Interview with Julie Ann Walker, Author of Hell on Wheels and Giveaway!

Julie Ann Walker is the author of Hell on Wheels, the kickoff to her Black Knights, Inc series.  She recently visited the virtual offices to introduce herself, and she brought along a copy of Hell on Wheels for one of you to win!

[Manga Maniac Café] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Julie Ann Walker] Romantic Suspense Author, Aspiring Amateur Chef, Vino Enthusiast, World Traveler, Recovering Shoe-and-Handbag-aholic, Dog Poop Scooper Upper, Embracer of Life

[Manga Maniac Café] Can you tell us a little about Hell on Wheels?

[Julie Ann Walker] Whew! Can I use more than 140 characters? I can? Thank goodness! Okay, so I think the best synopsis for HELL ON WHEELS came from a reviewer at Publishers Weekly: "Former Marines Grigg Morgan and Nate Weller work for Black Knights Inc., a high-tech motorcycle shop that’s really a black ops group doing side jobs for Uncle Sam. After Grigg dies on a mission, his sister, Ali—Nate’s longtime crush—gets embroiled in a plot that could get her killed. Crooked Sen. Alan Aldus becomes convinced that Ali has secret files that incriminate him, and he hires Dagan Zoelner, an ex-CIA agent, to bring Ali in. Lucky for her, Dagan has a conscience, and Nate will do anything to keep her alive even as he fights his attraction to her." That’s the story in a nutshell, just throw in some steamy sex, some flying bullets, and some really kick-ass motorcycles. Right on!

[Manga Maniac Café] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Julie Ann Walker] I get this question a lot and it always makes me blush. Because the answer delves deep into my psyche, my own personal fantasies. You see, I’ve always kind of had a thing for two types of men. One: the military man. I mean, what’s not to love about a guy in uniform? And two: the rebel outlaw who rides a loud, mean Harley. There’s just something about a bad boy who loves the open road. And one day I thought, "what if?" What if there was a way to combine the two? That was the seed that grew into the Black Knights Inc. series. And, baby, it’s been a hell of a ride since!

[Manga Maniac Café] What three words best describe Ali?

[Julie Ann Walker] Quirky, courageous, and downright loveable.

[Manga Maniac Café] What are three things Nate would never have in his bedroom?

[Julie Ann Walker]  It scares me a bit that my mind instantly went down a very risqué route when I read this question. But, ahem, I’ll give it a go and try to keep it PG… er, probably more NC-17. Number one: Nate would never have a television in his bedroom. After all, he’s got better things to do in there than watch Seinfeld reruns…if you know what I mean… Number two: He would never have another woman in his bedroom. Ali is his one, his only. Number three: Nate would never have a flame-thrower in his bedroom. Ha! I just wrote that last one because I couldn’t think of anything else. Although, it does seem smarter to keep the flame-thrower in the kitchen… or maybe the garage?

[Manga Maniac Café] What is Nate’s single most prized possession?

[Julie Ann Walker] You mean besides Ali? Well, that would have to be Sierra, his M-40 A5 sniper rifle. Don’t you just love a man who knows how to handle his, um, gun?

[Manga Maniac Café] What are your greatest creative influences?

[Julie Ann Walker] My hubby is my inspiration. *Wink, wink. Nudge, nudge* No, but seriously, there’s a little bit of him in all my heroes. Shhh. Don’t tell him I said that. His head will swell so much his hats won’t fit.

[Manga Maniac Café] What three things do you need in order to write?

[Julie Ann Walker] A cup of coffee at my fingertips, my warm Labrador Retriever curled around my feet, and pictures of the locales of my latest work in progress taped to the walls around me for inspiration. Currently my office looks like a greenhouse since book four in the series takes place, partially that is, in the jungles of Costa Rica. Oh, soooo steamy!

[Manga Maniac Café] What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?

[Julie Ann Walker] Without a doubt, that would be GLITTER BABY by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. That woman has a way of telling a story – so complex and disjointed – that leaves green with envy.

[Manga Maniac Café] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?

[Julie Ann Walker] ROMONA AND BEEZUS by Beverly Cleary. I consumed that entire series in elementary school.

[Manga Maniac Café] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Julie Ann Walker]  I love to travel. My husband and I are trying to become part of the Travelers’ Century Club. In order to do that, we have to visit 100 countries. We aren’t even close to the goal yet, but we’re having a blast trying to get there. In fact, our last trip took us to Serbia, where we caught a taxi that drove us three and a half hours across the country to Croatia – during which time I was certain we were about to get our organs harvested. But all turned out well, and I still have both of my kidneys. One of my favorite quotes is attributed to Mark Twain, "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."

