Monday, October 31, 2016

It's the Action-Packed Return of the Continuums (Review)

Reaching the surface was just the beginning.

As Myra Jackson and her friends set out to find the First Continuum, Captain Aero Wright and two companions from the outer space Second Continuum find themselves banished for treason and stranded on Earth. Wright has vowed to complete his late father’s mission to recolonize their ancestral planet, but his true mission is to find the mysterious girl who haunts his dreams. Meanwhile, Myra and the young refugees of the underwater Thirteenth Continuum must make an unlikely ally if they are going to survive the hostile surface world and reach their destination, the nexus of humanity’s hope for survival. As their paths begin to converge, the Beacons that guide and connect Myra and Aero begin to prove their power, and a shadowy force with a centuries-old grudge reveals itself.
Return of the Continuums
The Continuum Trilogy #2
Jennifer Brody
Pub Date: 11/1/16
Publisher: Turner Publishing
Genre: YA, Science Fiction
Amazon | B&N

With Return of the Continuums Jennifer Brody takes readers back to her action filled Continuum Trilogy. Myra and her friends from the Thirteenth Continuum have reached the surface, but have no idea that their actions have sparked a revolution. Captain Aero Wright, now banished from the Second Continuum, is struggling to keep Vannick from detecting them on the surface while also trying to understand the power of the Beacon.

Return of the Continuums introduces readers to more survivors of the Doom and finally reveals the identity of the Dark Thing. The story continues to reveal how and why the Continuums were created and more detail shared as to how the participants were chosen. I have to say that I love the surprises that pop up from time to time in this series. Right when you think you have it all figured out, there's that twist that makes you guess again.

The 13th Continuum and Return of the Continuums are both structured to keep you on your toes and curious. Jennifer Brody continues the trend of a fast paced story full of hard hitting action, but there's a point where readers demand more character development. With only one more novel to go in this series I still feel like I don't really know these characters, especially Myra and Aero. They are supposed to be the sparks that ignite change, but they don't stand out in my opinion. Readers are told who these characters are: Myra the engineer, Aero the military Captain, Paige the doctor, but are not allowed to see for themselves what kind of people they are or might become. Despite that I find myself eager to see the story unfold. The Thirteenth Continuum is undergoing changes in power, but will it matter if they finally run out of air? Will Myra and her friends be able to find the First Continuum, save their people, and find a new home on the surface? So many questions left to answer in the upcoming finale!

*ARC received in exchange for an honest review*

Friday, October 28, 2016

Fans of The 100 Will Love The 13th Continuum! (Review)

Gold Medal Winner, Young Adult Fiction — Fantasy/Sci-Fi, Independent Publisher's Moonbeam Children's Book Awards

One thousand years after a cataclysmic event leaves humanity on the brink of extinction, the descendants of the chosen survivors take refuge in thirteen contingency shelters buried deep underground, at the bottom of the ocean, and in the far reaches of outer space.

In the underwater 13th Continuum, sixteen-year-old Myra Jackson has heard rumors and whisperings all her life of a magical place called "The Surface” where people could breathe fresh air, feel the warmth of something called sunlight on their skin, and see things known as stars and trees and mountains. Myra has never dared to ask whether the stories are true, since the act of speaking such words aloud is an offense punishable by death. But after she discovers that the air supply aboard her underwater colony is running out, she realizes that her only hope for survival is to find this mysterious place. To get there, she must first recover the only guide to the Surface—the Beacon, an ancient device that also connects her to Captain Aero Wright, a dashing young soldier from one of the only remaining space colonies.

With the fate of all humankind depending on them, Myra and Aero must escape the tyrannical forces that rule their colonies, journey through the black depths of the ocean and across the cold void of space, to find each other on the Surface that their ancestors once called home.
The 13th Continuum
The Continuum Trilogy #1
Jennifer Brody
Pub Date: 4/19/16
Publisher: Turner Publishing Company
Genre: YA, Science Fiction
Amazon | B&N

At first glance, The 13th Continuum sounds like a story that's about to take readers through the ring of the gods and right into an interplanetary adventure. Instead, Jennifer Brody debuted a novel that tells about humankind surviving a cataclysmic event and the future generation's desire to return home.

The 13th Continuum is equal parts Ruby's Song and The 100 and I can't get enough of it! Brody quickly and efficiently sets the stage for the novel in the opening chapters. Readers get a taste of the time before the Doom, and the life of the Founders of the continuums Post Doom. The world-building isn't long and complicated which easily makes this a YA read for teens who may not already enjoy science fiction. Though the pace of the novel is quite fast, the plot does not lack in structure or fluidity. Brody hits all the right points that one would expect from this type of light science fiction/post-apocalyptic novel and leaves readers ready to dive into even more adventure.

The one aspect of the novel that sometimes took me out of the story is the voice of the narrator, which seems to bleed into the dialogue. For the majority of the novel, readers are viewing the story from the perspective of sixteen year old Myra Jackson and Captain Aero Wright. Both have distinctly different upbringings, but somehow have very similar voices. As for the dialogue, sometimes the main group of young characters sound too wise beyond their years or super positive in an unrealistic manner. Other times they all sound similar and not very distinct from one another or the actual adults in the story. It doesn't completely detract from the novel, but so many times I wondered why these characters aren't more developed.

What drew me to this series was the promise of adventure, and Jennifer Brody delivers it in spades. The sequel, Return of the Continuums, is bound to be filled with more glimpses of the Post Doom world, more action, and more page turning surprises!


