Saturday, May 25, 2013

A little hiatus...and a very storybook senior photoshoot!

So if the silence this week wasn't already obvious, I'm making it official.  I'm going to have to take a very brief hiatus, just a few weeks.  In the coming weeks, I have some house remodeling to finish, massive clean-up from said remodeling, and three parties to plan (two birthdays and a graduation).  Hoping to be back happily blogging and much less stressed out by the second week in June.  :D
I am going to try to have the "What's New" monthly post together and posted on time---and the June list? Brace yourself, because its a whopper of bookish goodness. ;)

So I'll leave you with a little photo daughter, who's a book-lover just like her mama, and a few of her more bookish senior photos.  These were taken by my wonderfully talented bestie and frequent guest reviewer, Amy.  I'm telling you, if you're in the California bay area and want some awesome, creative photos done, she's the best around.  You can see more of her stuff and contact her at

...and well, in this last one she doesn't have her books, but in YA we do love our bow-and-arrow wielding heroines, don't we?  She's been taking archery for about a year now and absolutely loving it, so we decided to work it into her photo shoot.

So, please pardon my blogging break.  I'll be back soon!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday

"Waiting on Wednesday" is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. It lets us all gush about what soon-to-be released books we are jumping-up-and-down excited for.

by Sarah Beth Durst

hitting shelves August 27th, 2013 from Walker Children's Books

description: Eve has a new home, a new face, and a new name—but no memories of her past. She’s been told that she's in a witness protection program. That she escaped a dangerous magic-wielding serial killer who still hunts her. The only thing she knows for sure is that there is something horrifying in her memories the people hiding her want to access—and there is nothing they won’t say—or do—to her to get her to remember.

At night she dreams of a tattered carnival tent and buttons being sewn into her skin. But during the day, she shelves books at the local library, trying to not let anyone know that she can do things—things like change the color of her eyes or walk through walls. When she does use her strange powers, she blacks out and is drawn into terrifying visions, returning to find that days or weeks have passed—and she’s lost all short-term memories. Eve must find out who and what she really is before the killer finds her—but the truth may be more dangerous than anyone could have ever imagined.

My thoughts: Lots of reasons to pine for this one---fantastic author, mysterious dreams and carnival tents,  a uniquely gorgeous cover...just to mention a few!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

New Shelf Goodies & The Weekly Nutshell {48}

For New Shelf Goodies, I'll be showing you what lovely books I acquired this week, whether from publishers, or the library, or from whatever half-crazed book-buying binge I happened to go on. :D (Inspired by Tynga's Stacking the Shelves) The Weekly Nutshell will be just week here at Stories & Sweeties, in a nutshell. (inspired by Ginger @ GReads and her recaps at the end of the TGIF posts)

Here's what I got this week:
Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! That is all.
 Thank you, my dear! (you know who you are! lol)

For both of these: I die! I faint! I...happy dance!! 

For review: 
 This looks good--fun quirky characters.
OH I've been anticipating this one forever!
For Review (cont)
Lovely velvety finished copy :) I'm a sucker for those.
SO this author. 
Irresistable Frankie cover! Love!
This looks awesome, but holy cow--I was not expecting it to be almost 500 pages!
Eerie cover, eerie synopsis. Looks good!

For review (cont)
YES. I will read anything by Cat Patrick. 
Likewise for Lisa McMann...have loved all of her books! 
I came across this series in someone's recap post for TXLA and looked it up. Read the first few chapters and was immediately hooked!

Huge grateful bowing-down thanks to these publishers for sending these!! Macmillan, Flux Books, Random House/Delacorte, Penguin, Simon & Schuster, and Tate Publishing.

The Weekly Nutshell: 

Hope everyone had a great book week! I just have to say that I started Invisibility today by Levithan and Cremer---I was in love with both main characters within the first 20 pages.  Unless this goes terribly wrong somewhere in the end, I think I can safely predict this one is going to be a new favorite! :)
What are you reading this week?

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Becky's View: Sweet Peril by Wendy Higgins

Sweet Peril by Wendy Higgins
♦publisher: Balzer & Bray
♦release date: April 30th, 2013
♦paperback, 371 pages
♦intended audience: Young adult (recommend 15+)
♦series: The Sweet Trilogy, book 2
  review of book 1, Sweet Evil
♦source: from publisher for honest review
Anna Whitt, the daughter of a guardian angel and a demon, promised herself she’d never do the work of her father—polluting souls. She’d been naive to make such a vow. She’d been naive about a lot of things.

