ARC Review: Missing by Kelley Armstrong

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The only thing Winter Crane likes about Reeve’s End is that soon she’ll leave it. Like her best friend did. Like her sister did. Like most of the teens born in town have done. There’s nothing for them there but abandoned mines and empty futures. They’re better off taking a chance elsewhere.

The only thing Winter will miss is the woods. Her only refuge. At least it was. Until the day she found Lennon left for dead, bleeding in a tree.

But now Lennon is gone too. And he has Winter questioning what she once thought was true. What if nobody left at all? What if they’re all missing?

review4/5 Stars

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley & Crown Books for Young Readers

+++Potential triggers for animal abuse/mutilation, abduction, violence, suicide, and physical abuse

Creepy, chilling, and all sorts of sinister, Missing is the kind of mystery that hits hard because of just how possible the situation is. 

This mystery is a challenge. There are so many clues that lead you in several directions. The reader, just like Winter, doesn’t know who to trust and what’s more, there are hints that suggest Winter is not psychologically sound or an entirely reliable narrator. I loved that the possibilities were endless and kept me guessing throughout, up until the very end. 

There are some seriously nightmare-inducing scenes. Some material may be triggering for readers, especially when it comes to animal abuse/mutilation. The adrenaline is high. Every snap of a twig, every laugh in the dark, every moment that makes you doubt, it’s a rush that will leave you breathless with anticipation. I could not put it down. 

In Reeve’s End the poverty is so profound that people can’t afford food and hunting is a necessary means of survival for some. The story begins with the main character setting traps, hunting for her dinner, resting in her personal shack in the woods. As the world building picked up, it was a huge revelation. Reeve’s End is one sketchy and messed up place. The cops are a joke. They arrest people on whim, they dismiss actual tips, and are full of prejudice that prevents them from doing real police work. And the sexism. Wow. There are several pointed comments about a woman’s position in society, victim blaming, and intelligence as something snobby and indecent. Sometimes the rage was pretty strong and the frustration that no one would listen to Winter and Jude, it’s enough to put anyone on edge. 

Winter and Jude. Steamy. Profound. Beautiful. The way they confide in each other. They see beneath the surface and fronts they put on for outsiders and they’re so cautious. Winter recognizes Jude has deep resentment, issues, and has put up a wall because she has the same feelings within herself. Their relationship isn’t angsty or particularly sexual like a lot of YA lately, it builds and grows and is rooted in understanding and compassion. 

While there were tidbits and clues throughout, I don’t think there were enough of them. The ending is so twisted that there’s really no way to see it coming and there wasn’t enough given to the reader to make a guess until a chapter or two before the reveal. 

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

Keep reading, 

Jordan

Review: Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza

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CROWN PRINCESS RHIANNON TA’AN WANTS VENGEANCE.

The only surviving heir to an ancient Kalusian dynasty, RHEE has spent her life training to destroy the people who killed her family. Now, on the eve of her coronation, the time has finally come for Rhee to claim her throne – and her revenge.

ALYOSHA is a Wraetan who has risen above his war refugee origins to find fame as the dashing star of a DroneVision show. Despite his popularity, Aly struggles with anti-Wraetan prejudices and the pressure of being perfect in the public eye.

Their paths collide with one brutal act of violence: Rhee is attacked, barely escaping with her life. Aly is blamed for her presumed murder.

The princess and her accused killer are forced to go into hiding – even as a war between planets is waged in Rhee’s name. But soon, Rhee and Aly discover that the assassination attempt is just one part of a sinister plot. Bound together by an evil that only they can stop, the two fugitives must join forces to save the galaxy.

In this exhilarating debut for fans of Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles and Pierce Brown’s Red Rising trilogy, RHODA BELLEZA crafts a powerful saga of vengeance, warfare, and the true meaning of legacy.

review

3/5 Stars

  • Suspense. Though the pacing was sometimes iffy, the uncertainty, danger, and desperation of both Aly and Rhee’s situations keep the intensity up and I never wanted to stop reading, I needed to know what happened and whether Rhee and Aly would ever cross paths. There’s an abundance of intrigue, evil, and sabotage throughout that happens almost at random.
  • Aly’s POV. I adored Aly. He was unexpected and engaging. A reality TV star of an obliterated planet who goes around hunting down illegal ships? I mean what’s not to love? He’s a little serious, a tad brooding, but curious and courageous. He sometimes lets his prejudice get in the way and those flaws only made him more endearing. Aly spends his time on the run, getting into precarious situations just as dangerous and exciting as Rhee’s. Aly’s POV was more introspective and thoughtful, he judged himself, his actions, and embraced the wild goose chase because he had no choice. His lighter-hearted sections were a nice balance to Rhee’s. Pavel, Aly’s sidekick robot ❤ He’s witty and intelligent and compliments Aly’s BA mechanical skills. 
  • I loved the politics when they were there. The distinctions between races, the disgust, the hatred, how people from certain planets are degraded and looked down on. It’s terrible and complex and made me hurt for those poor slaughtered people and the anguish they went through as their families were killed, their planets destroyed, and everything they knew replaced by revulsion and rejection. The technology is intriguing. I loved the cubes. It’s like this piece that attached to them that tracks everything. Their movements, their memories, and syncs. But holy invasion of privacy and huge risk. It felt like paranoia on the horizon, like someone had to be listening in or something. Totally creepy. 
  • Dahlen. Oh man did I absolutely love this character. He doesn’t have a POV, but I wish he did. He’s complex, has a convoluted and slightly insane, almost cult-like back story and I wanted so much more. He’s the kind of character that you know in actions seems evil or at the very least misguided, but something makes you question his motives and whether he’s hiding his true self. Plus he’s fierce, crafty, clever, and always coming up with ways to escape seemingly impossible situations. 

