Guest Post & Giveaway: The Special Ones by Em Bailey

THE SPECIAL ONES9780544912298_hresGoodreads | Amazon | B&N | iBooks | TBD

Release Date: July 18, 2017

synEsther is one of the Special Ones: four young spiritual guides who live in a remote farmhouse under the protection of a mysterious cult leader. He watches them around the clock, ready to punish them if they forget who they are—and all the while, broadcasting their lives to eager followers on the outside. Esther knows that if she stops being Special, he will “renew” her. Nobody knows what happens to the Special Ones who are taken away from the farm for renewal, but Esther fears the worst. Like an actor caught up in an endless play, she must keep up the performance if she wants to survive long enough to escape.

guest

Book Playlist for The Special Ones by Em Bailey

Every Breath You Take (The Police)

Under the Milky Way Tonight (The Church)

Special Ones (George)

Helter Skelter (The Beatles)

Candle in the Wind (Elton John)

Bird Set Free (Sia)

A Message to You Rudy (the Specials)

authorEmGoodreads

Em Bailey is an Australian living in Germany where, despite having been a vegetarian for many years, she now enjoys the occasional Wurst. Em used to be a new-media designer for a children’s television production house and is now a full-time author. Shift is her first YA novel, although she has written a number of books for children under the name Meredith Badger.

When she’s not writing, Em is generally getting lost, losing stuff, reading, hanging out with her friends and family, and listening to Radiolab podcasts. Like Olive, she doesn’t like leggings that look like jeans, but has no problem with tofu schnitzels.

giveaway3 winners will receive a hardcover of THE SPECIAL ONES! US Only.

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TOUR SCHEDULE 

Week One:
7/10/2017- YA Books Central- Interview
7/11/2017- Here’s to Happy Endings- Review
7/12/2017- YA Book Madness- Guest Post
7/13/2017- A Dream Within A Dream- Review
7/14/2017- Novel Novice- Interview

Week Two:
7/17/2017- The Best Books Ever – Review
7/18/2017- Literary Meanderings- Excerpt
7/19/2017- Book Sniffers Anonymous- Excerpt
7/20/2017- YA and Wine- Review
7/21/2017- A Gingerly Review- Review

Keep reading, 

Jordan

ARC Review: The Smaller Evil by Stephanie Kuehn

the smaller evilGoodreads/Amazon/B&N/iBooks

syn

Sometimes the greater good requires the smaller evil.

17-year-old Arman Dukoff is struggling with severe anxiety and a history of self-loathing when he arrives at an expensive self-help retreat in the remote hills of Big Sur. He’s taken a huge risk—and two-thousand dollars from his meth-head stepfather—for a chance to “evolve,” as Beau, the retreat leader, says.

Beau is complicated. A father figure? A cult leader? A con man? Arman’s not sure, but more than anyone he’s ever met, Beau makes Arman feel something other than what he usually feels—worthless.

The retreat compound is secluded in coastal California mountains among towering redwoods, and when the iron gates close behind him, Arman believes for a moment that he can get better. But the program is a blur of jargon, bizarre rituals, and incomprehensible encounters with a beautiful girl. Arman is certain he’s failing everything. But Beau disagrees; he thinks Arman has a bright future—though he never says at what.

And then, in an instant Arman can’t believe or totally recall, Beau is gone. Suicide? Or murder? Arman was the only witness and now the compound is getting tense. And maybe dangerous.

As the mysteries and paradoxes multiply and the hints become accusations, Arman must rely on the person he’s always trusted the least: himself.

review

3/5 Stars

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via Penguin’s FirstToRead program 

***There is some mature content, like sex, not especially graphic but it’s there. Contains what could be triggers for mutilation and suicide.

If you’ve read any reviews on this book, you’ve probably seen the collective, what did I just read? trend. Sometimes that sentiment is unfounded, but The Smaller Evil is one trippy, confusing, psychological journey into self discovery and recovery from what is deemed a toxic outside world. 