Haunted by demon whisperers, Anna does whatever she can to survive, even if it means embracing her dark side and earning an unwanted reputation as her school’s party girl. Her life has never looked more bleak. And all the while there’s Kaidan Rowe, son of the Duke of Lust, plaguing her heart and mind.

When an unexpected lost message from the angels surfaces, Anna finds herself traveling the globe with Kopano, son of Wrath, in an attempt to gain support of fellow Nephilim and give them hope for the first time. It soon becomes clear that whatever freedoms Anna and the rest of the Neph are hoping to win will not be gained without a fight. Until then, Anna and Kaidan must put aside the issues between them, overcome the steamiest of temptations yet, and face the ultimate question: is loving someone worth risking their life?

Review: Can I just get my one little bit of negativity about this series out of the way right now, people?  Before the real review even starts?  The story inside is cool and dark and super sexy...but the covers are just so cheesy they make me cringe!  Especially this one.  I think it's the "I'm too sexy" glare on the character's faces or the fact that they look like they should be strutting down a cat walk.  Plus, this is not how I picture Kai and Anna at all while I'm reading.  I keep thinking, please let this be one of those series that gets a compete cover redo sometime soon.  Still, I'd rather it have a cheesy cover and be as awesome of a story as it is than the other way around! :)

OKAY, enough of that. I just had to get that off my chest. That's really the only bad thing I can ever say about this series because the actual story continues to be fantastic! In the year that we waited to get our mitts on more Kai and Anna, I'd forgotten exactly how dark and sultry this story is. A perfect blend of YA angel/demon lore and a romance to get your blood running hot.  Fans of this series have nothing to fear, as this one very nearly surpasses book one in excitement, danger, and a huge dose of steamy scenes.  Throw in a prophecy that could change the lives of every one of the Nephilim and a desperate race around the world to find allies in the coming war on the demons and you get one amazing sequel!

Anna, while she has spent some time learning to fight and toughen up, is still as sweet as ever, and I absolutely love that in this second book, her purity has become an integral part of the plot.   You really hurt for her knowing she is being forced to "work" under the evil eye of the whisperers, and that means drinking and partying and putting other kids in danger.  She hates it and has so much guilt about it, but as the daughter of a demon, she has to work if she wants to stay alive.

Once again, the characters are what make this book really shine.  Kaidan made me angry for about 90% of this book.  His jealous behavior was maddening and childish and he takes it all out on the wrong people.  But a character is only as good as the intense feelings they make you have, right? :) Loved Kopano again, I really felt for him as he gets caught up in the middle of the mess that is Anna and Kai's relationship.  Hope so much that he finds the love he deserves with a certain new character when book 3 rolls around!  And Blake---I just love that kid.  Such an entertaining character to read, loyal to a fault to both Anna and Kai, a good friend, and definitely knows how to lighten the mood in any situation!  You just feel for every single one of them, because no matter how good any of their lives might seem to the outsider, each of them lives as a slave to their cruel demon fathers.  Well, except Anna's, of course.  Her dad is an outstanding character again, perfectly flawed and bumbling when he's trying to play "Dad", and then protective and smart as he helps them orchestrate the coming revolt.

Sweet Peril was a stunning follow up to Sweet Evil and I can only imagine how amazing and intense Sweet Reckoning will be!

Find Wendy Higgins online:  Website  •  Twitter  •  Facebook

Purchase Sweet Peril:  Amazon  •  BookDepository  •  Indiebound

Friday, May 17, 2013

Becky's View: Absent by Katie Williams

Absent by Katie Williams
♦publisher: Chronicle Books
♦release date: May 21st, 2013
♦hardcover, 184 pages
♦intended audience: Young adult
♦source: from publisher for honest review
Forever is a long time to be stuck in high school.
Seventeen-year-old Paige is dead, the victim of a freak fall from
the roof during Physics class. Now she’s a ghost, permanently
bound to the grounds of her high school. It isn’t all bad, she can
find out everyone’s secrets, which can be amusing—for a while.
But then Paige hears something that isn’t amusing at all: the
rumor spread by the most popular girl at school that her death
wasn’t an accident—that she supposedly jumped on purpose.
Paige is desperate to stop the gossip, but what can a ghost do?
Then Paige discovers something amazing. She can possess
living people when they think of her, and she can make them do
almost anything. Maybe, just maybe, she can get inside the girl
who’s responsible for the stories. . . and have a little fun turning the tables while she’s at it.