CONS:

  • Foreshadowing is difficult to get right, go too far and everything becomes predictable. In the first few pages I knew pretty much every twist and every reveal. It was all there in leading sentences that made you pause for a minute and think. Everything was too obvious, too handed to the reader and it took a lot away from the suspense that should have been building as Rhee and Aly fled for their lives. 
  • Worldbuilding. Don’t get me wrong, the world was there, it was solid but it felt like it was only a layer above the foundation. There are several planets, different races(?) of people, and a storm of politics that pit planets against each other and enforce hatred and prejudice. That was epic, though lacking somewhat in description. It was hard to follow the politics and keep track of the planets as the story progressed. I would have loved a little more why. Why the animosity? Why was it so easy to turn people against each other? Why and where does the planetary hierarchy begin and end? I had several questions and too few answers. 
  • As much as it pains me to say this, I did not like Rhee. Not even remotely and despite her slight growth, she did not grow on me. Rhee is naive and will not listen to reason. She’s been holding onto a grudge for years with zero proof, only her poorly constructed conjecture. Everyone can tell who the bad guys are, there’s no speculation except from the main character. Weird. Rhee thinks the wrong things through. It’s like at every turn she’s focused on random stuff instead of the bigger picture. It drove me mad. She thinks she knows absolutely everything and doesn’t leave room for anyone else’s opinions or facts, she goes head first into whatever situation and then afterwards is like, oh wow, I was wrong how did that happen? Maybe I should have listened? And then shrug. I wrote status updates and notes throughout reading, which took far longer than it should have I might add, and I don’t think I’ve ever used the words “duh” and “obviously” so much in my life. And she’s supposed to be the savior, the key that will stop an inevitable war, and an empress? Rhee needs decades worth of growth and maturity and a whole lot of councillors before that could ever seem remotely possible.
  • Side note: I would not compare this to Red Rising. 

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

Intriguing reading, 

Jordan

Reviews: X-Files Origins-The Devil’s Advocate by Jonathan Maberry & Agent of Chaos by Kami Garcia

Let me preface these reviews by saying that there was no way, no way at all that I was skipping these books. No matter how apprehensive I was, no matter whether or not I was already a fan of the authors, or if I raised my eyebrow real high at Garcia writing Mulder and Maberry writing Scully, because THIS IS THE X-FILES. I’ll admit, these books were hard to review because the nostalgia and fandom is so strong…this is probably my strongest fandom connection because MULDER + SCULLY for LIFE. I mean, the characters…I digress. That being said, I tried to look at these more for the story and less from what I expected Scully and Mulder to be like as teens. There has been a ton of negative commentary-parts that fans say the authors are reaching and make zero sense. As an avid X-Files fan, I can see that, but these interpretations are not entirely off base…especially when it comes to Scully. It’s difficult when the character presence is so strong as adults, you come to expect very specific details about their lives as teens, what you assume they were like and why they became who they did. It’s hard to shake those preconceived ideas off, and those who are totally stuck in that place might be disappointed by what they find. If you’re a fan, you absolutely should read these and put them on your shelf next to your Mulder and Scully Funko Pops. I know I will. 

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How did Fox Mulder become a believer? How did Dana Scully become a skeptic? The X-Files Origins has the answers in this young adult origin story.

The X-Files Origins: Devil’s Advocate will explore the teen years of Dana Scully, the beloved character depicted in the cult-favorite TV show The X-Files. Her story is set in the spring of 1979, when serial murder, the occult, and government conspiracy were highlighted in the news.

The book will follow Scully as she experiences life-changing events that set her on the path to becoming an FBI agent.

review

3/5 Stars 

Scully, Scully, Scully. I was so disappointed in her character, but maybe not for the reasons you’d think. A lot of the criticism this book has faced from readers is because of Scully’s sixth sense. Which, if you’re looking at the Scully in the future, you’re probably thinking that Scully worships at the altar of science and this is ridiculous. But if you’ve experienced all of the lovely X-Files series, you’ll recall that Scully had more than one incident where she sees ghosts and has premonition-style visions, so it’s not that far off base and one of her biggest character conflicts has always been her faith and the paranormal. Mulder directly calls her out on the fact that she can so willingly believe in God, but something like aliens is too out there. It’s in her story arc.

Mini rant aside, Scully here is super young. She has no experience with boys, crushes, any responsiblity really. While she’s smart and reclusive, her forays into mysticism are more meditative than anything. Scully here looks up to her older sister. She’s a tag along that just goes wherever her sister takes her. THAT is what bothered me. That headstrong, take charge girl, the one who thinks, who studies, who calculates before coming to conclusions-that girl was absent (or barely visible). So many times Scully just hops right into danger and makes BOLD leaps, piecing things together without second guessing. That is NOT the Scully we know. It’s hard to talk about Scully in her youth without comparing her to who she is in the future. Here Scully isn’t really likable, she’s more wishy-washy and doesn’t have the strongest voice. This would have been okay, because she’s so young and naive, but she doesn’t really learn. Sure she feels remorse for her actions, but I didn’t see much growth. 

The plot is definitely an X-File, not your typical murder-mystery. There’s a sinister, supernatural element that is perplexing, confusing, and all sorts of crazy. It will keep you on your toes and uncertain of what will happen. It’s a chaotic mess, but the kind that pushes you to seek answers and wonder what the endgame is. Plus the idea itself-the whole premise for the villain is insanely clever and wickedly evil. There’s so much more than meets the eye. 

Pacing was so-so, but picks up a lot towards the end.

Scully’s love interest. I liked him. He seemed like a good fit. Smart, resourceful, protective, but also stubborn. Their interactions were awkward and bashful. So cute. There’s no intense attraction like is common in a lot of YA right now. It’s more uncertainty, confusion, and sudden feelings. Curiosity. I appreciated the change of pace. 

The killer and the government agents.YES. They are done so well. You see the corruption, the fear, the manipulation. They were some of my favorite people in the book. They were complex and vicious and the darkness!!! ❤

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The X-Files Origins: Agent of Chaos explores the teen years of Fox Mulder, the beloved character depicted in the cult-favorite TV show The X-Files. His story is set in the spring of 1979, when serial murder, the occult, and government conspiracy were highlighted in the news.

