Interview & 1st Giveaway!!!

Hello Bookworms! Today I have an interview with Heidi Loney. Author of Love and Cola Wars. Make sure to keep reading for your chance to win a copy of Love and Cola Wars as well as a tote bag!

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In a parallel world, the city of Toronto has privatized all aspects of public life, including schools, where the ultimate rivalry is between the two biggest cola corporations in the world.

Sixteen year old Coco Caro is a good girl from a good Coca Cola home. Just as summer is closing, she meets Vincente Moreno, an up-and-coming Olympic fencer who attends her rival high school, Pepsi Co. At first, Coco has no idea who Vincente is or where he comes from. But when she discovers his identity, Coco must choose her loyalties: avoid Vincente at all costs or see him in secret.

Enter into the picture Cody Warwick, handsome Microsoft college junior and fencing aficionado. Cody has the world eating out of his hands, but Coco knows there is more to him than meets the eye. When her father wants her to entertain Cody at his annual Coke barbeque, Coco must play the dutiful daughter against her better judgment. And when a group of student activists challenge the status-quo at Coke High, Coco questions her own core values.

Meanwhile, Vincente has troubles of his own. Coco’s cousin, fencing star Silvino Rodrigues, challenges Vincente to a fencing bout, for which Vincente forgoes because of his personal set of principles. Eventually, Vincente must use his training skills and daring to defend Coco’s honour in an ultimate fencing blow-out.

Filled with swoon-worthy romance and kick-ass sword fighting, LOVE AND COLA WARS is a satirical love story set in a parallel world of cola and corporation.

Thanks so much for granting us an interview! Let’s jump right into it.

1. How did you come up with the title?

My husband is the one who came up with the title. It’s very succinct, I think, since it is about love and it is about the cola wars.

2. How much of the book is realistic?

Some of the book is realistic, in terms of the location and the trials and tribulations of being a teenager.  Other than that, it’s pretty much made up.  But I think that’s what makes it fun.

3. If you had to do it all over again, is there anything you would change about the book?

I don’t think so.  The book has evolved quite a bit since the first draft and I think it’s at the point that I’m happy with what it is.

4. How did the idea for the cover come about?

The cover was a stock cover that I found by a cover artist I had already worked with.  I knew essentially what the characters looked like and that couple fit the bill quite nicely.  The artist added in the Toronto skyline.

5. What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing it to life?

The biggest challenge was the Olympic fencing, since I have never fenced a day in my life.  But I have to say that I loved that part of the book. It’s such a cool sport and not given the credit it truly deserves. And to be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever seen it portrayed in a Young Adult book or movie.

6. What inspired you to write your book?

It’s really a comment about my home town, but I think it’s also a universal truth that there is less money now than when I was growing up, so that it is getting to the time that corporations have to sponsor sporting, the arts and even our basic needs.

7. Were there any qualities that you shared with the main character?

I don’t think I share any qualities with the main character.  She’s quite shallow in some respects and not truly aware of what is going around her, but that’s not to say that she doesn’t grow and change.  Also, my parents were never domineering like that, but I had a friend growing up who was expected to follow the status-quo. Luckily, my parents were very supportive of my choices.

8. What advice do you have for other writers?

Just write.  I often hear people say that they would love to be a writer, but they never actually write.  It can be anything – a journal, a blog, or creative short stories.  And read too.

9. What book do you wish you had written?

I’m a big Jane Austin fan, so probably anything by her.  Persuasion is my favourite.  It was one of her later books and shows her at her very best.

10. Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Do you have any advice on how to deal with the bad?

I read all of my reviews, good and bad, but I don’t respond to them unless the reviewer has sent me a link and then I thank them.  I’ve said this before – you just have to take it with a grain of salt. I come from theatre, where reviews can be down-right nasty with personal attacks.

With book reviews, not everyone will like everything you write and you just have to try not to take it personally.  Even Suzanne Collins has a bunch of one star reviews.

11. What literary character is most like you?

When I was a kid, I was definitely like Anne of Green Gables or Laura Ingalls – too precocious and chatty and always getting into scrapes. As I get older, I think I am most like Miranda from Sex in the City.  A little bit cynical, but a true friend and in the end, a real family person.