ReviewAbsent is a story chock full of interesting concepts, great realistic characters, a bit of fun, a smidge of revenge, and the big mysterious question of “Did she? Or didn’t she?”  We meet Paige, a normal high school teen who is just acclimating to her afterlife.  Her life has ended way too early after a freak accident sends her falling from the roof during a class science experiment.  Turns out, when you die in school, you stay in school…forever.  But she’s not alone.  She is there with two others who died on school grounds---Brooke, who was recent enough that Paige knew her, and Evan;  the girls don’t know how long ago he died and he refuses to say.  But they make an interesting crew.

What bothers Paige most about her death is that she knows she didn't jump, but the rumors that she did are running rampant and she worries what people will think and that it will get back to her parents, hurting them even more. She's even more disturbed by it when her best friend starts to believe she jumped.  So she takes it in to her own hands to stop the gossip and in the bizarre way she goes about doing it, she learns a few lessons---some harsh and some welcome---and she gets to experience a few things she missed out on in her short life.

One of my favorite ideas in this story is that whenever a living person thinks of someone who has died, it is something that the dead can physically feel and hear.  It doesn't matter if you were friends or lovers, enemies or strangers---if a person thinks of you, you can feel it in your afterlife as a palpable thing.  Paige makes an incredible discovery about just how strong a connection those thoughts can be, and it gives her an ability she never thought possible---and that's where the story really gets interesting.  It turns into not only a story about Paige setting the record straight and getting a little revenge in the process, but also about the way she strives to touch a few people's lives that she should have while she was still alive.

The ending wraps up with excitement and quite a surprising twist!  This whole story was really beautifully done: a little light-hearted humor, a look at the different ways people grieve, a bit of romantic drama, and a unique take on the afterlife.  Absent is a heartfelt story of a girl whose coming of age comes, sadly, after she's already dead.

 Find Katie Williams online:  Website  •  Twitter  •  Facebook

Purchase Absent:  Amazon  •  BookDepository  •  Indiebound

Thursday, May 16, 2013

TRUTH or DARE?? Giveaway!

In honor of debut author Jacqueline Green's YA thriller TRUTH OR DARE's release this week, the awesome folks at Little Brown are letting me give away a copy to one lucky reader! 
I know many of you are already excited about this one, but here's the details just in case:

The Book:
When a simple round of truth or dare spins out of control, three girls find it’s no longer a party game. It’s do or die.

It all started on a whim: the game was a way for Tenley Reed to reclaim her popularity, a chance for perfect Caitlin “Angel” Thomas to prove she’s more than her Harvard application. Loner Sydney Morgan wasn’t even there; she was hiding behind her camera like usual. But when all three start receiving mysterious dares long after the party has ended, they’re forced to play along—or risk exposing their darkest secrets.

How far will Tenley, Caitlin and Sydney go to keep the truth from surfacing? And who’s behind this twisted game?

Set against the backdrop of Echo Bay, an isolated beach town haunted by misfortune, Truth or Dare is a highly charged debut that will keep readers in suspense from beginning to end.

 The Author:
 Website  •  Twitter  •  Facebook

And now...The Giveaway!!

Want a copy of Truth of Dare?
Fill out the rafflecopter.
REALLY want to win a copy of Truth or Dare??
Earn 5 extra entries by sharing your most memorable game of Truth or Dare with us in the comments of this post!!
*UPDATE*  I couldn't get the rafflecopter to announce the winner, so I thought I'd do it here!
The winner is:

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday

"Waiting on Wednesday" is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. It lets us all gush about what soon-to-be released books we are jumping-up-and-down excited for.

Goodbye, Rebel Blue
by Shelley Coriell

hitting shelves October 1st, 2013 from Amulet

description: Rebecca Blue is a rebel with an attitude whose life is changed by a chance encounter with a soon-to-be dead girl. Rebel (as she’s known) decides to complete the dead girl’s bucket list to prove that choice, not chance, controls her fate. In doing so, she unexpectedly opens her mind and heart to a world she once dismissed—a world of friendships, family, and faith. With a shaken sense of self, she must reevaluate her loner philosophy—particularly when she falls for Nate, the golden boy do-gooder who never looks out for himself. Perfect for fans of Jay Asher’s blockbuster hit Thirteen Reasons Why, Coriell’s second novel features her sharp, engaging voice along with realistic drama and unforgettable characters.

