focused on the bridge between college and adulthood.

 

Purchase the novel from:

Amazon

Book Review: Pawn by Aimee Carter

Pawn

Title: Pawn (The Blackcoat Rebellion #1)
Author: Aimee Carter
Genre: Dystopia, Science Fiction, Young Adult, 
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Publication Date: December 2013
Pages: 352
Rating: 5 stars

Synopsis (from goodreads):
For Kitty Doe, it seems like an easy choice. She can either spend her life as a III in misery, looked down upon by the higher ranks and forced to leave the people she loves, or she can become a VII and join the most powerful family in the country.

If she says yes, Kitty will be Masked—surgically transformed into Lila Hart, the Prime Minister’s niece, who died under mysterious circumstances. As a member of the Hart family, she will be famous. She will be adored. And for the first time, she will matter.

There’s only one catch. She must also stop the rebellion that Lila secretly fostered, the same one that got her killed …and one Kitty believes in. Faced with threats, conspiracies and a life that’s not her own, she must decide which path to choose—and learn how to become more than a pawn in a twisted game she’s only beginning to understand

My Review:

At seventeen, everyone has to take a test which determines their entire lives. Kitty Doe gets marked as a III – cleaning sewage pipes in a far off state is going to be her life. But she gets the chance to change everything. The chance to be a VII, a rank reserved only for the ruling family, and she only has a minute to think about it.

I loved Pawn. I had read Aimee Carter’s The Goddess Test series and enjoyed it but found the romance a tad overwhelming at times. I was excited to read her new series and I thought the first book in the Blackcoat Rebellion was amazing! The world she has created is an interesting one. There’s a lot of political upheaval, dysfunctional family antics, passionate characters and an interesting class system.

Kitty is an intelligent young woman but because she is unable to read, she ends up in one of the bottom classes in society. She’s desperate and feels like she has no choice. She loves her boyfriend, Benjy, but doesn’t want to drag him along with her. Kitty is one of those characters that I didn’t like very much to start with. I felt like as the smart person she’s described as she could have come up with some better options and not been so rash however I do understand that she was stuck in a very difficult and somewhat unexpected situation. As the novel went on, Kitty grew on me. Her intelligence came out and you could see that Kitty is a force to be reckoned with. Her interactions with Knox, Grayson and Benjy were my favourites to read but the relationships she’s developing – and not necessarily good ones – with Daxton, Augusta and Celia are also great to read.

The First Family (the Harts) are so messed up. I love them. There’s so much I want to say about them but one of my favourite things about this novel was how much I loved not knowing what was going to happen next. I don’t want to spill any of the fantastic plot developments that I enjoyed so much.

Pawn is a great dystopian novel with a lot going on. There’s romance, murderous rebels, feuding families, and so much more. I can not wait for the next book in this series and see what happens next for Kitty and  the Harts.

 

Thanks to Harlequin Teen Australia for the review copy.

Purchase the novel from:

Amazon | Booktopia | Book Depository | BookWorld

Book Review: Diamond’s are a Teen’s Best Friend by Allison Rushby

Title: Diamonds are a Teen’s Best Friend (Living Blond series #1)Diamonds are a Teen's Best Friend
Author: Allison Rushby
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Young Adult
Publisher: Allison Rushby
Publication Date: November 1st, 2013
Pages: 138
Rating: 3.5 stars

Synopsis (from goodreads):
Nessa Joanne Mulholland, aka Marilyn Monroe’s No. 1 teenage fan, is used to moving house. This time, however, she’s relocating in movie-star style—crossing the Atlantic on board the Majestic, headed for Paris from New York City. And it really would be in movie-star style if it wasn’t for the fact that she’s bringing her cringe-fest professor dad along for the ride (Dad’s specialization: human mating rituals—need Nessa say more?). Oh yeah, and sharing a cabin that’s five decks below sea level and next to the engine room. Still, at least Holly Isles is on board. Yes, really, that Holly Isles—star of stage and screen. Suddenly, things are looking up. Looking a little Marilyn, in fact, because events are strangely mirroring Nessa’s favorite movie of all time, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

Watch!
As Holly Isles, world-famous actress, confides in Nessa over mocktails.
Listen!
As Nessa coaches Holly in the amazing “Nessa’s Lesson’s in Love”—the ultimate man-catching rules to finding true and lasting lurv.
See!
Nessa fall for Holly’s too-cute nephew, Marc. . . and
Cover your eyes!
As it all goes terribly, horribly, embarrassingly wrong.