Curious yet? You should be. The Smaller Evil is the type of book where you wait and wait and wait and wait some more for something-anything to happen. You’ll flip through page after page, cruising on that J.D. Salinger vibe of awkward, a little grotesque, and hyper personal, and hope for revelation. You get it, but what you do with it, whether you understand it, is a whole different ball game. The book drags on and on in this self-pitying, misanthropic tale of Arman, a teenager who has been treated as nothing and so believes he’s even less than that. He knows he’s worthless, but he wants to change. Arman has a myriad of problems-ADD, GERD, self-mutilation, suicidal tendencies a regular cocktail of teenage angst and depression to the extreme. All of these sort of pop up randomly and will leave you questioning Arman’s reliability as a character.

There’s a big coming of age aspect to the story that’s a bit off-putting in some ways because it’s just so freaking weird. Sometimes I felt repulsed, other times I questioned every single character’s mental stability. 

A ton of misdirects. Just when you think you have an inkling of what is going on at the compound guess again. Something always pops up to throw you off, and believe me, when you get to that ending, you’ll never have seen that coming and I’m still not sure WHY. The how is there, but the why is fuzzy. Why go through such lengths? It’s crazy, yet somehow innovative.

The story itself, there’s not a huge plot focus. It’s more an internal journey for each character into finding their problems, questioning them, and looking for ways to fix them that might be out of the box. Up until, I’d say 200 or so pages, you’ll wonder why you’re still reading when so little has happened.

The compound, Evolve, is a hippie-retreat catered towards inner development and inoculation against the negative forces and influences of the outside world. Bullying, self-doubt, horrible parents, things like that (vectors in the story) that shape you and break your spirit. There are so many questions that are never answered. Why so few young people? Is it a cult? Why the extremes?

You can tell someone with a psychology degree wrote this.

When the plot twist happens, it’s a letdown. Why? Because it’s completely unsatisfying. Sure, it resulted in some moderate improvement but why????

There are some beautifully pointed psychological insights into humanity. Lots of quotable, profound material. There are also what appear to be journal entries or a how-to sort of guide mingled in with the chapters. These may be confusing and frustrating for some because up until the end, you’ll have no clue who wrote them or why.

All in all, The Smaller Evil was hard to rate. It was a decent read, it kept me interested, and I read it straight through. The urge to know what was going on was the driving force behind my single-minded focus to get to the end. 

If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

Addictive reading,

Jordan

Review: My Soul to Keep by Jackie Sonnenberg

my soul to keepGoodreads/Amazon

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Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep,
If I shall die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take…

When thirteen-year-old Sky Monroe arrives at her new boarding school, all she can think about is death and connecting with the afterlife. Soon she discovers her school’s spirituality group called Guardians of Light—and they have a secret.
The Guardians of Light can speak with the dead…

When Mitchell Brooks, the teacher and leader of the group, reveals this unnerving secret to Sky—though this is exactly what she believed she wanted—she learns the organization is rapidly becoming a cult. Now she’s concerned she and her friend Damien will not be permitted to walk away.

Danger and death lurk around every corner…

The campus house, where Sky resides, is haunted, and the spirits have their own agenda. December 21, 2012 threatens the end of the world, and Mitchell and the spirits have special plans in store. They just might bring Sky closer to the afterlife—and possibly beyond—than she ever imagined.

Sky is looking for a connection to the afterlife, but what she finds may be more than she bargained for…because what lies after life is death.

review

3/5 Stars

***I received this book as a gift in exchange for an honest review via the author

PROS:

  • From the beginning of the story, it’s hard to tell what it will become, a cult situation, something paranormal, something ghostly, magical, hexing, who knows. The mystery of The Guardians of the Light propels the story forward, though it’s a fight when nothing much happens, you KNOW something is coming, something dark. There are subtle clues here and there that create a sinister vibe that suggests the Guardians aren’t the love and light community that they seem. The cult atmosphere is gripping and chilling. The way they parrot and how deeply they believe in the Light is enough to scare anyone. 
  • Towards the later half of the book, seriously creepy, haunting, and downright terrifying things happen. They’re graphic, grotesque, and will keep you on the edge of your seat wondering if Sky will live to see the end of the book. Read with the lights on…er…or not. 
  • Sky’s devotion and conviction are admirable. She just wants to believe in something and get a greater spiritual understanding that will bring her closer to her father. Only in the Guardian group does she feel safe, at home, and like she belongs. It’s her safe haven and that comfort is almost enough for her to overlook their sketchy behavior. Through the companionship she finds with the Guardians, she gains confidence and learns to fight for her beliefs. While she may be misguided, she learns and questions, she takes risks, and opens her mind to the possibilities of the supernatural. 