12. What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?

I think I liked the parts with Carmella, the Pepsi floozy that dumped Vince. I went to school with girls like that.

13. What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?

I think the hardest one was when someone thought one of my books sent a bad message to young people about body image, when I was actually stating the opposite. I felt that I had failed that reader, but there is nothing I could do about that at the time.  All I can do is try and develop my craft and build on what I’ve learned.

The best compliment was that my first book (Ravenous) was very original.  It’s a dystopian story, and I didn’t want it to be like the Hunger Games or Insurgence type story. I wanted it to be unique. 

14. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Sure! I live in Toronto (the setting for Love and Cola Wars) with my two boys and my husband Jack. I went to school for costume design and before becoming a writer, I worked in the theatre for fifteen years. That’s where I get my wacky imagination from!

15. Snow cones or popsicles?
I’ve never had a snow cone, so I’d have to say popsicles.

16. Where can we find more about you and your book?

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7025083.Heidi_Loney

http://www.heidiloney.com

Thanks for reading and be sure to check out this and other books by the author. Now we have a giveaway for you. It’s open to those in the U.S. and Canada only. All you have to do to enter is drop your email in the comment section and a lucky random person will be the winner.

Black Chalk by Christopher J. Yates

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One game. Six students. Five survivors. 

In the intimidating surroundings of Oxford University a group of six friends begin to play a game — an elaborate variant on truth or dare, in which the loser of each round has to perform an embarrassing challenge. The eventual winner stood to walk away with a sizable prize, not simply the money that each had contributed to the pot from their student grants, but a substantial sum staked to them by a mysterious campus organisation known as the Game Society, provided that the students agreed to keep both the Game and its sponsorship secret.

But the game quickly assumes a life of its own: the stakes grow higher and the dares more personal, more humiliating, finally evolving into a vicious struggle with unpredictable and tragic results. Now, years later, one player, who believed he had fled the Game long ago, discovers that it is far from over.

We played a game. That’s all. A game. Isn’t that how we teach children the ways of the world? Are we not all supposed to learn early in life how to cope with defeat? But then there were the consequences, the price paid for losing. Ah, the consequences. Yes. We went to far.

Black Chalk is psychological suspense of which I’ve never encountered. First off this is the type of the book that should be enjoyed while drinking hot coffee on a cold rainy day in the most comfortable recliner you can find because you won’t be moving after you start this story and you won’t want to. The story starts as the narrator received a phone call that shakes his world and has to mentally prepare to leave his hermit existence to finish the Game. The story switched between present day and fourteen years ago as the narrator explains the events leading to and the fallout after the invention of the Game. A series of psychological consequences assigned by chance and designed to humiliate the player and increase in degree as players lose. As the story progresses the friendships between the six players are tested and pushed to the absolute limit. “It’s not that type of game” but someone won’t survive. The outcome will astonish you. The characters and their motivations were complex and diverse. The plot was full of twist and every time you think you have something figured out another mind blowing revelation comes out. The book was astounding and the only thing that fell off for me was the way the Game ended. It was too simple and didn’t make sense nor did it follow the attitude and motivations of the character. The ending itself was also wrapped up too neatly for me. However, this is a worthwhile read. I will be looking forward to reading more works from this author. I give it a 4/5 and I recommend it to all those suspense lovers out there.

Sufficient Ransom: Review and Author Interview

What a mother wouldn’t do for her child. Ann Olson takes her life for granted until her young son, Travis, disappears from the backyard one evening. Searching for her son, Ann throws caution to the wind. Soon, she finds herself enmeshed in the seedy world of Mexican drug dealers who operate just across the border in Tijuana. Does Ann, an atheist, embrace Christianity despite her husband warning that her pastor friend is more interested in converting her than in finding Travis? Does she make it out of the drug tunnel alive, or is her rashness her downfall? And is Travis’s disappearance related to that of other recently missing children in San Diego? A story of a mother’s love, courage in the face of evil, and her unexpected journey of self-discovery along the way.