There’s no doubting it. This is going to be one pitchy crossing.

My Review:

Nessa Joanne Mulholland is just a teeny bit obsessed with Marilyn Monroe. But when she finds Marilynisms all the time in her daily life can she really be blamed? On a cruise ship with her dad, Nessa meets thirty-something Holly Isles, a world-famous actress and someone Nessa feels like might be a kindred Marilyn fan. Holly has three broken engagements to her name and after bonding over mocktails and maraschino cherries, Nessa starts to believe that her real life is starting to feel a lot like her favourite movie, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Nessa takes it upon herself to be the Lorelei to Holly’s Dorothy, the Marilyn to her Jane, and comes up with Nessa’s Lessons in Love. She’s going to find Holly’s Perfect Man before the cruise is over!

This book is very cute. Nessa is an engaging main character with a lot of passion for her beloved Marilyn. At thirteen (almost fourteen!) years old, I thought there were times when he behaviour was a little unbelievable but lets face it – becoming BFFs with a movie star is a bit of a fantasy too and this isn’t a book to take too seriously. I love the idea of this book – that even 60 years after Nessa’s favourite film being released, it’s still enjoyable and somewhat relevant to modern life. The parallels from the film to Nessa’s life are beautifully done – you don’t need to have seen the film to enjoy Nessa’s antics but if you have seen it I think you’ll like how Nessa relates them to her own situation.

I love a good love story but I didn’t really connect with Marc – Nessa’s sort of love interest. He felt old beyond his years organizing and looking out for his aunt – but this only made the gap between the almost fourteen year old Nessa and the seventeen year old going on forty Marc seem even larger. That said, as eye candy for the Marilyn obsessed, he was okay and did a good job at keeping Nessa a little off-balance. Holly is lovely if not a little odd. She’s fun but I couldn’t quite imagine the educated adult woman to be taking love and life advice from a teenager she just met. But like I said before – this isn’t supposed to be real life. This is a sweet story where you shouldn’t let realism (or lack there of) get in the way of a great novel.

Fun, cute, sweet and fairly short – I’d recommend this book for younger teens. It’s clean and amusing with a quirky and entertaining main character who lets her imagination get away from her – and gets her into trouble! Diamonds are a Teen’s Best Friend is the first book in a trilogy and this is a series I definitely want to read more of – can’t wait to see what Nessa gets up to next!

Note: I decided that I need to watch Gentlemen Prefer Blondes after reading this book and I had such a great time imagining Nessa as Lorelei Lee – this movie maybe from 1953 but it’s a lot of fun. Thanks Allison for inspiring me to watch a Marilyn film!

Thanks to NetGalley for the review copy.

Purchase the novel from:

Amazon

To celebrate the release of her book, Allison is hosting a Rafflecopter giveaway. You can win one of twenty gorgeous “Marilynette” wristbands from the Etsy Marilynette Shoppe. This is open internationally and if you want to enter, please click on the Rafflecopter link below. This giveaway is open until the end of December.

Click here to enter: a Rafflecopter giveaway

Interview + Giveaway: Destiny by Cindy Ray Hale

Destiny Banner 1.2

I’m delighted today to be interviewing the author of Destiny, Cindy Ray Hale, today on the blog. She took the time out of the busy life to answer a few of my questions about Destiny. musicals and writing.