[Manga Maniac Café] How can readers connect with you?

[Julie Ann Walker] Readers can reach me via the contact form on my website at www.julieannwalker.com or follow me on Facebook www.facebook.com/jawalkerauthor or Twitter @JAWalkerAuthor.

[Manga Maniac Café] Thank you!

GIVEAWAY TIME!!

Enter for your chance to win Hell on Wheels!  Entering is easy! Just fill out the widget below.  Extra entries for following.  US and Canadian shipping addresses only, please.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Didn’t win? You can order Hell on Wheels from your favorite bookseller or by clicking the widget below. Available in print and digital.

HELL ON WHEELS BY JULIE ANN WALKER – IN STORES AUGUST 2012

Black Knights Inc.—Behind the facade of their tricked–out motorcycle shop is an elite special ops team assigned the jobs too hot for anyone else to handle.

Hold On Tight…

Ex–Marine Nate "Ghost" Weller is an expert at keeping his cool—and his distance—which makes him one hell of a sniper. It’s also how he keeps his feelings for Ali Morgan in check. Sweet, sexy Ali has always revved his engine, but she’s his best friend’s baby sister…and totally off limits.

Rough Road Ahead

Ali’s never seen anything sexier than Nate Weller straddling his custom Harley—or the flash of danger in his eyes when she tells him she’s in trouble. First something happened to her brother, and now she’s become the target of a nasty international organization. With Nate, her life is in the most capable hands possible—but her heart is another story altogether.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Deep in the heart of the Windy City, three things can be found at Julie Ann Walker’s fingertips: a keyboard, a carafe of coffee, and a sleepy yellow Labrador retriever. They, along with her ever-patient husband, keep her grounded as her imagination flies high. Look for the next two books in her fast-paced series: In Rides Trouble (September 2012) and Rev It Up (October 2012).

Feed Your Kindle! Pirates and More!

Here are some nicely priced romances to feed your Kindle or Kindle app!

Three books for the price of one! Elizabeth Boyle’s The Brazen Trilogy (The Brazen Series) only $6.99!

A boxed set of Elizabeth Boyle’s wildly popular, Brazen series, including BRAZEN ANGEL, BRAZEN HEIRESS, and BRAZEN TEMPTRESS.

BRAZEN ANGEL: Lady Sophia D’Artiers plays a dangerous game of deception that pits her against the most unlikely of adversaries, her betrothed, Giles Corliss. Winner of the prestigious RWA RITA Award for Best First Book.

BRAZEN HEIRESS — Lady Lily D’Artiers is lured into spying by her childhood love, the bold and dashing Webb Dryden.

BRAZEN TEMPTRESS— Julien D’Artiers’ double life as the toast of the ton and an American privateer are about to collide when he finds himself face to face with the one woman who could unmask him: his wife.


Gentleman Says "I Do" by Amelia Grey (only .99!)

Iverson Brentwood has finally met his match. Catalina Crisp heats his blood like no other lady. Her alluring countenance has stopped him dead in his tracks. But no matter how attracted he is to her, he can’t give into his desire to possess her in every way…she is the daughter of the man he’s sworn to destroy.

Catalina’s father is a well-known writer, but wastrel whose disappearances continuously put them close to destitution. Something drastic must change, so it is with quill in hand, that Catalina completes her father’s latest parody of Iverson and Matson Brentwood’s spectacular arrival in London. When the story hits the newsprint, a darkly handsome man is at her door, looking for her father.

Seeing the dashing rogue in the flesh, for a bewildering moment dallying with the rake seems like the perfect fictional escape—and it’s all she can do not to give into the madness of the intriguing man.


The next three books are digital reissues of Jennifer Ashley’s Regency Pirates series.  I like the new covers, so here’s a shout out for all three, which are very reasonably priced.

Regency Pirates: Pirate Next Door by Jennifer Ashley (.99)

Mayfair, London, 1810: Alexandra Alastair, a respectable young English widow, wonders if she dare add the new viscount who’s moved in next door to her list of potential husbands.
He certainly doesn’t look like the gentlemen on her list—Grayson Finley, Viscount Stoke, is tall and sun-bronzed, muscular and blue-eyed. He wears dress so casual as to be unclothed—long coats, leather breeches, shirts without collar or cravat, and he carries pistols wherever he goes. The men who attend him are just as strange, exotic-looking, even. And the way Grayson smiles at Alexandra whenever they pass in the street—sinful, blood-warming—turns her inside out.