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday: The Arena Series

"Waiting on" Wednesday, or WOW, is a meme created by Jill @ Breaking the Spine. Join in the discussion to see what upcoming releases we're currently buzzing about.

This week's pick is a double feature, and may be familiar to sci-fi/fantasy fans, because the first book of this series was released earlier this year. I must've been hiding under a rock then, but this hot read will soon be available in trade paperback. If you're a regular follower of my reviews, you know I'm always down for an adventure with a kick-butt heroine!

A fast-paced and gripping near-future science fiction debut about the gritty world of competitive gaming...

Every week, Kali Ling fights to the death on national TV.
She's died hundreds of times. And it never gets easier...

The RAGE tournaments—the Virtual Gaming League's elite competition where the best gamers in the world compete in a no-holds-barred fight to the digital death. Every bloody kill is broadcast to millions. Every player is a modern gladiator—leading a life of ultimate fame, responsible only for entertaining the masses.
And though their weapons and armor are digital, the pain is real.

Chosen to be the first female captain in RAGE tournament history, Kali Ling is at the top of the world—until one of her teammates overdoses. Now, she must confront the truth about the tournament. Because it is much more than a game—and even in the real world, not everything is as it seems.

The VGL hides dark secrets. And the only way to change the rules is to fight from the inside...
ARENA (Arena #1) by Holly Jennings releases November 1, 2016 (in trade paperback) from ACE Books. Read my review!

Plug back into the dangerous world of virtual gaming, in the next thrilling novel from the author of Arena.

Kali Ling isn't afraid of dying. She's been killed hundreds of times in hundreds of different ways. And she knows there are things much more terrifying than death...

There's a new game in town. A brutal, winner-takes-all, international video game tournament between the world's most elite players, promising fame, prestige, and unbelievable fortune. But there's a catch. The game uses new VR pods guaranteed to push digital warriors to their physical and psychological brink—adapting every time a gamer makes a move.
As the first female captain and youngest team owner in VGL history, Kali is used to defying the odds. But as the all-star tournament heats up, her determination begins to waver and the pressures of media, sponsors, and the game itself begin to put cracks in her hard-set convictions.

If Kali's Team Defiance is to survive, they'll have to find a way to be stronger than ever before. But battling the system may prove too difficult for even the most hardened of fighters...
GAUNTLET (Arena #2) by Holly Jennings releases April 4, 2017 from Ace Books

What are you waiting on this week?

Previous Review: Lords of the Jungle by Corinna Sara Bechko

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

#BookBlitz + Giveaway: PUSHING PERFECT

A girl’s quest for perfection results in dangerous consequences in this layered, suspenseful YA novel by the author of Playlist for the Dead.

How far would you go to be perfect?

Kara has the perfect life. She gets perfect grades. She never messes up. Until now. Because perfection is an illusion, and Kara has been struggling to maintain it for as long as she can remember. With so much pressure to succeed, it’s hard not to do whatever it takes.

But when Kara takes a new underground drug to help her ace the SATs, she doesn’t expect to get a text from a blocked sender, telling her to follow a set of mysterious instructions—or risk her dark secret getting out. Soon she finds herself part of a group of teens with secrets of their own, who are all under the thumb of the same anonymous texter. And if they don’t find a way to stop the blackmailer, their perfect futures will go up in flames.

This dark, emotionally resonant contemporary YA novel is perfect for fans of We Were Liars and The Secret History.
Pushing Perfect
Michelle Falkoff
Pub Date: 10/25/16
Publisher: HarperTeen
Genre: YA
Amazon | B&N

Read an excerpt below, then enter the giveaway!

