Book Blast: Rebels by Scott and Judith Powell

rebelsRebels

The world is on fire. From the ashes like a phoenix rises a new America, one that will save it all. Under one condition; absolute and complete surrender.
The world complies without question. Those who don’t are destroyed. It is in this world, John is born. His very name is treason.
If the New America, now known to everyone as the State, knew what John was, they’d kill him, but instead they give him a gift.

Amazon

Praise for Rebels

John has a lot of potential (especially for someone so young) in that he sees the flaws in this society. He wants to be like George Washington and knows a lot about the manner in which a government should be run… Highly recommended. ~Amazon Review

Scott and Judith Powell

About the Authors

Scott Powell was born in Burlington, Vermont, to a father who was a police officer and a mother who emigrated from South Korea. He received a degree in marketing from the University of Las Vegas, Nevada, and a master’s degree from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Scott served a two-year Spanish-speaking mission for his church. He is a mixed martial artist who continues to train with his father, a second-degree black belt in Tae kwon do and a kick boxer.

Besides being married to Scott for over seventeen years, Judith Powell is a stay-at-home mom whose whole life has been full of stories. Being raised by an Irish storytelling father and a Native American mother, stories have filled her life and her head until they finally had no choice but to flow out through her fingertips.

Website * Twitter * Pinterest

Rebels’ Facebook Page

Judith’s Facebook * Scott’s Facebook

Rebels copy

Tour Schedule

Book Blast Giveaway
$50 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash
Ends 12/20/13

Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader, Not A Writer http://iamareader.com and sponsored by the authors. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

Since wordpress doesn’t allow javascript, you can enter the rafflecopter here.

BFTA Review: Jeff Lindsay – Darkly Dreaming Dexter

Lindsay_Jeff-DarklyDreamingDexter
Title: Darkly Dreaming Dexter
Series: Dexter #1
Author: Jeff Lindsay
Doubleday


Rating: 4/5


Meet Dexter Morgan, a polite wolf in sheep’s clothing. He’s handsome and charming, but something in his past has made him abide by a different set of rules. He’s a serial killer whose one golden rule makes him immensely likeable: he only kills bad people. And his job as a blood splatter expert for the Miami police department puts him in the perfect position to identify his victims. But when a series of brutal murders bearing a striking similarity to his own style start turning up, Dexter is caught between being flattered and being frightened — of himself or some other fiend. (goodreads.com)

Please forgive me — this review got away from me a bit.

Darkly Dreaming Dexter is the first in a series of books about a sociopath who occasionally helps his cop sister and kills bad people. Oh, and we, as readers, are in his head.

Dexter is short–at only 288 pages, it’s one of the shortest novels I’ve read this year, and it’s a quick read. Dexter is pretty fun, for someone who doesn’t understand or experience emotion. He’s practiced at “being human”, his way of saying he fools people into thinking there’s nothing wrong with him. Even his sister doesn’t really suspect. He is clever and witty, and has no trouble at all telling people how it really is, and even calling people out on their stupidity.

Although the book is really a who-dun-it mystery, Dexter really makes the book. He is entertained by odd things, like a Barbie head hanging from his freezer:

Whee. I had a new hobby. (p. 128)

I will say, however, that the introduction to this character is incredibly unpleasant, and as the book progresses, Dexter’s mind becomes more and more weird. He is fascinated by the moon, and it seems like his “hunting” cycle is dictated by it. He seems to only kill when the moon is full.

I could go on and on, but I won’t. Instead, I’ll leave you with some of my favorite quotes and this question: refrigerated trucks have rear-view mirrors?

If you can’t get me my newspaper on time, how can you expect me to refrain from killing people? (p. 170)

Because, the paper carefully pointed out, how could we believe that two such killers could possibly be on the loose at the same time? (p. 171)

Mutilated corpses with a chance of afternoon showers. (p. 173)

Originally posted 08 April 2011.

