Thursday, October 16, 2014

Books 25 & 26 — Gone Girl & Black Ice

Posted by Dawn Dalton on 6:15 AM

Book 25Gone Girl
Author: Gillian Flynn

Up until recently, Gone Girl was the book I recommended most—without ever having read a single page. I admit, I got caught up in the hype, trusting reviewers and word-of-mouth buzz to steer my book gift purchases. In fairness, everyone I'd gifted the book enjoyed it.

I did, too.

But perhaps not in the way I expected. Gone Girl is a twisted mystery/thriller, told in alternating points of view by two characters I didn't particularly like. Not even in the beginning.

The fact that I read every single word, suffering deep writer envy throughout each page, is a true testament to Gillian Flynn's talent. I have put down books for far less a crime that unlikeable characters. But it is perhaps these incomprehensible character flaws that kept me turning pages—and of course, the author's impeccable command of the craft. Gillian Flynn could write the phone book and I'd be trying to suck up a fraction of her talent by osmosis.

In the end, I liked Gone Girl very much, even if both characters left a sour taste in the back of my mouth.

Book 26Black Ice
Author: Becca Fitzpatrick

I loved Becca Fitzpatrick's Hush, Hush saga—the romantic paranormal series about a smoking hot fallen angel who goes from bad guy, to pretty much the love of my life. Seriously, though, Patch's reign as my book boyfriend is second only to Jamie from Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series. There's no question Fitzpatrick does brooding, dangerous boys exceptionally well.

It's been a long time since I've seen anything new from Fitzpatrick, and so when Black Ice hit bookstores last week, I pounced.

While this is a tamer book than I expected—almost safe in terms of most recent YA out there—I loved every word of this thrilling adventure of danger and romance. Britt is a strong, heroic protagonist, flawed and inspiring. Mason is a hot, dangerous and potentially criminal love interest. The two are pitted against some formidable obstacles, and while it might be easy to dismiss them as unbelievable, Fitzpatrick handles the story with fully capable hands.

There is nothing paranormal about this story—but that shouldn't deter fans of the Hush, Hush saga. Fitzpatrick is one of the most skilled YA authors on the market, and Black Ice is another testament to her amazing talent. You're unlikely to forget this story...or Mason...anytime soon.

— Dawn

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Book 24: The Geography of You and Me

Posted by Dawn Dalton on 7:30 AM

Book 24The Geography of You and Me
Author: Jennifer E. Smith

Jennifer E. Smith knows exactly which heartstrings to tug.

She has mastered the art of swoon-worthy love, relying on raw emotion, an authentic teen voice, and envy-inducing prose to carry the prose.

In some ways, she's become the Queen of "safe" YA romance, never falling back on common tropes. There's no harsh language, no explicit sex — and yet, each kiss, subtle touch, or longing gaze between characters draws you deeper and deeper into love.

In The Geography of You and Me, the characters are separated by hundreds of thousands of miles having spent only one night together, staring at the stars from the rooftop of an apartment building while all of New York city waits out an electrical blackout. This isn't insta-love but a believable connection between two young characters that grows even as they set off in different directions.

Everything about this book makes me smile. Which is common when I read one of Smith's novels. The Geography of You and Me is a tender romance that tugs on ALL of the right heart strings.

— Dawn

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Book 23: Perfect Chemistry

Posted by Dawn Dalton on 1:37 PM

Book 23Perfect Chemistry
Author: Simone Elkeles

I love the description of this book on Simone Elkeles' website: A modern tale of star-crossed lovers with a fresh urban twist.

The official blurb:
At Fairfield High School, on the outskirts of Chicago, everyone knows that south-siders mixing with north-siders can be explosive.  So when Brittany Ellis and Alejandro “Alex” Fuentes are forced to be lab partners in chemistry class, this human experiment leads to unexpected revelations – that Brittany ’s flawless reputation is a cover for her troubled home life, that Alex’s bad-boy persona  hides his desire to break free from gang ties, and that when they’re together, life somehow makes more sense.  Breaking through the stereotypes and expectations that threaten to keep Brittany and Alex apart, Perfect Chemistry takes readers to both sides of the tracks in a passionate love story about looking beneath the surface.

As a fan of stories like The Outsiders, I was immediately drawn into this book, and Elkeles' compelling writing kept me turning pages long into the night. I read this is (almost) one sitting. Alternating first-person POVs can be tricky, but Elkeles balances the voices with professional ease — so well done.

While the concept of "insta-love" can be prevalent in contemporary YA romance, Perfect Chemistry is well paced, with enough believable conflict to keep you rooting for this couple right to the not-quite-but-close fairytale ending.

