Review: Black Helicopters by Blythe Woolston


Title:  Black Helicopters

Author:  Blythe Woolston


May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:


A teenage girl. A survivalist childhood. And now a bomb strapped to her chest. See the world through her eyes in this harrowing and deeply affecting literary thriller.
I’m Valkyrie White. I’m fifteen. Your government killed my family.
Ever since Mabby died while picking beans in their garden — with the pock-a-pock of a helicopter overhead — four-year-old Valley knows what her job is: hide in the underground den with her brother, Bo, while Da is working, because Those People will kill them like coyotes. But now, with Da unexpectedly gone and no home to return to, a teenage Valley (now Valkyrie) and her big brother must bring their message to the outside world — a not-so-smart place where little boys wear their names on their backpacks and young men don’t pat down strangers before offering a lift. Blythe Woolston infuses her white-knuckle narrative, set in a day-after-tomorrow Montana, with a dark, trenchant humor and a keen psychological eye. Alternating past-present vignettes in prose as tightly wound as the springs of a clock and as masterfully plotted as a game of chess, she ratchets up the pacing right to the final, explosive end.


Wow – this is a powerful read, despite the short length, but I don’t know how I feel about it.  I don’t know if this is a book that you can like.  It’s certainly compelling, and I could not put it down, but ultimately, there are so many questions that were never answered to my satisfaction.  I guess I hated that Valley was nothing more than a pawn, and even when she had the chance to leave her past behind her, she choose to hold steadfast to her father’s survivalist training and strike out at Those People.  Whoever the heck Those People were!   Argh!

Black Helicopters is told through Valley’s present day adventures and flashbacks to her childhood.  Her mother was killed by black helicopters when she was in the garden picking beans, leaving her father to raise her and her brother, Bo.  They live somewhere and somewhen in Montana.  Valley and Bo are expected to keep themselves hidden from Those People while their father is away from the family’s rustic cabin, so they aren’t shot and killed like coyotes.  They are trained in survival skills; drop Valley on the side of mountain with a knife, and she’ll get by without much else.  They have caches of supplies hidden in case the government comes for them, and they have been taught how to hide and how to fight.

In the present day narrative, Valley is a suicide bomber. She is angry and tired of not being able to strike back at the people who have taken so much from her.  She decides to make the ultimate statement and make the ultimate sacrifice to wake people up.  The government, with their secrets and their black helicopters, are out to get everyone!  Surrounded by like minded individuals, Valley and her brother have been training for something big like this for their whole lives.  After seeking refuge with Wolf and his family, Valley is dismayed at the changes in Bo.  He isn’t acting like her brother anymore, and she makes up her mind then, as he changes before her eyes, that she’s going to make people sit up and take notice.  What I found depressing was that I don’t think Valley ever really knew Bo; he was allowed freedoms denied to her, as he worked with their father, going into the outside world while Valley was left at home in the den, keeping herself hidden and secret.  Bo was able to see and do so many things, and the world outside of the den wasn’t such a mystery to him. 

Parts of this book just bothered me.  Valley is powerless virtually the entire book.  Her own father only values her for the help she gives him during his acts of domestic terrorism.  She and Bo have been thoroughly brainwashed, and she would never ever even dream of going against his orders.  Her entire purpose is to be a good little soldier and follow her mission to the end.  When  Valley is molested by the man who is supposed to offer them a safe haven, she doesn’t tell Bo.  She is forced to keep this terrible secret and endure this awful man’s abuse because she’s afraid he’ll kill her brother.  Valley doesn’t have much power over her own life until she and Bo escape to Wolf’s; there, she makes the decision to don a vest and make the loudest, most violent statement possible.

Another problem that I had is that it is so hard to like or be sympathetic for Valley and her family.  They see threats everywhere, and they must be constantly on guard.  They believe that the deadly black helicopters are just a horizon away, that they will eventually come for them and kill them dead.  Deadly conspiracies abound, and every one will end with their deaths.  With her constant vigilance, it’s hard to get to know her, and that ever present wariness kept an emotional distance from Valley and the reader.