BFTA Review: Margaret Peterson Haddix – Found

Haddix_Margaret_Peterson-Found
Title: Found
Series: The Missing #1
Author: Margaret Peterson Haddix
Simon & Schuster

Rating: 3.5/5

Thirteen-year-old Jonah has always known that he was adopted, and he’s never thought it was any big deal. Then he and a new friend, Chip, who’s also adoped, begin receiving mysterious letters. The first one says, “You are one of the missing.” The second one says, “Beware! They’re coming back to get you.”

Jonah, Chip, and Jonah’s sister, Katherine, are plunged into a mystery that involves the FBI, a vast smuggling operation, an airplane that appeared out of nowhere — and people who seem to appear and disappear at will. The kids discover they are caught in a battle between two opposing forces that want very different things for Jonah and Chip’s lives.

Do Jonah and Chip have any choice in the matter? And what should they choose when both alternatives are horrifying? (goodreads.com)

The entire time I read this book, I felt like Twilight music should be playing. No, seriously. When I picked the book up, I didn’t realize it would turn out to be sci-fi, but that’s really what it is.
While I had no problem following the action (although some of the time travel talk threw me for a little while), I had a more difficult time getting to know and like the characters. The novel was really more plot-driven than character-driven, but the characters felt wooden and dull to me. While I wanted them to succeed, it was more out of a need to see what happened next than to see what happened to the characters next. At the same time, I like that it was a plot-driven novel, because it’s a faster read, and I didn’t get bogged down in some convoluted characterization and explanation, which could also have happened. I just felt like it was balanced a little too far in the other direction.
The ending was a little twisty for me, as most twists are, but that was okay for me. I’m a little iffy about whether to pick up the second book. Does it get better? Do we meet more of Jonah, Katherine, and Chip, or is it another plot-driven novel?

Originally posted 04 April 2011.

BFTA Review: Sarah Dessen – Lock & Key

Dessen_Sarah-LockAndKey
Title: Lock & Key

Author: Sarah Dessen

Viking


Rating: 4/5

Ruby, where is your mother?

Ruby knows that the game is up. For the past few months, she’s been on her own in the yellow house, managing somehow, knowing that her mother will probably never return.

That’s how she comes to live with Cora, the sister she hasn’t seen in ten years, and Cora’s husband Jamie, whose down-to-earth demeanor makes it hard for Ruby to believe he founded the most popular networking Web site around. A luxurious house, fancy private school, a new wardrobe, the promise of college and a future; it’s a dream come true. So why is Ruby such a reluctant Cinderella, wary and defensive? And why is Nate, the genial boy next door with some secrets of his own, unable to accept the help that Ruby is just learning to give? (goodreads.com)

I’ve never read a Sarah Dessen book before. I see them everywhere I look at books, but I’ve never picked one up, not even to read the back cover. Fortunately, I read the summary for this one and thought it sounded interesting without even seeing the cover. I’m glad I picked this book up. It was touching, and it didn’t come across as cheesy, although it definitely had the potential to do just that.

There was something about Ruby that rubbed me the wrong way, and I’m not sure if I can put my finger on it. Ruby wants to stay in her little yellow house with mildew on her clothes, where half the appliances are broken and where she has to work to pay rent on top of going to school, all because her mother abandons her. Sometimes, I could understand Ruby and her need to stay in her own world–change, especially such a dramatic change, is difficult, and it is compounded by Ruby’s opinion of her sister, Cora. But sometimes, I really didn’t understand why she would rather get black-out drunk above everything else. While she talks a lot about her life with her mom, her life outside her mom, if she had much of one, is a bit more blurry.

Ruby, of course, likes Cora’s husband almost immediately, and I did, too. He’s open and friendly, and I was really glad to see that he had a serious side that went beyond being happy, or serious about business. I was really glad to see that he wasn’t completely one-dimentional.

I had a harder time relating with Nate, probably because I’ve never known anyone in Nate’s situation. It’s a crappy situation, and I love that Ruby wants to help him. I really liked their interactions and that he really seems to like her, despite her need to return to what she knows. I was glad to see that he really wanted to stick by her, and that he was there when she needed him. It really drove home the point that, later in the novel, she wanted him to need her and it hurt her that he didn’t (or, at least, he didn’t want to admit it).