The Brain Trust was occupying its regular table when I came into the cafeteria with my brown bag lunch. As always, I had to walk by the drama table, with Isabel sat with her theater friends, and the swim team table, where Becca sat. They didn’t look up when I passed them by. They never did.
Mom had made me spinach salad with quinoa and feta and a lemony dressing. Brain food. She’d done a ton of research into my skin condition and had made me try a million different diets that, just like everything else, did nothing. She’d amped up her game in anticipation of the SAT exam. The test was coming up in a little over a week, and though I’d studied so much I’d worn my Princeton Review guide to shreds, I was terrified to actually take it.
Ever since everything went down with Becca and Isabel, I’d buried myself in schoolwork, spending all my time writing papers and studying for tests and making sure I did as well as I possibly could. It was all I had left. I was still hiding my face with makeup, but sometimes it felt like I was hiding my whole self, too. Or that I didn’t have much self left to hide. By my count, it had been over a year since I’d talked to anyone about anything except school. Even at home, all my parents talked about was how well I was doing, how proud they were of my hard work; they didn’t seem concerned that I was always alone. Sure, Mom had asked about Becca and Isabel at first, but I’d mumbled something about people changing in high school and she’d let it go. I’d convinced myself that everything would be different if I went to the right college. 
But I could only do that if I killed it on the SAT.  
I’d always been good at taking tests, but the SAT was different. I don’t know if it was just the pressure all by itself or if some secret part of me was convinced that standardized tests would somehow reveal how very not perfect I was, but I’d had a full-on panic attack when I took the PSAT—I hadn’t even finished it. I’d left the room before people could see me freaking out. I was so spooked by the thought of the SAT that I’d put it off until this year, rather than taking it as a junior like everyone else in my classes.
The Brain Trust was a group of kids I’d met in the Gifted and Talented Program back in grade school. We weren’t friends, exactly, but we had all our classes together, and we all shared the common goal of wanting to go to college on the East Coast. Harvard, specifically. Arthur Cho was a classical violinist whose parents didn’t want him to go to Juilliard because they thought it would limit his options; David Singer dreamed of being an entrepreneur like Mark Zuckerberg, even though I kept telling him what my parents told me, which was that Silicon Valley was full of Stanford grads who looked down on people from Harvard. Julia Jackson, my nemesis, was gunning for a particular science scholarship and wanted to go straight from undergrad to Harvard Med. 
As for me, I just wanted to get as far away from Marbella as possible. I liked the idea of Harvard because it seemed like the kind of place I could start over, where everything might be different. No one would know me as Perfect Kara there; at a place like Harvard, it would be normal to love math and to care about academics more than anything else. It didn’t necessarily have to be Harvard; any good school out east would do, but my last name was Winter and I’d only ever seen snow in Tahoe. I wanted red and orange leaves in the fall, tulips in spring, baking heat in summer. I wanted change. 
“The National Merit Semifinalist list came out today,” Julia said, her voice all sugary. “Didn’t see your name on there.” Julia and I had been in classes together since kindergarten and teachers had been pitting us against each other the whole time. Handwriting competitions in first grade, speed-reading contests in second, multiplication-table races in third—by then it had gotten old for me, but it never had for her. Now I was first in the class, but she was right on my heels, and I knew she’d made it her mission to pass me by. 
“Nope,” I said, trying to keep my voice light. “I assume congratulations are in order?”
Julia nodded, as did the other two. Great. So I was the only one. “Well, I’m really happy for you guys.” And I was, but I could also feel the anxiety kicking in. It had become a familiar feeling—I’d get this wave of nausea, then a weird thumping in my head, and then my pulse would start to race. I’d feel cold but get sweaty, which was usually the point when I’d take a walk or something to calm myself down. They were sort of my friends, but they were also my competition, as my guidance counselor kept reminding me. The problem was that they each knew exactly what they wanted, and everything they did was in service of their goals. I had no idea what I wanted, other than knowing it had something to do with math, and that put me at a disadvantage. The only way to make myself stand out—the only way to have a real chance at a new life—was to be valedictorian at one of the most competitive public high schools in the country, which Marbella High was. And to nail the SATs. 

Basically, I had to be perfect.

About the Author

Michelle Falkoff's fiction and reviews have been published in ZYZZYVA, DoubleTake and the Harvard Review, among other places. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and currently serves as Director of Communication and Legal Reasoning at Northwestern University School of Law.  WebsiteGoodreadsTwitterFacebook

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Monday, October 24, 2016

The Lords of the Jungle Are Taking Over Time and Space (Review)

Tarzan has long been the protector of his jungle stronghold... but now he journeys deep into his enemy's territory: the heart of London! Half a world away and nearly a century later, Sheena battles foes of her own when she is mysteriously swept through time and space to 1930's Africa, leaving her own land unprotected. Will these two Lords of the Jungle find enough common ground to join forces? Or will the resulting culture clash lead to mutual destruction?

For the first time ever, literary great Edgar Rice Burroughs' Lord of the Jungle teams up with Sheena, the Queen of the Jungle created by comic book legends Will Eisner and Jerry Iger!
Lords of the Jungle
Corinna Sara Bechko
Pub Date: 12/27/16
Publisher: Diamond Book Distributors
Genre: Comic Book
Amazon | B&N

Lords of the Jungle is a story that goes beyond what you might expect! Sheena runs into trouble while fending off developers deep in the heart of the Amazon jungle. She winds up miles and years away from home in a land protected by the one and only, Tarzan.

Tarzan has been a familiar character since my childhood, but never have I seen him in such a fantastic story. He is more than the ape man as he ventures to his ancestral home of London, seeking the cause of disruption in his home. The road to bringing peace to his beloved jungle is not easy as he must face an unfamiliar foe from the future and the hostile Leopard Men of his own time.

Lords of the Jungle is intriguing because readers get, not only an action filled plot, but a cast of characters with explosive personalities. With elements of time travel and adventure blended into a fast-paced tale, readers will enjoy every second!

*eGalley provided in exchange for an honest review*

Friday, October 21, 2016

The Thunder Beneath Us Features Diverse Cast of Characters (Review)

To the world, Best Lightburn is a talented writer rising up the masthead at international style magazine James, girlfriend of a gorgeous up-and-coming actor, and friend to New York City’s fabulous. Then there’s the other Best, the one who has chosen to recast herself as an only child rather than confront the truth.

Ten years ago, on Christmas Eve, Best and her two older brothers took a shortcut over a frozen lake. When the ice cracked, all three went in. Only Best came out. People said she was lucky, but that kind of luck is nothing but a burden. Because Best knows what she had to do to survive. And after years of covering up the past, her guilt is detonating through every facet of her seemingly charmed life. It’s all unraveling so fast: her new boss is undermining and deceitful, her boyfriend is recovering from a breakdown, and a recent investigative story has led to a secret affair with the magazine’s wealthy publisher.