All of that out of the way, this is an impossible book to put down.  I wanted to know what happened next, and I gobbled this book up.  I’m just not sure how much I actually liked it.  I certainly hated the ending, because it seemed so pointless to me.  I guess I don’t agree that any cause is worth dying for, and I was angry that Valley thought that hers was.  I just saw her as gullible and brainwashed, which made her come across as pathetic.  She wasn’t heroic or brave; she was a puppet, and that made this book even more depressing.  The adults who should have been teaching, mentoring, and inspiring her all failed her.  They were so caught up by their own agenda, by their own need to cause civil chaos, that they didn’t leave any other path for Valley.  My own mind set and world view is too firmly established to accept that any cause is worth the life of a teenager.  So, I recommend this book, with the many reservations listed above.

Grade:  C+/B-

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr


Title: The Lucy Variations

Author:  Sara Zarr


May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:


Lucy Beck-Moreau once had a promising future as a concert pianist. The right people knew her name, her performances were booked months in advance, and her future seemed certain.

That was all before she turned fourteen.

Now, at sixteen, it’s over. A death, and a betrayal, led her to walk away. That leaves her talented ten-year-old brother, Gus, to shoulder the full weight of the Beck-Moreau family expectations. Then Gus gets a new piano teacher who is young, kind, and interested in helping Lucy rekindle her love of piano — on her own terms. But when you’re used to performing for sold-out audiences and world-famous critics, can you ever learn to play just for yourself?

National Book Award finalist Sara Zarr takes readers inside the exclusive world of privileged San Francisco families, top junior music competitions, and intense mentorships. The Lucy Variations is a story of one girl’s struggle to reclaim her love of music and herself. It’s about finding joy again, even when things don’t go according to plan. Because life isn’t a performance, and everyone deserves the chance to make a few mistakes along the way.


I love books set in highly competitive settings, and musical competitions are a favorite.  Lucy’s competitive days are over, though.  At the start of The Lucy Variations, she’s been in retirement for eight months.  Eight months since she quit, since she walked out of a concert hall in Prague.  She has been lost to herself for all of this time; longer, actually, because she lost her love for music and for her piano well before then.  Her journey to find herself is not without mistakes and heartbreak, but when she does find herself again, will she have the courage to stand up to her family and take herself back?

After destructing in Prague, Lucy is happy with her new, stress free life.  That’s what she keeps telling herself, anyway.  After her grandmother’s death, nothing mattered anymore; not her music, not her family, not her schoolwork.  Walking off the stage in Prague was intended as a protest to her grandfather, a message that she didn’t appreciate how he had made the decision that she would be competing instead of with her dying grandmother.  Betrayed, Lucy still hasn’t forgiven her family for lying to her, and she hasn’t forgiven herself for not standing up to her grandfather.  When she walked off the stage, he took her protest to be permanent.  He called her a quitter, and told her her career was over.  Now, the attention is on her talented younger brother, also a gifted pianist.  Now, without the pressure of competition and practice, Lucy can be a teenager.  She can have crushes and make friends and be a normal kid.  Only, truthfully, she will never be a normal kid because she misses being someone, though she can’t even admit that to herself.

Lucy is a compelling character.  She’s confused and angry.  She can’t get past that day in Prague, when she gave everything up, only she didn’t realize at the time that her actions would last forever.  She never thought that her grandfather, a harsh taskmaster, would be so uncompromising, and that he would deny her the chance to apologize and get back on with her piano practice.   Instead, he dumped her faster than a garbage truck emptying a load at the local landfill.  Lucy has no one to stand up for her against her grandfather, and as the months go by, she is more and more resentful of how she has been judged and left wanting. 

When her brother, Gus, needs a new piano instructor, Will and his beautiful wife enter their lives.  Will is so alive and so passionate about music.  He makes Lucy remember all of the things she loved about it.  He makes her want to try new things and play just for herself.  As she gets to know him better and work through her issues with her family, Lucy develops a monumental crush on Will.  This is the part of the story that I liked the least.  Lucy jumps from an inappropriate crush on her English teacher to a crush on Will, but none of the moral dilemmas were adequately explored.  There are no consequences explored, no significant examination of how their friendship is hurting Will’s wife.  I was very disappointed with this aspect of the story.

Overall, I did enjoy The Lucy Variations.  It’s an engaging story about a girl longing to find herself again, and to reestablish her voice in her demanding, controlling family.