In the middle of the night Alexandra hears shouting coming from the house next door, and the viscount’s life being threatened. She rushes over just in time to save Grayson from being hanged by his greatest enemy, his former best friend.

Thus is Alexandra pulled into the adventures of Grayson Finley, former pirate and terror of the seas. Grayson has made a bargain with the devil (in the form of the pirate hunter, James Ardmore), in order to ensure the safety of his daughter. He’ll do anything to keep her safe, but when Alexandra saves his life, he looks into her eyes the color of water and starts to drown . . .

Book One of the Regency Pirates. Originally published in 2003, fully revised by the author in 2012. This is a full-length novel of 90,000 words.


Regency Pirates: Pirate Hunter’s Lady by Jennifer Ashley ($2.99)

James Ardmore is hunting the pirate who killed his brother’s family, and nothing will stand in his way. Not the English who want him dead, and definitely not Diana Worthing, a beautiful woman he takes the opportunity to abduct while he’s busy rescuing an American spy. Diana knows the secrets of an island called Haven, which James is determined to find. But both James and Diana are unprepared for the sparks that fly between them.

The Pirate Hunter’s Lady is the second, revised edition of the original print title: The Pirate Hunter. New in this edition: New first four chapters detailing Diana and James’s first meeting. Revised, edited body of the book. New epilogue.


 

Care & Feeding of Pirates (Regency Pirates) by Jennifer Ashley ($2.99)

Book 3 in the Regency Pirates series. This is a full-length novel (80,000 words, twenty-six chapters).

Honoria Ardmore has a secret. Four years ago, the notorious pirate Christopher Raine, arrested and condemned for stealing a ship full of gold bound for Napoleon, makes one last request of Honoria. She grants it, and Christopher is taken out to be hanged. — Or was he?

Honoria couldn’t have seen him alive again in the rather thick fog outside Covent Garden Theatre, could she? Christopher is long dead and gone, Honoria’s secret with him. Her life has moved on, and now she’s betrothed to a respectable English gentleman.

Christopher has other ideas. His sentence commuted at the last minute, Christopher was press-ganged onto a ship bound for Asia, and he’s spent the last four years working to return home and get everything back—his crew, his treasure, and Honoria Ardmore—his wife.

Meet the crew of the Starcross, and revisit the crews of the Argonaut and the Majesty for more pirate fun and adventure!


Interview with Gina L Maxwell, Author of Seducing Cinderella and Giveaway!

 

Be sure to check out the tour page for Entangled Publishing’s Seducing Cinderella Blog Tour!

Gina  Maxwell is the author of Seducing Cinderella, a red-hot romance from Entangled Publisher’s new Brazen imprint.  Gina stopped by the virtual offices for a chat, and she brought along a digital copy of her book for one of you to win!

[Manga Maniac Café] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Gina L Maxwell] Wife & mother. Addicted to romance books, Keurig coffee, dark chocolate, & writing about sexy alpha heroes & Super Power is Sonic Perkiness!

[Manga Maniac Café] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Gina L Maxwell] I always start my stories with my characters, more specifically my hero. Once I have him figured out, I try to think of the kind of heroine he needs and who will bring him to his knees when he’s not looking. THEN I try to figure out the basic gist of the story. I don’t put too much of it together because I’m a pantser and like finding out the story’s details as I write.

With Seducing Cinderella, I found a picture of male model Parker Hurley that totally captivated me. He’s staring at the camera all intense with nothing on but a pair of shorts and black wraps on his hands. I’m also a huge UFC (Ultimate Fighting Challenge) and MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) fan, so the fighter theme jumped out at me immediately. It was then I knew I wanted to write a story about a UFC fighter and his struggle to overcome an injury and reclaim his title, among other things. So I gave him Lucie, a physical therapist who needed some help of her own that he’d be able to give her. Then I sat back and let them do their thing.

[Manga Maniac Café] What three words best describe Reid?

[Gina L Maxwell] Charming, sexy, protective

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are three things Lucie would never have in her bedroom?


[Gina L Maxwell] An exercise machine (she has a dedicated room/office for that), uncluttered surfaces (why would her personal space be any different than her work space?), or designer anything (she prefers things simple and practical).