The book will follow Mulder as he experiences life-changing events that set him on the path to becoming an FBI agent.

review

4/5 Stars 

I feel bizarre saying this but Mulder is pretty freaking hot. He’s awkward and nerdy and has no idea what he’s doing with his life. He’s kind of just going with it until he’s hit with this murder that he feels is connected to his sister’s disappearance and the obsession is born. There’s this blend of angst and intelligence. Of yearning after his pretty, Star Wars obsessed best friend, trying to connect with his father, the disappointment that comes with that neglect, and learning what he’s passionate about. This is truly the birth of his interest in catching killers and paranormal. It felt right. It made sense. I LOVE him. 

Secondary characters. You guys, every character is so alive. They’re developed, intriguing, totally compelling. You want to know them. I adored Phoebe. She’s witty, intelligent, gorgeous, she doesn’t care what anyone thinks about her, calls people out on their fears, and is just an all around awesome character. And she’s totally nerdy. She reads textbooks, knows complex mathematics, physics, etc. She’s one fierce girl who somehow feels relatable. Gimble. Yes. Just yes. He’s interesting, a total dork, and a basic ode to the time period. I loved his lines and enthusiasm. He’s the perfect sidekick. Gimble’s father!!! It’s weird, but I became so invested in Gimble’s father’s conspiracy theories and the way his mind worked. Fascinating. You can see where Mulder got his methods from. I got a nostalgic, this feels so familiar vibe. The government agents. Some of their scenes were full of acerbic wit and heavy sarcasm. 

The scenes of the crimes were intricate, graphic without going too dark, and left enough mystery to keep me guessing and trying to fill in the blanks. Towards the end, the suspense was high. I was on edge and sickened. 

My biggest issue with the book was not Garcia’s portrayal of Mulder, but the way the mystery fit together. There were too many pieces that slid into place in a sort of what are the odds way. It was too simple. Too coincidental and we all know there are no  coincidences. 

While I wasn’t a fan of the romantic elements, they were more of a shrug to me, I was glad that Mulder had someone to nurture and encourage him. Phoebe being there for him is what mattered, the romance was secondary, despite Mulder’s frisky teenaged hormones. 

Enjoy your trip down memory lane, 

Jordan

Review, Excerpt, Q + A, & Giveaway: Freeks by Amanda Hocking

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Welcome to Gideon Davorin’s Traveling Sideshow, where necromancy, magical visions, and pyrokinesis are more than just part of the act…

Mara has always longed for a normal life in a normal town where no one has the ability to levitate or predict the future. Instead, she roams from place to place, cleaning the tiger cage while her friends perform supernatural feats every night.

When the struggling sideshow is miraculously offered the money they need if they set up camp in Caudry, Louisiana, Mara meets local-boy Gabe…and a normal life has never been more appealing.

But before long, performers begin disappearing and bodes are found mauled by an invisible beast. Mara realizes that there’s a sinister presence lurking in the town with its sights set on getting rid of the sideshow freeks. In order to unravel the truth before the attacker kills everyone Mara holds dear, she has seven days to take control of a power she didn’t know she was capable of—one that could change her future forever.

Excerpt

5. Carnival

Unlike many of the other members of the sideshow, I didn’t have a specific job. My mom was a fortune- teller, Gideon did a magic show, Zeke had his tigers, Brendon and his family did acrobatics, Seth was a strongman. My best friend Roxie Smith was in two acts— she helped out Zeke, and did a peepshow revue with two other girls.

I had no talent. No special ability, making me essentially a roadie. I did what was needed of me, which usually involved helping set up and take down, and various menial tasks. I cleaned the tiger cages and emptied out latrines when I had to. It wasn’t a glamorous job, but it was crucial to our way of life.

Since Roxie worked with the tigers, Mahilā actually tolerated her. Roxie was helping me clean out the tiger cage they traveled in. The cage was open to a fenced-in enclosure Seth had built, so the tigers could roam as they pleased.

Safēda lounged in the grass, the sun shining brightly on her white fur. Whenever we stopped, Safēda seemed content to just lay in the sun, sleeping the entire time, but as the older tiger, it made sense.

Mahilā paced along the fence, occasionally emitting an irritated guttural noise in between casting furtive glances back toward Roxie and me. Her golden fur was mottled with scars from her past life in the abusive circus, including a nasty one that ran across her nose.

“So where did you go last night?” Roxie asked, her voice lilting in a sing song playful way. She was out in the run, using a hose to fill up a blue plastic kiddie pool so the tigers could play in it, while I was on my hands and knees scrubbing dung off the cage floor.

Her bleached blond hair was pulled back in a ponytail, and the sleeves of her white T- shirt were rolled up, revealing her well-toned arms. The cut- off jean shorts she wore barely covered her bum, and her old cowboy boots went up to her knees— her chosen footwear anytime she was at risk of stepping in tiger poop.

With fair skin, full lips, large blue eyes, and a dainty nose, Roxie was pretty and deceptively tough. Being a beautiful carnie was not an easy job, and dancing in the revue under the stage name “Foxy Roxie” didn’t help that. But she made decent money doing it, and Roxie never put up with anybody’s crap. I’d seen her deck guys much bigger than her and lay them out flat on their backs.

“I was just at a party,” I said as I rinsed the brush off in a bucket of bleach and warm water.

“A party?” Roxie looked over at me with a hand on her hip.

 “How’d you get invited to a party so fast?”

I shrugged. “I was just exploring town, and I saw some people hanging outside of this big house party, and they invited me in.”

“So what are the people like here? Are they nice?”

Safēda had gotten up and climbed into the pool, and then she flopped down in it, splashing Roxie as she did. Roxie took a step back, but kept looking at me.

“I don’t know. The people I met last night seemed nice, and they were superrich, so that bodes well for the town, I guess.”

“Like how rich?” Roxie asked.

“Like their house is practically a mansion.” I dropped the brush in the water and sat back on my knees, taking a break to talk to her. “It was the nicest house I’ve ever been in, hands down.”