Title: Destiny (The Destiny Trilogy #1)Destiny
Author: Cindy Ray Hale
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Young Adult, Christian Fiction
Publisher: Self-published
Publication Date: 5th November 2013
Pages: 316
Rating: 3  stars

Synopsis (from goodreads):
Destiny Clark, a young Mormon girl living in Tennessee, is wildly infatuated with Isaac Robinson, the headmaster’s son at her Baptist high school. When they’re cast together in the school’s production of Les Misérables, Destiny is horrified to find that she has to be publicly humiliated by acting out her true feelings of rejection onstage.

As their rehearsals begin, Destiny realizes the unimaginable: Isaac has developed deep feelings for her despite their religious differences and the fact that he has a girlfriend.

But will they be able to find their place amongst the backbiters of their ultra-conservative world?

Weaving around Destiny and Isaac’s alternating viewpoints, Destiny is the first book in a series inspired by the characters of Les Misérables and explores heartbreak, self-discovery, intolerance, and love

Interview!

  • What inspired you to write Destiny?

My own life. I was a young Mormon girl who went to a Baptist school. My parents both converted to the Mormon Church before I was born, so that is a bit different, but still similar since Destiny’s family converts when she’s eight. When I went to the Baptist school, just like Destiny, I faced a lot of persecution. I had girls tell me they weren’t allowed to be more than casual friends with me because I was a Mormon.

  • All the characters in your book are very spiritual people. Is religion and faith very important to you? 

Absolutely. Religion is a huge part of my life. I was born and raised Mormon. I never missed a Sunday or Wednesday night meeting unless I was sick and contagious. On top of that I went to four years of seminary (church classes) before I started my day at the high school.

I went to seven years of school in a Baptist school where I listened to prayer before each class, memorized a Bible verse every week for Bible class and attended chapel twice a week. That was just the Baptist side of things.

That’s all the religious side of things. To me religion is the outward expression of an inner faith. If I didn’t believe deeply in God and Jesus, that the Book of Mormon is scripture, that Joseph Smith truly was called of God, I wouldn’t do any of that stuff. All of it would be purely social. I know people who go to church because they’re expected to or because all their friends are there or just because they were raised going. That’s not me. I go even when I’m on vacation or if I don’t know anyone and I’m scared to go. I go because I need to be spiritually fed.

That doesn’t mean I think I’m perfect or better than other people. No way. I’m still as guilty as the next person. I gossip. I’m prideful. I judge others. I disrespect my husband. I yell at my kids. But every day is a battle between good and evil, and I’m struggling with everyone else to make it a day where good wins over evil.

  • Are there any similarities between you and Destiny?

Yes. Destiny is described to look like me when I was 15. Brown hair with natural curl that frizzes up when it gets humid. Bright blue eyes. Small chest.

Beyond her appearance, she acts like I did, too. Shy, obsessing over Mr. Popular, strong in her faith.

  • I loved all the Les Misérables references in Destiny. Are you a musical person yourself? Which musicals are your favourites? 

Yes. I was in an elite choir in high school called the Madrigal Singers. Our choir director was just like Mr. Byrd. I’m sure I didn’t do him justice as a choir director. Mr. L was the most amazing choir director in the world. I’m not kidding. He was awesome. Just like Destiny I was an alto and my audition pretty much went exactly like hers except my mom was there and it was in the summer before the year started. But other than that the scene was written straight from my memory. Everything she thought and felt was how I thought and felt that day.

I still enjoy singing now. I’m in the church choir, and I’m always singing around the house.

I have a piano, and I used to teach piano lessons before I was a writer.

You can read more about it at http://cindyhaleauthor.wordpress.com/about/

  • What books do you think have influenced your life the most?

The Help by Kathryn Sockett That book taught me to find the humor in even the most serious situations.

Twilight by Stephanie Meyer. I know it gets a lot of bashing online and that it’s not perfect, but it really did teach me to love reading again. Like me, Stephanie Meyer was a Mormon stay-at-home mom with little kids. I figured if she could get famous, why couldn’t I? Anything can happen, right? Why not be inspired to reach for the stars?

  • What are you currently reading?

Right now I’m listening to Life After Theft by Aprilynne Pike on my phone for when I’m doing the dishes or taking the little one to the park. I have Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen playing on CD in my car for road trips down to my family in Chattanooga and running errands. Also, I have a paper copy of Scarlet by Marisa Meyer that I’m almost finished with. I’ve been reading it for an hour before bed each night this week.

