Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Book Spotlight & Review: Alone by Cyn giveaway!

Thrilled to be able to tell you about Cyn Balog’s latest release…Alone.
Keep reading to learn more!
By Cyn Balog
Sourcebooks Fire
November 7, 2017

Advance Praise for Alone
“Even careful readers will be caught off guard by twists and unexpected but divine surprises. This first-rate thriller delivers everything a thriller should, and adds more. With a wink and a nod to Stephen King’s The Shining, Balog provides a shocker for the young adult crowd.” –VOYA Magazine, VOYA Perfect 10 Review
“This is the perfect premise for a chilling tale, and Balog fills every inch with classic horror references, red herrings, and uncertain motivations. As Balog gradually builds tension and paranoia, she manipulates reader expectations to set up several possible endings, yet still manages to end with a shocker. This is fantastically creepy psychological horror.” Booklist

"A bloody, wonderfully creepy scare ride." –Kirkus Reviews
Book Info:
This must-read for lovers of Stephen King's The Shining will leave readers breathless as Seda and her family find themselves at the mercy of a murderer in an isolated and snowbound hotel. 
When her mom inherits an old, crumbling mansion, Seda's almost excited to spend the summer there. The grounds are beautiful and it's fun to explore the sprawling house with its creepy rooms and secret passages. Except now her mom wants to renovate, rather than sell the estate—which means they're not going back to the city...or Seda's friends and school.
As the days grow shorter, Seda is filled with dread. They're about to be cut off from the outside world, and she's not sure she can handle the solitude or the darkness it brings out in her.
Then a group of teens get stranded near the mansion during a blizzard. Seda has no choice but to offer them shelter, even though she knows danger lurks in the dilapidated mansion—and in herself. And as the snow continues to fall, what Seda fears most is about to become her reality...

Cyn Balog is the author of a number of young adult novels. She lives outside Allentown, Pennsylvania with her husband and daughters. Visit her online at

Excerpt from Alone: 
      Sometimes I dream I am drowning.
Sometimes I dream of bloated faces, bobbing on the surface of misty waters.
And then I wake up, often screaming, heart racing, hands clenching fistfuls of my sheets.
I’m in my bed at the top of Bug House. The murky daylight casts dull prisms from my snow globes onto the attic floor. My mom started collecting those pretty winter scenes for me when I was a baby. I gaze at them, lined neatly on the shelf in front of my window. My first order of business every day is hoping they’ll give me a trace of the joy they did when I was a kid.
But either they don’t work that way anymore, or I don’t.
Who am I kidding? It’s definitely me.
I’m insane. Batshit. Nuttier than a fruitcake. Of course, that’s not an official diagnosis. The official word from Dr. Batton, whose swank Copley Square office I visited only once when I was ten, was that I was bright and intelligent and a wonderful young person. He said it’s normal for kids to have imaginary playmates.
But it gets a little sketchy when that young person grows up, and her imaginary friend decides to move in and make himself comfortable.
Not that anyone knows about that. No, these days, I’m good about keeping up appearances.
My second order of business each day is hoping that he won’t leak into my head. That maybe I can go back to being a normal sixteen--year--old girl.
But he always comes.
He’s a part of me, after all. And he’s been coming more and more, invading my thoughts. Of course I’m here, stupid.
Sawyer. His voice in my mind is so loud that it drowns out the moaning and creaking of the walls around me.
“Seda, honey?” my mother calls cheerily. She shifts her weight on the bottom step, making the house creak more. “Up and at ’em, buckaroo!”
I force my brother’s taunts away and call down the spiral staircase, “I am up.” My short temper is because of him, but it ends up directed at her.
She doesn’t notice though. My mother has only one mood now: ecstatically happy. She says it’s the air up here, which always has her taking big, deep, monster breaths as if she’s trying to inhale the entire world into her lungs. But maybe it’s because this is her element; after all, she made a profession out of her love for all things horror. Or maybe she really is better off without my dad, as she always claims she is.
I hear her whistling “My Darlin’ Clementine” as her slippered feet happily scuffle off toward the kitchen. I put on the first clothing I find in my drawer—-sweatpants and my mom’s old Boston College sweatshirt—-then scrape my hair into a ponytail on the top of my head as I look around the room. Mannequin body parts and other macabre props are stored up here. It’s been my bedroom for only a month. I slept in the nursery with the A and Z twins when we first got here because they were afraid of ghosts and our creepy old house. But maybe they—-like Mom—-are getting used to this place?
The thought makes me shudder. I like my attic room because of the privacy. Plus, it’s the only room that isn’t ice cold, since all the heat rises up to me. But I don’t like much else about this old prison of a mansion.
One of the props, Silly Sally, is sitting in the rocker by the door as I leave. She’d be perfect for the ladies’ department at Macy’s if it weren’t for the gaping chest wound in her frilly pink blouse. “I hate you,” I tell her, batting at the other mannequin body parts descending from the rafters like some odd canopy. She smiles as if the feeling is mutual. I give her a kick on the way out.
Despite the morbid stories about this place, I don’t ever worry about ghosts. After all, I have Sawyer, and he is worse.
As I climb down the stairs, listening to the kids chattering in the nursery, I notice the money, accompanied by a slip of paper, on the banister’s square newel post. The car keys sit atop the pile. Before I can ask, Mom calls, “I need you to go to the store for us. OK, Seda, my little kumquat?”
I blink, startled, and it’s not because of the stupid nickname. I don’t have a license, just a learner’s permit. My mom had me driving all over the place when we first came here, but that was back then. Back when this was a simple two--week jaunt to get an old house she’d inherited ready for sale. There wasn’t another car in sight, so she figured, why not? She’s all about giving us kids experiences, about making sure we aren’t slaves to our iPhones, like so many of my friends back home. My mother’s always marching to her own drummer, general consensus be damned, usually to my horror. But back then, I had that thrilling, invincible, first--days--of--summer--vacation feeling that made anything seemed possible. Too bad that was short lived.
We’ve been nestled at Bug House like hermits for months. Well, that’s not totally true. Mom has made weekly trips down the mountain, alone, to get the mail and a gallon of milk and make phone calls to civilization. We were supposed to go back to Boston before school started, but that time came and went, and there’s no way we’re getting off this mountain before the first snow.
I peer out the window. The first dainty flakes are falling from the sky.
Snow. Oh God. Snow.

