2015 Top Reads

2015 has been a whirlwind of new books and author friends. It’s been a crazy ride that has culminated in my attendance at Utopia 2016 and potential publication.. we’ll see 😉

Happy New Year readers, this blog wouldn’t be anything without all of your kind words and support!

And now…

Top 15 Books of 2015

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Happy reading and here’s to an even better reading year next year!

Jordan

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ARC Review: Defects-Sarah Noffke

Ebook-Defects-book-1-in-the-seriesGoodreads/Amazon

cooltext1889161239 copyIn the happy, clean community of Austin Valley, everything appears to be perfect. Seventeen-year-old Em Fuller, however, fears something is askew. Em is one of the new generation of Dream Travelers. For some reason, the gods have not seen fit to gift all of them with their expected special abilities.

Em is a Defect—one of the unfortunate Dream Travelers not gifted with a psychic power. Desperate to do whatever it takes to earn her gift, she endures painful daily injections along with commands from her overbearing, loveless father. One of the few bright spots in her life is the return of a friend she had thought dead—but with his return comes the knowledge of a shocking, unforgivable truth. The society Em thought was protecting her has actually been betraying her, but she has no idea how to break away from its authority without hurting everyone she loves.

cooltext1889171582 copy4.5/5 Stars

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

I’ve been a big fan of Sarah Noffke’s books since I devoured the Lucidites series. When I picked this book up, I was crazy excited to go back into the dream travel world and OMG was I shocked. I instantly fell in love with these new characters and can honestly say, I ADORE this series even more than the Lucidites. 

READ THIS BOOK IF:

  • You’re looking for a new spin on dream travel, cult-like communities, and medical experiments.
  • You like strong, developed characters, wicked villians, and wonderful dialogue.
  • You want to LAUGH and be completely engrossed in the story.

PROS:

  • Em is an unconventional, inspiring lead. She knows exactly who she is, what she wants, and isn’t afraid to do what others turn their nose up at. Em is thoughtful, passionate, she doesn’t let her defect status break her and hangs out with the humans, neck deep in dirt and farm life. A regular sleuth, Em is a little rebel mixed with a klutz. There are tons of hilarious moments. Em is all personality.
  • REN. If you’ve read the Lucidites series, you’ll remember his character, if you’re anything like me, fondly. Sarcastic, dominant, a little viscious, he’s unforgetable. Get him in a room with his sister, Em’s mother and it’s just about the best thing I’ve read in a while. The taunting, sibling rivalry and harassment is laugh out loud funny. 
  • Rogue is my new book boyfriend. Not only is he delciously sexy but he has a quirky, rebellious personality that just oozes sex appeal. The attraction between Em and Rogue is easy, natural, and they fit so well. Every moment is a new discovery and rediscovery of their childhood friendship. Seriously, swoons. Rogue has some of the best lines. He’s blunt, flirty, adorable and more than anything else, devoted to his cause. The scenes where he’s suffering ripped my heart out.
  • Every secondary character is memorable and has a clearly defined storyline.
  • PLOT TWIST CENTRAL. The clues are there but it still took me by surprise. The sheer evil, sadistc lack of morality and concern for humankind is despicable.
  • Austin Valley has that creepy cult vibe. It’s inclusive, full of brainwashing and elitism based on religious zealots. Humans are basically menial slaves that don’t know any better. The outside world is the enemy. It’s insane and terrifying when you really think about it. 
  • The supernatural abilities are even more elaborate and awesome than before.

CONS:

  • When the truth is revealed, it’s a punch to the stomach without much examination of the wound. The findings are presented like facts and not expanded upon like they could have been to get the true horror of what is going on. The realization is powerful and leaves an impact but it would have been even stronger had it been thoroughly and psychologically explored by the characters. 