Sufficient ransom is amazing debut novel by new author Sylvia Sarno. Her story takes you on a journey from San Diego to Tijuana as main character Ann tries desperately to find her kidnapped son. The characters were very well thought out and developed and each person plays a significant role in the story. You won’t know who the good guys and bad guys are until the very end. As the main character Ann was quite annoying at times. She kept jumping to conclusions and being impulsive which lead to her ending up in life threatening situations on multiple occasions. However, as the story progresses she learns a lot about herself and her worth as mother. She leaned to trust herself and grows significantly by the end of the book. The author also injected an internal struggle of faith within Ann. She is torn between sticking to being an atheist or exploring the comfort christianity offers her. Religion and drug trafficking are intricately and brilliantly woven together and build into an amazing and mind blowing ending! This is an amazing suspense novel that will not disappoint and you will not want to put down. The author has been kind enough to grant me an interview and provide some more insight about the book.

 

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1. How did you come up with the title?

Since the story is about a kidnapping, the word “ransom” seemed like a natural choice to include in the title. When a friend suggested I look to Shakespeare for inspiration, I came up with the expression “sufficient ransom” from Two Gentlemen of Verona. In Shakespeare’s context, the term refers to an offer of sorrow for a misdeed. This meaning fit well with Ann’s guilt feelings as a mother. When I discovered that “sufficient ransom” is also a term from the bible, I knew I had a winner. “Sufficient ransom” addressed all the main points of the book: the kidnapping, a mother’s guilt, and the religious theme. And it was only two words, giving me a nice short title.

2. How much of the book is realistic?

Unfortunately, events similar to those in Sufficient Ransom have happened. But I can’t go into detail without giving too much away. A veteran crime investigator I consulted when I was doing research told me that if his child were kidnapped he would have taken matters into his own hands the way Ann did; and he would have gone to Mexico if necessary. Regarding the drug smuggling tunnel that Ann discovers on the border, more than one hundred tunnels have been discovered in recent years both on the San Diego side and the Tijuana side.

3. If you had to do it all over again, is there anything you would change about the book?

I’m happy with the final product. What I would have changed, which would have saved me a lot of time, is the approach I took to writing it.

4. How did the idea for the cover come about?

The book cover was definitely a collaborative effort. I had read a lot about what makes for a good book cover, but didn’t know what would make my cover good. My website designer, Susan Gilbert, referred me to Alexander von Ness of Nessgraphica. In looking at samples of his work, I knew right away I wanted him to do my cover. With each variant of the cover that Alexander designed for me (he did about 12 different ones) I learned more about what would work for my story. My book club friends—a group of very literary women—were invaluable in this. For most of the mock-ups Alexander did, they told me what they liked and didn’t like. Hearing their astute feedback, I finally honed in on the idea that I wanted a child on the cover with a partially hidden face.

5. What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing it to life?

The biggest challenge I faced in writing Sufficient Ransom, was that I really didn’t know what I was doing when I started it. But I didn’t know that I didn’t know. In the beginning, I did all the textbook things a writer should do. I researched the world of the story. I wrote journals for each of the characters in their own voices. And I outlined the story in great detail. After I wrote the first draft, I hired a professional novelist, who does editing on the side, to critique the first 100 pages. Her conclusion: I should scrap the story and start over. I agreed with her reasons and took her advice. Keeping the kernel of the idea, I rewrote the entire book. Next, I hired an experienced editor. Her encouragement and interest in the story inspired me to revise the story even more. The more I revised, the more I learned about the craft of writing. After a few more major edits, I felt I was finally on the right track.

6. What inspired you to write your book?

When I was a child living in Italy, there was much talk about kidnapping. A high-profile kidnapping in Rome in 1973 had set the whole country on edge. Years later, those fearful feelings came back to me and gave me the idea for Sufficient Ransom. Something my husband once mentioned about what he’d just read, gave me the specific angle for the story.

7. Were there any qualities that you shared with the main character?

I have to admit, I’m a little compulsive. But not as bad as Ann! Also, my husband tells me I jump to conclusions more than I should. Like Ann I also love classical-style art.

8. What advice do you have for other writers?

Learn about the craft of writing before and during the process of working on your book. Take classes. Ask your teachers to critique your work. Never take criticism of your work personally; rather, use it to improve your writing.

 
9. What book do you wish you had written?

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. I love that book!

10. Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Do you have any advice on how to deal with the bad?