  • Are you working on anything now?

Yes! I just started a clean romance for  NaNoWriMo. I’m shooting for traditional publication this time around.

  • Do you have anything specific you want to say to your readers?

Thanks so much for reading my book! I hope you like Destiny. Regardless of how you feel about it, please take the time to fill out an honest review on Amazon. If I did something wrong, I’d like to know what it was so I can make it better next time.

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions. I think I have a new found respect of your characters after having read your responses and have a bit more insight now into why they may behave like that do! 

 

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AUTHOR BIO

Official Author pic

Wife. Mother. Writer. Cindy Ray Hale lives in Murfreesboro, Tennessee with her husband and four children. In addition to being a writer, she’s an avid reader and a social media junkie. She starts her morning by writing with a freshly-blended berry spinach smoothie next to her. She’s obsessed with Les Misérables, playing the piano, and stalking up-and-coming musicians on YouTube. Destiny is her first book and will be available for purchase November 2013.

Author Links:

GIVEAWAY!

There is a tour wide giveaway for the blog tour of Destiny. Here is what you can win:

Camp Boyfriend swag pack

– A Destiny Swag Pack:including a signed copy of Destiny, a Destiny keychain, a t-shirt that says “I heart Destiny,” a Destiny bookmark.

– a $25 Amazon Gift Card

– Camp Boyfriend Swag pack.

Click the rafflecopter link below to enter.

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Book Review: Fall For You by Cecilia Gray

Fall For You (The Jane Austen Academy Series, #1)

Title: Fall For You (The Jane Austen Academy #1)
Author: Cecilia Gray
Genre: Contempoary Romance, Young Adult, Retelling
Publisher: Gray Life LLC
Publication Date: November 6th, 2013
Pages: 144
Rating: 3.5 stars

Synopsis (from goodreads):
It’s obvious that Dante thinks he’s way too good for Lizzie. And Lizzie knows Dante is a snob with a gift for pushing her buttons. But things are changing fast this year at the Academy. And when Lizzie’s quest to stop those changes blows up in her face, taking her oldest friendship with it, she has nowhere else to turn but to Dante, with his killer blue eyes, his crazy-sexy smile, and his secrets… Secrets Lizzie can’t seem to leave alone, no matter how hard she tries…

The last thing that the girls at the elite Jane Austen Academy need is guys. But over the summer the school has been sold, and like it or not, the guys are coming. And they’re about to turn the Academy—and the lives of its students—totally upside down…

My Review:

I think the idea behind this series is fantastic. A modern-day retelling of Jane Austen’s novels – with the characters from each novel being friends with each other! Fall For You, the first book in this new series, is Lizzie’s story. She loves the Jane Austen Academy and is horrified when the former-all girls school opens its doors up for male students. And that’s not the only change being made. Room mates and a headmistress who is more about the bottom dollar than the students is enough to drive Lizzie crazy. Not to mention Dante – a new student who has formed a less than impressive first impression on (and of) Lizzie.

Lizzie knows that she has to do all she can to save the Academy she loves before it’s too late – and Dante better not get in her way.

There’s a lot going on in this book and I think too much was attempted in such a small number of pages. We get introduced to the Academy, to the heroines, to the heroes and have a complete story all in less than a hundred and fifty pages. It didn’t completely work for me. I love the idea of Lizzie being friends with Ellie (Eleanor from Sense and Sensibility), rivals with Anne (from Persuasion) and not entirely sure of Emma (from Emma). It’s a fabulous idea. And the fact that they’re not all bosom buddies is even better! I strongly believe that not all of Austen’s original characters would be BFFs because of their fairly strong – or overly passive – personalities. I loved how well the story as a retelling worked considering it’s set in a boarding school and how well Gray substituted some of the original minor characters with what will be major characters in this series. I really thought it was clever.