CONS:

  • Pacing is fairly slow. Nothing really happens until well into the story. It almost reads like a diary entry of daily mundane activities. 
  • Sky is initially creeped out by The Guardians of the Light, but them becomes obsessed. It’s like a light switch flipped on without any real explanation. The sudden change of heart is hard to understand. The loss of her father is prominent in the story but somehow the reader seems to be looking at it from a distance. Sky is searching for something to help her through her grief and to make her feel closer to the father she lost, but the leap from totally turned off by them to extreme lifestyle change was fast and felt off. Too much too soon. 
  • The mean girls, the gossip, the cattiness, the petty jealousy were typical and a distraction that took away from the overall story. The romantic elements were light and sporadic. It’s there, it’s not, it doesn’t feel as authentic or emotional as it could have. It felt like a random insertion instead of something that was building up. The pieces were there, they just weren’t connected. 

If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

Scary reading, 

Jordan

Release Blitz: Wickedly They Dream-Cathrina Constantine

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000031_00002]Amazon/Goodreads

synEvil never rests.

Jordan hoped her life would change after the fiery death of the devious sorcerer, Asa Trebane. She was wrong. The Black Order of the Cult is gearing up to select a new Supreme Leader, and Lucifer will be judge and jury.

Seeley, Jordan’s mother, is possessed with a curse, and even the priests can’t find a solution to defeat the evil devouring her. Jordan must dig deeper into the Satanic realm and joins forces with a wicked witch to save her family from the clutches of Hell.

However, when things go awry with her guardian angel, Markus, Jordan is shrouded in her own longing as she faces the darkness without his light.

There’s trouble in paradise and souls are at stake as Jordan fights to hold onto a normal teenage life ~ the angel she loves ~ and a family that hangs in peril.

ExcerptSnippet 1:

Every so often, Jordan’s gaze strayed to the finely built human angel. His jersey spread over his muscled pecs, running the length of his narrowing torso. Her eyes dawdled on the exposed skin where his shirt had ridden up past the waistline of his jeans. Curious, she wondered if he bore a scar from the knife wound inflicted by Asa Trebane a month before. She’d always bear the burden of being a pawn in her angel’s intended demise.

Snippet 2:

While turning, Em’s hand dipped into the pocket of her chenille robe. Out poured a chain of beads, a rosary. She’d looked done in. The proof was in the slope of her shoulders as she hobbled down the hallway, fingering the beads.

Jordan was more than certain that Em hadn’t been fooled. Her grandmother had seen and heard plenty through the years. Also, she was convinced her grandmother was a true warrior in her own right. Her fight consisted of harnessing Satan with a beaded chain of prayers.

Snippet 3:

Breathing shallow, she scanned the thicket. Five yards ahead, she envisaged transparent waves, like shimmering heat on a blacktopped road. Within the airwaves, an image appeared, an exact replica of Father James kneeling, his spirit-like figure fading in and out.

His lips moved. “Join. Spiritually. Time. Running out.”

The words pitched in and out of her ears as if he was speaking through a

dysfunctional megaphone. “Weaken enchantments . . .”

Snippet 4:

With his back to Seeley, Mortimer called over his shoulder, “Asa’s procrastination in annihilating you, body and soul, has made you stronger.” He made a sweeping turn. “Heavenly powers guard the Chase women like hawks. Nevertheless, Jordan’s blood, and may I add, yours—” His red-rimmed eyes locked on her. “—will eventually be ours.”

Missed the first book?WTC Ebook CoverGrab it now on Amazon for only 99 Pennies!

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Magical reading, 

Jordan

ARC Review: The Killing Jar-Jennifer Bosworth

killing jarGoodreads/Amazon/B&N/iBooks

syn“I try not to think about it, what I did to that boy.”

Seventeen-year-old Kenna Marsden has a secret.