My thoughts:  This looks like a great set-up for a fun but heartfelt story.  And see what it says about fans of Thirteen Reasons Why and unforgettable characters---that's for me. :) 

Saturday, May 11, 2013

New Shelf Goodies & The Weekly Nutshell {47}

For New Shelf Goodies, I'll be showing you what lovely books I acquired this week, whether from publishers, or the library, or from whatever half-crazed book-buying binge I happened to go on. :D (Inspired by Tynga's Stacking the Shelves) The Weekly Nutshell will be just week here at Stories & Sweeties, in a nutshell. (inspired by Ginger @ GReads and her recaps at the end of the TGIF posts)

So this week, I ended up with quite a haul.  The first two you see there are signed (eeeee!), but sadly, I didn't get to go to the signing because of stupid work. Booo.. 
But luckily, Amy went and got both bought and signed for me, as well as getting my ARC of Invisibility signed by David Levithan and Andrea Cremer. So stinkin' excited to have those! Thank you, dear! :D  

Icons by Margaret Stohl
 Excited to see this author's first solo work!

For review:
Tumble & Fall by Alexandra Coutts 
Super happy dance! Very excited for this one!
A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge
 This looks amazing. The synopsis has me so curious!
The Year of Luminous Love by Lurlene McDaniels
This one was a surprise...haven't heard much about it!
The Keep by Veronica Wolff
Looks good, but it's book 4 I think? How will I ever catch up?

For review (cont.):
Some of my favorite authors in here!
While I didn't love book 1, I did like how it ended, so I'm up to give this a try!
Curious about this one! 
Second copy, so I'll be giving this away soon!
Not my usual cup of tea, but seeing really great reviews for it!
Atlantis! Haven't heard much about this series...anyone know about it?

Huge thanks to Macmillan, Pan Macmillan UK, Random House, Penguin NAL, and HarperTeen for all of these lovely goodies!! 

The Weekly Nutshell: 

Happy Mother's Day to all you Mommy's out there! :D

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Becky's View: The Last Academy by Anne Applegate

The Last Academy by Anne Applegate
♦publisher: Scholastic Point
♦release date: April 30th, 2013
♦hardcover, 320 pages
♦intended audience: Young adult
♦source: from publisher for honest review
What is this prep school preparing them for?

Camden Fisher arrives at boarding school haunted by a falling-out with her best friend back home. But the manicured grounds of Lethe Academy are like nothing Cam has ever known. There are gorgeous, preppy boys wielding tennis rackets, and circles of girls with secrets to spare. Only . . . something is not quite right. One of Cam's new friends mysteriously disappears, but the teachers don't seem too concerned. Cam wakes up to strangers in her room, who then melt into the night. She is suddenly plagued by odd memories, and senses there might be something dark and terrible brewing. But what? The answer will leave Cam—and readers—stunned and breathless, in this thrilling debut novel.

Review:  The Last Academy was a very fast, fairly entertaining, but slightly frustrating read.  There is a lot I can't tell you without giving a major plot twist away, but actually someone with a good knowledge of mythology can guess right away what is really going on at this school, just from the name of the school and the name of the main villain.  I am not that someone, but I would guess that I figured out what was going on right about the time the first friend mysteriously disappears.

But the predictability was not a problem.  I actually liked how the story flowed and unfolded.  It was fun, a bit humorous at times, some good conflicts and had some good twists.  It had a good mystery running through it, too, as Camden desperately tries to figure out what happened to her missing friend and if the creepy, sinister Barnaby Charon is responsible---all while dodging the other students' bullying because they hold her to blame for the girl's disappearance.

The big problem I had with this story was the characters.   There wasn't any one character that I would say I could connect with.  Camden had her moments of funny wit, but she lost me within the first 20 or so pages when (and I don't consider that a spoiler) a complete stranger violates her on a plane and she does nothing about it.  Their actions, while some made a little more sense by the end, were just so disconnected and confusing.  The behavior and reactions of everyone (and I mean even the teachers at the school) were a bit dumbfounding and sometimes completely immature.  It made for an interesting story but one that you can't really immerse into because the character were all pretty irksome.

The ending though..well, the ending was what brought this book back from a two-cupcaker to a three.  Despite my lack of connection to the characters throughout almost the whole book, as each one's story is revealed, I felt a little more for them.  What happens at the end for Camden touched my heart so completely that I actually found myself in tears.  It made the whole book worth a read.    

