Saturday, June 21, 2014

[Book Blitz + Giveaway]: Mind Static by Jen Naumann

Mind Static by Jen Naumann
Published in August 2013
Keyanna Sanders is about to get everything she could ever wish for on her 18th birthday: a hot guy who’s really into her, the sports car she’s always dreamed of owning, and the party of a lifetime that no one will forget any time soon.

But before long, she’ll understand these wishes are more than a coincidence, and that they come at a steep price. Keyanna is more than just an average high school senior, her best friend is more than the innocent boy next door, and her sudden good fortune isn’t just by chance. When her estranged father suddenly re-enters her life, she’ll have to decide who to trust, and whether or not the man she loves has become the enemy.
Here's an excerpt from Mind Static:

The smell of burning leaves mixed with the usual stench of the big city drifts through the cooler air when I step outside. Nestled on the edge of residential homes, our school starts just blocks from where chain businesses like tanning salons and women’s boutiques begin. The large oak trees lining the busy street have just begun to turn a bright orange, bringing color to the otherwise dull grassy courtyard. I’ve always loved this time of year, although it may just be because of my birthday.
      Nora waits for me in the half-full parking lot, leaning against the BMW with her arms crossed. Although it’s halfway mild for a Minnesota fall, she almost looks ridiculous in a miniskirt short enough to fail the school’s somewhat loose dress code. The skinny jeans and knee-high boots I wear are more my style. I’m thankful for them when a cool wind throws strands of wet hair across my face.
     When I’m a few strides away, Nora scowls. “Took you long enough. Didn’t you have to come outside for the fire drill? And why are you wet?”
      “It was no drill.” I walk around to open the passenger’s door, wringing out my hair in the process. “It was the real deal. There was an actual fire in my class.”
      With her eyes wide, Nora opens her own door and slides in next to me. “What do you mean? Did you have something to do with it? I always knew you had a dark side to you, but pyromania is taking it a bit far.”
       I shut my door. “I didn’t start it.” Then I stop a minute and add, “Well, not technically.”
      “What in the hell is that supposed to mean?” Nora sighs dramatically when shutting her own door. “Either you started it, or you didn’t.”
      “You know that thing that happened in chem earlier? It happened again. I wished the new guy would come over and talk to me—”
       Her jaw drops, and she punches my shoulder. Hard. “You totally hooked up with him!”
      Rubbing my tender shoulder, I frown. “Right. We did it right in the middle of communications class with everyone watching. It was magical.”
       “That’s never stopped me before.” A smug smile crosses her lips, as if she would really do such a thing.
       I click on my seatbelt, giving her a sideway sneer. “Yeah well I’m not like you. I have boundaries and a little thing I like to call morals.”
      “Yeah, well, you’re just jealous.” She pulls down the visor to check herself out in the mirror. “You should totally try it some time.”
       “Are you going to let me finish?” I cross my arms.
      Nora waves her hand in a whatever motion before flipping the visor back and starting the car. “Talk fast, because we have a lot to do before the party.”
       Just the mention of the party brings butterflies to my stomach. The feeling that this night will get out of control has multiplied throughout the day. “Anyway, Lock came over and—”
       Mid-backing out of the stall, Nora slams on the breaks and we both jolt in our seats. “Wait! His name is Lock? What kind of name is that? Lock and Key? Are you jerking my chain?” She begins to giggle manically.
       “I think it’s British or something. Seriously, Nor. You’re killing me here.”
       She stops giggling and squints, her lips pushed out. “What? I can’t ask any questions?”
       “Not until I’m done. Are you going to let me talk now?”
       A few cars honk at us. It’s no wonder—we’re sitting at an angle in the middle of the parking lot. Nora rolls down the window to flash them her middle finger before driving forward.
       “You’re right. That hand signal was totally called for, ‘cause they’re the idiot,” I mumble.
       “I thought you were so eager to talk to me about something,” Nora volleys back.
    “I’m trying to tell you that there are way too many strange things happening to me today. Whenever I wish for something, it happens. I don’t know if I’m going crazy, or if maybe there really is some kind of birthday fairy, but something is going on and it’s really starting to freak me out!”
       Nora raises her hand. “Can I say something now?”
       I huff, waving my hand at her. “Go ahead.”
      “This totally sucks. Why hasn’t anyone told us about this magical eighteenth birthday fairy thing before? Is it like some secret adults are sworn to keep or what?” She bursts out in an evil laugh, and slaps my arm. “Really? You think there’s more to this than just dumb luck?”
     “You’re saying you don’t believe me?” It suddenly strikes me how completely ludicrous this whole conversation sounds. Birthday fairy? Magic? Yet there has got to be some kind of reasoning behind all of it. “Fine, we’ll test it out some more. See if my ‘wishes’ are really coming true.”
      Nora pulls alongside a semi on the highway. After a beat her face lights up, and she claps her hands together with a squeal. “I know!”
       “Hands!” I yell, reaching for the steering wheel.
      She casually takes the wheel back. “You should totally wish for the Imagine Dragons or some other awesome band to show up for your party! It would be so epic!”
       Although the thought of Dan Reynolds showing up to wish me a happy birthday in person is so appealing I could die, somehow I think my “wishes” have all been of coincidence or just “dumb luck” as Nora suggested. “That seems a bit ambitious. Maybe I could wish for the most epic party to end all parties, only we don’t get caught and no one steals anything of value.”
       Nora snorts, slapping the wheel as if taking her aggression out on the car instead of me for once. “You are so lame! That’s seriously what you’re going to wish for? What if you only have one more?”
       “I haven’t done this before!” I throw my hands up to the roof. “I don’t know how it works! What if I only had a few and I’ve already used them up?”
       The whites of Nora’s orbs expand. “You mean like a genie with the three wishes and shit?” She laughs in more of a cackle, taking in gulping breaths until her face turns red. “You’re totally making yourself believe in this crap, aren’t you?”
       “Do you have a better explanation for what’s going on?”
      “Fine. I won’t laugh at you if you can prove this is really happening. But you have to come up with a really good wish. Something that we can see actual proof of. Something that would never happen to you, like a guy getting down on one knee and asking you out on a date or something.”
       I cross my arms. “Remind me again why we’re friends?”
      “Because you love me.” Her dark lashes flutter as she flashes a toothy smile.
      Grumbling, I tap my fingers on my knees. “Okay, fine. A good, plausible wish...hmmm...”
      “Just make sure it’s not dumb. Wish for something really good, like—”
      Looking back at her, I yell, “Nor! Shut up!”
     The car becomes silent. Nora glances between me and the road with her mouth held in a tight line. I groan loudly, knowing she’s a good one for giving the silent treatment when I piss her off. “I’m sorry!” I say. “You just never let me think.”
     She shakes her head wildly, her eyes the size of saucers.
     “I said I’m sorry.” I huff deeply. “What’s your problem?”
    She continues shaking her head, her expression filled with alarm. Panic, even. For a minute I worry she’s going to either be sick or she’s having an adolescent heart attack.
    I grab her arm. “Nor, are you okay?” Just like that, it hits me. I totally made her shut up! I gasp. Even though I’ll admit I get a little fangirlish about Harry Potter, I’m not an idiot. I know magic is not real. But how do you explain this?
Jen Naumann grew up in southern Minnesota as an addict of such flicks as Indiana Jones and The Goonies until she discovered John Hughes, and spent her high school days locked away writing love stories with a sci-fi twist. Married to a farmer in southern Minnesota, she tries to follow the madness of her four active children while balancing an imagination that never shuts down. As the author of CHEATING DEATH, SHYMERS, AND PARANORMAL KEEPERS, she writes stories with strong female leads who have a good sense of humor and tend to fall in love despite their better judgment.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