She’s haunted by a violent tragedy she can’t explain. Kenna’s past has kept people—even her own mother—at a distance for years. Just when she finds a friend who loves her and life begins to improve, she’s plunged into a new nightmare. Her mom and twin sister are attacked, and the dark powers Kenna has struggled to suppress awaken with a vengeance.

On the heels of the assault, Kenna is exiled to a nearby commune, known as Eclipse, to live with a relative she never knew she had. There, she discovers an extraordinary new way of life as she learns who she really is, and the wonders she’s capable of. For the first time, she starts to feel like she belongs somewhere. That her terrible secret makes her beautiful and strong, not dangerous. But the longer she stays at Eclipse, the more she senses there is something malignant lurking underneath it all. And she begins to suspect that her new family has sinister plans for her…

review3.5/5 Stars

***I received that eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley & Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group

Content warning: disturbing images, animal abuse, and violence.

The Killing Jar is an unexpected, creepy and fantastically bizarre thrill ride. From the first page, it’s a hypnotic and addictive story that will have you gunning for more.

PROS:

  • That opening is one of the most twisted, sickening, disturbing things I’ve ever read and it only got better as it went. Be forewarned, some of these images might be too much for some. 
  • Mythology meets cult mentality meets paranormal. It’s insanity how well everything fits together. Wonderful plotting. Twists around every corner and a sinister sense of doom underneath all the pretty rainbows and soul-sucking highs. The truth, when it surfaces, is CRAZY. 
  • Kenna is a relatable protagonist. She’s always felt like she never belonged, she’s dissatisfied, unhappy, and melancholy and yet, she is precisely herself. She dyed her hair gray, wears muted colors, and writes folk songs. She loves her twin more than anything and will do everything within her power to save her from suffering. 
  • Eclipse is an episode of the X-Files meets The Twilight Zone. It’s looks like a utopia but reeks of evil beneath the surface. The tense, expectation that something is really wrong will fester and the intensity will have you gripping the pages, waiting for the inevitable disaster. You’ll never look at moths the same again.
  • Diversity GALORE.

CONS:

  • The scenes of anima-induced euphoria read like a trippy drug haze. The first time it was okay but then it became a pattern that had me skimming and flipping through to get to the next section. 
  • Emotions other than desire were muted and it was hard to feel any sort of connection. Kenna’s kinship with anyone was tentative and loose at best, there needed to be more-more shared experiences, confessions, something to solidify the emotional legitimacy.
  • The romance felt like filler. Random, thrown in without much function. 

If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

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NOTE: I’m using this to check off my book featuring twins on the 2016 YA Reading Challenge

 

Read on,

Jordan

ARC Review: Blood and Salt-Kim Liggett

23845997Goodreads/Amazon/B&N/iBooks

Release Date: September 22, 2015

synRomeo and Juliet meets Children of the Corn in this one-of-a-kind romantic horror.

“When you fall in love, you will carve out your heart and throw it into the deepest ocean. You will be all in—blood and salt.”

These are the last words Ash Larkin hears before her mother returns to the spiritual commune she escaped long ago. But when Ash follows her to Quivira, Kansas, something sinister and ancient waits among the rustling cornstalks of this village lost to time.

Ash is plagued by memories of her ancestor, Katia, which harken back to the town’s history of unrequited love and murder, alchemy and immortality. Charming traditions soon give way to a string of gruesome deaths, and Ash feels drawn to Dane, a forbidden boy with secrets of his own.

As the community prepares for a ceremony five hundred years in the making, Ash must fight not only to save her mother, but herself—and discover the truth about Quivira before it’s too late. Before she’s all in—blood and salt.

review4.5/5 Stars

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via Penguin FirstToRead

Reading Blood and Salt is very much like getting lost in a massive corn maze in the dead of night with a sinister presence stalking after you. The more I read, the deeper I went into the chaos and terror. Shock after shock, twists turn into insane revelations. I couldn’t stop, I couldn’t breathe, this story is epic. Throughout the entire read I couldn’t figure out how story elements so far removed fit so well together-Native Americans, Conquistadors, alchemy, a curse, and flesh-eating corn? Somehow it all works and it’s MAGICAL. 