I really liked this book, and I’ll probably be picking up some more books by Sarah Dessen in the future.

Originally posted 02 April 2011.

BFTA Review: Jonathan Maberry – Rot & Ruin

Maberry_Jonathan-RotAndRuin

Title: Rot & Ruin

Series: Benny Imura #1
Author: Jonathan Maberry
Simon & Schuster Children’s
Rating: 4/5


In the zombie-infested, post-apocalyptic America where Benny Imura lives, every teenager must find a job by the time they turn fifteen or get their rations cut in half. Benny doesn’t want to apprentice as a zombie hunter with his boring older brother Tom, but he has no choice. He expects a tedious job whacking zoms for cash, but what he gets is a vocation that will teach him what it means to be human.(goodreads.com)

I really enjoyed this book. Although I had a hard time getting around Benny changing his opinion of his brother so quickly, then backing away from it when Nix calls him on it, then going back to thinking highly of his brother, even though at the beginning of the novel he hates his brother and thinks he’s a coward. It was hard for me to flip back and forth so quickly, although I could see the change coming anyway.

The book itself was an interesting take on zombies. So often we don’t think of zombies as anything but shambling monsters, coming to devour your flesh (or just your brain, depending on whether you like scary zombies or cute, animated zombies whose worst enemies are sunflowers and peashooters). Rot & Ruin focuses more on who the zombies used to be, and, to an extent, brings the zombies into focus as more of a protagonist than an antagonist. Or, at the very least, innocent bystanders. I also liked how it touched on the definition of humanity in a world where it becomes easy to lose your humanity and become the monster.

I also liked that Benny didn’t suddenly become superman when he was without his brother. He didn’t magically adopt his brother’s skills, or develop some crazy skills of his own. He keeps his same, crappy skill-set; after all, he hasn’t been working at zombie hunting nearly as long as Tom or Lilah, but once his brother shows him what he really does, Benny shows the same compassion his brother does towards “Zoms”.

Really, I liked the book, and I’m adding it to my “buy” list.

Originally posted 31 March 2011.

Book Blast: Tied by Laney McMann

McMann_Laney-Tied

Normal people don’t believe their nightmares stalk them. They don’t fall in love with boys who don’t exist, either.

Seventeen-year-old Layla Labelle, though, is far from normal. Her delusions walk the earth. Her hallucinations hunt her, and her skin heats to a burn every time her anger flares.

Or is that all in her head?

Layla doesn’t know what to believe any more because if none of that’s true, Max MacLarnon must be an illusion, and her heart must still be broken.

No matter how much she wants to believe Max is real, doing so would mean everything else is, too. How, then, is that possible?

The answers lie in an age-old legend the supernatural aren’t prepared to reveal, and with a curse that could tear Layla and Max apart forever—if it doesn’t kill them both first.

In TIED, book one in the Fire Born trilogy, learning the truth will mean fighting an arsenal of demons, and being with Max will put Layla on a path toward her own destruction.

Just how far will Layla go to protect the one she loves?

The answer may never be far enough … away.

Amazon | B&N | Kobo

Excerpt:

My window opened easily. The same way it had so many times before. Climbing out on the ledge, I found the ground empty and dropped from the second floor—a jump I’d made a hundred times. In another life.
My feet sunk into the sand, and I followed the well-worn pathway through the dunes. Even the strong evening winds hadn’t misshaped the deep gully. The ocean’s breeze lashed at my hair as the moonlight glinted off the water’s surface. Seagulls flew up from their nesting grounds. They should have recognized me, since I’d been wandering at night for so long. Wrapping my arms around my knees to block the slight chill, I settled in the sand, and the birds quieted in a tight huddle, the wind blowing their feathers in awkward angles.
My gaze fell on a figure standing beyond the dunes edge, a shadow hidden within the darkness. My pulse quickened, but I didn’t move. Another trick—an illusion. Weary of the games my mind continued to play, I bit back tears and the catch in my throat. I should have been immune to them—the hallucinations—the way they haunted me and followed me, but I wasn’t.
Forcing myself to blink, I turned my head away. The visions had grown worse as I’d become older. I’d tried to convince myself they were nightmares—or weird dreams. Hoped for years they were, but only people who sleep dream.
Unable, or unwilling to stop myself, I glanced back over my shoulder, thoughts flooding my brain. Memories I knew couldn’t be memories but I cherished all the same. For years I’d tried to shake them away. To make myself forget.
I couldn’t.#**#**#
A stone raps against my bedroom window. I creep over and peer through the blinds.
“You’re late.” I lean out over the sill, grinning at the boy staring up at me.
“Come on, let’s go before she comes,” he says.
I climb onto the window ledge. “Be nice. She’s my friend.”
“Okay. Jump.” He waves at me to go faster.
“Move, and I will.”
He takes one casual step to the side.The jump isn’t too high; I make it all the time.
He grabs my hand when I land beside him in the soft sand. “Ready?”
I nod.
“One, two …”
“I’m going to tell!” Benny runs across my yard toward me, her blonde pigtails flapping in the wind. “You’re not allowed to talk to that boy, Layla! Your mom said!”
Max tightens his grip on my hand.
“Shut up, Benny! I’m old enough.”
“You’re only nine. Don’t go! ”
“Three!” Max and I leave the ground.
“You’re going to get in so much trouble.” Benny’s yell rings in the distance.
Our feet touch down in the wet grass of the Otherworld, icy sea air whipping at my face.
“Hopefully, she won’t follow us again.” Max lets go of my hand.
“She won’t. I told her not to.” I lead the way down the cliff face to the ocean.
“She never listens to you.”

Book Trailer

Praise for Tied:

“The author has taken a unique concept and created a brilliantly written story. One of my new favorite fantasy books.” — The Reading Diaries

“I was so engrossed in this story that real life went on without me being aware of it.” — Crazy Four Books

“In the midst of games between parallel worlds, past and present, interrupted by visions and ancient prophecies, you are caught up in the story’s threads.” — Mythical Books

“There’s so much amazing creativity that has gone into the Fire Born world; McMann combines and twist legends and the paranormal to come up with the perfect urban fantasy setting. ” — Known to Read

Laney McMannAuthor Laney McMann

With a passion for the supernatural and all things magical, Laney developed a voracious appetite for reading fantasy at a young age. A vivid imagination helped set the stage for creating her own worlds and placed her onto the writing path.
By the time she reached her teens, she’d accumulated notebooks full of poems, which led to short stories and finally novels. Young adult dark fantasy, paranormal romance, and mythology are among her favorite genres.

A former classical dancer and chef, she grew up in sultry Florida where she still resides with her family.

Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Goodreads

BookBlast Giveaway

$50 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash

Ends 11/24/13

Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader, Not A Writer http://iamareader.com and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

Since wordpress doesn’t allow for embedded scripts, you can head over to the rafflecopter link here.

The Goodreads Bookageddon 2013 edition

For reference purposes, the retail entity Amazon purchased Goodreads in May of 2013. This is possibly (most likely) relevant. It is also noteworthy that, while GR users were unhappy with the purchase, a lot of them seemed to adopt the “wait and see” mentality that I shared. Goodreads reassured users that this buy-out would not affect the site except in minor ways (such as Amazon.com becoming the default retailer). Otis, the head GR person, stated that the site would by and large err on the side of readers if there was an issue. This is obviously not the case any longer (many GR users are convinced that this is all Amazon wanting nothing but positive reviews because that’s what sells books if you ask them, but Amazon spokespersons have said that this is not the case, and this decision was made by GR admins on their own. If I can find the link where I read that, I’ll post it):

On September 20, 2013, Goodreads admin Kara announced in the Goodreads Feedback group that the TOS for reviewers (here-in referred to as “users”, as opposed to “authors” who have a separate TOS) had changed. Here are the highlights:
[It is important to note that, up until this point, Goodreads had been “hiding” reviews that were unrelated to the book itself, so that only the reviewer’s friends and followers could see the review. Often these reviews said “see comments” or had some kind of explanation of shelving. Reviewers were aware that this was not a review of the book, and Goodreads was content to hide these reviews.]

