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.

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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.

Broken Symmetry by Dan Rix

Sixteen-year-old Blaire Adams can walk through mirrors. 

It’s called breaking symmetry. To her, a mirror feels like a film of honey. She can reach through it, grab things…even step inside. 

On the other side she lives every teenager’s fantasy: a universe all her own, zero consequences. She can kiss the hot guy, break into La Jolla mansions, steal things…even kill. When finished, she just steps back into reality and smashes the mirror—and in an instant erases every stupid thing she did. Gone. It never happened. 

But breaking symmetry is also dangerous. First there’s the drug-like rush she gets when passing through the glass, like a shot of adrenaline. She suspects it’s degrading her body, making a new copy of her each time. A reflection of a reflection, each one a little hazier. Then, of course, there’s the risk of getting cut off from reality. 

When she narrowly escapes a military quarantine zone with the San Diego Police Department hot on her heels only to discover her escape mirror littering the floor in shards, her worst fear is realized. Now, trapped in a broken reflection, she must flee through a mind-bending maze of mirrors, going deeper into the nightmare as she struggles to grasp a betrayal, uncover the chilling truth about her ability, and somehow find a way out of a dead-end universe that “never happened.” 

These police officers tell me I have been gone for eleven months,” he said. “This is not true—”
“Daddy, where’d you go?” I mumbled.
“Blaire, you have to listen to me,” he said. “I never vanished . . . you vanished.”

This book is the ULTIMATE mind bender. It’s so creepy and unbelievable and just sooo good! By the end of this book you’ll be scared of your own reflection. This story is refreshingly original for this genre and you will not want to put this down. I envy those reading this story for the first time. Rix has created a world that is so complex, yet so detailed and well thought out. Blaire is one of the more likable female characters ive come across. What I really enjoyed about her was that she recognized when she sounded like a brat. I loved how independent and take charge she was. What I also enjoyed was the well developed male character Damien as well as the character Charles. He was a very interesting and calculating antagonist. The plot was crazy and never deviated even with the introduction of a new love interest. The author never really let the romance take over the story. With the way the plot twists and turns you will be on a terrifying adventure until the last word. This is a must read for any sci fi lovers and all those YA fans out there looking for something new. Without a doubt this is a 5/5 story. It can be found at amazon.com.

Searching For Sky by Jillian Cantor

Sky and River have always lived on Island, the only world they’ve ever known. Until the day River spots a boat. Across Ocean, in a place called California, Sky is separated from River and forced to live with a grandmother she’s just met. Here the rules for survival are different. People rely on strange things like cars and cell phones. They keep secrets from one another. And without River, nothing makes sense. Sky yearns for her old life where she was strong and capable, not lost and confused. She must find River so they can return to Island, but the truth behind how they ended up there in the first place will come as the biggest shock of all.

“Sky,” River whispers in my hair now. I’m almost asleep, my mother and Helmut so close that I can almost touch them. River’s voice is hazing and raw, and I wonder if he’s almost asleep, too. “Hmmm,” I whisper back.
“I saw something today.”
“What?” I ask him. I am so full and tired that I can barely move my lips to make a sound. I think about my mother’s bracelet, the way the pink shes feel cool and smooth against the bars flesh of my arm. “A boat,” River says, just as I am on the cusp of dreaming. “I think I saw a boat.”

Searching for Sky was slow moving for me at first. In the beginning it actually reminded me of a watered down version of The Blue Lagoon if they had found civilization so it took a little while for me to really open up to the story. I’m pleased that I stuck with it because it was a really beautiful coming of age tale but there were quite a few things that feel short for me and the made the book a miss. Sky is the main character and her best friend and only person in her world is River. When they are “rescued” from their island they are thrust into a world that is so opposite from what they’ve known their entire lives. Sky is desperate to go back to her island and having a hard time adjusting to this new life with a new name (Megan) everyone insist on calling her. All she wants is for River and her to return home. As she begins to learn more about her mother and the reasons they ended up on the island her life takes a devastating turn. The things she learns and experience are so heartbreaking and you want nothing more than for her to find her way. I found myself taking the journey with her and felt her anger, frustrations, and sadness. I found myself going back and fourth as to what I wanted to happen for her. Her whole character is based on the fact that she lived on island with no contact from civilization and there was no real depth to her.  Her ability to showcase the culture shock that Sky experienced when going to California was hilarious as Sky leaned the proper way to use the bathroom but I felt like the author could have done more. As a reverse dystopia it feel really short me in that sense. I did like how the author gradually showed how Sky became more and more desensitized to her new surroundings and how she became stuck between being Sky and being Megan.