Grade:  B/B-

Review copy provided by publisher

Interview with Lucy King, Author of One More Sleepless Night

Please welcome Lucy King to the virtual offices! Lucy is here to chat about her latest, One More Sleepless Night!

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

[Lucy King] Voracious reader, erratic writer, ace procrastinator. Mother of two, sun-loving Hispanophile. Avid list-maker yet perplexingly inefficient.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about One More Sleepless Night?

[Lucy King] One More Sleepless Night is the story of Nicky Sinclair, a photojournalist who, following a nasty incident in the Middle East, is suffering from PTSD and burnout. On the recommendation of a friend she heads to Spain for some lovely peaceful R&R, only to discover that she has to share her retreat with Rafael Montero, a man who, being after solitude, peace and quiet and a break from women, does not feel inclined to babysit a house guest. Throw in a nightmare or two, scorching summer heat and a ferocious one-sided attraction, and things become far from restful!

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

[Lucy King] By the time the story’s finished, it’s generally undergone so many twists and turns that its origins fade into the mists of time and thousands of deleted words. That’s certainly the case for this story, although what I can remember is that I’d always wanted to set a story in south west Spain, where I live, and write about a dark brooding Spaniard (which had nothing to do with the desire to endlessly Google Antonio Banderas, absolutely nothing at all). A heroine with PTSD was just someone I think I thought sounded interesting.

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

[Lucy King] Ex-thrill-seeker. Burnt-out basket-case.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If Rafael had a theme song, what would it be?

[Lucy King] That’s a tricky one as I’m hopeless with songs and who sang them. I did rack my brains, but couldn’t come up with anything. However if there’s a song out there about being a loner, believing you’re emotionally unreliable, and having a tendency to stick your head in the sand, then that would be it.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name one thing Nicky is never without.

[Lucy King] Her hi-spec digital camera.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things will you never find in Rafael’s bathroom?

[Lucy King] Moisturiser. Hair gel. Waxing strips.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is Nicky’s greatest regret?

[Lucy King] As she’s always lived life to the max Nicky doesn’t believe in regrets – or at least she didn’t before she became such a mess. Now, though, she regrets pretty much everything.

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

[Lucy King] The voices in my head…

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

[Lucy King] A computer and a clear head. Coffee’s a bonus, as is my iPod which I find helps to block out the distracting sounds of every day life. In order to write like the wind though, all I need is a looming deadline.

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

[Lucy King] Recently I’ve read Rules of Civility by Amor Towles and The Hopeless Life of Charlie Summers by Paul Torday and loved both, but the one that springs to mind and kept me up til dawn is Before I Go to Sleep by SJ Watson. Original and spine-tingling.

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

[Lucy King] I spent most of my childhood with my head in a book, devouring anything I could get my hands on. Enid Blyton was a favourite (The Enchanted Wood, Malory Towers, the Famous Five…) so it was probably one by her.

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

[Lucy King] In my dreams I lie on the sofa reading and catching up on TV shows, or go out with friends and dance til dawn. In reality, however, toddlers don’t think much of people lying on the sofa relaxing and they don’t have much sympathy for the tiredness that staying up all night results in, so I generally find myself entertaining the children, cooking for the children and clearing up after the children, while studiously ignoring the piles of paperwork building up.

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

[Lucy King] I’m such a remiss blogger that I’ve kind of given up on that. However, I do Tweet from time to time (@lucy_king) and can be found wittering away on Facebook ( Then there’s my website and lastly, email I love hearing from readers, so please do get in touch.

Thank you for having me here!

[Manga Maniac Cafe]  Thank you!

Purchase links:

About the book:

She’s going to take her life back…one sizzling night at a time!It used to be Nicky Sinclair’s nightmares that kept her up all night; those 3:00 a.m. silences were her worst enemy. So now she’s following doctor’s orders—rest, relaxation and plenty of therapeutic Spanish sunshine.

Only she hasn’t counted on sharing her tranquil retreat with her best friend’s brother, Rafael, whose presence is anything but peaceful! With his beguiling eyes and smoldering smile, he quickly becomes a very welcome distraction. After all, if she’s struggling to sleep, why not find something else to do with her time…?

About the author:

Lucy King spent her formative years lost in the world of romance novels when she really ought to have been paying attention to her teachers. Up against sparkling heroines, gorgeous heroes and the magic of falling in love, trigonometry and ablative absolutes didn’t stand a chance.