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

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Keep reading, 

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Review: Stunned-Sarah Noffke

23597960Goodreads/Amazon

“Tears ache in my throat and each time his lips caress mine I’m closer to the dam within me bursting open. He’s undoing me, tearing out my demons with burning strokes of his lips and the salty taste of his mouth. In his arms, I’m changing, becoming anew.”

cooltext1804448395 copyRoya desperately wishes she was above ground, on a sunny patio, watching the lake lap up on the shore. Instead, she finds herself trapped with the Lucidites. Her brother is mysteriously wasting away, and at every turn she finds a new betrayal. Just when she thinks she’s finally escaping the Institute, a new danger unveils itself.

A secret society of Dream Travelers has declared war on the Lucidites by abducting a head official. It’s up to Roya to figure out who’s behind it and how to save everyone she cares about most.

More action packed than its predecessor, Stunned is captivating and will leave audiences squirming from the tension and also begging for more.

cooltext1804472332 copy4/5 Stars

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

PROS:

  • The world building and technological advancement is even more detailed than in the first book. The lies, secrets, and mysteries behind the Institute makes it feel more sinister than safe. The uncertainty tarnishes the overall image of what should be a haven for the Lucidites and gives Roya’s apprehension validity.
  • Relationships between characters blossomed into real friendship. The easy ways they interact, their heart felt confessins and how much they care for each other makes it seem like they’ve been friends forever. 
  • Joseph’s transformation is extreme and horrifying. His downward spiral is disheartening and truly alters the dynamics of the story. The light and laughter that was in the Institute is replaced with a seriousness that adds to the threat posed by the Grotte. 
  • The news reporting is so cool. The ability to receive visions of dangerous events that can be fact checked is fascinating and awesome to think about. Roya’s passion is exemplified in her thirst for what it righteous and moral, to save and protect. 
  • George is like a warm, comforting puppy. He’s made of give and take. He understands Roya on a deep level that transcends his abilities as an empath. He gives her space and pushes when he needs to but he never makes Roya doubt his feelings for her. 
  • Roya has grown substantially since the first book. She’s more confident, a leader who doesn’t pale in the face of danger but learns how to fight, protect, and dictate to her friends to confront the deadliest enemies. While shades of jealousy and cattiness do come to the forefront, Roya has a huge heart and is headstrong to a fault. Roya doesn’t always think things through but it’s her risks that define her and save the day.

CONS:

  • Roya’s indecision is mildly annoying and plays back and forth like an endless game of ping pong. 
  • The danger wasn’t quite as suspenseful as I’d expected from the build up. The scenes in the Grotte, while some were seriously action-packed, heart-stopping  and terrifying, others were muted and slow.
  • Roya and Aiden’s chemistry while robust and very sexy lacked a powerful foundation. One minute Roya is confused the next it’s blinding attraction and maybe something more. The shift from one extreme to the other was shocking and felt false compared to the steady build up with George.

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

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ARC Review & Interview: Awoken-Sarah Noffke

JPG e-book Awoken by Sarah Noffke Goodreads/Amazon

“My dark secret is I’ve always wished I was Gatsby. As heartbroken as he was and as horrible a fate as he endured, I admired that he loved. It’s a difficult thing to do.”

cooltext1790897456 copyAround the world humans are hallucinating after sleepless nights.

In a sterile, underground institute the forecasters keep reporting the same events.

And in the backwoods of Texas, a sixteen-year-old girl is about to be caught up in a fierce, ethereal battle.

Meet Roya Stark. She drowns every night in her dreams, spends her hours reading classic literature to avoid her family’s ridicule, and is prone to premonitions—which are becoming more frequent. And now her dreams are filled with strangers offering to reveal what she has always wanted to know: Who is she? That’s the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out. But will Roya live to regret learning the truth?

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  1. In Awoken, the world suffers from vivid dreams (or should I say nightmares) and hallucinations. This sounds like the makings of a dystopia but Awoken is something a little different. What inspired this story?

I’ve always been fascinated by dreams and sleep. Not just sleeping, but dreaming, is vital to our survival. If we don’t dream then the human brain deteriorates. REM sleep deprivation in rats has shown to cause a loss of survival behaviors, decrease of pain threshold and depression. In humans sleep deprivation causes hallucinations because it is so crucial to brain function. All this kept me thinking about the power stored in dreams and dreaming abilities. I spun these ideas around in my head until I concocted a villain (Zhuang) who stole human’s abilities to achieve REM rendering them hallucinating zombies. And maybe also I was inspired by my own sleep deprivation at the time. My daughter was six months old and not sleeping through the night. I’m fairly certain I shouldn’t have been operating a motor vehicle.