Once you turn over the cover, be prepared to settle in for a great read, filled with hot hot hot romance!

— Dawn

Friday, August 1, 2014

New Ownership, New Management, and a LEAP into E-Novellas

Posted by Dawn Dalton on 6:39 AM

WOW! Some BIG news from the Publishers of KILLER'S INSTINCT!

*    *   *

Established by Laurie Edwards in 2009, Leap Books LLC has earned its place in the world of small publishing with nods from the Green Earth Books Award program, the Young Adult Library Services Association Popular Paperbacks program, and have received recommended reading status from authoritative review sources, such as, Kirkus Reviews, the Midwest Book Review, and CM Magazine.

But less than a month ago Edwards turned the reins over to longtime Leap author Judith Graves and St. Martin's Press author Shannon Delany. Delany became owner and publisher with Graves taking the role of co-publisher. The third piece needed to appropriately puzzle together their management team was author Jennifer Murgia. Three popular young adult authors with diverse origins in the industry came together to breathe new life into Leap and gather a capable team of authors, editors, illustrators, and marketing assistants beneath them.

"From the very beginning Leap has been about taking chances...taking leaps of faith..." Graves says, "I'm hopeful we'll retain the original crew of Leap authors and, now that we have a full management team - spring into action!"

Not only will the new and larger management team be able to focus on their particular strengths, but with the addition of the SHINE e-novella line initiated and overseen by Graves, Leap is re-examining the importance of digital publishing for small presses.

Graves points out an important benefit of e-books and e-novellas, "From a publishing point of view there are less costs involved in the initial launch of a title, which means we have more resources available for great cover design, snappy layouts, and extensive publicity."

"Laurie Edwards gave Leap a lot of love and built a great foundation for us," Delany says, "and with the things we'll be doing, especially in the case of SHINE, we can build a strong house on that foundation."

Shine has acquired some very promising stories already, including two-time RITA Young adult Finalist Tina Ferraro’s HALF-LIFE following Trisha in the days before her 15th birthday, as her long deceased identical twin appears in mirrors to help prevent her similarly early demise and Laura Lascarso's series about a pair of star-crossed lovers in her modern-day Romeo & Juliet set in the world of competitive car racing.

"SHINE is not the only Leap line to be seeing worthwhile submissions," Delany says. "We regularly field queries from agents for our YA/NA novel-length line SURGE and the middle grade line, too. With strong stories, great covers, and the attention of Jen Murgia's marketing team, I see great things ahead for Leap."

Murgia, who will lead the promotion and marketing campaigns for Leap authors, says she's "excited to relaunch such a fabulous backlist of titles and is looking forward to the new list." No stranger to choreographing large scale book events (, Murgia and her team plan to reach outlets that will give Leap titles the recognition and attention they deserve.

"That's why you need experienced authors leading publishing houses--we know what our fellow authors and their books--their babies--need. And we're most likely to do our best to provide that."

Have a killer story you want to submit? Leap generally only takes agented queries except (currently) for its SHINE e-novella line and, in October, it will open its doors briefly to all unagented works. Go HERE for submission details.

For now Delany suggests readers and writers alike leap into the contest running until August 8th at and says if you're serious about writing for a publisher, first give a few of their books a read.

Find Leap Books at major online retailers and:

Enter the Rafflecopter contest here--one lucky winner will receive three Leap e-books of their choice:

aRafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Books 21 & 22: SINNER and ONE KICK

Posted by Dawn Dalton on 11:56 AM

July was the busiest month of the 2014 so far. Between launching a new website for the day job, hanging out signing Chase Duffy comics at the Calgary Stampede for 10 days on behalf of the Alberta Canola Producers' Commission, and completing revisions for several projects, including my 2015 Fall release from Simon Pulse, reading took a serious back seat to...well, pretty much everything.

But as I gear up for a much-needed and highly-anticipated vacation in BC, I'm packing a pile of TBR books that have been neglected for so long they're * gasp * collecting dust.

Excuses aside, I did manage to speed through two novels this month, admittedly because fire breathing dragons couldn't have kept me away from new releases by Maggie Stiefvater and Chelsea Cain — two of my writing idols and favourite authors.

Book 21Sinner
Author: Maggie Stiefvater

Isabelle and Cole.

Need I say more?

Okay. Maybe a little more.

I fell in love with Cole a few books back, and while SINNER is not part of the SHIVER, LINGER, FOREVER trilogy, it is set in the same world. I loved those books and those characters but...I've always wanted MORE Cole, the rocker, bad-boy werewolf — oy, who wouldn't?

