Monday, February 15, 2016

"Strings" Blog Tour


Hello, all! I am pleased to participate in the Blog Tour for David Estes' newest novel, Strings, a great dystopian retelling of the classic tale, Pinocchio. Instead of a wooden puppet, Pia is a resilient, spunky teen who fights for the freedom to make her own choices, and ultimately, decide who she is on her own terms. I’m going to go ahead and recommend this one for all teens, because it’s all-around entertaining, and has a little of something for everyone: mystery, romance, intrigue, you name it. I also would like to suggest it for fans of Cinder, and other like-minded dystopian fairy tales. 

Also included are several excerpts, and other fun links.

Synopsis
“A wonderful retelling of the Pinocchio story...I simply couldn’t put this book down.” Rysa Walker, bestselling author of TIMEBOUND
Sometimes the strings that tie us down are the same strings that set us free.

Sixteen-­year­-old Pia has always lived in a mysterious facility where mechanical strings control her existence. She plays apprentice to her father, Gio, in performing nanotech designs for the Company, and she soon suspects there are diabolical human forces behind the manufactured reality of her world.

Though her childhood memories and the origins of the strings remain strangely elusive, she begins to find solace with the introduction of two unlikely friends: daring, irrational Sofia, and calm, tender Marco.

As the truths of the past and present unravel together, Pia must find a way to free herself from her strings and escape the facility before facing the wrath of the unstable head of security, Mr. Davis. But to gain her freedom, she must navigate the dangers posed by Davis and by her suspicious new friends to find the real identity of the puppeteer.

If Pia can succeed in revealing the secrets of the Company, she may very well find the independence she so desperately seeks. But in her controlled world nothing is as it seems, and the closer she gets to the truth, the graver the consequences.

Goodreads

EXCERPTS FROM STRINGS 

Excerpt 1
The strings are as black as polished ebony, twirling down from the viscous ceiling, which moves like dark waters lapping on a bleak and empty shore. Almost like it’s breathing: in and out, in and out. Not solid, but molten like lava; the dark ceiling flows from room to room throughout the entire compound, allowing my strings to move gracefully and unfettered without getting tangled. According to Papa, the gelatinous ceiling was invented late in the 21st century under the name dream oil. Basically the thick liquid substance can float within designated electromagnetic fields (like a rectangular ceiling space) and yet create enough internal friction to secure various fixtures, such as lights or ceiling fans (or strings). The ceiling controls the strings, sometimes seeming to read my mind before even I know what I’m thinking. Pulling me right when I’m about to turn left. Raising my hand when I’m about to drop it to my side. Bending me to its every will and whim, which most of the time feels like exactly the same thing.

The strings are connected to me in fifteen obtrusive places. One in each thumb, one in each hand, one in each foot. My elbows and knees are connected, too. One in each hip and shoulder for balance, and one final string plugged into the crown of my head, forcing me to look people in the eyes, even if I don’t want to. There are thin silver circles implanted in my flesh where each string enters my skin. As far as I can tell, there’s no way to pull the strings out, unless some kind of special tool is required. So long as I do what’s expected of me, the strings mostly leave me alone, sort of like they’re a part of me, moving as I move, staying out of my way. But if I veer off course for even a second, they’re always there to pull me back in line; I’m a marionette maneuvered by a skillful and indifferent puppeteer, jerking me
around without regard for the pain it causes.

Like the mangled scissors I tried to cut my strings with, I’m bent. Not literally—my strings are as taut and tight as ever—but inside, where no one can see. I’m bent like a cracked toothpick.

Bent.

But not broken.

Excerpt 2
Happiness is perched on a branch outside my window.

A robin, resting in a nest with two blue eggs, their matte curves as perfect and unmarred and cloudless as a cornflower sky. The mama bird has been tending to her unborn babes for days, keeping them warm. I can’t wait to see them hatch.

Watching the bird and her eggs each morning while braiding my hair is my moment of peace. It’s a single pinprick moment where I can forget the world and smile without letting reality ruin things.

I often imagine that my window is on hinges, and that I can push it open,reaching my hand into the empty expanse, feeling the breeze on my skin, offering friendship to the robin and its family. The mama would land on my arm and cock her head and sing songs of life to me. She would change me with her melodies.

But the window is just a slab of thick glass, slightly blurring the view that is already ruined by the hardy metal bars rising from sill to ceiling.

A prison.

Our home.

Excerpt 3
I see it.

A few steps away, closer than my father’s station: the door to the outside. The guard has gotten lazy, having left the door ajar, a sliver of outside sunlight burning an orange stripe across the floor.