But as she couldn’t live in a dream world forever, she eventually acquired a degree in languages and an eclectic collection of jobs. A stroll to the River Thames one Saturday morning led her to her very own hero. The minute she laid eyes on the hunky rower getting out of a boat, clad only in Lycra and carrying a three metre oar as if it was a toothpick, she knew she’d met the man she was going to marry. Luckily the rower thought the same.

She’ll always be grateful to whatever it was that made her stop dithering and actually sit down to type Chapter One, because dreaming up her own sparkling heroines and gorgeous heroes is pretty much her idea of the perfect job.

Originally a Londoner, Lucy now lives in Spain, where she spends much of the time reading, failing to finish cryptic crosswords and trying to convince herself that lying on the beach really is the best way to work.

Graphic Novel Review: Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong by Faith Erin Hicks and Prudence Shen


Title: Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong

Author: Faith Erin Hicks and Prudence Shen


May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:


You wouldn’t expect Nate and Charlie to be friends. Charlie’s the laid-back captain of the basketball team, and Nate is the neurotic, scheming president of the robotics club. But they are friends, however unlikely—until Nate declares war on the cheerleaders. At stake is funding that will either cover a robotics competition or new cheerleading uniforms—but not both.

It’s only going to get worse: after both parties are stripped of their funding on grounds of abominable misbehavior, Nate enrolls the club’s robot in a battlebot competition in a desperate bid for prize money. Bad sportsmanship? Sure. Chainsaws? Why not. Running away from home on Thanksgiving to illicitly enter a televised robot death match? Of course!

In Faith Erin Hicks’ and Prudence Shen’s world of high school class warfare and robot death matches, Nothing can possibly go wrong


I have to admit that I wasn’t too eager to dive into Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong, and I don’t know why.  I think that the synopsis just didn’t grab my imagination.  A surprise day off due to power issues at work prompted me to pick this up, and I’m glad I did.  This is such a fun read, with plenty of humor to keep the conflict between Charlie and Nate from getting too intense. 

At the beginning of the book, when the cheerleaders were forcing Charlie to run for Student Body President, I just wanted him to tell them to go jump off a cliff.  He gets caught up in an election campaign that he wants nothing to do with, and it is destroying his friendship with Nate.   Nate only wants to win because he’s discovered that the Student Body gets to decide whether funding will be available for the cheerleaders’ new uniforms or his beloved robotics club.  Charlie doesn’t care one way or the other, except that the cheerleaders freak him out.  They are like ninja cheerleaders – they are scary and they get what they want, and what they want are those new uniforms!  As Nate’s war on the cheerleaders, and Charlie, by association, heats up, Nate doesn’t hesitate to pull out all of the stops, and many of the stops are embarrassing to Charlie.  The pony incident when he was little certainly didn’t need to be plastered all over the high school walls for everyone to see!  I enjoyed Nate and Charlie’s friendship, and how they interacted with each other.  Even when they were so pissed that they were driven to pummel each other, it was evident that they didn’t really want to ruin their friendship.  They are so different that they complimented each other, and I thought they made a great team.

When it’s apparent that the election isn’t going to have the desired results, Nate figures out another way for both sides to get what they want.  It requires working together, and the cheerleaders need mucho convincing.  Through all of the negotiations, it’s obvious that Charlie has a lot more on his mind than robots or uniforms.  He’s been having a hard time forgiving his mom for leaving him and his dad and moving to California.  He’s resentful of his dad, too, for never being home.  Charlie has a lot going on, and his way of dealing with his problems is to ignore them.  He is passive aggressive to both parents, and even though he wants to give them a piece of his mind and make them understand where he’s coming from, he just can’t find the words.  Instead, he hangs up on his mom a lot, and then avoids her calls.  I found him a very likable and sympathetic character, and kept hoping he would find the strength and courage to let both of his parents know how badly they had let him down. 

Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong is a fun, humorous read about robots, scary cheerleads, and all of the important relationships in the lives of two unconventional friends.   Friendship is work, especially when you don’t always have the same goals, and this book captured the ins and outs of working through adversity through the magic of spot on prose and expressive illustrations.  Highly recommended.