Set in a perfectly creepy and completely isolated old mansion, Cyn Balog’s Alone is a spooky and entertaining story filled with some of my favorite things about horror stories and movies.

Seda Helm’s mother has moved the entire family to a creepy mansion in the middle of nowhere that was once a murder mystery hotel but that has fallen into disrepair. While Seda’s mother dreams of selling the falling apart & strange home she inherited to someone who will again open it up as a mystery hotel, Seda dreams of returning to her former home in Boston where she had friends…and wifi…and her dad.

Now Seda spends her days looking after and entertaining her younger brothers and sisters as they slowly become accustomed to their unusual and isolated surroundings. When a blizzard strands a group of teenagers at the mansion with the Helm family, things start taking a strange and unexpected turn as the small group embarks on a murder mystery scavenger hunt of their own courtesy of Seda’s mom. But what starts out as a fun, spooky way to pass time and entertain Seda’s siblings soon turns to something a bit more sinister.

Alone is an entertaining and atmospheric horror story that reminded me of some of my favorite horror stories and movies.  Isolated location, spooky house, creepy kids, family secrets, unsuspecting's got all of the makings of a great horror story. And while it gets off to a bit of a slow start, things begin to pick up and the tension soon builds with each page. Seda, our narrator who is just the right amount of strange, seems to be keeping some secrets that aren't all obvious to readers, but you just know they are there. And you know something is going to happen, but you're not sure what or when, so you're constantly on edge waiting to see and wondering what Seda or the house will reveal. I forced myself not to skip ahead or read the ending first as I sometimes do and was so happy that I didn't. As events slowly unraveled and things took a deadly turn toward the unusual, the story became something I wasn't expecting, but I truly enjoyed it right down to the very last page. As I said, it was all reminiscent of some of my favorite classic horror films…but I don't want to say too much...even though I'm dying to (no pun intended).