“Is that why you spent the night there?”

Roxie understood my fascination with houses. Well, “understood” wasn’t the right word. It was more like she knew of it, but didn’t understand it all. She’d grown up in an upper- middleclass family, in nice houses with basements, and thought they were about as boring and lame as she could imagine.

“Partly.” I nodded. “It was a really amazing house. There were pillars out front, and the front hall was bigger than my trailer.”

“It’s just a house, Mara.” Roxie shook her head.

“I know but . . .” I trailed off, trying to think of how to explain it to her. “You know how you felt when you first joined the sideshow two years ago? How everything seemed so exciting and fun, and I was like, ‘We live in cramped trailers. It kinda sucks.’”

Roxie nodded. “Yeah. But I still think this life is a million times better than my old life. I get to see everything. I get to decide things for myself. I can leave whenever I want. There’s nothing to hold me back or tie me down.”

She’d finished filling up the pool, so she twisted the nozzle on the hose to shut it off. Stepping carefully over an old tire and a large branch that the tigers used as toys, she went to the edge of the run and tossed the hose over the fence, before Mahilā decided to play with it and tore it up.

She walked over to the cage and scraped her boots on the edge, to be sure she didn’t track any poop inside, before climbing up inside it.

“So what was the other reason?” Roxie asked.

I kept scrubbing for a moment and didn’t look up at her when I said, “Gabe.”

Gabe?” Roxie asked. “That sounds like a boy’s name.”

“That’s because it is.”

“Did you have sex with him?”

“No.” I shot her a look. “We just made out a little.”

“What what what?” Luka Zajiček happened to be walking by just in time to hear that, and he changed his course to walk over to the tiger cage. “Is that what you were up to last night?”

“That’s what sucks about living in a community so small. Whenever anything happens, everybody knows about it right away,” I muttered.

Luka put his arms through the cage bars and leaned against it, in the area I’d cleaned already. Since he was rather short, the floor came up to his chest, and his black hair fell into his eyes.

His eyes were the same shade of gray as mine, but his olive skin was slightly lighter than mine. We first met him when he joined the carnival four years ago, and the first thing my mom said was that she was certain that we were related somehow.

Unfortunately, Mom knew next to nothing about our family tree to be able to prove it. All she could really tell me was that we were a mixture of Egyptian, Turkish, and Filipino, with a bit of German thrown in for good measure.

Luka had been born in Czechoslovakia, but he’d moved here with his family when he was young, so he’d lost his accent.

He had recently roped me into helping him with a trick. He’d stand with his back against a wall, while I fired a crossbow around him. Originally, Blossom had been the one to help him, but she kept missing and shooting him in the leg or arm, so he’d asked me to do it because I had a steadier hand.

“So you made out with some local guy last night?” Luka asked, smirking at me. “Are you gonna see him again?”

“He’s a local guy. What do you think?” I asked, and gave him a hard look.

Luka shrugged. “Sometimes you bump into them again.”

“And that goes so well when they find out that I work and live with a traveling sideshow,” I said.

The floor was spotless, or at least as spotless as tiger cages can get, and I tossed my brush in the bucket and took off my yellow rubber gloves.

“We can’t all meet our boyfriends in the sideshow,” I reminded Luka as I stood up, and it only made him grin wider. He’d been dating Tim— one of the Flying Phoenixes— for the past three months.

“But you didn’t see Blossom anywhere in town last night?” Roxie asked, and Luka’s smile instantly fell away.

A sour feeling stirred in my stomach, and I looked out around camp through the bars of the cage, as if Blossom would suddenly appear standing beside a trailer. As I’d been doing my chores all morning, I kept scanning the campsite for her, expecting her to return at any moment with a funny story about how she’d gotten lost in town.

But so far, she hadn’t. And the longer she went without coming back, the worse the feeling in my stomach got. I shook my head. “No. I didn’t see her at all last night.”

“She’s gotta turn up, though, right?” Luka asked. “I mean, it’s not like there are really that many places she could’ve gone considering she has no money or car and she’s in a small town.”

The tigers were still down in the run, so I opened the side gate and hopped down out of the cage. Roxie got out behind me, then we closed the door.

“I should talk to Gideon,” I decided as Roxie locked the cage up behind me. “It’s not like Blossom to do this.”

“It’s not totally unlike her, though,” Roxie pointed out.

“When we were in Toledo six months ago, she dis appeared for a few days with that weird commune, and came back just before we were leaving, totally baked out of her mind.”

Blossom had grown up with parents who pretended to be hippies but were really just a couple of drug addicts. That— along with her unexplainable telekinesis— led to her dabbling with drugs and alcohol at a young age, before the state intervened and shipped her off to a group home.

My mom tried to keep her clean of her bad habits, but sometimes Blossom just liked to run off and do her own thing. That wasn’t that unusual for people who lived in the carnival.

“But if you’re worried, you should talk to Gideon,” Roxie suggested. “Luka’s right in that Blossom really couldn’t have gone far. Maybe you can scope out Caudry.”

“Since that sounds like a mission that may take a bit of time, can you help me and Hutch with the museum before you talk to Gideon?” Luka asked. “The exit door is jammed, and we can’t get it open, and Seth is busy helping set up the tents.”

“Sure. Between me and Mara, I’m sure the two of us can get the door unstuck,” Roxie said.

I dropped off the bucket with the other tiger supplies, and then followed Roxie and Luka away from our campsite to the fairgrounds on the other side of a chain- link fence. We always stayed close to the rides, the midway, and the circus tent, but we didn’t actually sleep there. It was much better for every one if we kept our private lives separate from the crowds.

Many of the games were already set up, and the Ferris wheel was in the process of being erected as we passed. Near the end of the midway was a long black trailer painted with all kinds of frightening images of werewolves and specters, along with happier pictures of mermaids and unicorns, and the sign was written in bloodred:

Beneath that were several smaller signs warning “Enter at your own risk. The creatures inside can be DISTURBING and cause NIGHTMARES.”