  1. Do you believe in premonitions?

Absolutely. In my own life I’ve experienced them many times. Some instances were powerful like when I knew my brother was going to die or I was going to have a car accident. Other times have been mundane and most akin to a déjà vu moment. And I’ve also heard countless reports from others who have had similar experiences. I’m not sure why we have premonitions. Maybe some people have a gift and maybe some are just attuned at the moment. Whatever the reason I find them fascinating.

  1. Is a phenomenon like mass hallucinations /nightmares possible, in your opinion? That’s a terrifying thought.

That is a terrifying thought. And I’m not sure why mass nightmares couldn’t happen. We are all connected. Not only that but nightmares are usually caused by real fears. Since we tend to spread our fears like germs among our society the idea of it happening on a mass scale seems very real to me. Media exacerbates this reality. We are very susceptible to subliminal input from our visual and auditory sources. Now hallucinations are a little different in my opinion. Something would have to happen to cause that: a drug, chemical in the air, electrical current or ancient villain with REM syphoning abilities.

  1. Roya feels like an outsider in her own family and kind of keeps to herself. What challenges did you have in crafting Roya’s character? What was your process?

That’s a great question. One challenge I had with crafting her character was developing the underlining trauma that being an outcast caused her. She can be emotionally numb, but none of us are robots. At some level we are all affected by rejection or a sense of not belonging. I wanted Roya to be strong, but not fully detached. Furthermore, I wanted Roya to be different from most heroines: small, unassuming, introverted, reluctant, and pessimistic. I love heroines who are strong and brave and stand right up to a challenge. But let’s face reality, most of us can’t relate to that. If a madman challenged me to a fight I’d totally kick some dust in his face and run the other way. I wanted Roya to be more like the average person. I wanted her to be someone who had to go through an evolution to face her greatest challenges. And more than anything I wanted her to be someone people could relate to.

  1. The Lucidites are evolutionary. How would you classify the series? Science fiction, fantasy, romance?

The Lucidites are an extremely evolved society with a higher emotional intelligence than most, not to mention they are all gifted with different powers. To me the series has components that make it science fiction, fantasy and especially later on romance. The time travel and technology give it the science fiction feel, the ancient villain and paranormal abilities contribute to the fantasy aspect, and the love triangle makes it romantic. There’s bound to be something to satisfy different tastes for different readers.

  1. Roya travels in her dreams. What made you pick the locations she visited?

Some of the locations were places I’ve visited like Buckingham Palace, Redwood Forest and Dealey Plaza. This gave me the details I needed to make these scenes real. However, there were many locations I used which I’ve never visited. Luckily the internet and other people’s accounts helped with this. Some of these locations were chosen because I really want to see these places with my own eyes like, Sydney Opera House for instance. And some of the locations were chosen because they were perfect for the scene: Red Square and Graceland.

  1. What are some things that you want readers to know about Awoken or the series as a whole?

One thing I keep hearing from readers who have finished the series is that the story is unique and unpredictable. I’m honored to hear these things. Honestly, the story surprised me when I was writing it. Common phrases that came out of my mouth while writing the series were: “He said what?”, “I didn’t see that coming!” and “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

I felt like The Lucidites invaded my brain, told me their story and then left when it was complete. There are semblances in this series that relate to my own life, but there’s a lot of stuff that I have no idea where it came from. I love that and I do agree with readers that it’s unique.

  1. Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Every writer has advice on this topic and it’s all worthy. It’s advice from other writers that’s made me who I am. With that being said, I don’t want to repeat what most say, but I’m going to anyway. My promise is that I’ll try to say something new too.

So most will tell an aspiring writer (and they’re correct) to read as much as possible, write every day, and read books on how to write.