[Manga Maniac Café] If Lucie had a theme song, what would it be?

[Gina L Maxwell] Just the Way You Are by Bruno Mars. At least, that’s what I think Reid would pick for her.

[Manga Maniac Café] What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?

[Gina L Maxwell] Amber Lin’s Giving It Up. Her writing was spectacular and the story so incredibly compelling. I can honestly say it’s not anything that I would normally read, but I’m so glad I did! The book totally blew me away! Everyone should check it out, regardless if it’s their normal reading fare or not.

[Manga Maniac Café] How can readers connect with you?

[Gina L Maxwell] Readers can join my one-of-a-kind romance mafia, called the Maxwell Mob, on my website at www.ginalmaxwell.com. By signing up for that, they’ll receive special announcements, exclusive excerpts, and Maxwell Mob swag.

I’m also on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, & Pinterest, and I love to hear from readers, so don’t be shy!

[Manga Maniac Café] Thank you!

GIVEAWAY TIME!!!

Ready for your chance to win a digital copy of Seducing Cinderella?  Just fill out the widget below.  Earn extra entries for following.  Open Internationally!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Didn’t win? You can purchase a copy of Seducing Cinderella from your favorite bookseller, or by clicking the widget below

 

He’ll teach her the art of seduction…for a price.

Mixed martial arts fighter Reid Andrews’s chance to reclaim his title as light heavyweight champ is shattered when he’s injured only months before the rematch. To make sure he’s healed in time, his trainer sends him to recuperate under a professional’s care—Reid’s best friend’s little sister, all grown up.

Disorganized and bookish Lucie Miller needs some professional help of her own. She’d do anything to catch the eye of a doctor she’s crushed on for years, so when Reid offers seduction lessons in exchange for 24/7 conditioning for the biggest fight of his career, Lucie jumps at the chance.

Soon Reid finds himself in the fight of his life…winning Lucie’s heart before she gives it to someone else.

Title: Seducing Cinderella

Author: Gina L. Maxwell

Genre: Category – Contemporary

Length: 277 pages

ISBN: 978-1-62266-949-3

Release Date: July 2012

Imprint: Brazen

Author Information

Growing up in small town Fort Atkinson, WI, Gina L. Maxwell, formerly Bisbee, could often be found onstage in the latest theatrical production, performing with her high school show choir, or holding office in her local FFA chapter. She dreamed of following in her father’s footsteps in the entertainment business, of enabling her audience to forget about life for a few hours as they enjoyed the stories she told through her love of singing, dancing, and acting. It wasn’t until her sophomore year in college when she realized she had no acting talent to speak of and her dream needed some adjusting. Another ten years would pass before she discovered a different means to accomplishing the same dream.

Within those ten years Gina married her high school sweetheart, had two beautiful children, and moved more times than she cared to count. In 2009 she started writing as a hobby while her kids were in school, and it quickly became an obsession she couldn’t stop, and then a dream to publish stories of love and passion for romance addicts just like her.

Three years later, her dream came true when she signed with Entangled Publishing for a total of seven books in two of their imprints.

Her Fighting for Love series with MMA heroes debuted July 20th, 2012 for the digital Brazen imprint with the first book, Seducing Cinderella, and reached #9 on Barnes & Noble’s best seller list in just seven days.

The first book in her paranormal romance trilogy, Desires of the Soul, is set to release both digitally and in mass trade paperback in Summer 2013 for the Entangled Select imprint.

When she’s not writing or wrangling plot bunnies, Gina keeps busy with her wonderful family and their ever-growing extra-curricular schedules. Thanks to their immense patience and support, she’s able to do The Thing She Was Meant To Do and live her dream of bringing a little romantic fantasy to the world, even if only in the pages of a good book.

Author Website: http://ginalmaxwell.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Gina_L_Maxwell

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6446604.Gina_L_Maxwell

Waiting on Wednesday–Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

I loved The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff, so I am eager to see what Paper Valentine is all about.  Hot weather, dying birds, murdered girls?  And the ghost of a best friend? Sure, I’ll give that a read!  In stores January 2012

 

 

The city of Ludlow is gripped by the hottest July on record.  The asphalt is melting, the birds are dying, petty crime is on the rise, and someone in Hannah Wagnor’s peaceful suburban community is killing girls.