The entrance to the left was open, but the exit door at the other end was still shut. Wearing a pair of workman’s gloves, Hutch was pulling at the door with all his might. His neon green tank showed that his muscles were flexed and straining in effort. The bandana kept his dark brown hair off his face, but sweat was dripping down his brow.

“Let me have a try, Hutch,” Roxie said.

“What?” He turned to look back at her. “Door’s stuck.”

“I can see that. That’s why I said let me have a try.”

“Okay.” Hutch shrugged and stepped back.

Hutch’s real name was Donald Hutchence, but nobody ever called him anything but Hutch. He didn’t have any special powers, unless you considered being really agreeable and easygoing a super power, so, like me, he was left doing whatever else needed to be done.

Roxie grabbed the door and started pulling on it, and when it didn’t budge, I joined her.

“Luka, go and push from the inside,” Roxie commanded through gritted teeth.

Both Luka and Hutch went inside, pushing as Roxie and I pulled. And then all at once, the door gave way, and we all fell back on the gravel. I landed on my back, scraping my elbow on the rocks.

Roxie made it out unscathed, and Hutch fell painfully on top of me, so he’d avoided injury. Luka crashed right on the gravel, though, and the rocks tore through his jeans and ripped up his knees and the palms of his hands pretty badly.

“Do you need me to get a Band- Aid or anything?” Hutch asked as he helped me to my feet.

“No, I’ll be okay.” I glanced over at Luka and the blood dripping down his knees. “What about you? Do you want anything?”

“Nah. Just give it a few minutes.” Luka waved it off and sat down on the steps leading up to the museum door.

No matter how many times I saw it, I couldn’t help but watch. His knee was shredded, with bits of gravel sticking in the skin. Right before my eyes, the bleeding stopped, and the rocks started falling out, as if pushed by his flesh, and the skin grew back, reattaching itself where it had been little mangled flaps.

Within a few minutes, Luka’s knee was healed completely.

Copyright © 2017 by Amanda Hocking and reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Griffin.

int

  1.     Your characters are sent into the Hunger Games. Who wins?

If it’s just the characters from FREEKS, and only one could win, I would put my money on Luka or maybe Roxie. Luka because he can heal from injuries, which gives him a crazy advantage, but Roxie is smart and she’s a survivor. Plus, she has the power of pyrokinesis, which I think I would come in handy in a battle to the death.

  1.     What do you listen to while you write? Or do you prefer silence?

I almost always listen to music when I write, unless I’m writing a really difficult scene. Sometimes the silence helps me focus, but most of the time, I prefer music. For FREEKS, I got to make a really fun 80s playlist, so I especially enjoyed working to that.

  1. What is the most embarrassing thing you’ve looked up in the name of research – or what do you think the government has maybe flagged you for?

There are sooo many things. For FREEKS, I had to do fun stuff like, “What does a dead body smell like?” and “How much blood can a human lose?” And then after those macabre questions, I did a bunch of googling on fireflies and tarot cards. My search history when I’m working can be pretty exciting like that.

  1. What was your favorite part of writing FREEKS?

I love Southern Gothics and I love pulpy 80s horror movies, so I was excited to be able incorporate those things in FREEKS. But my favorite part was actually Mara and Gabe. I think they complement each other well, and it was fun writing their banter and flirtations.

  1. Which actor/actress would you like to see playing your main characters from FREEKS?

For Mara, I envisioned Cassie Steele from the start. I used to be a hardcore Degrassi fan, and I loved Cassie Steele on that. For Gabe, I like Ryan Guzman. I saw him in a Jennifer Lopez movie, and I was like, “Yep. That could be Gabe.”

  1.  Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?

I usually write between 11 am and 7 pm. I’ve tried to write earlier in the day and have more of a 8-5 type schedule, but I am not a morning person. My brain just doesn’t want to work much before noon.

  1.   Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day?

I usually have a goal in mind before I start writing, but it varies. Some days, it’s slow going and I hope to get at least 500 words out. Other days, I fly through with thousands of words. So it depends on where I’m at in the book, when it’s due, and how I’m feeling about the whole thing.

  1. When you develop your characters, do you already have an idea of who they are before you write or do you let them develop as you go?

With all my main characters, I have a really good idea of who they are, and it’s just a matter of showing that to the readers. With the side characters, they tend to be rather one-dimensional, and they grow into the story as they’re needed.

  1. How did writing Freeks differ from your writing your previous novels?

FREEKS was the first thing I had written in awhile that was started out just for me. For most of the past ten years, I have been writing my books with the intention of publishing them, with the audience and readers and trends in mind. I think I had gotten a little burnt out on trying to make everyone happy (mostly because it is impossible to please all readers all the time), and I just wanted to write something that for the sake of writing it.

And that turned out to be a gothic love story about a teenage girl travelling with a band of misfits in the 1980s. It was a very cathartic writing experience for me, and it reminded me of exactly why I loved writing in the first place – I love getting lost in the world, with the characters.

  1. If Freeks had a theme song what would it be?

Either “Hush” by Limousines or “Head Over Heels” by Tears For Fears.

  1.   Can you please tell us a little bit about Freeks and where you got the inspiration to write it?

I was going through a rough patch, creatively speaking, and so I just sat back and tried to think of my favorite and what I loved most that I would want to write about.

When I was a kid, I used to get old books at garage sales all the time, and I distinctly remember getting Cycle of the Werewolf by Stephen King and a few old V. C. Andrews novels, which are pulpy Southern Gothic-esque novels. I also watched The Lost Boys and Pretty in Pink over and over again (I think I literally ruined the old VHS of The Lost Boys from watching it too much).

So I basically threw all those things together in a soup, and I picked apart the things I liked and wanted to explore more. That became a travelling sideshow in the 80s stopping Louisiana, where a supernatural monster is afoot, and a girl from the wrong side of the tracks who is smith with a local boy with secrets of his own.