Alright, now here’s my something new that I give to only you: Become intimately acquainted with the writer inside you. This is not a person the world outside will know. This is the part inside you that only you know, that tells stories inside your head, and imagines fantastic things when the normal day-to-day is going on around you. You’re the only one who knows this person and the only one who can interpret their stories. Make a habit of closing your eyes once a day and meditating with this person. In time you will be so connected to them that their words will flow from you effortlessly. Most writers I know will agree that their books do not come from them, but rather through them. This happens when you open up this channel.

And if that sounds too metaphysical for you, well then just check out Stephen King’s autobiography, On Writing. He’s a genius.

  1. Awoken illustrates that there are all sorts of evils in the world but also the potential to find magic and beauty in the universe. What do you think we could learn from Roya’s journey?

Another fantastic question. Roya isn’t who she appears, even to herself. Her journey is all about opening herself up so she can experience a richer, happier life. Much of this comes from exploring her potential. Maybe Roya’s journey will encourage readers to seek out the talents in themselves and use them. And also, throughout the series many of the characters have their own unique journeys separate from Roya’s. I’m hoping that readers find inspiration from those stories as well, but I can’t elaborate on those without giving major spoilers, which isn’t going to happen.

 

I’ve really enjoyed the opportunity to discuss the books and my writing process. It’s hard to express how amazing it is to be able to finally share my books. I wrote alone for so many years and went through many periods of doubt. I had someone tell me the other day, “I bet you’re getting tired of hearing feedback on your books.” Are you insane?! For the rest of my life I won’t get tired of it. I created this story for the world to read and I’m pretty darn interested in knowing what they think about it.

Thanks Jordan for the review, fantastic questions and all the support you give to the indie author community.

cooltext1790896132 copy3.5 Stars

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

PROS:

  • The concept of this story is as fascinating and it is terrifying. The idea that a mass psychosis that literally severs people from their ability to hit a REM state is something that can inspire nightmares. The human mind is our most powerful and innovative asset and when that is savagely ripped from our control and abused for a terrorist style attack on the world, it’s ingenious but a stark, cold, prospect. 
  • The Lucidite Institute is very X-Men meets Hogwarts. A competition for challenger, methods to harness mental powers, and hone in on physical prowess. The techniques and classroom assignments are thought-provoking, whimsical and kind of badass. They mesh martial arts with telekinesis and mind-reading. The sheer variety of mental talents is exhilarating to watch. How they can be used together to bring together a team of outcasts is pretty inspirational and creates an air of hope, that we have magic within ourselves if we’d just let it blossom.
  • George is a marvelous present wrapped in cheap, tattered newspaper. He’s a hidden gem. On the outside, he’s enraged, cold, and avoids Roya like the plague but when the mysteries unravel, he’s a sweetheart. There’s so much bravery and resilience packed into his character, I found myself wishing for more of his unique brand of antagonizing quips and honesty. 
  • Aiden and Roya have amazing chemistry. It’s comprised of lingering gazes, soft touches, and agonizing of over another. Aiden is a brilliant, scatterbrained scientist who gets lost in his work and when he does, he’s semi-robotic. It’s difficult to get a read off of him but his playful banter and wit draw Roya in like a magnetic along with the reader. 
  • This is a love triangle that I can get behind. It’s a real decision. So often love triangles turned into squares or octagons and it just cheapens the protagonist. Roya’s choice is painful. Both of her love interests give her something that makes her better and grow into a fierce warrior. Yes, she still has doubts but her wingmen give her the courage to be bold. There’s no bad boy, that makes all the difference. 
  • The Lucidite world is elaborate, full of advanced technology, government secrets, and experiments. There’s a sense of foreboding and corruption, like we’re missing something that will lead to a horrendous truth.
  • A twist of epic proportions.
  • Roya grows on you. At first (see cons) she’s up in the air. It’s uncertain whether or not she’ll find a place in your heart but once you get to the root of her trauma, it’s hard not to be sympathetic. Roya is unsure of herself, she sees herself as weak and nothing special, as someone to be walked on so she builds walls and sets up defenses in the form of bad attitude and insults. Roya’s struggle is unexpected in terms of a protagonist. We’re used to the shy, nerdy girl who has a small group of friends and gets harassed but Roya has no one. There’s not squad of cheerleaders or BFF to calm her, she’s lost in her solitude. Roya is a challenge, you have to dive into her psyche to piece her true personality together.

