Monday, March 14, 2016

Guest Post: The Daring Heroines of Dystopian Fiction

Today we are pleased to welcome back Beth Madison to the blog.




The Daring Heroines of Dystopian Fiction



In today’s wave of popular YA dystopian fiction novels, strong women are taking charge. The Hunger Games, the Divergent series, and The Fifth Wave are all examples of this phenomenon, each finding success in both film and novel form. The books follow a similar template - the government has failed its citizens, society is falling apart, and now everything hinges on the will of a feisty female leader to break it all down and build it back up again. These protagonists are fearless. As readers, we can only hope that this trend in fiction reflects actual improvements in gender equality, as more people are exposed to the battles (both real and imagined) that women have conquered and won.

In each of these novels, the central female characters fight, lead, and rebel. Their gender is not a barrier or a handicap, even in battle. They are the protagonists and sometimes even the villains. This is the equality that women are still fighting for, and that young women in particular see as so close and so attainable. Women are now running for president, and combat roles in the military have finally been opened to them. The long, slow climb of several decades has become a sprint. Fiction reflects reality, but it also sometimes reflects the reality we desire rather than the one we truly have. This may be why now, in particular, these novels are catching fire.

In The Hunger Games, Katniss volunteers for a battle to the death in order to save her sister, despite being her family's sole provider. She not only manages to win that battle, but she is able to save the life of Peeta, the other volunteer from her district, turning the usual damsel in distress stereotype on its head. She then goes on to lead a revolution that overthrows the corrupt government entirely, thereby saving all the future children who would have otherwise been killed in public battle. She is a warrior and a woman, and does not have to compromise one for the other. This is something fans of the series clearly appreciate, and one thing that propelled the films, which can be seen online (more info) and on cable (details here), to the blockbuster status they attained.

The Divergent series also takes place in a world where the government artificially divides its people, and where gender inequality is seemingly non-existent. While there is plenty of injustice, and in fact one of Beatrice's deepest fears in the film in particular is shown to be rape, there does not seem to be a systematic bias against women. In fact, the leader of the Erudites and Tris' main nemesis in the film is a woman herself. Everyone is oppressed more or less equally. Though Tris starts out more concerned with saving herself than her family, unlike The Hunger Games, she also eventually leads a revolution that changes her whole world.

The Fifth Wave is slightly different. The enemy is not a corrupt government, but an invading extraterrestrial army. However, much like the other films, it quickly becomes a struggle for survival in which gender plays little to no role. The protagonist, Cassie, just wants to save what little family she has left from the invaders. She becomes a fighter because she has no choice - its fight or die. Though she needs to be taught more than the other protagonists on this list, she refuses to be used or manipulated. A big subplot is learning who to trust, and learning that evil can hide behind a pleasing facade. This is a lesson that all young girls are taught early in life, and it certainly resonates in this story.

In the end, what may be most appealing about the recent wave of female-led dystopian fiction is that while gender isn't the main focus, neither is it ignored. Romance is allowed, as is vulnerability. Neither of these things are depicted as weaknesses, however, nor do any of the women in the novels need rescuing by men. They are rescued and rescuers in equal measure. It is liberating to be immersed in fiction where, though there is still struggle and strife, the huge burden of gender inequality has finally been lifted.
Thursday, February 25, 2016

Blood Passage Blog Tour and Review


Blood Passage (Dark Caravan Cycle #2)
Blog Tour February 22 – 26 & February 29 – March 4


ABOUT THE BOOK
BLOOD PASSAGE
Dark Caravan Cycle #2
Author: Heather Demetrios
Release Date: March 1, 2016
Publisher: Balzer+Bray (HarperCollins)
SYNOPSIS:
A jinni who's lost everything.

A master with nothing to lose.

A revolutionary with everything to gain.


When Nalia arrives in Morocco to fulfil Malek's third and final wish she's not expecting it to be easy. Though Nalia is free from the shackles that once bound her to Malek as his slave, she's in more danger than ever before.

Meanwhile, Malek's past returns with a vengeance as he confronts the darkness within himself, and Raif must decide what's more important: his love for Nalia, or his devotion to the cause of Arjinnan freedom.

Set upon by powerful forces that threaten to break her, Nalia encounters unexpected allies and discovers that her survival depends on the very things she thought made her weak. From the souks of Marrakech to the dunes of the Sahara, The Arabian Nights come to life in this dazzling second installment of the Dark Passage Cycle.


Goodreadshttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18805154-blood-passage?from_search=true&search_version=service

  

Tour Schedule
WEEK ONE
February 22 Such A Novel Idea REVIEW
February 23 
A Dream Within A Dream 10’s LIST
                           
City of Books REVIEW
February 24 
The Cover Contessa EXCERPT
February 25 
Adventures of A Book Junkie INTERVIEW
                            
Wholly-Books REVIEW
February 26 
Falling For YA MUSIC PLAYLIST
                           
Bookaholics Anonymous REVIEW

WEEK TWO
February 29 
Swoony Boys Podcast REVIEW
March 1 
Gone With The Words 10 RANDOM THINGS
                   
What Sarah Read REVIEW
March 2 
Zach’s YA Reviews REVIEW
March 3 
Curling Up WIth A Good Book REVIEW
                   
Wishful Endings REVIEW
March 4 
Bookfever REVIEW


 
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
When she’s not traipsing around the world or spending time in imaginary places, Heather Demetrios lives with her husband in New York City. Originally from Los Angeles, she now calls the East Coast home. Heather has an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts and is a recipient of the PEN New England Susan P. Bloom Discovery Award for her debut novel, Something Real. Her other novels include Exquisite Captive, the first in the Dark Caravan Cycle fantasy series, and I’ll Meet You There. She is the founder of Live Your What, an organization dedicated to fostering passion in people of all ages and creating writing opportunities for underserved youth. Find out more about Heather and her books atwww.heatherdemetrios.com and www.darkcaravancycle.com, or come hang out with her on Twitter (@HDemetrios) and any number of social media sites.

            With an ending such as the one we received in Exquisite Captive, it’s hard NOT to want the next book in the series so you can immediately start reading it! At least that’s how I felt after finishing the first book in The Dark Caravan Series by Heather Demetrios!
            Blood Passage picks up right where we left off in the previous book, including all the tension and animosity in the group when Malek used his third wish and Nalia is forced to grant it, while ALSO trying to fulfill her promise to Raif to bring him to the ring.  I had a hard time reading this section of the book because (sadly) I was absolutely in love with Malek despite all the terrible things he did to Nalia.  I think under all the dark bits of Malek there was a really great guy hiding out and I think my favorite part in Blood Passage was getting to see both sides of Malek.  I actually felt bad for him on more than one occasion when he is forced to watch Raif and Nalia interact with one another, because you could tell how much it was tormenting Malek to witness it.  Try as he might to act hostile towards the two of them and indifferent to Nalia, he still had hurt feelings and was torn up inside about losing her.
            Gripes: Although I was really excited to start reading this book I do think the beginning was a little anticlimactic for me. The end of the previous book finished with such a cliffhanger that I wanted to go straight to them arriving at the ring in book 2.  Unfortunately it took some time before things got really heated, but once it did I was no longer bored with the book.
            Favorite Bits: As a big fan of Malek I loved getting to see some of his family and see how he responded in that social situation, especially because it drudged up some old wounds.  Nalia gets to see this side of Malek that she didn’t witness prior to their trip, because it was something he tried to keep hidden from her.  I also liked the big reveal and finding out what Malek considered to be “that which he holds closest to his heart” and what he was willing to sacrifice for immortality years ago when Nalia granted him that wish.  One of my other favorite parts of Blood Passage was the actual hunt itself.  The best way I can describe it is Arabian Nights meets National Treasure (the movie with Ben Gates) and it is SO GOOD. I couldn’t put Blood Passage down once I got to this section of the book!
            Going into this I wasn’t positive whether The Dark Caravan Cycle was going to be two books or more, but I am so glad it is continuing.  I don’t think there would have been enough closure had Demetrios ended with Blood Passage and there’s still a lot of work to be done on Nalia’s part.  It’s probably a good thing that I won’t be able to read the next book for a while (although I’ll still be counting down the days till its release in the meantime) because the ending of Blood Passage tore me up quite a bit! I can’t wait to hear of everyone’s reactions once they finish it!
            What do you think? Have you read this book yet or started this series? I think Wrath and the Dawn fans will really love this one!