  1.   Freeks is full of many amazingly talented characters and I imagine it was really fun to create some of them, but which one was your favorite and why?

Mara and Gabe are my obvious favorites, since they’re the main characters because I was drawn to them and their story the most. Both of them of them have complex feelings about family and personal identity, and their instant chemistry was fun to write.

But I think Gideon – the namesake and head of sideshow – was actually the biggest surprise, which made him fun in a different way. In the original outlines of the story, he was much a different character – very one-note and cruel – but he completely changed and evolved as I was writing.  

  1.   The book is based off of a type of traveling circus that is full of many mysterious acts. If you were to attend a Freekshow, which act would you want to see most?

My favorites are usually the acrobatics, but I think if I attended Gideon Davorin’s Traveling Sideshow, I would be most excited to see Gideon’s magic act. With his skills and knowledge, I think it would be a really amazing show.

  1.   What do you hope readers will take away from FREEKS after reading it?

With some of my other novels, I deal with heavy themes like life and death, identity, honor, mortality, classism, and family. And while I do definitely touch on those themes in FREEKS, I mostly wrote it as an escape for myself, and that’s what I hope it is for other readers. Life can be hard and frustrating, and I just wanted to write a fun book that readers could get lost in for awhile.

  1. What is something people would be surprised to know about you?

Probably how chronically shy I am. Writing is a weird profession, because a good 90% of it is perfect for introverts – you sit alone by yourself and make up imaginary friends to go on adventures. But the last 10% – which involves introducing the whole word to your imaginary friends – is the most exciting and rewarding part, but it’s also the most difficult when you’re as shy as I am.

review3.5/5 Stars

***I received this eARC via NetGalley, St. Martins, and with participation in this tour in exchange for an honest review 

PROS:

  • Mara is spontaneous, responsible, and terrified to get too close because she knows with her lifestyle love can’t last and once they find out that she lives with a traveling show it’s all over. Mara has grown up fast and loves her eclectic bunch-they’re family. She’s got secrets, she’s completely calm and collected about the supernatural, it’s her life. Mara does more than anyone to find out what’s going on at their camp. She’s likable, thoughtful, and so brave. As a heroine, she’s not particularly special in the typical YA way, she just uses her head, makes connections, and is determined to beat this invisible enemy. 
  • What Amanda Hocking is particularly skilled at is making her secondary characters memorable and unique. You might not like them, but you certainly will not forget them. Each member of the sideshow has a great back story and tons of personality. Roxie is a fiery (she’s has the gift of pyrokinesis), flirty, and sassy little thing. She’s a real minx. I adored her character, I only wish there had been more of her. Her story is made of fierce survival and overcoming her horrific past. Gideon is just as intriguing. From the scars on his back, his past, everything about his is suspect, but at the same time full of a heroic desperation to save his army of misfits. 
  • The concept is AMAZING. I mean super creepy and gory attacks on a sideshow. There’s an abundance of just not right, chilling things that you can’t put your finger on that will keep you on edge about what’s really going on. 
  • I usually loathe instalove, but I didn’t mind this one. Gabe is sexy, sensual, and just the right amount of mysterious/brooding. The chemistry is spot on and you’ll definitely crave more of them, even if they have very few conversations with substance. Lots of hot make out scenes though. 

CONS:

  • The story is set in the 1980s; while there are some randomly inserted references, there weren’t enough of them to feel fully cemented in the time period. The book could have been set in any time range, but maybe because the prevalence of “freak shows” has gone way down since the 1950s. Because there are a limited number of references, they feel like you’re being hit over the head with them whenever they do come up. A more fleshed out setting would have helped with total immersion in the story. 
  • Pacing lagged despite the disappearances, murders, and general supernatural encounters. Some sections were more everyday monotony than working to solve the crimes and harassment against the sideshow members. A ton of focus was placed on the instalove portion of the story, while I didn’t mind the romance, a whole lot of making out some conversation made scenes longer than they actually were. 

authoramanda-hocking-new-credit-mariah-paaverud-with-chimera-photographyAuthor Website/Twitter /Facebook/Author Blog/Pinterest/GoodReads

Amanda Hocking is a lifelong Minnesotan obsessed with Batman and Jim Henson. In between watching cooking shows, taking care of her menagerie of pets, and drinking too much Red Bull Zero, she writes young adult urban fantasy and paranormal romance.

Several of her books have made the New York Times Bestsellers list, including the Trylle trilogy and Kanin Chronicles.  Her zombie series, The Hollows, has been adapted into a graphic novel by Dynamite. She has published over fifteen novels, including the Watersong quartet and My Blood Approves series. Frostfire, Ice Kissed, and Crystal Kingdom  – all three books in her latest trilogy, The Kanin Chronicles – are out now.

Her next book will be Swear, the final book in the My Blood Approves series, and it will be out November 9, 2016. After that, her next book is Freeks – a standalone YA paranormal romance novel set in the 1980s that follows a traveling sideshow. It will be out sometime in early 2017, with the St. Martin’s Griffin.

-via Goodreads

giveaway

For your chance to win a hardcover copy of FREEKS comment with your favorite Amanda Hocking book or encounter either on this blog post, via Twitter @jw08k, or on the Facebook blog page 

U.S. ONLY. Ends 11:59 p.m. EST on 12/28 

Fantastic reading, 

Jordan

Promo: Ashes Series Box Set by Diana Gardin

ashes-series-blot-tour-bannerashes-boxed-set-coverAmazon/Goodreads

syn

3 College Romances that will steal your heart!

Book 1: OUT OF THE ASHES (Paige and Clay)

Paige Hill, a recovered burn victim, lost everything in her family’s house fire. As she picks up the pieces and enters college with the help of her best friend, Clay Forbes walks into her life…and everything changes. The sexy, bad-boy soccer star turns Paige’s world upside down in the best way. But when his ex decides she’ll do whatever it takes to get rid of Paige, their romance could be cut short…and so could someone’s life.