[Review]: Panic by Lauren Oliver

Panic by Lauren Oliver
Published on March 4, 2014 by Harper Collins
Panic began as so many things do in Carp, a dead-end town of 12,000 people in the middle of nowhere: because it was summer, and there was nothing else to do.
Heather never thought she would compete in Panic, a legendary game played by graduating seniors, where the stakes are high and the payoff is even higher. She’d never thought of herself as fearless, the kind of person who would fight to stand out. But when she finds something, and someone, to fight for, she will discover that she is braver than she ever thought.
Dodge has never been afraid of Panic. His secret will fuel him, and get him all the way through the game, he’s sure of it. But what he doesn't know is that he’s not the only one with a secret. Everyone has something to play for.
For Heather and Dodge, the game will bring new alliances, unexpected revelations, and the possibility of first love for each of them—and the knowledge that sometimes the very things we fear are those we need the most.
Panic by Lauren Oliver centers around Heather and Dodge, two graduated high school seniors, from a remote and shanty town called Carp. Over the summer, both enroll in an annual competition  PANIC, which has the very effect that its name implies. Each of the players are faced with a series of tests, as their fears are played on and used to weed out those who want the jackpot, from those who need it. 
And for what? A jackpot of 67K.

I, for one, loved the survival-of-the-fittest // every-man-for-themselves concept that came along with competition; it highlighted certain qualities in the characters that made them stand out from the other participants. Heather, for example, was a character that really grew on me. Her laid-back nature, and willingness to go above and beyond to achieve the lifestyle she'd promised her little sister they would have in spite of their fractured family, really warmed my heart. Another aspect of Panic that I loved, was the male protagonist, Dodge. Oliver does an amazing job crafting his strong personality: through his journey for revenge, to growing closer to Heather and her friends, and accepting the fact that the reason he started the competition wasn't the same reason he finished it.

I guess I'll begin with the worst offense, and make my way down into the mild misdemeanor that simply just irked me. 

First and foremost, was the ending. The weird everything-worked-out-when-it-really-shouldn't-have ending. Now, don't get me wrong  I love a happy ending, but when I have to flip back several pages and make sure I didn't miss a whole chapter between what  I assumed was supposed to be the climax of the novel, and the seemingly well-crafted epilogue, then there's a problem. A very big problem. I even went as far, as making sure that it wasn't a series. WHY? Because something was missing. The ending was not sufficient, frankly it was disappointing and somewhat unrealistic.

And then there was the foreshadowing. It occurred around the third-to-last chapter and it irritated me to no end. I was able to predict the ending before it happened, as there weren't many other outcomes that would've resulted from the dilemma that Heather and Dodge had found themselves in. It wasn't the foreshadowing so much that irked me, it was the predictability of it all. I found that I had to trudge through the last three chapters, almost waiting and expecting for everything to fall into place. Like the perfect happy ending, that didn't actually make me "happy".

Something about Panic just didn't do it for me. I think it was the very fact that I went into the novel expecting it to be of equal of better quality than Oliver's Delirium series. I've mentioned in previous posts about Lauren Oliver, that I would read any novel she wrote as long as her name was titled on it. After reading Panic, however, I'm not so sure about that.
Nobody believed that Panic would stop, of course.
The game must go on.
The game always went on. 

—Panic by Lauren Oliver