  • The gist of this post from Kara stated that Goodreads review space was for reviews of the books only. (Obviously.)
  • Kara updated her post to state that “[goodreads admins] haven’t deleted any book reviews in regard to this issue” and goes on to clarify that the reviews that were deleted were statements such as “the author is an asshole and you shouldn’t read this book because of that.”*
  • In the same update, Kara responds to some concerns raised by frequent users that goodreads wants users to just shut up and deal with harassment from authors. Kara reiterates the TOS that states any harassment from fellow users or authors should be flagged and reported to goodreads staff. Obviously, this is great if the harassment happens on goodreads, but the majority of harassment happens off-site (including harassing phone calls made to reviewers’ home phones*). Again obviously, goodreads cannot do anything about the off-site harassment (they only can concern themselves with issues that occur on their website and thus their servers). I’ll address this issue further later on.
  • In a second update to her original post, Kara admits that 21 reviewers had bookshelves AND reviews deleted in some combination. (The final total came to over 300 reviews lost to Goodreads’ deletion). This deletion happened prior to this feedback group announcement, and with no e-mail/notification to the users who were affected.
  • This “TOS change” happened on a Friday, leaving users who were privy to the so-called announcement (in other words, only those active users in the feedback group) to fret for an entire weekend. Some users moved their books over to booklikes, librarything, to personal blogs, and other websites (I’m sure there were a few tumblr moves, as well). Questions and concerns from users went largely unanswered, partially answered, or blatantly ignored.
  • As of October 21, 2013, there has still been no site-wide announcement regarding this change. On a website that boasts over 20 million members, reaching only 15k of that (and then, only the ones active in the feedback group) isn’t a lot. It’s hardly a percentage. And we’re still waiting (but mostly, we’ve given up on there being a site-wide announcement).

Of particular note in that post by Kara is the first comment made by a now-deleted user, who gives a brief summary of Kara’s post as well as users’ reactions.

In response, Ceridwen, a long-time user of goodreads, put out a call for the original 21 users who had shelves and reviews deleted to please contact her, as she would like to collect some statistical data. It took a little while, but she eventually managed to collect data from 11 of the 21 users and produced this. Ceridwen uses screennames and psuedonyms for the users, so that their anonymity is protected as much as it can be.

Of particular note from Ceridwen’s data is a list of reasoning for books being shelved as such thing as “badly behaving author” or “due to author” (this shelf in particular was notable, and I will discuss it later). This list of reasons includes plagiarism, down-voting conspiracy, racism, homophobia, and even one author of children’s books that was convicted of possession of child porn. Yes, seriously. This also includes reviews that made mention if the book in question was P2P (pulled to publish; in other words, books that got their start as fanfiction, were pulled off the internet, reworked, then published as “original” fiction. This is a source of contention between some reviewers, as there is an ethical grey area regarding publishing works that got their start as a potentially copyright infringing work).

An overwhelming amount of books were shelved due to conflict between author and reviewer, whether this conflict happened on goodreads or not (these conflicts span facebook, twitter, tumblr, goodreads, and other social networking sites as well as amazon.com’s own site).

The numbers regarding this are also interesting, as an amazing 64% of the reviews deleted were in relation to books by 37 authors. (Interesting to me is the publisher information, as a vastly overwhelming number of these deleted reviews were for self-published books. This is only interesting to me, as a reviewer, and may not be interesting to you if you are only a reader or don’t care about publishing origins.)

In the comments of Ceridwen’s post with these numbers, Ziv W makes note that the deletions were targeted towards certain reviewers, not just reviews. (I can possibly attest to this, as I had a shelf labeled “bad author no cookie”, and yet two and a half weeks after this announcement, the only thing goodreads had done was to disable me from adding books to that particular list. I hadn’t had anything deleted and I’ve since renamed the shelf to “sour apples”). The theory behind this is that the reviewers in question are popular and hold some sway over GR users. This is, of course, ridiculous.