But I will say that I absolutely love the idea of a murder mystery hotel. I love mysteries, scavenger hunts, and solving puzzles and it seems like such a fun idea. I really enjoyed how the author incorporated it into the plot allowing readers to explore the creepy and fascinating house that Seda’s family inhabits. The details, twists, and descriptions were such a treat, as were the characters and overall story. Although, Seda's murder mystery might have been a little too real for some.

And “Bug House,” as Seda calls it, it is almost a character itself.  Balog really brought it to life with her detailed descriptions. Seda’s great aunt and uncle set it up perfectly as a sort of haunted mansion from its spooky decor with scratched wallpaper and fake blood and body parts scattered throughout the place. There are even scary stories and legends associated with each room. You never know what is real and what is not when it comes to the estate's history. It sounds like an amazingly perfect and entertaining place to visit…briefly. Not sure I could live there. But Seda and her unusual family are fans of all things horror so it almost sounds like it was fate they ended up there.

Overall, Alone is the type of book perfect for fans of creepy YA horror stories set in spooky, isolated locales.

*I received a free digital ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.*

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Monday, November 6, 2017

Blog Tour: This Mortal Coil by Emily Suvada...Review, Favorite Quotes, & Giveaway!

So excited because today is my stop on This Mortal Coil Blog Tour!
Keep reading to learn more about this fascinating SciFi story that I loved, to check out my review, and to see a few of my favorite quotes!
Plus, you can enter to win your own copy!

This Mortal Coil
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release Date: November 7th 2017
Genre: Young Adult, Fiction, Science Fiction


In this gripping debut novel, seventeen-year-old Cat must use her gene-hacking skills to decode her late father’s message concealing a vaccine to a horrifying plague.

Catarina Agatta is a hacker. She can cripple mainframes and crash through firewalls, but that’s not what makes her special. In Cat’s world, people are implanted with technology to recode their DNA, allowing them to change their bodies in any way they want. And Cat happens to be a gene-hacking genius.

That’s no surprise, since Cat’s father is Dr. Lachlan Agatta, a legendary geneticist who may be the last hope for defeating a plague that has brought humanity to the brink of extinction. But during the outbreak, Lachlan was kidnapped by a shadowy organization called Cartaxus, leaving Cat to survive the last two years on her own.

When a Cartaxus soldier, Cole, arrives with news that her father has been killed, Cat’s instincts tell her it’s just another Cartaxus lie. But Cole also brings a message: before Lachlan died, he managed to create a vaccine, and Cole needs Cat’s help to release it and save the human race.

Now Cat must decide who she can trust: The soldier with secrets of his own? The father who made her promise to hide from Cartaxus at all costs? In a world where nature itself can be rewritten, how much can she even trust herself?

Emily Suvada was born and raised in Australia, where she went on to study mathematics and astrophysics. She previously worked as a data scientist, and still spends hours writing algorithms to perform tasks which would only take minutes to complete on her own. When not writing, she can be found hiking, cycling, and conducting chemistry experiments in her kitchen. She currently lives in Portland, OR, with her husband.

To be completely honest, I’m not quite sure how to describe what I just read, but I do know I enjoyed every bit of it. This Mortal Coil is unlike anything I've read and completely fascinated me from start to finish..I just couldn't put it down. This is a complex story that is going to be a hard one to review without spoilers, but I shall do my best.

In a world where everyone and everything can be (and is) genetically modified through technology, hacker Catarina Agata and millions of others are struggling to survive Hydra, a deadly virus that is sweeping the world. Catarina’s world is turned upside-down when her father, a world-renowned geneticist, is kidnapped by Cartaxus, an organization that wants him to find a cure for the deadly virus. 

After two years of struggling to survive on her own while hiding from the organization that took her father, once again Catarina's world is shaken when a Cartaxus soldier appears supposedly with a message from her father. Suddenly Catarina’s thrown into the thick of things as her hacking skills and more are needed to unlock the cure to the deadly virus. The problem is the more she learns, the more questions she has. Now Catarina isn't sure who to trust and is more confused than ever.

As Catarina works to complete her father’s mission, she uncovers things that confuse her and make her realize that things might not be what she has been led to believe.  Sheltered much of her life, she has been raised to believe one thing about herself, her father, and his past, and only has her father’s version of events to go by, who obviously is probably a bit biased. Plus her own views on Cartaxus and their work is colored by her experiences and what others have taught her.