If you decide to give this one a try, go in with a little trepidation, but know there is a bit of lovely payoff at the end! 
Find Anne Applegate online: Website  •   Twitter  •  Facebook

Purchase The Last Academy: Amazon  •  BookDepository  •  Indiebound

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday

"Waiting on Wednesday" is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. It lets us all gush about what soon-to-be released books we are jumping-up-and-down excited for.

by Kami Garcia

hitting shelves October 1st, 2013 from Little Brown

description: I never believed in ghosts. Until one tried to kill me.

When Kennedy Waters finds her mother dead, her world begins to unravel. She doesn’t know that paranormal forces in a much darker world are the ones pulling the strings. Not until identical twins Jared and Lukas Lockhart break into Kennedy’s room and destroy a dangerous spirit sent to kill her. The brothers reveal that her mother was part of an ancient secret society responsible for protecting the world from a vengeful demon — a society whose five members were all murdered on the same night.

Now Kennedy has to take her mother’s place in the Legion if she wants to uncover the truth and stay alive. Along with new Legion members Priest and Alara, the teens race to find the only weapon that might be able to destroy the demon — battling the deadly spirits he controls every step of the way.

Suspense, romance, and the paranormal meet in this chilling urban fantasy, the first book in a new series from Kami Garcia, bestselling coauthor of the Beautiful Creatures novels.

My thoughts:  I WANT THIS.  That cover just haunts me. Plus the fact that it's about ghosts..YAY! And the fact that it's by Kami Garcia---one half of one of my favorite writing duos!  This one can't come soon enough!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Amy's View: The Elite by Kiera Cass

The Elite by Kiera Cass
♦publisher: HarperTeen
♦release date: April 23rd, 2013
♦hardcover, 323 pages
♦intended audience: Young adult
♦ series: The Selection, book 2
   Becky's review of book 1
♦source: from publisher for honest review
Thirty-five girls came to the palace to compete in the Selection. All but six have been sent home. And only one will get to marry Prince Maxon and be crowned princess of Illea.

America still isn’t sure where her heart lies. When she’s with Maxon, she’s swept up in their new and breathless romance, and can’t dream of being with anyone else. But whenever she sees Aspen standing guard around the palace, and is overcome with memories of the life they planned to share. With the group narrowed down to the Elite, the other girls are even more determined to win Maxon over—and time is running out for America to decide.

Just when America is sure she’s made her choice, a devastating loss makes her question everything again. And while she’s struggling to imagine her future, the violent rebels that are determined to overthrow the monarchy are growing stronger and their plans could destroy her chance at any kind of happy ending.

Review: In this second book to The Selection series, America is still torn between first her love, Aspen and Prince Maxon, yet she is the only one in the competition who finds her heart divided. The remaining girls know exactly what they want and will go to any lengths to safeguard their chance to win the Prince's heart and the crown.

The Selection series is becoming the makings for the perfect television show or movie. With the right amounts of action, love, backstabbing and competition of multiple intentions (love vs. crown).
Love and friendship is tested to the greatest lengths, as remaining girl’s lives are shattered and the real meaning behind holding the crown is presented before them. While strength of character is discovered allegiances are drawn, opening the book up to a whole new depth. 

Within the first few chapters I had my mind made up that a decision had already been forged in America's mind, yet nothing could have prepared me for the change in the books direction. I was shocked by the moments that forever changed the competition and opened America's heart, leaving it raw and vulnerable, forcing me to then question the direction of the series in its entirety.

Without giving away any spoilers to this series I will say there are moments this book took my breath away.  It caused me to laugh out loud or left a tear to roll down my cheek. While I appreciated and felt the rawness and realness behind America's heart and the choices that she was left with.

In The Elite, America’s stand is even fierier, keeping in tune with her extreme strength of character that I first feel in love with.  Where her Decisions were finally made but not until the point of no return. Causing my heart to be tugged and pulled throughout the book, not knowing if I could handle the decision that she would finally make, still I was unable to set the book down.