Best is quick-witted and headstrong, but how do you find a way to happiness when you’re sure you haven’t earned it—or embrace a future you feel you don’t deserve? Evocative and emotional, The Thunder Beneath Us is a gripping novel about learning to carry loss without breaking, and to heal and forgive—not least of all, ourselves.
The Thunder Beneath Us
Nicole Blades
Pub Date: 10/25/16
Publisher: Dafina Books
Genre: Women's Fiction Amazon | B&N

The Thunder Beneath Us tells the emotional story of a woman whose life is falling apart bit by bit as the truth of a past tragedy she held close to her heart threatens to be exposed. Nicole Blades brings readers a novel that features a female lead ready to empower women everywhere!

The life Canadian-born Best has set up in New York involves not allowing her associates or close friends to discover that 10 years ago her two older brothers died in an accident. For years the name of her game has been to keep others at a distance and give as little of herself as possible. There is much about this novel that intrigues me, but there are a few things that didn't allow me to enjoy the story more.

Readers will love the feisty, diverse cast of characters Blades has created. Best was my favorite because she has a passion in her life that keeps her determined to work through her personal issues. The desire to write an empowering story about a girl who survived being poisoned and drowned by her father shows the compassionate side of Best that she refused to see for herself. That was the best element of the story and I wish it had been focused on more than the boyfriend drama. The details about Grant King's mental issues took center stage, above Best's determination to write a story that would hopefully boost her career, and felt like filler in comparison to what actually moved the plot. The story jumps around quite a bit, especially at the outset of the novel, but becomes more understandable a few chapters in. At one point the novel is in the present and within a few pages the reader is thrown into a moment where Best reflects on her past life. I'm not really a fan of this style of writing, and especially so when the result is a confusing scene.

My overall experience reading The Thunder Beneath Us was average. There were moments that really struck me and stayed with me long after finishing, but I wish those parts had been more prominently featured.

*eGalley provided in exchange for an honest review*

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Spotlight on All Laced Up by Erin Fletcher (+ A Super Cool Giveaway)

Everyone loves hockey superstar Pierce Miller. Everyone except Lia Bailey.

When the two are forced to teach a skating class to save the rink, Lia’s not sure she’ll survive the pressure of Nationals and Pierce’s ego. Not only can’t he remember her name, he signed her bottle of water like she was one of his groupies. Ugh. 

But if there’s one thing Lia knows better than figure skating, it’s hockey. Hoping to take his ego down a notch—or seven—she logs into his team website under an anonymous name to give him pointers on his less-than-stellar playing. 

Turns out, Pierce isn’t arrogant at all. And they have a lot in common. Too bad he’s falling for the anonymous girl online. No matter how much fun they’re starting to have in real life, she’s afraid he’s going to choose fake-Lia over the real one…

Disclaimer: This book contains a swoony hockey player (and his equally swoony friends!), one-too-many social media accounts, kisses that’ll melt ice, and a secret identity that might not be so secret after all…
All Laced Up
Breakaway #1
Erin Fletcher
Pub Date: 10/10/16
Publisher: Entangled Teen Crush
Genre: YA
Amazon | B&N | Kobo | iBooks

Welcome to Lovey Dovey Books! So glad you could stop by on this All Laced Up blog tour. This YA read is the perfect story to read while wrapped in a warm blanket and sipping on a pumpkin spice latte. Scroll below to read the first chapter and enter the giveaway below!