I do read them. The response has been overwhelmingly positive and has made all the work worthwhile. I responded to only two reviews. In the first case, the reader posted that pages were missing from her ebook. I offered to send her an ebook in place of that. She took me up on the offer, read the book, and posted a wonderful review. In the second case, I responded to a reader who was upset about certain parts of the book. I responded that I was sorry she was upset, explaining that I wrote it that way to get people thinking. I respect what readers have to say—good or bad. And I don’t take any of it personally. Going forward, I will take my husband’s advice and not respond to negative reviews.

 
11. What literary character is most like you?

I had no idea how to answer this question, so I took a quiz on Abebooks.com to see which literary character I am most like. The answer was Galadriel of Lord of the Rings, the one played by Cate Blanchett in the movies.

12. What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?

I especially loved writing the final chapters. First because I was glad to be coming to the end. Second, because they were especially emotional.

13. What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?

Toughest criticism: My main character is “somewhat of an idiot.” Admittedly, Ann doesn’t always show the best judgment, but she is willing to try anything if it means finding her son.

The best compliment: “I couldn’t put your book down.” I’ve heard this a lot. Yea!

 
14. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I live a middle class life in Southern California. I’m a mom and a wife. My family is awesome. They’re fun, funny, and interesting. Education and a love of learning are important to me. I encourage my kids to work hard in school so that they will have as many doors open to them as possible when they get older. Before we had kids, my husband and I traveled and ate out a lot. Our focus now is on our family. It’s a good, busy life.

15. Fruit loops or Frosted Flakes?

I’d have to say Fruit Loops. I like all the colors and the pink-blue milk.

16. Where can we find more about you and your book?

http://www.sylviasarno.com

http://www.sylviasarno.com/20-things-you-didnt-know-about-me/

https://www.facebook.com/SylviaSarnoFiction

https://twitter.com/SylviaSarno

Sufficient ransom can be found at amazon.com.

Branded by Abi Ketner & Missy Kalicicki

Fifty years ago the Commander came into power and murdered all who opposed him. In his warped mind, the seven deadly sins were the downfall of society. He created the Hole where sinners are branded according to their sins and might survive a few years. At best.

Now LUST wraps around my neck like blue fingers strangling me. I’ve been accused of a crime I didn’t commit and the Hole is my new home.
Darkness. Death. Violence. Pain.

Now every day is a fight for survival. But I won’t die. I won’t let them win.
The Hole can’t keep me. The Hole can’t break me.
I am more than my brand. I’m a fighter.

My name is Lexi Hamilton, and this is my story.

“You can overcome anything…short of death.”

In continuation of the one word named dystopian YA books the Boomworm brings you Branded. In the beginning of the story readers are introduced to the main character Lexi trying to kill herself. She doesn’t get to accomplish this task and is instead chased and captured by guards. So right away it starts out with action and something huge going on. When Lexi is put into the Hole and is attacked before she even makes it all the way in, that just added to the excitement of the story. The action was almost non stop and brutal. The authors didn’t hold back in that aspect. They also make sure you never really know who is going to die, get hurt, disappear or what and you don’t really know who to trust until the very end. That’s about all that kept me interested in the story. Everything else was just confusing and the timing was all over the place. For example, Lexi gets attacked (multiple times) and ends up with 26 staples in her head as well as a fragment of her skull removed. Yet a few days later she’s good as new and they take them out. Despite the fact that she had a concussion and never rested like the doctor ordered. Another confusing timeframe was when she started training. In like a week she went from being a weakling to a fighting and shooting machine. Now as with a lot (most) of YA books there is a romance and like a lot of books in the genre it was underdeveloped and had no basis whatsoever. In the beginning of the book Cole has this need to protect Lexi that goes beyond his orders but he doesn’t understand why and Lexi just swoons and falls in love with him just because he’s a little bit nicer than the other guards. Even they admit in the book that they dont know why they are in love with each other but that doesnt stop them from killing people, possibly dying and trying to destroy a whole justice system to be together. As for as the idea for the book I thought it was great and had promise. I think the story just needed to be polished a bit more. It seemed like this is more of a draft instead of a finished version of the story. However, I will be looking out for the next book in the series. I think sometimes as series progress the writing becomes more developed and the characters more interesting so I will stick with it. Overall it was a cool story and I would give it a 2.5/5 only because I feel it needed more work but I still recommend people give this a read.