The highlight of this book would be the last 100 pages where my heart pounded through my chest as I raced through hoping for an answer.  Kiera Cass knows how to grab your heart and continue its hold on you by writing a book that engrosses you to the point of no return. I am breathless waiting on edge for the conclusion and an answer to this series.
Find Kiera Cass online: Website  •  Twitter 

Purchase The Elite at:  Amazon  •  BookDepository  •  Indiebound

Saturday, May 4, 2013

New Shelf Goodies & The Weekly Nutshell {46}

For New Shelf Goodies, I'll be showing you what lovely books I acquired this week, whether from publishers, or the library, or from whatever half-crazed book-buying binge I happened to go on. :D (Inspired by Tynga's Stacking the Shelves) The Weekly Nutshell will be just week here at Stories & Sweeties, in a nutshell. (inspired by Ginger @ GReads and her recaps at the end of the TGIF posts)

Here's my goodies for this week:
 For review:
This looks intense.
Love this book! So glad to get a finished copy. My review here.
This one is being compared to Pretty Little Liars, not my usual read so I'll just have to see!
Loved this author's first book so much. Check out my review of Orchards here

Thanks to Random House, Little Brown, and Abrams for these!    

The Weekly Nutshell: 
Have a great week everyone!! 

Friday, May 3, 2013

Becky's View: The End Games by T. Michael Martin

The End Games by T. Michael Martin
♦publisher: Balzer & Bray
♦release date: May 7th, 2013
♦hardcover, 384 pages
♦intended audience: Young adult
♦ALA midwinter
It happened on Halloween.

The world ended.

And a dangerous Game brought it back to life.

Seventeen-year-old Michael and his five-year-old brother, Patrick, have been battling monsters in The Game for weeks.

In the rural mountains of West Virginia, armed with only their rifle and their love for each other, the brothers follow Instructions from the mysterious Game Master. They spend their days searching for survivors, their nights fighting endless hordes of “Bellows”—creatures that roam the dark, roaring for flesh. And at this Game, Michael and Patrick are very good.

But The Game is changing.

The Bellows are evolving.

The Game Master is leading Michael and Patrick to other survivors—survivors who don’t play by the rules.

And the brothers will never be the same.

T. Michael Martin’s debut novel is a transcendent thriller filled with electrifying action, searing emotional insight, and unexpected romance.

Review: The End Games was a really great surprise.  I know I've said this before, but I tend to have a hard time with zombie books.  Sometimes I just can't take the brain-eating, skin-rotting, guts and eyeballs gore.  Honestly, I only made it through an episode and half of Walking Dead before I couldn't take it anymore.  But The End Games?  Well, this story was something so much more than just another zombie novel.  At the heart of it's story, it's about two brothers, Michael and his little bro Patrick.   It's about their bond and what incredible lengths Michael will go through to make Patrick feel like he's safe in a really messed up world.  

Michael and Patrick were both incredibly well-written characters with distinct voices and a language all their own. For me, it took a bit to really adapt to it, there were terms that didn't seem to make sense at first, but much like learning a new language, once it clicks in your own head, it immerses you even deeper into their world and their bond.  Martin's whole writing style was unique and stylistic in a way that immediately gave Michael a voice that was intense, sometimes comedic, and almost always on the verge of panic at loosing control of the situation---as well as a spot-on voice to Patrick, a troubled 5-year-old whose emotions are on a constant precarious cliff.  Their connection to each other just seemed perfectly real, how brothers would be even in the most extraordinary of circumstances, both humorous and intimate. 

The world is stark and deserted, and the eeriness is only added to by the fact that the apocalypse just happened to hit on Halloween, the forgotten decorations and jack-o-lanterns everywhere adding an extra creepy flavor to the abandoned world.  This was a really different take on zombies.  It was chilling the way they would moan back any word that they heard, which is why the boys called them "bellows".  But the most terrifying part was how they evolved.  Their change from Bellows to Shrieks was heart-stopping, as they somehow learned to adapt themselves and make themselves even more dangerous.  But even with the dead walking the earth, the greatest threat the brothers faced were other human men that were quickly losing their grasp on sanity.  

Most of the story was fast-paced and intense, I do admit to feeling a little drop in attention somewhere in the middle, but it quickly picked up again and gripped me until the wildly exciting ending. I really enjoyed this debut, highly recommend to fans of zombies and especially those looking for YA reads that are perfect for boys!
Find T. Michael Martin online: Website  •  Twitter  •  Facebook

Purchase The End Games:  Amazon  •  BookDepository  •  Indiebound

In case you missed it, check out my interview with T. Michael Martin and the incredible book trailer for The End Games here!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Q & A with T. Michael Martin, author of The End Games

Visiting Stories & Sweeties today is T. Michael Martin, debut author behind the upcoming title, The End Games.  Are you all excited about this one? You should be.  It's a fantastic read.  My full review will be up tomorrow, but I will tell you now, as someone who normally steers pretty clear of zombie books, this one really drew me in and kept me turning page after page.