I loved everything about SINNER, from the brilliant writing, to the build-up romance between Cole and Isabelle, to the amazing ending. But I admit, I kinda want more Cole. I MAY have read this a little too fast.

You don't have to read the other books before tackling SINNER if you're new to this world, but I'd advise it...the more Cole the better. Trust me ;-)

Book 22One Kick
Author: Chelsea Cain

I read Chelsea Cain's book HEARTSICK once a year, without fail. And every time I read it, I learn something new about writing. It's not because her craft is impeccable (though, it's pretty damn close), but Cain creates kick-ass characters that trigger real emotional responses — admittedly, most of the time, fear. (She writes some scary stuff.)

I'm not ashamed to admit I'm a bit obsessed with Gretchen Lowell, the beautiful, but deadly, serial killer in Cain's HEARTSICK novels. With Gretchen, Cain pretty much wrote the book on creating evil characters that people can sympathize with — Gretchen has a real-life cult following. (I own a RUN GRETCHEN T-shirt!)

ONE KICK is not HEARTSICK and Kick Lannigan is not Gretchen Lowell, but it doesn't matter, because Cain kicks off her new series with a powerful first book. Kick is kick-ass — truly. At 21, she's like a ninja master (she even knows how to use throwing stars!) Sadly, the necessity for this stems from her tragic backstory. Kick was kidnapped at the age of 6 and forced into a child pornography ring. Rescued at 12, Kick vowed to never be a victim again.

If the topic makes you queasy, rest assured, Kick's story is one of survival and any child pornography references are implied. Despite Kick's tragic past, she emerges as a credible crusader for abducted youth.

While the macabre is dialled WAY down from the HEARTSICK books, Cain still delivers a nail-biting story with deeply flawed characters that will keep you turning pages well into the night.

- Dawn

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Books 19 & 20: Take Me On and We Were Liars

Posted by Dawn Dalton on 3:13 PM

Book 19Take Me On
Author: Katie McGarry

Katie McGarry has an uncanny way of taking me back to high school and first loves. The boys are always a little bit bad, and the "love" is fast and all-consuming.

TAKE ME ON was no exception, though I admit, my interest in this book was heightened by the topic. As a former kick boxer, I related to the characters and their world.

Championship kickboxer Haley swore she'd never set foot in the ring again after one tragic night — but then a guy she can't stop thinking about accepts a mixed martial arts fight in her honor. Suddenly, Haley has to train West Young. All attitude, West is is everything she promised herself she'd stay away from. 

That's a pretty succinct summary of this book. It's packed with teenage angst, steamy romance, believable characters (and a believable love story), all wrapped up in trademark McGarry style — you know, the kind that induces serious writer envy.

Katie McGarry has definitely got it going on.

Book 20: We Were Liars
Author: E. lockhart

So much hype around this book.

So much.

I admit, I caved to the peer pressure.

With so much hype, and an enviable front cover blurb from John Green, I expected great things from We Were Liars.

I wasn't disappointed — though, I guessed the twist ending about half-way through the book (without reading the inevitable spoilers on the website).

E. Lockhart has a unique, totally mesmerizing writing style, and while I wanted to throw the book against the wall when I finished reading it (for various reasons I can't say without spoilers), I also wanted to hand it to ALL OF MY FRIENDS so I could have someone to talk with about it.

If you've read it, send me an email and let's talk! It's a tough one to shake, long after you've turned the last page.

- Dawn

Friday, June 13, 2014

Book 18: Killer Instinct by S.E. Green

Posted by Dawn Dalton on 2:19 PM

Book 18Killer Instinct
Author: S.E. Green

I admit, I read the first two chapters of Killer Instinct with Dexter's voice in my head. If you haven't watched the show DEXTER, Dexter is a blood splatter specialist — and a serial killer who murders...serial killers.

Take out the "murder" part, and you have the loose premise behind Green's Killer Instinct — but for YA. In fact, even the tagline, "Everyone's got a dark side" is reminiscent of Dexter's infamous "dark passenger."

Lane is a typical teenager. She gets good grades, she has a loving family, and an after school job at a local veterinary. But she also has an unnatural obsession with serial killers that goes beyond the scrapbook diary she keeps on some of them. She's not evil — she just gets urges....

There's no question this book is dark.

But while I may have started out thinking too much about the parallels between Lane and Dexter, by the fifth chapter, Lane's voice cut through and took control. I read this book in almost one sitting (finished early in the morning after a binge evening read), teased by clever cliffhanger chapter endings and Green's no-nonsense writing style.

I'm still digesting the end, but I assure you, Lane does not go off in a boat to live a Lumberjack's life.

- Dawn

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