Without thinking, I race for the opening, feeling my strings tense a moment too late, for once not anticipating my move—probably because of how insane it is. My hands are battering rams, shoving the door open, reaching for the sunlight. My body goes rigid as the guard barks, “Hey!” and I feel a monstrous force grab my hands, my feet, my shoulders, my hips, and my head, thrusting them in reverse. I’m airborne, flying back inside, the room a blur of equipment and bright walls and a dark, swirling ceiling, and my father’s eyes—wide and white with fear.

My body hits the floor with a vicious thud that jars my bones and rattles my teeth, which should be punishment enough.
It’s not.

The strings are livid, no longer black, pulsing with red, like blood rushing through a needle. They snap at my skin, cracking like whips—and when they connect they’re like severed electrical wires, sending shocks through my core, to my extremities, to the deepest, darkest, most hidden parts of my soul.

And through my blurry, tear­-filled vision, I can see past my father, who’s struggling fruitlessly with the guard, trying to get to me. My heart sinks.

Because the box on the screen is displaying a single sentence:

Message sent.

Darkness folds its silky wings around me.

Excerpt 4
I am not a picture. You can’t frame me and fasten me to the wall and stare at me. You can’t just turn me around when you don’t want to look at me. I’m not a thing. I’m not. Right?

Right?

Is anyone listening to me?

The harshest lies are the ones we tell ourselves.

The truth is, I am a doll. When I’m not being used they stick me on a shelf to gather dust. They take me down to play with me, pulling my arms and legs in ways they’re not meant to go. Ways I don’t want them to go. My actions are not my own. My life belongs to those who control my strings. I am a doll with a stitched mouth, melancholy but exhausted beyond true sadness.

Sometimes I feel like even less; like I’m not a real girl. Like I’m more like Fig than I thought, someone’s creation. Used, tired of, and eventually thrown out. What is real? Am I real if my body is not my own? Am I real if I have no right to choose my own destiny?

No.

The answer is no.

I’m just somebody’s thing, a marionette dancing on strings so strong they might as well be steel cables. We’re both puppets in a street show, my father and I.

Excerpts 5
“My mother told me a story when I was little. It was my favorite story, about a lion. I didn’t remember it before, but I do now.”

Marco blinks, raises his eyebrows. This is clearly not what he was expecting.

“The lion was the son of the King of the Pride, destined to one day be the new king. The only problem was that the poor lion couldn’t roar. The other lions teased him relentlessly about his failings. ‘How can a lion with no roar be a king?’ they would mock. The lion’s only companion was a beautiful young lioness who didn’t care about his lack of a roar. ‘You are who you are,’ she would say, ‘and I like you this way.’ Much to his father’s disappointment, the lion spent more time with her than with the other lions.

“Ashamed of the son he’d created, his father eventually felt he had no choice but to cast his own son out of the Pride, instructing him not to return without his roar. ‘Don’t fail me, Son,’ he said. He didn’t give his son the chance to say goodbye to the lioness.

“For days, the lion wandered aimlessly, foraging for food and seeking his roar in the dark places of the world. He encountered moments of fear, of anger, of beauty, but still he remained silent, his ferocious mouth opening and closing soundlessly with each new experience.

“Until, one day, when by chance alone, his journey brought him full circle, back to his old Pride’s territory. High on a cliff, he watched them, shocked and amazed at how things had changed. His father was old and weak, and his mother was gone. The beautiful lioness was still there, but she was missing the spark he used to love in her big brown eyes.

“His sadness was so complete, so real, that he opened his mouth and bellowed, a mournful roar of melancholy and regret, so loud the entire Pride looked up to see him.”

When I finish the story, I realize Marco is staring at me while I stare off into space, still visualizing the lion and his Pride. “Then what happened?” he asks.
“I—I don’t know,” I say. “My mother always stopped there.”

“I don’t understand,” Marco says. “Did the lion become King of the Pride? Did he marry the lioness?”

I shrug. “I guess that’s for us to decide.”

“Why did the lion have to be so sad to roar?”

I look at him, lost in his gaze. “Sometimes we have to fall all the way to the bottom before we can rise to the top,” I say, quoting my mother’s words.

He nods, although I can’t tell if he really understands. I dance my fingers over to his, and link our pinkies. His eyes flash with surprise. “You feel nothing, right?” he says, the edge of his lip curling.

I grin back. “Honesty is a story about a lion,” I say. “Now, Marco, will you roar with me?”

He frowns. “What?”

“Roar with me.”

“Why?”