Chapter One
I had taught young skaters before, but somehow I didn’t think “Zamboni avoidance” was covered in basic skills class.
I skated toward the hulking machine that should have been re-surfacing the rough ice. Instead, it sat in the middle of the rink with its ancient hood hanging open, innards revealed.
“Mr. Kozlov?” I called, my voice echoing through the cold air of the empty rink.
“The Lia Bailey?” a voice called back from somewhere near the engine.
The Lia Bailey. He always preceded my name with the specifying article. Like I was someone. “It’s me. What’s going on?”
Mr. Kozlov’s head and shoulders popped up behind the exposed engine. As usual, his white hair stood in seventeen different directions. Something black—grease, maybe?—covered his left temple, next to his bushy white eyebrows and kind blue eyes. “Old Bessie. She’s sick.”
Each Zamboni at The Ice House was named after a large animal, real or otherwise: Bessie, Shamu, Dumbo. I could never keep them straight, but Mr. Kozlov always did. “How bad is it?” I asked.
He disappeared back under the hood with some clanking sounds. “Don’t know. Try to start her.”
I carefully pulled myself up onto the machine using elbows and knees so I didn’t have to step on anything with my exposed skate blades. I put one hand on the key in the ignition. “Now?”
I turned the key, but all I received in response were some slow, mechanical grunts. Nothing about the grunts sounded encouraging.
Mr. Kozlov’s head appeared again, the frown on his face accentuating his wrinkles.
“Maybe you should call someone to come look at it,” I said.
He waved off the idea as if it were preposterous. “Takes too much money.”
“But you’ll have money after this workshop, right? That’s the whole point?”
“Yes! And then I fix the heat in the boys’ locker room! Or the roof in rink two, you know, where we put buckets every time it rains? Or maybe the scoreboard in rink three!” He laughs. “They complain the visiting team’s score is eight. Always eight. I tell them eight is a good score in hockey, no?”
I was starting to think this ten-week workshop he’d asked me to teach needed to be more like ten years to pay for everything that needed to be fixed. When he’d mentioned the idea for the workshop, I’d volunteered right away. I’d do whatever it took to save the rink that was as much my home as my house. “What are we going to do about the kids? Is either one of the other rinks free at ten?”
“Hockey in both,” came the muffled reply along with more clanking.
That was a good sign. The ice arena needed to stay busy on Saturday mornings during hockey season to keep the place afloat. But it didn’t help my current predicament. I was about to have a bunch of tiny new skaters on the ice who presumably wouldn’t be able to steer around Bessie or stop before crashing into her. If Mr. Kozlov couldn’t afford a scoreboard, he definitely couldn’t afford a lawsuit.
“Don’t you worry,” Mr. Kozlov said, “Bessie will be fixed before kids arrive.”
Thankfully, he sounded more confident than I felt. “How many kids are you expecting?”
There was no way I heard that right. The last time we talked about the workshop, there were five kids registered with the possibility of a sixth. “I’m sorry, how many?”
“Twenty-two little skate cadets,” he confirmed, like it was no big deal. “Try the engine again, please.”
I didn’t move, frozen in place by the impossibility of single-handedly pointing forty-four skates in the right direction and wiping twenty-two runny noses. “I thought you said there were going to be six!”
He just laughed. “The Lia Bailey! Turn the key, please.”
Reluctantly, I did as I was told. From the sound of it, Bessie was just as reluctant as I was.
Mr. Kozlov popped his head back out for a second. “Don’t you worry. Not twenty-two by yourself. You have a co-teacher.”
It never failed to amaze me that Mr. Kozlov could memorize rink schedules and the past hundred years of hockey history, but couldn’t remember to tell me things like the fact that I had a co-teacher for the workshop I thought I was teaching on my own. “Who’s teaching with me?”
“Ah-ha!” Mr. Kozlov sounded thrilled about whatever he’d just discovered under Bessie’s hood. “Problem fixed. Try her again.”
“Who am I teaching with? Mackenzie?” Mackenzie and I weren’t close friends—we didn’t have many classes together and only occasionally saw each other at the rink—but it might be fun teaching with her. If nothing else, she could handle eleven of the kids.
Mr. Kozlov slammed Bessie’s hood shut with a confidence that suggested whatever he’d done had solved the problem. “Mackenzie’s skates aren’t dull enough,” he said, as if that were an explanation. “Not Mackenzie. Start Bessie’s engine!” When I didn’t do as he asked, he shooed me off the seat, back onto the ice where I came from. “Your co-teacher is Pierce,” he said. Then he started Bessie’s engine, letting out an enthusiastic whoop as she purred to life.
I blanched. Pierce. There was only one Pierce I knew. It couldn’t be him. Under no circumstances could I spend the next ten weeks teaching with the Pierce I knew. “Wait, Pierce? Pierce Miller?” I asked, but Bessie’s engine was too loud, and Mr. Kozlov was already halfway down the rink, occasionally checking the ice behind him to make sure it was smooth.
I struggled to remember the last time I’d been forced to interact with Pierce Miller. Since he advanced from Troy Preparatory Academy’s hockey team to USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program, I’d seen a lot less of him. Less at the rink because his new team practiced at an ice arena in Plymouth, a few cities over, and less at school because of his travel schedule with the team.
And when I did see him? Pierce was very good at not giving me the time of day.
The last interaction I had with him was at the rink shortly after he’d secured his place on the NTDP team. A gaggle of hockey players and their parents had stuck around after Pierce’s practice to get his autograph. Everyone in the city of Troy knew Pierce was going to be The Next Big Thing in hockey and teenage athlete celebrities. But when I walked into the rink for my practice while his crowd of adoring fans was walking out, Pierce must have thought I had been left behind.
“Oh, I missed one?” he asked, Sharpie still in hand. He grabbed my water bottle, signed a signature too perfect to be anything other than practiced, and handed it back. When he smiled at me, he somehow managed to do it without even looking at me. “Gotta run,” he said, “but thanks for the support!”
No acknowledgment that we’d shared the same ice rink for most of our lives. No recognition that we’d had two classes together freshman year. No noticing that I might be headed to practice of my own and just wanted something to drink.
I’d tossed the water bottle in the trash and spent my practice annoyed and thirsty.
After that, I did my best to stay away from Pierce, even if ignoring him completely was impossible. It wasn’t enough that he was popular at school and the local ice arenas, but a few news outlets had grabbed hold of his YouTube channel, mostly his greatest hockey hits and the video equivalent of selfies, and turned him into a web celeb. A few professional teams were already showing interest in him. A model-perfect guy with endless charm and enough talent to attract the scouts could rule the world. Or at least his corner of the world, which was unfortunate, because it was a corner of the world I was apparently destined to share.
As Mr. Kozlov finished the final pass over the ice, I skated over to the Zamboni bay. “You didn’t mean Pierce Miller, did you?” I asked as soon as he cut off the engine.
Mr. Kozlov started shoveling away the small pile of ice the machine left behind. “Yes! Champion figure skater, champion hockey player, perfect team to teach future Olympians.”
Oh no. “You marketed it that way, didn’t you? That’s how you got the numbers from five to twenty-two?”
Mr. Kozlov set the shovel aside and smiled at me. He had definitely taken a puck or two to the nose when he was younger, if the curvature was any indication. But his smile was straight and wide. “Perhaps.” He started closing the Zamboni bay doors.
“I’m not a figure-skating champion.”
“Local champion. Regional champion. Champion.”
Mr. Kozlov closed the other door and started walking around the outside of the ice. I followed along, letting my skates slide effortlessly across the smooth surface. I raised my voice a little so he could hear me over the rink’s half wall. “Not at senior level. Not at nationals. Not a champion that counts.”
Mr. Kozlov stopped walking, reached over, and pointed at me, pressing one finger hard enough against the glass to turn his finger completely white. “The Lia Bailey, you count. Senior or national or not. You count.”
My cheeks warmed. He believed in me more than I believed in myself. Mr. Kozlov continued walking, and I glanced up at the clock on the scoreboard. Several of the tiny round bulbs were burned out, but it was clearly nine forty-five. Fifteen minutes before the workshop was scheduled to start. I reached the rink’s exit and slipped on my blade guards before stepping off the ice. “Can’t I just teach the workshop by myself?”
Mr. Kozlov handed me a clipboard with some papers and a pen. “What is wrong with Pierce Miller?”
I bit back the “he’s an arrogant jerk who will be a terrible influence on anyone under the age of ten” response that wanted to roll off my tongue. “Nothing. I just think I could do a better job on my own.”
An abandoned water bottle lay on one of the benches near the bleachers. Mr. Kozlov deposited it in the garbage can. “He is best hockey player at this rink. Best to teach kids’ hockey.”
“I know,” I said, because it was true. Pierce was the best candidate. But that still didn’t mean I wanted to teach with him. “It’s just that he…he’s not…”
“Ah,” Mr. Kozlov said. “You don’t like him.”
If I said yes, I would sound immature, like I was in first grade and Pierce had cooties. I wasn’t altogether sure that he didn’t have cooties, but I shook my head. “I just don’t know how well he’s going to do with kids.” The smooth cover was also true. Mr. Kozlov would have to listen to that.
Instead, he patted my shoulder. “Pierce will be fine. Give him a chance.”
I glanced up at the clock again. There was a chance he wouldn’t even show up. That would be like him. But as appealing as that possibility was, I’d have to handle all twenty-two kids on my own. My knees wobbled at the thought.
When the doors to the arena lobby swung open to reveal a tiny girl with her mom carrying the world’s tiniest, most adorable figure skates, I clutched my clipboard.
Never in a million years did I think I’d say it, but I needed Pierce Miller.