Grade:  B+ / A-

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: Coyote Winds by Helen Sedwick



Title:  Coyote Winds

Author: Helen Sedwick


May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:


COYOTE WINDS is an historical novel set on the western prairie in the years before the Dust Bowl, a time of optimism and confidence, a time when a man was measured by what he produced, not what he could buy. It explores the American can-do spirit that drew people to this wind-swept frontier and the consequences of that spirit. It asks whether that spirit survives today.

Lexile Score HL 690 (high low book); Honorable Mention 2013 Green Book Festival Award for Young Adult Fiction.

Summary: When thirteen-year old Myles brings home a coyote pup half-blinded by a dust storm, his father warns him a coyote can’t be trusted. His neighbor loads his rifle and takes aim. Yet Myles is determined to tame the pup just as his father is taming the land. The time is 1930. Tractors and fertilizers are transforming the prairie into the world’s breadbasket. The American dream is within every man’s reach. But when drought turns these dreams into paint-stripping, crop-killing dust, Myles wonders if they have made a mistake trying to tame what should be wild.

Seventy years later, when Andy remembers his Grandpa Myles’s tales about growing up on the prairie, he wonders what stories he will tell when he has grandchildren. Algebra, soccer practice, computer games, the mall? Determined to keep his grandfather’s memories alive and have some adventures of his own, Andy heads out to discover what’s left of the wild prairie.

Inspired by her father’s tales of growing up during the Dust Bowl, Sedwick weaves insight, humor, historical details and unforgettable characters into a coming-of-age story that reminds us that chasing a dream, even if it brings heartache, is far better than not dreaming at all.


I am fascinated with history, so when I was contacted to review Coyote Winds, I jumped at the chance.  The story is told through alternating POVs (including a coyote’s), and Myles is experiencing the Dust Bowl first hand.  His grandson, Andy, is desperately trying to understand his grandfather’s stories of life on the prairie.  Andy feels like he is nothing but a disappointment to his overachieving attorney parents, and he is struggling in school.  He can’t seem to connect with his peers or his classes.  After his grandfather’s death leaves a hole the size of the prairie in his heart, Andy attempts to reconcile his grandfather’s tales with what life on the prairie in the 1930s was really like.  Conflicting accounts his great aunt told his mother puzzle him, and for a boy who didn’t like reading, Andy was suddenly all about researching what his grandfather and his family endured on their homestead.  I loved how Andy kept insisting that it’s his story, too, and his mother’s story, after she shuts down and doesn’t want to talk about it anymore.

It took me a while to warm up to Andy and his segments of the story.  But before I knew it, I was invested in the lives of all of the characters in Coyote Winds.  By the end of the book, I shocked by how much I had come to like them.  The more I think about it, the more moved I am by this story.  It is raw and uncompromising at times, and Myles’ accounts of his childhood experiences are unflinchingly truthful.  From brutal rabbit hunts to disputes with the neighbor over proper farming techniques, Myles’ narrative POV is both unemotional and free of embellishment.  He’s just telling it like it is.  As he begins to realize how primitive life on the farm is, with no electricity or running water, he begins to question his father’s dedication to farming.  Is he just stubborn?  Can’t he see how difficult life in the middle of no where is, and how unhappy his mother and sister are?  While Myles loves the land, he longs for something more.

Ro, the coyote pup Myles rescues after a dust storm, also shares the story through his eyes. His point of view didn’t work as well for me, because I was so stressed that Bad Things would happen to him.  His chapters left me sad and depressed, because he kept longing for the things he would never have; a life among his own kind, and his brothers and sisters to play with.  His human pack didn’t understand him, and when Myles, in an effort to protect both his friend and Ro, chases him off, my heart broke for the little guy.

By the end of the book I was sobbing.  I don’t know why, other than each character had come to life for me, and had come to mean something to me.  Even the people I thought I couldn’t stand had shining moments of insight that made me understand their stance on farming and raising their families.  This is a book of broken dreams, but it’s also a story of  hope and the courage to attempt to make changes in your life.  While the farmland was harsh to Myles and his family, it was healing to Andy and his parents, and brought them closer together.

Grade:  B+

Review copy provided by the author

Interview with Anna Cruise, Author of If I Fall


Please give a warm welcome to Anna Cruise! She’s visiting the virtual offices to share some info about her latest release IF I FALL.