For Hannah, the summer is a complicated one.  Her best friend Lillian died six months ago, and Hannah just wants her life to go back to normal. But how can things be normal when Lillian’s ghost is haunting her bedroom, pushing her to investigate the mysterious string of murders?  Hannah’s just trying to understand why her friend self-destructed, and where she fits now that Lillian isn’t there to save her a place among the social elite. And she must stop thinking about Finny Boone, the big, enigmatic delinquent whose main hobbies seem to include petty larceny and surprising acts of kindness.

With the entire city in a panic, Hannah soon finds herself drawn into a world of ghost girls and horrifying secrets.  She realizes that only by confronting the Valentine Killer will she be able move on with her life—and it’s up to her to put together the pieces before he strikes again.

Paper Valentine is a hauntingly poetic tale of love and death by the New York Times bestselling author of The Replacement and The Space Between.

What are you waiting on?

Cheap eReads! Romance Roundup!

Here are some digital romance titles for your Kindle or Kindle app priced at less than 5 bucks each!

Matthew: The Circle Eight  by Emma Lang ($3.99)

A man learns to hold what is his

It is a vast spread in the eastern wilds of the newly independent Republic of Texas, the ranch their parents fought for … and died for. To the eight Graham siblings, no matter how much hard work or hard love it takes, life is unthinkable without family…

In the wake of his parents’ murder, Matthew Graham must take the reins at the Circle Eight. He also needs to find a wife in just thirty days, or risk losing it all. Plain but practical, Hannah Foley seems the perfect bride for him . . . until after the wedding night.

Their marriage may make all the sense in the world, but neither one anticipates the jealousies that will result, the treacherous danger they’re walking into, or the wildfire of attraction that will sweep over them, changing their lives forever.


Sugar Rush (Cupcake Club) by Konna Kauffman ($3.99)

When baker extraordinaire Leilani Trusdale leaves New York City for Georgia’s sleepy Sugarberry Island, her past follows in the form of her former boss, Baxter Dunne. Baxter, otherwise known as Chef Hot Cakes, wants to film his hit cooking show in her tiny cupcakery. Last time they worked together, Baxter’s molten chocolate brown eyes and sexy British accent made Lani’s mouth water and her cheeks blush the colour of raspberry filling…Lani’s friends are convinced that this time around, Baxter is the missing ingredient in her recipe for happiness. But convincing Lani will be a job for Baxter himself. And he’ll need more than black velvet frosting to sweeten the deal…

Scandal Becomes Her by Shirlee Busbee ($1.99)

LOVE IS SWEETEST WHEN IT’S UNEXPECTED

Nell Anslowe and Julian, Earl of Wyndham, are an unlikely couple in every respect. Injured in a riding accident ten years ago, Nell was left with a fiance who abandoned their engagement, a slight limp, terrifying nightmares, and the firm belief that she will never marry. The abrupt end of Julian’s unhappy marriage formed his resolve to remain a bachelor until the end of his days. But as Julian chases down his reckless stepsister, he seeks shelter from a summer storm in a cottage–and finds it occupied by Nell, who has escaped from a fortune-seeking libertine bent on carrying her off to Gretna Green. Discovered together by Nell’s family, the couple’s hasty wedding is the only way to save Nell from scandal–but the polite union each of them expects blossoms into something much more powerful…


Short-Straw Bride by Karen Witemeyer ($2.99)

No one steps on Archer land. Not if they value their life. But when Meredith Hayes overhears a lethal plot to burn the Archer brothers off their ranch, a twelve-year-old debt compels her to take the risk.

Fourteen years of constant vigilance hardens a man. Yet when Travis Archer confronts a female trespasser with the same vivid blue eyes as the courageous young girl he once aided, he can’t bring himself to send her away. And when an act of sacrifice leaves her injured and her reputation in shreds, gratitude and guilt send him riding to her rescue once again.

Four brothers. Four straws. One bride. Despite the fact that Travis is no longer the gallant youth Meredith once dreamed about, she determines to stand by his side against the enemy that threatens them both. But will love ever be hers? Or will Travis always see her merely as a short-straw bride?