Even though it was cold in the rink, sweat was beading on the back of my neck. Pierce hadn’t shown up, but all twenty-two of the kids had. Twenty-one of them were currently lined up against the wall, waiting for the workshop to start. However, I couldn’t get started because the twenty-second child, a tiny five-year-old named Olivia, would not stop crying.
Olivia had weak ankles and seemingly zero balance. She’d fallen the second her blades hit the ice. She fell again while trying to get up. She fell while holding onto the wall. She fell while moving. She fell while standing still.
And each time she fell, she cried a little harder.
Now, I was holding Olivia up on the ice on her wobbly ankles and trying to soothe her. The little girl wasn’t injured, just frustrated. If I let her get off the ice now, chances were good she’d never step back onto it again. If the tears would stop for just a few minutes, I would be able to help get her feet under her and we could go from there. But either one of those tasks would take individual attention I didn’t have time to give.
“Olivia, please stop crying and I’ll help you, okay? I’m not going to let go until you’re ready, but you have to stop crying so I can talk to the other kids.”
Apparently Olivia interpreted this to mean “scream at the top of your lungs.” I was about to resort to bribery in the form of candy from the snack bar when another skater hopped on the ice from the far door. I glanced up and relief flooded my limbs.
Pierce was here after all.
“Sorry I’m late.” He skated over and came to a hockey stop just a foot or two away from me, sending a spray of ice shavings everywhere. All over me. All over Olivia. All over the closest four or five kids on the wall. He brushed a few of them off, seemingly unsure of what to do with his hands when he got to me. “Er…sorry.”
“Whoa,” one of the older kids said. “I want to learn how to do that.”
Olivia stopped crying. Twenty-one jaws dropped open, but mine wasn’t one of them. No, I was too busy gawking. You’d think I’d never seen him before, but whoa. Pierce was hot. Possibly hotter than the last time I’d seen him. Tall with light brown hair and a body that showed just how much he worked out. Hazel eyes with more green than brown. Something about his jaw made him seem older than he actually was.
But then he had to use that jaw to open his mouth.
“It’s Mia, right?”
Four years at the same school and the same rink and he could only get 66 percent of the letters in my name correct? “Lia. With an L.”
Olivia started whimpering, so I hushed her in what I hoped was a soothing way.
“Lia,” Pierce echoed. He didn’t bother introducing himself, as if everyone knew who he was. Which they did, but still.
“You’re Pierce Miller,” said one of the older boys who was wearing a hockey helmet way too big for his head. “My dad says you’re going to play for the Red Wings.”
Pierce turned toward the row of young skaters, as if noticing them for the first time. “I hope so, little man.”
“I saw you on YouTube!” one of the girls said. Though her outfit was predominately pink, she was wearing a tiny pair of hockey skates.
I was so distracted by the kids’ hero-worship that Olivia slipped out of my grasp, fell, and started crying again.
“I’m sorry, Olivia,” I said as I picked the little girl up and struggled to set her on her skate blades again. The muscles in my back were starting to protest being stooped over for so long.
“I want to skate!” one of the kids said.
“Yeah,” another echoed.
The start of a riot. Crap. Like it or not, I was going to have to ask Pierce for help. “Look, you can either take her,” I said, nodding to Olivia, “or—”
Before I could finish the other option, Pierce scooped Olivia up and settled her against his hip, her skates hanging down toward his knees. Instantly, her tears stopped.
“Olivia, is it?” Pierce asked. “‘Atta girl. You’re okay.”
That wasn’t what I had wanted him to do. Picking her up was just as bad as taking her off the ice. Now he wouldn’t be able to put her down, and when he did, she’d just fall or start crying again. But there was nothing I could do about that now, and I had the rest of the kids to worry about.
“Okay, everyone. I want you to let go of the wall and step out in front of you, just like you’re walking,” I said. One of the kids fell and knocked two others down, but the rest stayed on their feet. “Good job, guys! Now pick up your feet, one at a time.”
The kids went back and forth across the rink like that, sometimes falling, always crashing into the hockey boards both because they didn’t know how to stop and because it was hilarious enough to cause a fit of laughter every single time. Once they mastered walking, they started pushing off with each foot and gliding, picking up a little speed. I grabbed push bars for the few kids who fell the most, but the others seemed okay.
Every once in a while, I glanced over at Pierce and Olivia. He carried her in his arms for a few minutes, and then put her back down on the ice with his hands supporting her under her armpits. Surprisingly, there were no tears. He skated around the rink with her like that for a while. I got distracted while trying to teach the kids forward swizzles, and the next time I looked over, Olivia was on her own; still weak-ankled and wobbly, but not falling. Even better, she was smiling.
Not that Pierce would have noticed. Now that his hands were free, his phone was out of his pocket, and he was frantically typing something with his thumbs. He was smiling, too.
Texting a girl, maybe?
“Straight to the Olympics with this one,” he said without looking up from his phone as they skated by me and the rest of the group.
“I want to go to the Olympics!” one of the little girls yelled right before falling on her butt.
“Me too,” another girl said before tripping over the first.
“Okay, okay.” I helped both of them back to their feet. “Swizzles first. Olympics second.” And apparently not at all if Pierce was their teacher. But I kept that comment to myself. I glanced up at the clock on the scoreboard. Not nearly enough time had passed. I was already more exhausted than if I’d run a long program full-out four times in a row.