Banded by Logan Byrne

In dystopian Manhattan, society is divided into six zones, with each one representing a citizen’s benefit to society: Stalwart (strength), Astute (intelligence), Collusive (greed), Radiant (beauty), Quixotic (no life direction), and the Altruistic (willingness to help others).  On a citizen’s sixteenth birthday, a computer suggests a new zone for them based on their inherent benefit to society.  When Kalenna Slater is sorted out of her home zone Quixotic and into Altruistic, she thinks things can’t get worse.  Life looks dismal until she meets Gavin, a boy also just sorted into Altruistic who becomes the light needed on her cloudy days. 

During sorting she receives a device known as ‘The Band’.  It’s a large watch-like device that never comes off, and it measures a citizen’s karma on a scale from one to one hundred.  If a citizen does good, they gain points.  If a citizen does bad, including breaking laws, they lose points.  When your number reaches zero, the band acts as judge, jury, and executioner, and you are injected with toxins that kill you within minutes. 

After sorting, recruits are taken to a three month long mandatory school named HQ.  It’s at HQ she meets new friends from different zones, and finally begins to feel at ease.  Everything goes well until a rare trip home makes her discover that her father, who has been missing for a decade, may have taken part in a terrible program that stands to shake the fabric of society.

“Computer,” the Warden said.
“Yes, Warden?”
“Will you please deduct four points from Ms. Slater here,” he said.
“Certainly, sir,” the computer said.
My band buzzed on my wrist, and I looked down to see four points leaving from my score one by one. I was now left with ninety-five  points, the lowest of my class, and I was scared.

Banded was a quick and easy light read but wasn’t very satisfying. It felt like it was way too short and there wasn’t try anything going on besides the Warden harassing Kaleena and her falling for it every time. As a main character Kaleena was flat in my opinion. There was never a point where I really felt anything for her but annoyance at her non ability to keep her mouth shut. The storyline was very rushed and I didnt understand why Kaleena was coming up with the conclusions she had most of time. She went from just trying to get through HQ training to conspiracy theories and wanting to change the government in like a week. The were also elements from different books like Divergent incorporated in the story. There was even a bit of Harry Potter thrown in with the way the kids get sorted being a high tech version of the Sorting Hat. I felt like it was too much of a play of other things with just a few original concepts thrown in and the story just wasn’t all that great. I won’t be reading the following stories in this series and give it a 1/5 rating. If you don’t mind books with obvious elements of other stories and looking for a time killer this is for you.

Etched on Me by Jenn Crowell

On the surface, sixteen-year-old Lesley Holloway is just another bright new student at Hawthorn Hill, a posh all-girls’ prep school north of London. Little do her classmates know that she recently ran away from home, where her father had spent years sexually abusing her. Nor does anyone know that she’s secretly cutting herself as a coping mechanism…until the day she goes too far and ends up in the hospital. 

Lesley spends the next two years in and out of psychiatric facilities, where she overcomes her traumatic memories and finds the support of a surrogate family. Eventually completing university and earning her degree, she is a social services success story—until she becomes unexpectedly pregnant in her early twenties. Despite the overwhelming odds she has overcome, the same team that saved her as an adolescent will now question whether Lesley is fit to be a mother. And so she embarks upon her biggest battle yet: the fight for her unborn baby.

I stared down at the smudgy tabletop, my eyes smarting, my chest cramping with the sudden pang of yearning to be more than a day-tipper in achievement country, to accomplish something concrete and easily validated rather than merely refrain from doing something fucked up.

Etched On Me had me it’s grips on me from the start of the book. It gives an unflinching look into issues such as mental health, self harm, sexual abuse, as well as the failures on the healthcare system and the bright spots, such as the character Gloria, trying to help from within the limits. The author is blatantly honest and the subject matter mentioned will take you on an emotional journey with the main character Lesley. The reader will genuinely root for her and pray that she makes it through her obstacles. You immediately want her to win in the beginning when she finally gets the courage to get help and escape from her abuser. She has to constantly deal with a part of herself that tells her she’s nothing. With every set back she experiences and every time she picks herself up you feel what she feels and her experiences become your own. This book leaves you emotionally raw and open will linger with you after you have read the very last page. I give this a 5/5 and absolutely recommend it for a read.