 



Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Finding the Cure Blog Tour

Ellie Abela’s life has been anything but easy. Tragedy follows her where ever she goes, and she’s been a lot of places. At twenty she’s lived in over ten different states, all because of her dad’s career in medical research. His career is just another list of the causes of tragedies in El’s life. He’s dying, and with every breath he takes closer to Heaven, Ellie dies a little bit inside too.
At twelve she lost her mom in a drunk driving accident, and in a matter of months she fears she’ll lose the last person she has in the world to cancer.
While Ellie’s life has been rife with sadness, Trent Wentworth’s has been a challenge. A drug-addicted mom and a dead-beat dad meant at twenty three he was the adoptive father of his two year old sister. Now at twenty five he’s working his way up the corporate ladder and a struggling single parent.
Each is searching for a cure to the things in their lives dragging them down.
Not all cures are black and white; not all cures save us–and sometimes saving isn’t what we need. Sometimes we just need to realize how lucky we are to be alive, at least for this moment.




ONE
I wrapped my fingers around the steering wheel, and it squeaked with the pressure as my knuckles turned white. The sound echoed through the car as my grip continued to tighten. I used to wonder if it was harder to know you're going to die, or just dying without the ability to say goodbye. The tears began to stream down my face as I sped down the highway. The guardrails were just silver blurs as I hammered the gas.
I shouldn't have wondered it. My life was cruel punishment for the thought. The question should've been what's harder, never getting to say goodbye or knowing that every breath could be goodbye?
My chin trembled as my eyes fell to the speedometer.
I was going too fast.
The highway was too straight; a never ending path in front of me that I wanted to drive on until I fell off the edge of the Earth.
I already had, hadn't I?
My eyes lashes fluttered, the drops of tears weighing them down.
Never getting to say goodbye.
I knew that evil. God, did I know that evil. The look on Dad's face as the phone slipped from his hands, the words forming at his lips never reaching my ears.
I read them.
I knew them.
The shock hit my body, and I desperately wanted to feel something--anything besides the rolling waves of pain. That numbness weighted down my limbs as the physical ache coursed through my veins. The anger and pain crushed down on me until my chest was so tight I couldn't breath. Then I had Dad-- he was always there, despite his own pain. His warmth overtook the shocking cold of loss. He broke the edges that hardened on my soul.
Knowing that every breath could be goodbye.
Now.
That was now.
I lifted my foot off the gas, letting the car slow until I pulled over and stopped. My head dipped between my shoulders as my chest heaved with a sob. I let my hands drop to my lap, red lines marking them where my skin had met too tightly with itself. The tears puddled in my palms.
I knew he was going to die. There was nothing that could stop it. I had to watch it. The pillar of strength when Mom died was withering into nothing in front of my eyes. The numbness that hit me when Mom died was a constant part of my life; it never left. I had just gotten better at hiding it. The chains around what was left of my heart tightened with each passing day. Each day meant there was one less breath. Who would save me now?
My eyes rose to the black sky above me.
There was no cure for Dad.
There was no cure for me.
TWO
I walked over to the door leading to his room and pushed it open. I wanted a distraction. I didn't want to think about it. I heard Trent follow me, and I walked over to the guitars hung on the wall. I ran my fingers over the strings. I knew Trent was leaning against the door frame, watching me carefully.
"My dad used to play drums before he got sick," I explained. "I used to want to learn how to play guitar...then we could have our own band."
Trent walked forward, going to sit on his bed, and I turned to face him.
"He's a scientist. He's been trying to find the cure for different types of cancer for as long as I can remember...and I don't mean little labs somewhere. Government labs...and all those tests...and chemicals--and whatever the fuck," I replied, stopping as my body trembled. "He was handling--that's what gave him it...the cancer. He was trying to find a cure," my neck pushed forward as I fought back the tears. "And he...he basically killed himself."
"There's no cure?" Trent whispered.
I looked at the ceiling, dimly lit by the bedside lamp. "If there was, he would've found it."
Trent stood and his face came into my vision as he looked down at me. He ran his hand up my back until it reached my head, tipping it back to a normal position. He put his forehead against mine, his hand cupping my cheek as his other stayed on my lower back.
"Not all cures are black and white--not all cures save us," Trent whispered, and I felt my eyelashes heavy with tears.
"I'm dying too--every time I look at him and know that every breath he takes is closer to his last one." I didn't bother wiping away the silent tears now making their way down my face.