It was going to be a long ten weeks.

GIVEAWAY:A signed copy of All Laced Up + a $10 Amazon Gift Card (An eBook copy of All Laced Up will be substituted for those outside of the US)

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About the Author:

Erin is a young adult author from North Carolina. She is a morning person who does most of her writing before sunrise, while drinking excessive quantities of coffee. She believes flip-flops qualify as year-round footwear, and would spend every day at the beach if she could. She has a bachelor's degree in mathematics, which is almost never useful when writing books. 
Website | Twitter

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday: Wintersong

"Waiting on" Wednesday, or WOW, is a meme created by Jill @ Breaking the Spine. Join in the discussion to see what upcoming releases we're currently buzzing about.

I am a firm believer in judging books by their cover. Awesome cover = Awesome story, right?! This week's pick was no exception although S. Jae-Jones is backing up the hype with a fantastic story. Add this one to you "TBR" lists now!

Dark, romantic and unforgettable, a fantastical coming-of-age story for fans of Labyrinth and The Darkest Part of the Forest.

Deep in his terrifying realm underground, the cold and forbidding Goblin King casts a dark shadow over nineteen-year-old Liesl. Her grandmother has always warned her to follow the old laws, for every year on the longest night of winter, she claims, the Goblin King will emerge into the waking world in search of his eternal bride. Sensible and plain, Liesl knows it’s her duty to keep her beautiful sister Käthe safe from harm. But Liesl finds refuge only in her wild, captivating music, composed in secret in honor of the mysterious Goblin King.

When Käthe is stolen by the Goblin King, Liesl knows she must set aside her childish fantasies to journey to the Underground and save her. Drawn despite herself to the strange, beautiful world she finds—and the mysterious man who rules it—she finds herself facing an impossible choice. With time and the old laws working against her, Liesl must discover who she truly is before her fate is sealed.

Set at the turn of the 19th century, when young upstart composers like Beethoven were forever altering the sound of music, S. Jae-Jones’ richly imagined debut spins a spellbinding tale of music, love, sisterhood, and a young woman’s search for self-actualization.
WINTERSONG by S. Jae-Jones releases February 7, 2017 from Thomas Dunne Books!

Previous Review: Arena by Holly Jennings

Monday, October 17, 2016

Go Virtual or Go Home! Arena Puts the Spotlight on Virtual Gaming (Review)

A fast-paced and gripping near-future science fiction debut about the gritty world of competitive gaming...

Every week, Kali Ling fights to the death on national TV.
She's died hundreds of times. And it never gets easier...

The RAGE tournaments—the Virtual Gaming League's elite competition where the best gamers in the world compete in a no-holds-barred fight to the digital death. Every bloody kill is broadcast to millions. Every player is a modern gladiator—leading a life of ultimate fame, responsible only for entertaining the masses.

And though their weapons and armor are digital, the pain is real.

Chosen to be the first female captain in RAGE tournament history, Kali Ling is at the top of the world—until one of her teammates overdoses. Now, she must confront the truth about the tournament. Because it is much more than a game—and even in the real world, not everything is as it seems.
The VGL hides dark secrets. And the only way to change the rules is to fight from the inside...
Arena Series #1
Holly Jennings
Pub Date: 11/1/16
Publisher: Ace Books
Genre: Science Fiction
Amazon | B&N

Holly Jennings' debut novel, Arena weaves Taoist philosophy into a hard hitting futuristic story that puts the spotlight on the world of virtual gaming. It will leave readers dying to jump right into the sequel, Gauntlet!