Welcome, Michael!

•Give us five words that sum up End Games:
Two brothers versus the apocalypse.

•Michael and Patrick both have very distinct voices.  Was there anything you did when you sat down to write to get into these characters’ heads?
Thank you!  Michael and Patrick were originally inspired by me and my own real-life little brother (also named Patrick), and although they wound up becoming VERY different people from us, I did use some of our own “secrets phrases” throughout the book.  (The most prominent one is “ya-ya.”)
Michael's voice—and by extension, the book's narrative voice—was heavily influenced by William Goldman's early novels, especially Marathon Man and Magic.  (Goldman is most famous as an Academy Award-winning screenwriter, but he also wrote some novels that read like lightning storms, including The Princess Bride.)  As for Patrick, I really wanted to create a character that felt like an authentic five-year-old, and one of the most helpful things was actually going back and watching old home movies of myself and my own siblings at that age.

•I loved the bond between the two brothers.  Do you have siblings of your own?
I'm so glad you liked it!  I have three younger siblings, the youngest of whom is Patrick, who is ten years younger than me.

•Which of the characters in End Games was your favorite to write?
Wow, what a wonderful question.  I'd have to say Jopek, I think.  His voice was a fun challenge:  I've always been fascinated by the ability some men have to be both dizzyingly charismatic and silently intimidating, so he was a blast to write. 

•Can you tell a little about how you got interested in writing?
I've been a book lover since before I could read:  Some of my favorite childhood memories are of my mom reading Berenstein Bears to me.  But the writer who made me want to become a writer was R.L. Stine.  For my generation, Goosebumps was the introduction to the grand archetypes of the supernatural, and Mr. Stine sent me head-over-heels in love with horror.  (That's partly why it was so thrilling to receive a blurb from him for The End Games!)

•Where do you hide away from the world to write?  Where’s your ideal writing space?
I love writing in libraries, particularly university libraries when the students are on break.  (The silence and emptiness are both peaceful and I-Am-Legend spooky!)  But probably my favorite place is in my home office, with the smartphone, router, and laptop turned off and my old electric Brother typewriter waiting by the window.  (Most of The End Games was written by hand or on a typewriter, and “revised” for the first time when I typed it into Scrivener.)

•What kind of books did you love to read as a teenager?
Stephen King was my hero, and still is.  Even now, I reread his The Stand once a year:  It was the central influence for The End Games, and I think it's one of the great pop masterpieces of the 20th century.
As corny as it might sound, I also found Letters to a Young Poet an enormous comfort to my (in-retrospect-kinda-sweet) teenage anxieties.  And I remember reading Nick Hornby's books and wondering how that 30-something Brit found a door into my brain.

A few fun questions:
•Favorite snack while writing?
This will make me sound geeky, but:  Low-Sugar Chocolate Caramel Detour Protein Bars.  (I'm a P90X nerd... :] )

•Favorite movie?

•Favorite band and song right now?
I'm embarrassed to say that I don't know much about modern music!  I do like Katy Perry a lot, though, and also Lady Gaga, particularly her first album.
But my all-time favorite musician is Billy Joel:  He recorded everything from strange experimental records (The Nylon Curtain) to soaring pop masterpieces (An Innocent Man).  I've never quite understood why some critics don't like his work, but I've been listening to it for fifteen years and admire it more all the time.

•Favorite teacher from your school years?
My 12th grade AP English teacher, Amy Lohmann.

And everyone who visits Stories & Sweeties answers this one: 
•Do you like cupcakes? :)  Frosting or cake better?
Hahaha, oh dear, I am actually a man tragically scarred by an unfortunate cupcake incident!  When my wife and I were trying to decide on a wedding cake, the baker sent us home with a box of “cupcake”-sized samples.  We were on a time crunch, so we had to eat about a dozen cupcakes apiece in one night.  I was never a huge sweets person before that, and I haven't been able to look a cupcake “in the eye” since.  Don't hold it against me, Interwebs!

OH No! Cupcake trauma! How horrid! - Becky ;)

Check out the trailer for The End Games!  You all know how I love trailers that looks like mini-movies! Plus, the boy who plays the older brother is Michael's real-life little brother, Patrick!