“Because we can,” I say.

“I’d feel foolish.”

“Don’t you ever do anything foolish?”

“I try not to. Why would I?”

“Because we’re human,” I say. “No one is watching us here, right? There’s no creepy black ceiling, no cameras, no one to feel silly in front of.”

“You’re here.”

“So what? We’ll both roar. C’mon. Just do it. Roar.”

“When?”

“Now. On the count of three. One, two—”

“Wait. I’m not ready.”

I roll my eyes. “One, two, three!”

I stay silent, listening to Marco’s pathetically awkward attempt at a roar, unable to hold back my laughter. “You call that a roar?”

“You tricked me. You said we’d roar together.”

“No, I said we’d both roar, but I never said we’d roar at the same time.”

He shakes his head. “I must’ve missed the difference.”

I roar, as loud as I can, filling the empty room with noise, relishing the way he flinches in surprise. “Did I scare you?” I ask, after I finish.

He roars. It’s a lot better than the last one, maybe even as good as mine, an ear­-rending growl of freedom. Although his roar is resounding in my ears, I’m fixated on his hand, which is now entwined with mine, our fingers linked, our knuckles turning white.

When he stops, he says, “Better?” and I say, “Much,” and then we both open our mouths as wide as we can and roar together.

We don’t stop until our throats are raw and our mouths are dry and we can’t stop smiling.

Purchase Links
Rafflecopter Giveaway


About the Author

David Estes is the author of more than 20 science fiction and fantasy novels that have received hundreds of thousands of downloads worldwide, including The Moon Dwellers, Fire Country, Slip, Brew, and his new SciFi Pinocchio retelling, Strings. He lives in Hawaii with his inspiring Aussie wife, Adele, rambunctious son, Beau, and naughty cat, Bailey. When he's not writing, you'll likely find him at the beach swimming, snorkeling, or reading under an umbrella.


Author Links

Facebook
Goodreads
Tumblr
David's blog
Twitter
Instagram
David's official fan group



Friday, February 12, 2016

Escape from Witchwood Hollow



Source: Publisher Website
Escape from Witchwood Hollow by Jordan Elizabeth (Curiosity Quills Press, 2014, 180pp.)

In Arnn, New York, there is a very bad place called Witchwood Hollow. In 1760, Lady Elizabeth Clifford fled there to escape her pursuers when she was accused of witchcraft. In 1850, naive teenager Albertine took a short-cut through the woods to get to her father’s house—only to never find her way out. Fast-forward to 2001: high schooler Honoria has come to Arnn after the tragic death of her parents. When she hears about the legend of the woods and the dreadful witch who lives there, she becomes intrigued, and decides to find out more—yet  little does she know that her quest could very well become her undoing…

Escape from Witchwood Hollow is a quick read, barely 200 pages in length. Now, as a fan of horror films, I was delighted with the premise, and the foreboding atmosphere that accompanied the story was great. However, I never really got a sense of who the characters were as people, and I also have somewhat mixed feelings about the ending. These two things ultimately made my reading experience a little disappointing, but I would still recommend it to readers ages 14-up.

Monday, February 1, 2016

An Edgy Thriller for Reluctant Readers


Source: Author Website
The Truth by Jeffry W. Johnston (Sourcebooks Fire, 2016, 256pp.)

The last thing Chris Russo remembers is knocking on a girl’s front door to take her to a party. When he wakes up, he’s tied to a chair in someone’s basement. What’s worse, the kidnapper that confronts him is an angry, garden shear-wielding teen named Derek.

He and Derek have met before. A week prior, something happened that ended with Chris shooting a 13-year-old boy to death. Derek, the boy’s older brother, reached out to him for answers. When Chris avoided him, Derek turned to kidnapping. Now, Chris must answer: why is Derek’s brother dead? Over the course of the novel, Chris tries to explain to Derek—and the reader—what led to that fatal encounter.

Although the characters aren’t particularly vibrant, and the storytelling a bit simplistic (with chapters alternating between “Now”—during Chris’s interrogation—and “Then”—before the shooting), Johnston still does a good job at entertaining. Opening with a scene guaranteed to grab any reluctant reader by the throat, the novel ends with a final plot twist that turns the story completely on its head. This title contains mature themes, and includes scenes of threatened torture and use of firearms. Although the violence in this thriller isn’t explicitly graphic, it limits my recommendation to older teens, ages 16-18.

Ghost

Ghost (Track #1)  by Jason Reynolds ( Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy  Books,  2016, 192pp.) Castle “Ghost” Cranshaw knows how to run from his ...