Arena is a fun novel with a serious edge that takes readers to the year 2054. Gamers are the new sports superstars as they compete in various full immersion virtual games from golf to first-person shooter RPGs, and everything in between. Kali Ling is the confident, strong heroine readers love to read about. She's girl who seems to have life all figured out until the lines between reality and the virtual world blur. When her team, Defiance, loses a teammate to a drug overdose in the midst of a life changing tournament Kali must come to terms with the dark reality of the gaming industry. Kali and the other members of Defiance, including the newest member Rooke, must learn to work together as a team if they hope to advance their careers.

This story has depth that I was not expecting. The complexity of the story is balanced with hard-hitting topics like addiction, substance abuse, and mental health. Though the main character is 20 years old, I would recommend Arena for a more mature audience. The action is somewhat graphic and not suitable to the younger readers. Many women who read this story will see themselves reflected in Kali. She may consider herself just a battle-hardened warrior, but she is also the typical young woman who is struggling to create a name for herself while standing against the demands of society. Readers will fall head over heels for her confidence and determination to change the rules of the game. Jennings takes serious concepts and weaves them seamlessly into her plot so that you feel the significance of the characters' feelings and actions. The effort to put a positive spin on a dark situation can sometimes come across as preachy, but Jennings masterfully puts hope on the pages of Kali's story.

Arena is the start of a series with an original voice that will take readers to the next level. Warning: this stand out novel may have you dusting off the old Nintendo and Super Mario Bros. system!

*eGalley provided in exchange for an honest review*

Get ready for the sequel: Gauntlet (APR 4, 2017)

Friday, October 14, 2016

Do Not Overlook The Book of the Unnamed Midwife (Review)

The 2014 Philip K. Dick award winning novel that Slate recently called the "science fiction analog to the Zika crisis."

When she fell asleep, the world was doomed. When she awoke, it was dead.

In the wake of a fever that decimated the earth’s population—killing women and children and making childbirth deadly for the mother and infant—the midwife must pick her way through the bones of the world she once knew to find her place in this dangerous new one. Gone are the pillars of civilization. All that remains is power—and the strong who possess it. 

A few women like her survived, though they are scarce. Even fewer are safe from the clans of men, who, driven by fear, seek to control those remaining. To preserve her freedom, she dons men’s clothing, goes by false names, and avoids as many people as possible. But as the world continues to grapple with its terrible circumstances, she’ll discover a role greater than chasing a pale imitation of independence.
After all, if humanity is to be reborn, someone must be its guide.

Revised edition: This edition of The Book of the Unnamed Midwife includes editorial revisions.
The Book of the Unnamed Midwife
The Road to Nowhere #1
Meg Elison
Pub. Date: 10/11/16
Publisher: 47North

Meg Elison delivers an intense novel in speculative fiction. The Book of the Unnamed Midwife walks readers through a woman's treacherous journey through a country devastated by an unstoppable virus and a major, worldwide loss of women.

Ellison first released this story in 2014 so I had no idea what I'd be getting into, but once I reached the halfway point I knew there was no giving up on this story. Through journal entries and omnipresent narration Elison tells the beginning of the end of the world and the midwife's determination to survive. The first half of the book is slightly difficult to get into as readers are slowly introduced to the new world that the midwife wakes to. However, it is an absolutely fundamental part of the plot to help readers understand the midwife's choices and recognize the shape this world has taken.

The payoff for making it through the first half comes when the midwife reaches Utah and settles down for the winter. This is the point of the novel where my reading became feverish in the need to know what path the story would take from here, because it was going in a surprising direction. There are a number of characters throughout the story that add flavor and keep the tone of the novel from seeming too grim and hopeless.

The Book of the Unnamed Midwife is a read that cannot be overlooked. From the thought-provoking setting to the determined lead character, there's a little something for everyone. I'm keeping my eye out for the sequel, The Book of Etta to further see how the unnamed midwife's knowledge impacted this world.

*eGAlley provided in exchange for an honest review*

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday: The Man in the Microwave Oven

"Waiting on" Wednesday, or WOW, is a meme created by Jill @ Breaking the Spine. Join in the discussion to see what upcoming releases we're currently buzzing about.

I must admit that I wasn't completely taken by the first Theo Bogart mystery: The Man on the Washing Machine. But I'm a sucker for mystery and I'm intrigued by Susan Cox's style. Also the titles have drawn me in both times, so why not feed my inner detective with this week's pick?

Following Susan Cox’s Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel award-winning debut, The Man on the Washing Machine, comes her next quirky, charming mystery featuring San Francisco shop owner Theo Bogart.

To escape a family scandal in her native England, Theo changed her name and moved to San Francisco, where she runs a soap store called Aromas. But her quiet new life was upended when a murder rocked her neighborhood. Now, just as the dust is settling, Theo’s best friend, Nat Moore, finds a human finger in the microwave oven at his coffee shop. Not knowing what it means or what to do, he turns to Theo for help. Meanwhile, Theo’s grandfather is disappearing back into the shadowy world he used to inhabit as an agent for the British Secret Service, and he may have brought an even bigger breed of trouble right to Theo’s doorstep.

Once again Susan Cox has painted a delightful portrait of a colorful San Francisco neighborhood and a woman finding her way through just the kind of scandalous mystery she was trying so hard to leave behind.
The Man in the Microwave Oven by Susan Cox releases April 25, 2017 from Minotaur Books.
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Let me know what you're waiting on in the comments!

Previous Review: Doctor Who The American Adventures
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