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

[Anna Cruise]  Writer of YA and NA. Eater of chocolate. Drinker of coffee. Driver of car filled with kids. In need of a vacation.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about If I Fall?

[Anna Cruise]  If I Fall is the story of Meg Calloway, a 15 year old girl in San Diego who feels like her entire life is imploding. Her parents have divorced, her house is being sold and her mom is on her way to rehab. She feels lost and alone. To combat those two things, she latches on to a boy. The absolute wrong kind of boy.

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

[Anna Cruise]  I think we all go through some incredibly rough patches growing up, periods of time where we make really dumb choices, choices we end up regretting. I know I did. So even though my circumstances were much different than Meg’s, I would say that the concept and characters were, in a very general way, inspired by my own experiences in high school.

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

[Anna Cruise]  At the beginning of the book? Sad. Hopeless. Desperate. At the end? Well, you’ll have to read to find out… 🙂

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If Aidan had a theme song, what would it be?

[Anna Cruise]  Highway to Hell.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name one thing Meg is never without.

[Anna Cruise]  Her phone. Until it’s taken away, of course.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things will you never find in Meg’s purse?

[Anna Cruise]  Out of all the questions, this is the hardest one to answer because I don’t carry a purse! I have a small backpack with my wallet, my lipstick and a bottle of hand sanitizer. Literally, that’s it. I think I’m the worst mother ever since I never seem to have band-aids or snacks when my kids need them. So thinking of what Meg wouldn’t have in her purse is hard! But, here goes. A pocket Bible. A condom. And birth control pills.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is Meg’s greatest regret?

[Anna Cruise]   I don’t think she has many regrets at the beginning of the book. She’s too broken, too angry. But toward the end? That’s easy – how she chose to cope with her parents’ divorce.

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

[Anna Cruise]  Life. Honestly, everything I look at, everything I hear, seems to spawn a story idea. A snippet of a news story, an overheard conversation, a person standing alone on a sidewalk. The wheels are always turning. Always.

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

[Anna Cruise]  Caffeine. Chocolate. And the most important thing – an idea.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off? Um…every one?

[Anna Cruise]  I know people can be critical of books but, for me, I find something to marvel at in every single one. Whether it’s a character or a particular setting or an unexpected twist in the plot, there is always something that makes me stop and go, “Wow. That is freaking awesome.”

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

[Anna Cruise]  Green Eggs and Ham. I honestly can’t remember a time when I wasn’t a reader. I devoured books – would come home with stacks and stacks from the library, would use my allowance to go buy the latest Sweet Valley High installment at the bookstore. Books have always been a part of my life. Always.

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

[Anna Cruise]   Travel. Even if it means just heading someplace new nearby. I love adventure, love finding new things, love just heading out and letting the road take me some place new.

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

[Anna Cruise]  My front door is ALWAYS open. Literally. Like, it doesn’t have a lock. But, for those who don’t live nearby, they can find me on Facebook, Twitter or shoot me an email. I love hearing from readers and authors!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

You can purchase If I Fall by clicking the link below

About the book

Meg Calloway is at the edge.

Reeling from her parents’ sudden divorce, fifteen-year old Meg has never felt more alone. Her father is about to marry a woman she can’t stand and her mother’s only companion is an endless supply of alcohol. When Aidan Westwood, an older boy at school, shows interest in her, she grabs on and doesn’t let go, thinking he’s exactly what she needs to help stem her loneliness and despair. She quickly learns that Aidan lives a darker, more dangerous life than she does and the more isolated she feels from her family, the more willing she is to step into Aidan’s world.

As Meg drifts further from her friends, she tries to find comfort with a boy who is opening her eyes up to new things, none of them good. Will she listen to those around her who are warning her that she’s headed down a path of self-destruction?

Or will she fall too far…too fast…too deep?

About the author

Anna Cruise has been writing and drooling over boys since middle school. Lots of years have passed but some things never change…

IT WAS YOU is her debut NA novel and IF I FALL her debut YA novel. Additional titles releasing in 2013 include two additional NA titles (including Tana’s story from IT WAS YOU).

Anna loves to hear from readers and authors. Email her at You can also like her Facebook page, find her on Twitter @AnnaCruiseBooks or friend her on Goodreads.