Remember to check back tomorrow for my thoughts on The End Games! 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

"What's New" May YA Releases & Giveaway

May is here, school is almost out, and the wind...UGH THE WIND.  I don't know about where you are, but here I am barely able to stop myself from being blown away.  May is always hideously windy here. So yet again...another good time of year to stay inside and read :)

So if you're new to Stories & Sweeties, here's a little run-down of this feature: at the start of each month, I do a little thing called the "What's New List & Giveaway" where you'll find a full list of the new releases in YA for the month, and entry to the giveaway. At the end of each month, one lucky winner will get to choose any new release as their prize!

First things first! The winner of March's giveaway was: Saara! Congratulations! :D
  May 2013 Releases:
Just like previous months, I've put a little lve by those books that I am really anticipating---whether I can't wait to read them or I just can't wait to have my own finished copy!

Our Song by Jordanna Fraiberg

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
Chantress by Amy Butler Greenfield
Coda by Emma Trevayne
Criminal by Terra Elan McVoy
Doll Bones by Holly Black

The End Games by T. Michael Martin
Fall of Night by Rachel Caine
Fifteenth Summer by Michelle Dalton
The Heiresses by Allison Rushby
How My Summer Went Up in Flames by Jennifer Salvato Doktorski 

I’m With Stupid by Geoff Herbach
Icons by Margaret Stohl 

If I Should Die by Amy plum
Invisibility by Andrea Cremer and David Levithan

The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr
Maid of Secrets by Jennifer McGowan

Mystic by Alyson Noel
Nantucket Blue by Leila Howland
Never by K.D. McEntire
Nothing but Blue by Lisa Jahn-Clough
Originals by Cat Patrick 

 Reboot by Amy Tintera
The Reluctant Assassin by Eoin Colfer
The Savage Blue by Zoraida Cordova
The Summer I became a Nerd by Leah Rae Miller
Thorn Abbey By Nancy Ohlin

Zenn Scarlett by Christina Schoon
15 Days without a Head by Dave Cousins
Riptide by Lindsey Scheibe

Beautiful and the Cursed by Page Morgan
The Caged Graves by Dianne K. Salerni
The Color of Rain by Cori McCarthy
The Cydonian Pyramid by Pete Hautman
Golden by Jessi Kirby
Kindness for Weakness by Shawn Goodman
Ladies in Waiting by Laura L. Sullivan
Language Inside by Holly Thompson

Mermaid in Chelsea Creek by Michele Tea and Jason Polan
Out of this Place by Emma Cameron
Parallel by Lauren Miller

 The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson
The Rose Throne by Mette Ivie Harrison
The Rules for Disappearing by Ashley Elston

School Spirits by Rachel Hawkins
Spirit and Dust by Rosemary Clement-Moore
The Sweet Dead Life by Joy Preble
Towering by Alex Flinn
Truth of Dare by Jacqueline Green
Under the Light by Laura Whitcomb
The Waiting Tree by Lindsey Moynihan
Winger by Andrew Smith

The Year of Luminous Love by Lurlene McDaniels
Yellowcake by Margo Lanagan

Firecracker by David Iserson
Five Summers by Una Lamarche

Absent by Katie Williams
All I Need by Susane Colasanti
The Book of Broken Hearts by Sarah Ockler
The Dark Shore by Kevin Emerson
The Neptune Project by Polly Holyoke
Night School by C.J. Daugherty
Thousand Words by Jennifer Brown
Transparent by Natalie Whipple

Dare You To by Katie McGarry
Death, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia by Jenny Torres Sanchez
Faerie After: Book 3 of the Bones of Faerie Trilogy by Janni Lee Simner
A Gathering of Wings by Kate Klimo

The Girl with the Iron Touch by Kady Cross
Goddess by Josephine Angelini
Impostor by Susanne Winnacker
Of Triton by Anna Banks
Openly straight by Bill Konigsberg
Rebel Spirits by Lois Ruby
Silent Harmony by Michelle Scott
Spirit by Brigid Kremmerer
Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith

(All links go to Goodreads)
Please feel free to email me if you notice any YA titles missing! :)

Giveaway Details:
One winner will win a YA May release of their choice! *see note below
• Contest ends May 30th, 2013 at 11:59 PM
• Must be 13 or older.
• Open internationally. *International winners will be required to choose a book that is available through 

a Rafflecopter giveaway