Ceridwen has since opened a tumblr to keep record of some of the backlash from this. You can check that one out for yourselves.

One of Cuddlebuggery‘s own bloggers, Steph, had her “due to author” shelf deleted. This shelf does not denigrate or in any way offer anything negative or positive about an author; instead it was a note that she either wanted to read or not to read the books in question. In their weekly feature, Buzz Worthy News, from the October 7 edition, it was announced that GR was attempting to retrieve Steph’s reviews for her record, and that her “due to author” shelf is apparently now within site guidelines. Furthermore, Steph could re-import her reviews from that shelf, but that the offending content could not be re-uploaded.
Cuddlebuggery goes on to discuss that the “offending content” happened to be in the comments sections of the reviews and mostly contained the reasons why the book was shelved the way it was. This includes screencaps and links to the issues at hand. Which means that not only did GR delete reviews that were “non-inflammatory”, but that they were possibly scoping the comments sections looking for offenses. This relates back to the previously mentioned theory that GR targeted certain reviewers.

I want to add here that even if GR manages to send Steph her reviews and she re-imports them, the comments section, and therefore reasoning behind the shelving in the first place, is gone. I haven’t seen anymore updates from Steph on this, so I don’t know if her reviews were ever returned to her (if she needed them to be in the first place).

Around October 10, just as this was starting to die down, GR had to go and fuck everything up again. This time, it was the relating API relation between booklikes and GR, and books disappearing “mysteriously” from goodreads. They took the time to point the finger at booklikes, except… Well, it was their fault for not paying attention to their API coding.

Here’s how it works:

If you connect your two accounts, anything you do on booklikes (for example, if you add a book as “to read” or shelve a book as “read”) will translate over to your goodreads account, as well. This does not compute the other way around (if you add a book to your goodreads shelves, it will not show up on booklikes). Kaia discusses this a little (I had to do some digging to find this as an original post, as it had been reblogged a few times by the time it hit my feed). You can see on Literary Ames’ blog post that the coding for the API on GR is/was out of wack–they initially had a “review-destroy”command, so if you deleted/unshelved books on booklikes, they would likewise be deleted from your lists on goodreads. This command has apparently since been removed, but I’ve yet to see GR take back their finger pointing.

Essentially, goodreads’ coding is screwy (apparently, there was a separate bug that had nothing to do with the API issue going at the same time. So two issues in one. Joy).

That’s about where we stand today. There’s a lot of mini-rebellion going on over on Goodreads (censorship icons instead of userpics, changing usernames to reflect their unhappiness, etc.), and even a full-on revolt, including what’s been dubbed The Hydra movement. Goodreads has started shutting down any kind of dissenting opinion.

Overall, there has been a mass exodus of people from GR onto other platforms, as well as a call for a different-but-the-same website for leaving users (we like the format of GR, and it hasn’t been completely duplicated anywhere, but also a different TOS that will protect users instead of an end goal of making money).

*I want to mention that the issue of reviewers/bloggers/GR users receiving harassing phone calls is a major one and also includes personal, identifying information being posted online (such as where these reviewers live, what their real names are, jobs, families, etc.). These reviewers felt threatened, and GR’s deletion of reviews and sudden policy of “no negative stuff in the comments either” has essentially told these reviewers that GR’s stance is that the users can shut the fuck up because they don’t care. This issue is huge and goes far beyond the scope of this blog post.

Way to go, GR. Way to go.

I also want to say that there’s been some talk, mostly in news publications that were “reporting” on the issue. This talk includes saying that if we are not purchasing things from GR, then we are not its customers/consumers but rather its product. This is, by and large, fucking incorrect. GR users are not its product–we are patrons, at the least; we can also be seen as customers. After all, if you walk into a store, you’re still seen as a customer/consumer regardless of whether you purchase anything or not. For those users that are also librarians, they are volunteers (of maintenance). The product is the website itself and the social-type service it offers (or used to offer). So kindly learn some terms and STFU, reporters.