As the story progresses and new information is revealed, suddenly Catarina is not quite sure what to believe or who to trust and it’s very difficult for her. It was interesting to see what she discovers and her reactions to everything she discovers. She is definitely an intriguing character...independent, intelligent, and greatly affected by her past and the world around her.  Yet, despite her tough and fierce exterior, she still has managed to maintain a grasp on humanity and all of the emotions that come with it. With only her point of view in the story, we are as unsure as she is about what might truly be going on and each new discovery gives not only Catarina a glimpse at the truth and answers to what is happening, but readers as well. This makes for a very exciting read and adventure.

And This Mortal Coil is definitely exciting…from the very first page until the last, the excitement and thrill of the story never really slows.  Each new discovery or revelation brings new challenges and more characters are introduced making for a complex yet cohesive story and world that keeps you guessing as to what might happen next.

With This Mortal Coil, Emily Suvada has not only created a fascinating world that could plausibly become the future as technology becomes more and more advanced and a part of life and as new scientific discoveries are made, but she has also managed to show the dangers that come with such advances and gives a glimpse of the negative effects it could have on humanity. She does this not only with the main plot of the story, but with little details such as DRM food or weaponized nanites. 

To be honest with you, This Mortal Coil is filled with quite a bit of scientific and technological terms and concepts that some may find to be too much, but I found it all to be fascinating and was mesmerized by the author’s vision of modified genetics and technology. Just don't ask me to explain how any of it works…my geekery only goes so far.  But all of Suvada’s ideas manage to come together to create a story that I couldn't wait to see what would happen next. Her imagination and knowledge is a little bit terrifying and a lot brilliant. 

With all of the technology and science mumbo jumbo there is still, at the core of this story, emotion, heart, and a connection between characters that goes beyond all of that. Suvada managed to portray the intricacies of human emotions such as kindness, compassion, and love as well as pain, regret, and sadness through her all of characters. Despite all of their technological advances and genetic modifications, they are still human. I couldn't help but become connected to the characters and invested in their story...I felt their heartache, disappointment, joy, fear, and excitement.  

And the apocalyptic world Suvada describes is like something straight out of a sci-fi/horror movie. From the virus and how it affects people to what people can do for temporary immunity, it was all so gruesome and dramatic, I could feel the desperation that motivated the characters to find a cure.  And it's such an intense story with something happening every minute and so many surprises. You never know what to expect nor do the characters.  

This Mortal Coil is a riveting story that I'm not likely to forget any time soon and definitely one I'd recommend to sci-fi fans.
*I received a free digital copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.*
It was so hard to find quotes that wouldn't spoil the story as each page seemed to reveal something new and relevant to the plot, but I tried my best and here are a few quotes that really stood out to me…

1 copy of THIS MORTAL COIL by Emily Suvada 
US Only 

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Blog Tour: Eight Days on Planet Earth by Cat Jordan...Character Interview & Giveaway!

Haven't had a chance to read this one yet, but today I am pleased to be part of the Blog Tour for Cat Jordan’s Eight Days on Planet Earth.
Cat was kind enough to share an interview with main character Matty Jones, so keep reading to learn not only more about what sounds like a fascinating story about a young man and an encounter that changes his life, but to also get a chance to “meet” this young man…
Eight Days on Planet Earth
by Cat Jordan
Genre: YA Contemporary Fiction
Release date: November 7th 2017
Publisher: HarperTeen

Summary from Goodreads:

A heart-wrenching romance full of twists that are sure to bring tears to readers’ eyes, from Cat Jordan, author of The Leaving Season.

How long does it take to travel twenty light years to Earth?

How long does it take to fall in love?

To the universe, eight days is a mere blip, but to Matty Jones, it may be just enough time to change his life.

On the hot summer day Matty’s dad leaves for good, a strange girl suddenly appears in the empty field next to the Jones farm—the very field in rural Pennsylvania where a spaceship supposedly landed fifty years ago. She is uniquely beautiful, sweet, and smart, and she tells Matty she’s waiting for 
her spaceship to pick her up and return her to her home planet. Of course she is.