Review: Georgetown Academy Book 3 by Alyssa Embree Schwartz and Jessica Koosed Etting and Giveaway


Title: Georgetown Academy Book 3

Author: Alyssa Embree Schwartz and Jessica Koosed Etting


May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:


Growing up in the D.C. fishbowl isn’t for everyone, but a break from the Beltway might just restore some sanity.

Ellie Walker’s suffered through enough scandal, and now must watch Gabe fall for someone else. But will an irresistible newcomer who plays by his own rules provide the change she needs?

Riding high after her D.C. debut, Taryn Reyes schemes to cement her relationship with Gabe. But she gets more than she bargained for when she enlists Brooks’ help.

Evan Harnett would do anything to protect her friends. But one moment of weakness, and now she’s on the outs with Hunter and Ellie. Hot on the trail of a new story, she’s heartbroken to find it leads straight to Ellie.

Brinley Madison’s Clinton-esque downfall was bad enough, will she be able to regain her social standing without losing her peace of mind?

Privileged kids with nothing to do but scheme and ski?and they thought D.C. was rough? One thing’s for sure: what happens in Vermont definitely won’t stay in Vermont.


Oh, my!  The drama explodes in Georgetown Academy Book 3!  This was a fun installment of the series, as most of the action takes place at a ski resort in Vermont. The major players all think that they are going to get a break from the rigors of DC, but guess again, guys!  The microscope has followed you all to the slopes, and many of you are going to have the worst vacation ever!

It must be nice to attend a fancy private school in DC, because all of the kids from the various high schools converge at a ski resort for an annual pilgrimage to work on their networking skills, and sneak in lots of partying while the clueless, inattentive chaperons who are traveling with them dine at the restaurant.  Ellie feels that life is finally getting back on track.  She’s met the marvelous Weston Morris, and she is instantly smitten.  He’s caring and brushes aside the recent photo scandal with Gabe with a shrug of his shoulders.  Better yet, his mom and Ellie’s mother are political allies, and they are openly encouraging of their match.  What Ellie doesn’t know is that Weston has a dark past, and he’s not the knight in shining armor that he pretends to be.  Will her friends be able to convince her that he’s trouble?  Nah, probably not, but the interpersonal conflicts between Brinley, Evan, and Ellie made this story thread a lot of fun.

I am even enjoying the triangle between Taryn, Gabe, and Brooks, and usually I have no patience for girls who can’t make up their minds.  It’s always obvious that one of the guys is so wrong, and the other is so right, but they are always attracted to Mr. Wrong.  While I’m not convinced which guy is which, it’s obvious that Gabe is still hung up over Ellie, and Taryn’s desire for a definitive, public acknowledgement from Gabe that the two of them are a Couple is causing her a lot of grief.  In a somewhat lame attempt to get him jealous, she promptly takes the advice of her LA friend and begins to flirt outrageously with Brooks.  I was starting to think there was something seriously wrong with Gabe, because he was so indifferent to her new, close friendship with Brooks.  It was kind of sad how obviously indifferent he really is to Taryn. 

I was disappointed at how easily and quickly Brinley got over her addiction to prescription medication.  After a two week stint at a rehab center, she was deemed all better and ready to get back to school.  She is warned to not allow herself to get into stressful situations, as the stress is her trigger, but since her parents are far, far too busy getting ahead in the political scene, neither bothered to pick her up or even read her discharge notes.  Her mother is an uncaring, emotionally distant wench, and she immediately piles the pressures of being a Madison back onto Brinley’s shoulders.  Sigh.

As Georgetown Academy Book 3 drew to a close, I was kind of bummed out.  There are many unresolved story threads and now that I am invested in the series, I checked for a release date for Book 4.  There’s no listing yet, so I’ll be biting my nails while I wait to see what’s up next for the G.A. crew. 

I have a copy of Georgetown Academy Book 3 to give away, so to get prepped for the release of Book 4, be sure to enter for your chance to win!  Thanks to Coliloquy for providing the giveaway!

Grade: B/B+

Review copy provided by publisher

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Review: Georgetown Academy Book 2 by Alyssa Embree Schwartz and Jessica Koosed Etting and Giveaway!


Title: Georgetown Academy Book 2

Authors: Alyssa Embree Schwartz and Jessica Koosed Etting



May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:


In the halls of Georgetown Academy, gossip and rumor abound. But when photographic proof shows up on the front page of The Huffington Post? Then it’s a national scandal.