New and Notable Releases Week of August 20 Part Two Young Adult and Middle Grade

Here are some new and notable Young Adult and  Middle Grade releases for the week:

 

The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy by Nikki Loftin

The Sweetest Spell by Suzanne Selfors

Reaper by K D McEntire

 

The Magnificent 12: The Key by Michael Grant

The Last Apprentice: Lure of the Dead by Joseph Delaney

Over You by Emma McLaughlin & Nicola Kraus

 

Smashed by Lisa Luedeke

The Rise of Nine by Pittacus Lore

Princess Academy: The Palace of Stone by Shannon Hale

 

Such Wicked Intent by Kenneth Oppel

Pizza, Love, and Other Stuff That Made Me Famous by Kathryn Williams

Two or Three Things I Forgot To Tell You by Joyce Carol Oates

What’s on your shopping list this week?

Review: Keep Holding On by Susane Colasanti

 

Title: Keep Holding On

Author:  Susane Colasanti

Publisher: Viking

Keep Holding On – DIGITAL

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Noelle’s life is all about survival. Even her best friend doesn’t know how much she gets bullied, or the ways her mom neglects her. Noelle’s kept so much about her life a secret for so long that when her longtime crush Julian Porter starts paying attention to her, she’s terrified. Surely it’s safer to stay hidden than to risk the pain of a broken heart. But when the bullying of her classmate takes a dramatic turn, Noelle realizes it’s time to stand up for herself – and for the love that keeps her holding on.

Review:

This book brought back a lot of unpleasant memories, and I was going to put it down and return it back to the library unread.  I remember what it was like to be mercilessly picked on in school, and I wasn’t sure that I wanted a refresher course.  I became invested in Noelle’s unhappiness, though, and wondered what she would be able to do to change her circumstances.  In addition to having to deal with bullies at school, she also has a nightmare at home.  Her mother has been raising her alone, and she is resentful of Noelle.  She blames her daughter on her own discontent with her life and her dead end job.  She takes her frustrations out on Noelle, and doesn’t care for her.  There is never enough food in their cramped rental unit, and her mother’s indifferent eats away at her. 

With all of bullying and her mother’s neglect, Noelle feels that she is unlovable.  She finds herself in a relationship with a popular boy who is obviously taking advantage of her.  He has sworn her to secrecy about their clandestine encounters. They spend the entire time making out.  This wasn’t surprising, considering Noelle’s dysfunctional home life.  Conversation isn’t something that happens at her house, so why would she expect to actually talk to the boy she has convinced herself that she’s in love with?

When a cute classmate shows some interest in her, Noelle freaks out.  Yes, she likes Julian, and yes, she’s dreamed of getting together with him, but she won’t kid herself.  Noelle is one of the poorer kids attending her high school, and Julian is from another world.  His parents are wealthy, and she just won’t fit into his life.  Despite her messed up emotions, Noelle did begin to frustrate me here.  Matt was clearly using her, he refused to be seen with her in public, and yet she stubbornly refused to admit to herself that he was taking advantage of her.  Their “relationship” didn’t make her happy; it made her miserable that she had to keep it a secret from even her only friend, and yet she continued down a path that she knew was wrong.  Instead of giving Julian a chance, she turned him down, without even giving him a chance to prove himself to her.  I understood her fear of becoming emotionally involved with a guy she was afraid would break her heart, but I was still disappointed that she refused to even try to be his friend.

I found Noelle easy to relate to.  Her anger and unhappiness pulsed convincingly on every page.  Her tormenting classmates and her mother left her feeling helpless, without any sense of empowerment or self-confidence to help her cope.  To avoid becoming targets themselves, her former friends abandoned her.  She quickly got used to keeping her deepest, most genuine feelings repressed.  How do you continue, day after day, to go on, knowing that nothing is going to get any better?  For Noelle, salvation lies in the future, after she graduates and escapes from her small town.  I understood this, having once felt that way myself.  When you are that unhappy, it’s hard to contemplate that things will ever get better, unless there is a drastic change in your surroundings.  Noelle copes by counting down the days until she graduates, crossing them off on the calendar in her room.  She doesn’t think that her life will begin until after she’s finished with high school and the bullies who make her days nightmarish.  Everything seems so big and insurmountable when you are wrapped up in your own personal misery, and getting through every day is a challenge.  Susane Colasanti’s narration is painfully convincing, so it was not surprising to discover that she was the victim of bullying herself.

Keep Holding On managed to end on an up-beat note, as Noelle does find an inner strength and peace of mind to keep her moving forward.  I wasn’t as convinced by the ending as I was with the rest of the book,  but any other ending would have been a complete downer.  I am glad that Noelle was able to find the tenacity to face each day head on and begin living her life, instead of running away and hiding from it.