Matty has heard a million impossible UFO stories for each of his seventeen years: the conspiracy theories, the wild rumors, the crazy belief in life beyond the stars. When he was a kid, he and his dad searched the skies and studied the constellations. But all of that is behind him. Dad’s gone—but now there’s Priya. She 
must be crazy…right?

As Matty unravels the mystery of the girl in the field, he realizes there is far more to her than he first imagined. And if he can learn to believe in what he 
can’t see: the universe, aliens…love…then maybe the impossible is possible, after all.
About the Author
When I was a teenager, the very first book I ever tried to write was pretentious and stilted and set in a future where there was no paper. Obviously, I fancied myself another Ray Bradbury (who I was thrilled to meet not once but twice!). The book had an awesome title and no plot but I had the most fun creating the characters and the world they lived in. That to me is the most enjoyable part of writing a novel: envisioning a world and populating it with all kinds of people and dogs. Gotta have a dog.

The worlds I create now as an adult are based on my travels from coast to coast in the US, to Europe and Mexico and Canada, and on the people I have met and loved and admired and feared. And dogs.

Currently I live in Los Angeles. With my dog.
Author Links:
And now here is author Cat Jordan with a brief interview with Matty Jones…

David Matthew Jones is from a small town in Pennsylvania. At seventeen, he has absolutely zero plans for himself other than to finish high school but before he can do that, he has to get through a boring summer.

Matty: Now wait a minute, I don’t have zero plans.

Cat: So you do have plans?

Matty: Well, not, like, specifically right now. You’ve kind of put me on the spot. I mean, I have ideas. Ideas are like plans, aren’t they? Besides, I have a whole year to figure it out. I’m not graduating until next year.

Cat: But you are graduating?

Matty: You sound like my mother. Geez, of course I’m graduating. Maybe Brian and I will go into business together. Doing, I don’t know, something cool.

Cat: So tell me about yourself. Tell me something you want people to know about you.

Matty: Me? Like what?

Cat: Well, what do you look for in a girlfriend?

Matty: Why would I want anyone to know that?

Cat: Humor me and answer the question.

Matty: I guess…I don’t know…she’s gotta like me, for one thing.

Cat: She has to like you? That’s it?

Matty: If a girl likes me, then I’m pretty much going to like her back.

Cat: What else? Tall? Short? Curvy? Slender?

Matty: I’m not that shallow, Cat. Please. I mean, yeah, Emily is pretty and all but she’s smart and she can do a ton of things really well and she can be really snarky sometimes which is funny as long as it’s not directed at me. Oh wait, don’t tell people I like her. If she hears that--

Cat: I’m pretty sure she knows already.

Matty: Yeah, you’re right. (laughs) She definitely knows.

Cat: So tell me something else about yourself.

Matty: I like pizza. I like baseball. Watching, not playing. I like my dog, Ginger. I like riding my dirt bike and hanging out with Bri and Em. I’m pretty good at playing videogames and I know how to tie knots.

Cat: That’s a weird skill.

Matty: Brian and I were Cub Scouts for about a month and that’s where I learned. I can also start a fire with a magnifying glass. That was by accident.

Cat: Your parents—

Matty: Yeah, I have a couple of those. Mom is a nurse, works in the ER at the hospital. Dad…well, he used to be a farmer like my grandfather but…

Cat: But what?

Matty: Look around you. Do you see a thriving business? Hardly. When I was a kid, Bri and I used to play hide and seek in the cornfield. It was massive and so much fun. Ginger would jump over the fence and chase the chickens we used to have, which was hilarious. She wouldn’t do anything to them but I think she liked to see them flap their wings. (laughs) Being a kid? It was fun. Lots of fun.

Cat:  That field is something special, huh?

Matty: Are you one of those people? Is that what this is about?

Cat: No! I’m just curious.

Matty: It’s just a field. Okay? How many times do I have to tell you people? Aliens did not land there fifty years ago. It is a lame piece of land that belongs to the government. I mean, technically we’re not even supposed to walk through it, although people do it all the time. I don’t know what they would do to us if we were caught.

Cat: Take us to Area 51?

Matty: That’s not real either! I think I’m going to end this here.

Cat: What? Why?

Matty: Have fun in the field, okay? And if a spaceship comes to get you, try not to get probed, if you know what I mean.

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