While Ellie tries to put her life back together, Evan just might get everything she’s ever wanted—the perfect boyfriend and her dream career. But her loyalties will be put to the test when it turns out to be the very people she’s closest to who are standing in her way.

Brinley is determined to find out who is behind the photo leak, all while her own dirty secret spirals out of control. And California girl Taryn is sick of being walked all over and ready to start playing by the rules of D.C., for better or for worse.

In a world where reputation and appearances are everything, knowledge is power. But you’ll have to learn how to use it if you want to come out on top.


I am a sap for over the top melodrama, and Georgetown Academy has that in spades.  Everyone is having trouble dealing with living life under a microscope, where poor decisions and lapses in judgment have painful, negative consequences on their high-powered parents, as well as themselves.  Growing up the child of movers and shakers has its drawbacks, and Ellie is learning first hand that everything she does is scrutinized.  When an illicit kiss with Gabe makes the news, casting mother in a bad light and jeopardizing her career, Ellie has to deal with not only the blowback from Hunter, her boyfriend, but also the bitter disappointment from her mother.  Gabe’s father and Ellie’s mother have been at odds for years, and Ellie’s behavior comes across as a betrayal to her mother.  So, it seems that even the kids of the high and mighty are not immune to the pressures and stresses of life, where even rumors and the most innocent action can cause the scandal of the century.

I think I enjoy this series so much because it is so readable.  Events tick along at a frantic pace, jumping from one of the four main protagonists to the next in rapid succession.  I have mixed feelings about some of them; Brinley is my least favorite.  She is such a smug, pompous hag that she’s hard to like.  When bad things happen to her, I’m usually not too upset about it.  I want to see her hit rock bottom, just to see if she has the mettle to drag herself back up again.  Evan is my favorite of the four, because her humble background is closer to mine.  She is caught up in a charade, pretending to be the girlfriend of Luke, her best friend, who is terrified that his big secret will crawl out of the closet and destroy his father’s career.  Luke needs to grow a backbone and be honest about his sexuality, instead of lassoing Evan into a masquerade that is destroying any chance of her catching the boy of her dreams.  It’s unfair of Luke, and it’s unfair of his family to expect her blindly go along with their plans for their political security. Ugh. 

I like Taryn, too.   After feeling sorry for herself for becoming a social outcast, thanks to a rumor that Brinley started, she pulls herself together and gets back at her rival. How? By being herself and not letting the stifling confines of G.A. hem her in.  She’s not going to let anyone squeeze her into a mold, and she’s going to blaze a trail for herself in her new school.  Fitting in is no longer a goal.  Striking back and making an impression is.  Taryn is like a shooting star; she’s bright and she’s burning a path for herself, because she doesn’t want to be like anyone else.  I love how important being herself is to her, and how being true to herself has given her back the confidence she had lost.  I’m so curious to see if anything happens between her and Brooks, Brinley’s brother, because that would be the ultimate f you to Brin. lol 

I don’t know if I should feel sorry for Ellie, or tell her to get a life.  She dumped her best friend for Brinley, for goodness sake!  Brinley!  After the unpleasant revelation about Brinley’s father, something that she can never share with Ellie, I wonder how much longer they will be friends.  And her back and forth between Hunter and Gabe?  Ugh!  She’s jerking both of them around, though it seems like some of that is going to come back around to bite her in the behind.  Ouch!

Another thing I like about this series – it’s immediately accessible, even to new readers.  Enough background information is peppered throughout the narrative so that you understand all of the relationships between the characters.  I don’t think someone picking this up without reading the first book in the series would be confused.  They would miss out on the all the fun drama, but they could easily get up to speed with the story.  One thing I don’t like?  The inability to add bookmarks or make notes.  It drives me nuts, in fact, because I’m so used to a regular Kindle book.  Tapping the middle of the screen propels you to the next page, and going in any direction but forward is a tedious, frustrating process.  And you can’t tell how much further you have until the end, or even what page you are on.  Sigh. 

Georgetown Academy is turning out to be a very fun series.  To find out for yourself, fill out the widget below for your chance to win a copy!  Thanks to Coliloquy for providing the giveaway!

Grade:  B+

Review copy provided by publisher

a Rafflecopter giveaway