Grade:  B

Review copy obtained from my local library

Interview with Lisa Luedeke, Author of Smashed

Lisa Luedeke is the author of Smashed, which releases today from Margaret K. McElderry Books.  Lisa stopped by the virtual offices to introduce herself and chat about her new book.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Lisa Luedeke] Yoga- loving

Mama-doting

Can’t get her face out of a book;

Loves her quiet, her woods, her lake,

Her family & friends,

Just give her that writing time

And all will be fine.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about Smashed?

[Lisa Luedeke] Sure. It’s really a story about trying to fill a hole in your life, in your emotional life, and making the wrong choices as you try to do that. Katie’s dad, an alcoholic, abandoned her family when she was twelve, and her mother is never around. She’s basically on her own, with the help of a couple of good friends, and a mentor in her high school field hockey coach, but it’s not enough. After she gets involved with bad-boy Alec, Katie tries to get herself back on track, but one night she makes a mistake she can’t take back, and when lies follow to cover it up, things get out of control.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Lisa Luedeke] When I was seventeen, I was in a terrifying car accident. My best friend and I were asked by a teacher to go on a school errand. We were in my friend’s car and he was driving. It was a cold, wet, November day, and a slushy snow was building up on windy back road in Maine. My friend was a careful driver; we were only going 30 miles an hour—I remember looking at the speedometer. But as we were going around a corner, the slush took hold of the wheels of the car and pulled us into the other lane, just as a car was coming toward us. My friend tried to gain control of the car, to get us back on our side of the road, and we started to turn in the right direction. The last thing I remember was thinking we were going to miss that car by an inch…When I came to, there was blood splattered down the front of my sweater and I thought my friend might be dead.

We were both fine, but that moment wouldn’t leave me for many years. Writing about a difficult time can be cathartic, but I didn’t want to write about that accident. I have no interest in writing memoir. And that particular incident didn’t have the characteristics of a compelling story—it was simply bad luck, bad timing, bad weather.

So I began to do what-ifs…What if an accident was someone’s fault? What if the driver was drunk? And what if the passenger, who was hurt, was not a friend, but someone the driver didn’t even like? Someone she was trying to get away from? As I asked these questions, a situation emerged that interested me, and that’s what I need—a situation that is complex enough to keep me interested as a writer. Then I ask myself, who would find themselves in this particular situation? For me, characters emerge from conflict.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words best describe Katie?

[Lisa Luedeke] Self-reliant

Lonely

Tough

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are three things Alec would never have in his pocket?

[Lisa Luedeke] A love note

Bubble gum

A coupon

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is Katie’s single most prized possession?

[Lisa Luedeke] Her field hockey stick

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are your greatest creative influences?

[Lisa Luedeke] First, the natural world. I think and write best while I’m hiking or walking in the countryside near my home. When I’m out there, I problem solve my current story. Mull over whatever it is that I’m struggling with. Everything begins to get unstuck, to flow, and then a scene will come to me. If I like it, I rehearse it again and again in my mind, and when I get home I’m ready to write.

Robert Cormier & S.E Hinton’s YA books had a great influence on me, particularly The Chocolate War and The Outsiders. I wanted to write books that had the heart of Hinton’s books and the edge of Cormier’s. Cormier’s gone now, but he’s still one of the best writers in the YA field. Interestingly, neither of them wrote about girls (Cormier did in one book, but said he found it very difficult.) I knew I wanted to honestly portray girls’ lives in the pages of my books.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things do you need in order to write?

[Lisa Luedeke] Ideally, a long walk to get a scene flowing—then a big mug of dark coffee and a quiet space. But I’m learning to write on airplanes!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What was the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?

[Lisa Luedeke] Laurie Halse Anderson’s Chains. It’s an absolutely amazing historical novel about a slave girl from Rhode Island who’s sold to a family in New York City during the American Revolution. I loved the character with my whole heart, and the narrative is gripping—but I also learned a great deal about the revolution and slavery during that time period.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?

[Lisa Luedeke] From my earliest memories, I loved to read. Everything. The Witch Who Wasn’t was an early favorite, though I can’t find it now; I think it’s out-of-print. Go Ask Alice was the book that turned me on to YA literature when I was ten.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Lisa Luedeke] Ashtanga yoga, hiking, skiing, swimming, reading, hanging out with friends & family.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

[Lisa Luedeke] Lisaluedeke.com

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lisa-Luedeke/224769940928276

lisa.lue@hotmail.com

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

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