"It's always been that way, El. We're all going to die someday," He crushed his eyes shut, shaking his head. "That sounded harsh. I didn't--"
"You're right."
He opened his eyes, his chest rising with the deep inhale he took. "I do get it. I used to come home and wonder if I was going to find my mom dead." His eyes drifted before coming back to mine. "But every time I didn't--every time I came home and she was fine--I was thankful for it, even more so if she was straight."
I laid my head on his chest, and his hands stayed on my lower back, his own head lowering into the crook of my shoulder. We stayed like that for a moment as my heart beat evened out, my eyes drifted to his bed and the rate picked up again. My chest tightened as I stared at the neat brown and tan checkered comforter, and then my eyes drifted to the time.
1:30 PM.
My eyes suddenly felt heavy, and my mouth formed a yawn.
Trent looked down at me, and his own eyes were heavy. "Tired?" he asked.
"Yeah, and I don't feel like driving home." I ignored the whooshing of blood through my ears as my face heated.
"I can take the couch," Trent explained as he pulled away and pointed his thumb over his shoulder before going to his dresser and pulling out a pair of pajama bottoms and a plain black tee. "They might be big, but it should be more comfortable for you."
I took them from him, my hand touching his and causing tingles to run up my spine. "You know, I don't mind if...if you don't take the couch."
Trent's eyebrow twitched as he looked at me, and I laughed.
"Come on, we're both adults, and I'm sure you can keep your hands off of me if I'm hidden under all this," I replied, holding up the clothing that undoubtedly would be baggy on me.
"Are you sure?" he asked, pulling his own pair of pajama pants out of the drawer.
"Positive, now turn the other way so I can get undressed," I ordered, using my pointer finger to signal a circle.
He put his hands up. "Of course, but I think you'll be the one peeking."
I rolled my eyes as I turned, pulling my shirt off and replacing it with his. I paused as I heard the zipper of his pants go down. I pursed my lips as I gazed straight ahead as I unzipped mine and pulled them off. I cursed as I struggled to pull the tight bottom off. "Skinny jeans."
"You okay?" Trent asked, his voice deep with amusement.
"Oh, shut up! If you had to wear jeans this tight you'd understand."
I turned and flopped on his bed, putting my arms behind my head as I stared at his bare back. Between his shoulder blades was another tattoo, this one of a bird flying through the sun.
"You didn't tell me about that one," I commented, and he turned, putting his hands up.
"I didn't know you wanted to know where all of them where," he replied, smirking down at me as my jaw dropped.
There was another tattoo on the cap of his shoulder, this one a Japanese lotus in bright orange and pink. My eyes wondered to his chest, which was covered in a thin layer of hair I hadn't expected. He scratched it, his neck turning red up to his ears.
"Sorry about the hairy chest. I can put a shirt on if it bothers you," he said.
I sat up, pulling my knees to my chest as my eyes wandered again. I shook my head, putting my eyes back where they belonged, on his face. "If you have to put a shirt on it won't be because of your hairy chest."
His eyebrows twitched as he laughed. "You like it then?"
I tapped my hands on my knees as my eyes dropped to his slightly sculpted chest, down to his flat stomach and his hip bones. I lay back, pulling the pillow over my face. "Why couldn't you put on a burlap sack?" I muttered into it.
I felt Trent's body indent the bed next to me, and he lifted up the edge of the pillow, blinking at me.
"What was that?" he asked.
I rolled my eyes smacking him with the pillow before putting it back under my head and turning my back to him. Trent reached over me, flicking off the light switch, and wrapping his arm around me. I snuggled into him and closed my eyes.
Cassandra doesn’t remember a time when she wasn’t writing. In fact, the first time she was published was when she was seven years old and won a contest to be published in an American Girl Doll novel. Since then Cassandra has written more novels than she can count and put just as many in the circular bin. Her personal goal with her writing is to show the reader the character’s stories through their dialogue and actions instead of just telling the reader what is happening. Besides being a writer, Cassandra is a professional photographer known for her automotive, nature and architectural shots. She is happily married to the man of her dreams and they live in the rolling hills of New England with their dogs, Bubski and Kanga.

Cassandra Giovanni is published by Show n’ot Tell Publishing based out of Connecticut, USA

Connect with Cassandra on Facebook, Goodreads and Twitter.  Learn more about her and her novels at her website, www.cgiovanniauthor.com and read the first ten chapters of each of her published novels through her Book Catalog.
Flawed Perfection


In Between the Seasons (The Fall Series #1)

Love Exactly  

 Walking in the Shadows 





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