From the small amount that we eventually learn about River I was really sad for him. I think his story and experiences would’ve been more interesting to read and the book would’ve benefited from being told by both of their perspectives. Overall, it was an alright read for me. I think I ruined it by expecting too much from the story beforehand. I would it give it  2/5 rating. This is definitely a book for 12+ year olds. They would really get the most out of the story.

Unwind by Neal Shusterman

Connor, Risa, and Lev are running for their lives.

The Second Civil War was fought over reproductive rights. The chilling resolution: Life is inviolable from the moment of conception until age thirteen. Between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, however, parents can have their child “unwound,” whereby all of the child’s organs are transplanted into different donors, so life doesn’t technically end. Connor is too difficult for his parents to control. Risa, a ward of the state is not enough to be kept alive. And Lev is a tithe, a child conceived and raised to be unwound. Together, they may have a chance to escape and to survive.

In a perfect world mothers would all want their babies, and strangers would open up their homes to the unloved. In a perfect world everything would be either black or white, right or wrong, and everyone would know the difference. But this isn’t a perfect world. The problem is people who think it is.”

Unwind was a read like nothing I’ve come across so far. It will stay with you and have you thinking long after the last page has been read. Before reading this book I didn’t think I would like it. I felt like the concept of unwinding was just so out there that there was no way the author would be able to make this believable.  What I thought was really amazing was that the author was able to build tension in the story without all the action scenes and plot twist after plot twist. The whole idea of unwinding and the fact that the reader doesn’t find out what the actual process consist of is enough tension by itself. The world building was so spot on that after I started reading I didn’t question whether or not it was possible because I was in too engrossed in the story. I really thought Shusterman was brilliant in raising questions on pro life and pro choice without taking a side or forcing the reader to pick a side. Instead he raised important questions like when does an unborn child have a soul? At conception or when it’s first loved by the parent? When giving up a child does the parent feel guilt or relief afterwards? The book wasn’t so much about death as it was the human consciousness. It also tackles issues such as religion, terrorism, politics, and ageism. The switching point of view between the characters made it hard to connect with them in the beginning but the collision course they end up on is so shocking and sets off a series of events that can possibly change their world. This book also contains one of the most disturbing scenes I have read in a YA even for one in the dystopian genre. I recommend this book as well as the sequel UnWholly which can both be found at Amazon.com. I give this a 5/5 rating.

Panic by Lauren Oliver

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 began as so many things in Carp, a poor town of twelve thousand people in the middle of nowhere: because it was summer and there was nothing else to so.

Panic turned out to be a nice surprise. This was honestly a book I usually would’ve passed up and I’m glad I didn’t. It was a very realistic account of the type of things teenagers living in a poor small town do. The amazingly developed characters really make the story. In the beginning the story moves at a slow place as you begin to get the know the characters and the reasons for playing Panic. For Heather, one of the main narrators, it a spilt decision driven by a broken heart. That moment where you do something crazy after finding out bad news. As the story progresses and her life starts going on a different path she really grows up by the of the book. She blossoms and realizes her future is not hopeless like she thought it was. She just needed something to believe in. The second narrator Dodge is driven by revenge. I totally understood Doge and his need for justice. He lost something precious and wanted someone to pay. Secondary characters  Natalie and Bishop really add to the plot and the friendships between the characters were portrayed very realistically. There was jealousy, love, betrayal and moments where they faced a shift in friendships as well. All the things that a part of teenage relationships. As for Panic itself it didn’t really get good until about midway through the book when the stakes really get high. This book is actually a few different books in one. Heather’s story is more of coming of age. Dodge’s story is more of a revenge is not so sweet. It has despair, anger and just the psychological affects of growing up poor. Overall it was a really good read and the type of story where anyone can empathize with one of the characters. I recommend this book and would give it a 4/5.