Book 2: SETTLING ASHES (Clay and Paige, continued)

Clay Forbes’ mission in life? Prove he’s innocent of murder and find his girlfriend Paige so that he can fix the damage that’s been done. Before it’s too late. There’s only one problem: he has no idea where Paige is, and she’s taken off with her old high-school sweetheart, Beau. Tracking her down won’t be easy and convincing her of his love will be even harder, especially when there’s still a murderer at large in their small college town.

Book 3: ASHES ADRIFT (Gillian and Drew)

Gillian Ambrose has her act together. She’s nearly finished with her Fashion degree, she’s launching a successful lingerie line, and she’s left the scars from her past back in her old hometown. Until her brother is released from prison and the all drama she left behind comes barreling back again.

Drew Garrick never planned to fall for Gillian. They were thrown together again and again when their best friends began dating. One night with her in his bed to get her out of his system, that’s all he wanted. But now that her brother is back in town and he’s asked Drew to protect Gillian from his revenge-seeking enemies, Drew has to admit the truth to himself: he fell for Gill when she fell into his bed. And now, there’s no going back.

Excerpt

MATURE CONTENT AHEAD

When I reached her little belly button I used my tongue to swirl a hot, wet circle around it. She squirmed underneath of me, and I stilled her writhing with a firm hand on her outer thigh.

“Still,” I whispered. “I’m just getting started with you.”

In response, she bucked her hips and I grinned against the soft skin of her pelvis. Gillian never liked to be ordered around. Not even in the bedroom. It was a constant tug-of-war between us that I’d grown to anticipate and love.

I paused, looking up at her. She emitted this sexy little growl in response, and I waited until she was still before I danced my tongue around the very hot, wet center of her.

Humming in delight, I stroked her again and again, and held her hips firmly against her mattress as she moaned my name.

As her tight little muscles clenched underneath me, I gave one last lap of my tongue and held her as she fell apart. Shock and awe rippled through my entire body, starting with my dick, at the fact that I could bring this girl to the brink this way. It never got old.

This would never get old.

It was something I’d recently realized. At the beginning, I was so sure I’d get the girl out of my system eventually.

Now I was sure that would never, ever happen.

ashes-adrift-boxed-set-teaser

authorDiana GardinDiana Gardin is the author of Contemporary Romance and Romantic Suspense in the adult and New Adult categories. Her words include the Ashes Series, the Nelson Island Series, and the Battle Scars series. Upcoming works include the Night Eagle Security Series (Battle Scars spinoff coming in April 2017) and The Lilac Sky (YA sci-fi Romance coming February 2017).

Diana loved writing at a young age, but decided to try and make a career out of it in 2012 while staying home with her first child. When she’s not writing, you can usually find Diana watching one of her Netflix Obsessions, spending time with her family, or drinking wine with friends.

FACEBOOK/TWITTER/GOODREADS/WEBSITE

Pleasant reading, 

Jordan

Excerpt & Giveaway: Unnatural Deeds by Cyn Balog

unnatural-deedsuntitledAmazon/Barnes & Noble/iBooks/Goodreads

Pub. Date: November 1, 2016

synSecrets. Obsession. Murder. Victoria is about to discover just how dangerous it can be to lose yourself.

Victoria Zell doesn’t fit in, but she’s okay with that. All she needs is the company of her equally oddball boyfriend, Andrew. She doesn’t care what anyone else thinks…until magnetic, charming, mysterious Z comes into her life, and she starts lying to everyone she knows in an effort to unravel his secrets.

And then something terrible happens. Someone is dead and it’s time for Victoria to come clean. Interspersed with news clippings and police interviews, Victoria tells her story to Andrew, revealing her dark, horrible secrets…secrets that have finally come back to haunt her.ExcerptLeary’s old enough to be a grandfather, yet acts like a kid. His desk is crowded with Batman figurines and smiley-face pencils. He always bakes—cookies and sweet breads and stuff—and he brings them in to share, so his office usually smells of cinnamon. Still, it always kind of freaked me out that he’s, you know, a man of God. Other students didn’t seem to censor themselves around him, but I always felt like I had to watch what I said or he’d strike me down with his divine power. It was the same thing, week after week. He asked me question after question, to which I would provide the shortest and vaguest answers possible.

When I sat down in my usual chair, farthest away from him, he offered me a plate of sugar cookies and asked, “So, Victoria, how was your summer?”

I told him it was uneventful, as my summers usually were.

“Good, good,” he replied. He’s big on repeating positives. “How have things been going for you this year?”

“Fine,” I told him, staring at the crucifix on the wall behind him. Even Jesus looked like he was rolling his eyes at Father. “I’m good.”

“Well, that’s good. You’re fitting in OK? Classes good?”

I smiled. “Everything’s great.”

“Friends?”

I nodded. “I have a few.”

He leaned forward. “Tell me, do you keep in touch with your friends from your old school?”

“No,” I told him. I had a couple of acquaintances at Duchess High, but no one worth keeping in touch with. From the way he grimaced, I knew it was the wrong answer. “I don’t need a bazillion friends though. I mean, I have Andrew.”

Leary didn’t look at me. He was busy plucking some dust off the knee of his black slacks. “Tell me about Andrew.”

I sighed so deeply that Father Leary’s gaze rose to mine. But seriously, had he forgotten? I talked about you nonstop last year, since you’re not only my boyfriend, you’re my best friend. I swear, I’ve probably told him your favorite color and what you eat for breakfast, like, twice. I think Jesus groaned behind him. “What do you want to know?”

He frowned. “What would you like to share?”

“There’s nothing to tell. He still lives next door, still is studying his music.”

And on and on we went, having the same conversation that we’d had every week last year. As if asking incessant questions about my life and making me repeat myself time and again is supposed to be therapeutic. I mean, isn’t that the definition of insanity, repeating oneself and expecting different results?authorcyn_0003Cyn Balog is the author of the young adult paranormal novels FAIRY TALE, SLEEPLESS, STARSTRUCK, TOUCHED, DEAD RIVER, and UNNATURAL DEEDS. She lives outside Allentown, Pennsylvania with her husband and daughters. Visit her online at www.cynbalog.com.