READ THIS BOOK IF:

  • You want to be scared senseless
  • You adore unconventional horror
  • You’re a sucker for star-crossed lovers
  • You’re looking for a unique story 
  • Seriously…just read it

PROS:

  • I can’t remember the last time I was so disturbed by a book-maybe Girl from the Well. There’s a new level of creepy that takes on a life of its own as the story progresses. From the haunting visions, the grotesque ghosts, the monstrous crows, and several unexplained phenomenons, there’s an overwhelming feeling of being watched, a foreboding that sticks with you even as clues are uncovered. Nail-biting, looking over your shoulder, sleeping with the light on…be prepared to be scared.
  • There’s an eclectic mix of history, folklore, and magic that is woven so well together it’s hard to imagine that they don’t exist that way in history books. The merging of Native American beliefs with alchemy and a Conquistador curse is not something I ever would have expected but it creates a dark tale that almost reads like truth. 
  • As if corn mazes aren’t horrifying enough, add in missing people, blood trails and unnatural behaviors, it becomes the perfect setting for a gruesome horror story. Coupled with this is the cult-like city. It’s intricate, protected by the corn, it’s made of a small history that evolved into worship. The people are solid in their faith that immortality is around the corner, their devotion only adds to the horror. 
  • Characters, for the most part, leave a lasting impression. Apart from the main characters, Ash’s mother is an even more intense version of Misty Day from American Horror Story: Coven.
  • Plot twist central.
  • Relationships are crucial to this tale and extremely powerful. The love between Ash and her brother is heartwarming and potent. Though they’re incredibly different, they get each other. You can feel their connection. Dane and Ash are light sexual tension that builds into something on the verge of lust. One moment it’s playful and sensual, the next it’s explosive. 
  • THAT ENDING. Just cut out my heart and STOMP ALL OVER IT.

CONS:

  • Early on in the story, so much is summarized about the curse and Katia that it feels like being hit with a sledgehammer, totally overwhelmed with information.
  • Some components felt rushed and unfinished. Sections in Quivira, particularly the scenes with the scars, the leader, and what happens to him were short and cut off abruptly. A longer, more developed look into Quivira and the complex relationships there would have not only added to the horror but laid a stronger foundation for the next book.

If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

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Jordan

ARC Review: Awake-Natasha Preston

22881022Goodreads/Amazon/B&N/iBooks

Release Date: August 4, 2015cooltext1889161239 copy

Scarlett doesn’t remember anything before the age of five. Her parents say it’s from the trauma of seeing her house burn down, and she accepts the life they’ve created for her without question—until a car accident causes Scarlett to start remembering pieces of an unfamiliar past.

When a new guy moves into town, Scarlett feels an instant spark. But Noah knows the truth of Scarlett’s past, and he’s determined to shield her from it…because Scarlett grew up in a cult called Eternal Light, controlled by her biological parents.

And they want her back.

cooltext1889171582 copy2/5 Stars

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley & SOURCEBOOKS Fire

PROS:

  • The cult is creepy and delusional. The absolute belief they have in their faith is disturbing. They don’t question or doubt, they mindlessly carry on despite the horrific requests made by their leaders in the name of earning a ticket to Heaven. The preparations are ritualistic and if it weren’t for their vegetarianism and connection to living off the earth, would seem a little Satanic. 
  • The last few chapters are adrenaline-packed and full of uncertainty. The fear is clear and haunting. The danger escalates and foreboding overtakes the story. You might want to read this with the lights on. Violence and desperation war with the fight for survival. 

CONS:

  • It took an obsenely long time to reveal what Noah is. For more than half the book he was giving me alien vibes only to find out the truth way far in. 
  • Scarlett and Noah don’t have strong or memorable personalities. Their interactions largely consist of sitting in bed watching movies and nothing else. It was difficult to become attached to either character because there wasn’t much to them.
  • Secondary characters were basically nonexistent. They show up for small moments and then vanish. Scarlett’s best friend falls in the realm of the cliché, jealous slutty friend. 
  • Pacing in slow and it makes the story hard to commit to. The mystery compelled me to read on.

If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

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cooltext1754437870 copy