Unfortunately I felt like Lizzie’s story wasn’t given enough room to really blossom. Her interactions with Dante were gorgeous. There’s one scene in particular where the tension between the two of them had me completely absorbed with their chemistry. But their relationship felt so sudden to me that I felt a little short-changed. Their scenes together were few and short. It needed to be bigger and more dramatic and just more. As Darcy and Elizabeth’s counterparts I knew they had to be together but I wanted to feel they’d earned their relationship as Dante and Lizzie within the bounds of this novel.

This is a fairly quick read and it was a fun one. I loved the cross overs with Austen’s original works and enjoyed seeing how Grey would integrate the stories. I was lucky enough to get review copies of the next two books in the series and I’m excited to see how Grey tackles Sense and Sensibility as well as Northhanger Abbey

Thanks to NetGalley for the review copy.

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Book Review: Kiss of Fire by Rebecca Ethington

Kiss of Fire (Imdalind #1)

Title: Kiss of Fire (Imdalind series #1)
Author: Rebecca Ethington
Genre: Paranormal romance, magic, young adult
Publisher: Self Published
Publication Date: October 2012
Pages: 352
Rating: 2 stars

Synopsis (from goodreads):
Joclyn Despain has been marred by a brand on her skin. She doesn’t know why the mark appeared on her neck, but she doesn’t want anyone to see it, including her best friend Ryland, who knows everything else about her. The scar is the reason she hides herself behind baggy clothes, and won’t let the idea of kissing Ryland enter her mind, no matter how much she wants to.
The scar is the reason she is being hunted.

If only she knew that she was.

If only she had known that the cursed stone her estranged father sent for her 16th birthday would trigger a change in her. Now, she is being stalked by a tall blonde man, and is miraculously throwing her high school bully ten feet in the air.

Joclyn attempts to find some answers and the courage to follow her heart. When Ryland finds her scar; only he knows what it means, and who will kill her because of it.

My Review:

After being bitten by a mysterious bug when she was five years old, Joclyn spent six months in a coma. Upon waking up she has a very strange scar on her neck and her eyes have changed colour. Her father can’t cope with the bizarre mark on her neck and leaves. To try to make ends meet, Joclyn’s mother takes a job as a cook for the wealthy Edmund. It’s there that Jos meets his son, Ryland. From that moment on the two are inseparable. Eleven years later the two are still best friends despite Ryland’s father threatening them to stay apart. On Jos’ sixteenth birthday she gets a letter from her father claiming that he knows the secret behind her scar – and it involves magic.

This summary has one of my pet peeves – it alludes to things that don’t happen until half way though the book! You can’t do that! But I can understand why they did it. Kiss of Fire is fairly slow to start. We get to see a lot about Jos – who she is and how she got that way, as well as her relationship with Ryland. The magic element isn’t fully developed until the second half of the book and I think that was a little too long. I found my attention drifting at parts. The character of Jos did frustrate me at times. She’s got no insight and it felt like she always needed someone to hold her hand. Her relationship with Ryland was sweet and I do love to read about fated mates however it felt odd – one day best friends and the next Ry is trying to kiss her with no in between? But this is a story with magic so maybe I should blame it on witchcraft.

The characters of Wyn and her ‘brother’ are interesting and I love Wyn’s effervescent personality but I felt like the brother was a heart beat away from being a love interest for Jos and I feel having a love triangle would detract from the strong bond that Wyn and Ry share.

I feel a little like a nitpicker but there was one thing about this story that really niggled at me. BFFs for eleven years – doing all sorts of crazy things that kids get up to and not once did Ryland see the scar on Jos’ neck. And yet, one afternoon of hairography with Wyn and she can see the mark that Wyn’s been so protective about showing off? I just find it a little hard to believe that he never once saw it especially how attentive he is to her every move.

The magic and creatures involved in this book are cool – I love that the author has gone and writing a paranormal novel without the usual monsters. From the birth stones, to the powers they have, these are cool creatures.

Kiss of Fire has a lot of twists and turns with a fairly exciting climax and a great lead in to the second novel however my disconnection with the characters and dislike of Jos will keep me from continuing this series.

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