Website | Twitter |Facebook | Goodreads

giveaway1 winner will receive a finished copy of UNNATURAL DEEDS, US Only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

OTHER STOPS ON THE TOUR 

Week One:

10/24/2016- Bibliobibuli YA- Interview

10/25/2016- Curling Up With A Good Book- Excerpt

10/26/2016- Wandering Bark Books- Spotlight

10/27/2016- BookHounds YA- Excerpt

10/28/2016- Fiction Fare- Interview

Week Two:

10/31/2016- Wanderlust & Books- Spotlight

11/1/2016- Literary Meanderings- Guest Post

11/2/2016- With Love for Books- Guest Post

11/3/2016- The Cover Contessa- Interview

11/4/2016- YA Book Madness- Excerpt

Mysterious reading, 

Jordan

Lost Reviews Series: Amity by Micol Ostow & Shadowboxer by Tricia Sullivan

PSA: Akin to the theme reviews series I started yesterday, I’ve decided to add lost reviews as well. These are the books that I’ve read, but haven’t reviewed because at the time I couldn’t put my opinions into words. Some of these books were read over a year ago and now that I have time to reflect back, my opinions are more firm. These reviews will be much shorter than my average reviews. 

amityGoodreads/Amazon/iBooks/B&N

syn

Here is a house of ruin and rage, of death and deliverance.
Here is where I live, not living.
Here is always mine.

When Connor’s family moves to Amity, a secluded house on the peaceful banks of New England’s Concord River, his nights are plagued with gore-filled dreams of demons. destruction, and revenge. Dreams he kind of likes. Dreams he could make real, with Amity’s help.

Ten years later, Gwen’s family moves to Amity for a fresh start. Instead, she’s haunted by lurid visions, disturbing voices, and questions about her own sanity. But with her history, who would ever believe her? And what could be done if they did?

Because Amity isn’t just a house. She is a living force, bent on manipulating her inhabitants to her twisted will. She will use Connor and Gwen to bring about a violent end as she’s done before. As she’ll do again. And again. And again.

Inspired by a true-crime story, Amity spans generations to weave an overlapping, interconnected tale of terror, insanity, danger, and death.

review

3/5 Stars

***I received this book as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley & EgmontUSA

Amity is bone chilling, nail-biting, creepy as sin. There’s so much that will leave you reeling and breathless, uncertain of what’s going on only to hit you with something so horrific, you’ll wish you didn’t know. 

The house itself is terrifying. It has a life of it’s own that is both poetic and so disturbing. It’s alive and breathing. You feel it watching, almost as if it can leap from the pages. If you’ve read The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich, you’ll know what I mean. 

There are two stories that alternate. One 10 years in the past and one in the present. One male, one female. Both perspectives are strong. Gwen and Conner are worlds apart and yet living the same fate. They’re forced to question everything and doubt their own minds. You may doubt yours too. Sometimes the flips between POVs are trippy and confusing and throw you off. Other times, they’re eerie and oh so dark.

The pacing is moderate to slow. Some sections lag quite a bit despite the creep factor. 

I could have taken or left Conner. He couldn’t keep me invested. Gwen and Conner both talk to the reader, almost in a diary form. Even with that format, it wasn’t powerful enough. 

If you’re looking for a spooky Halloween read aloud, check this out. 

shadowboxGoodreads/Amazon/B&N/iBooks

syn

Thai martial arts, international crime, celebrity and mythical creatures combine in this masterful new tale of two people facing incredible dangers, from award-winning author Tricia Sullivan.

Nothing she’s faced in the cage will prepare her…

Jade is a young mixed martial arts fighter. When she’s in the cage she dominates her opponents—but in real life she’s out of control.

After she has a confrontation with a Hollywood martial arts star that threatens her gym’s reputation, Jade’s coach sends her to a training camp in Thailand for an attitude adjustment. Hoping to discover herself, she instead uncovers a shocking conspiracy. In a world just beyond our own, a man is stealing the souls of children to try and live forever.

review

2.5/5 Stars

***I received this book as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley & Ravenstone

Shadowboxer is one of those books that had so much potential and had the two main story arcs been separate books and then later intertwined, it probably would have worked better. Instead, these two stories don’t line up like they should. It feels like two separate books. When the stories come together, it feels contrived, forced, and messy.

That being said, I liked the stories as separate entities. Give me a badass female character who speaks her mind, knows how to throw a punch, and doesn’t let anyone push her around. Jade is loud, bossy, take charge, and ready to jump in any fight for what she believes in. Jade has worked so hard to get where she is and strives for excellence in her martial arts. She’s abrasive, rude, crass, wholly herself, and doesn’t apologize for who she is and that makes her someone you can respect, even if you don’t like her. Despite these awesome qualities and the story that goes with them, I didn’t particularly like Jade. Sure she’s overcome a lot, she works for everything, and has super big dreams, but the girl is catty and rude and a mess. She doesn’t even shell out the respect she gets. 

The pacing is abysmal. Jade has a strong voice and stuff happens but it’s so slow and takes ages to get to the second story arc where they merge together. You’ll wonder as chapters alternate what exactly is going on and why it matters. Not knowing in some ways pushes you to read more and in others makes you forget everything as you struggle to piece it together. 

The second story arc in Thailand is excellent. The scenery is diverse and rich and colorful and there’s so much life in those pages. You’ll feel like you’re transported. It’s not always pretty, but it’s real and raw and sucks you in.

The soul stealing. When I read this book, I didn’t bother with the blurb-I almost never do-and so I read those sections without knowing what was happening and it kind of added to the mystery. There’s this cool shadow realm that full of Thai lore and spirituality. It’s fascinating and engaging. You’ll want that poor little girl to escape her fate. 

Overall, Shadowboxer was interesting but easy to put down and forget about. It was complicated, packed with info, and voice, but dragged too much to keep attention. 

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

Creepy reading, 

Jordan