CONS:

  • Roya’s harsh past is suggested but there’s not really any substantial evidence other than her feelings. Her resentment and hurt, the treatment that made her push people away and hide within herself were neglected. I would have like to have seen (an horrible as it sounds) some scenes of her with her family and how poorly they treated her just to understand where she’s coming from. For a large chunk of the book, Roya is off-putting and sort of unlikable. She’s rude, disrespectful and even her internal dialogue is a conflicted mass of hatred and fear of interacting with others. Her defense mechanism is not pretty and I had a hard time connecting with her on a deep level. 
  • There were several scenes I found myself searching for that never happened. Zhuang. I had so many questions about him that were left unresolved and about his impact. It’s one thing to say that he invades consciences and cuts off REM sleep until human bodies fail and it’s another to actually see it and get those emotions and full-scale horror. There was a disconnect that almost made Zhuang’s larger effects feel like a nightmare and less like reality.
  • Secondary characters-some were vibrant slices of life that woke Roya’s confidence and self-worth and others were some of the most intriguing and written off. They were shadows lurking in the background, every so often you’d get a glimpse of their secret lives and then back into the dark. Ren, toxic, sarcastic, and blunt, Ren was one of my favorite characters. He’s an enigma, made of depth and secrets buried beneath his mean exterior and there was a scene where it seemed that this other side of Ren would be revealed but in lieu of the impending attack, fizzled out. Give me Ren. Give me Shuman. For characters that have a huge impact of Roya’s perception of herself and with the most detailed personalities, there were more questions than answers. Additionally, Whitney, Samara, even Goat Girl were similarly left out so that an emotional connection or even an opinion about them couldn’t really be formed. 

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cooltext1790891890 copy5th fixed bwWebsite/Goodreads/Facebook/Amazon

Sarah Noffke is the author of The Lucidite Series. She’s been everything from a corporate manager to a hippie. Her taste for adventure has taken her all over the world. If you can’t find her at the gym, then she’s probably at the frozen yogurt shop. If you can’t find her there then she probably doesn’t want to be found. She is a self-proclaimed hermit, with spontaneous urges to socialize during full moons and when Mercury is in retrograde. Sarah lives in Southern California with her family.

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

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Pleasant reading,

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Promo: Awoken-Sarah Noffke

JPG e-book Awoken by Sarah NoffkeAmazon/Goodreads

cooltext1828479097-2 copyAround the world humans are hallucinating after sleepless nights.

In a sterile, underground institute the forecasters keep reporting the same events.

And in the backwoods of Texas, a sixteen-year-old girl is about to be caught up in a fierce, ethereal battle.

Meet Roya Stark. She drowns every night in her dreams, spends her hours reading classic literature to avoid her family’s ridicule, and is prone to premonitions—which are becoming more frequent. And now her dreams are filled with strangers offering to reveal what she has always wanted to know: Who is she? That’s the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out. But will Roya live to regret learning the truth?

cooltext1828477984 copy

lucidites teaser 2 copy

 In a world where dreams are real, nightmares reign. To plunge into the ethereal world of the Lucidites visit http://www.sarahnoffke.com

JPG -preview- Poster Design AWOKEN - Compressed

cooltext1828481526 copy5th fixed bwWebsite/Goodreads/Facebook/Amazon

Sarah Noffke is the author of The Lucidite Series. She’s been everything from a corporate manager to a hippie. Her taste for adventure has taken her all over the world. If you can’t find her at the gym, then she’s probably at the frozen yogurt shop. If you can’t find her there then she probably doesn’t want to be found. She is a self-proclaimed hermit, with spontaneous urges to socialize during full moons and when Mercury is in retrograde. Sarah lives in Southern California with her family.

A review of Awoken and author interview are scheduled for December 18-21. Please check back for more info on this intriguing new release. 

Happy reading,

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