Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Interview and GIVEAWAY with author NATALIE STAR

The Keeper is Natalie Star's debut novel, which I had the pleasure of reviewing recently. My 5 star review here.  Here's a little background information from the author herself:
When I'm not reading or writing, I can be found with my husband supporting my two children on the soccer fields. Or maybe running around with my camera taking photos while camping and/or hiking. Or lastly, and most probable - I'm watching movies on Netflix while simultaneously perusing Facebook.  Our family resides in the state of Virginia along with our old-unintelligent-diabetic cat named Lucky.

So, Natalie....
*I read that you only started getting into books about 3 yrs ago.  What was the catalyst that caused this change in your life, that drew you to reading and writing?
One word...Twilight. I read it to see what my pre-teen daughter was reading, and that was all it took. I fell in love with the young adult vampire genre, and began reading one novel after another. I've since moved on from vamps, and read about other supernaturals now :) 

*Where did the name of your protagonist, Billie, come from?
In my mind, my main character needed to have a unisex name. One that might upset her if she were to get picked on for it, and one that would make her want to feel more feminine. I had my family help me compile a list of names. Billie was the name that jumped out at me of about 25 names. 

*Tell us about how Billie's story came about?
In The Keeper prologue, there is a brief scene with a young girl experiencing something unusual. This scene was actually from a dream I had. My imagination just took off from there.

*One of the things I loved about Billie's character was her attitude, is she modeled after someone you know?
No, actually none of the characters are. 

*Billie is torn between 2 great guys, I imagine a love triangle is difficult to write, is this something you've had personal experience with?
No, I found my husband when I was 15, and been with him ever since. I've picked up what I know about love triangles from books, television, and movies. I'm what you could call an emotional audience, and I have an empathy for characters that runs deep. This carries over into my writing.

*Your book is YA paranormal, but without the ever-popular vampires, faeries, werewolves and such, how has the journey been getting The Keeper recognition?
It's been a lot of work trying to get The Keeper out there. It's in a pretty popular genre, but it's also not the typical paranormal that readers have come to love, and on top of that, I'm a debut author and no one has ever heard of me before. Those three things combined make it difficult, but with bloggers and reviewers (like yourself), it helps a great deal. I appreciate all you guys do for authors. 

*Describe your writing process.  Do you listen to music while you write?  Are you in seclusion?
To write I need absolute silence. I usually wait until my husband goes to his night job, and my children go to sleep. I shut off everything except the laptop, and I dim the overhead lights.  

*What 5 words would you use to describe yourself.
Kind, helpful, frugal, silly, and fun. 

*What are your favorite books and who are your favorite authors?
I LOVE young adult paranormal & urban fantasy stories! My fave authors...too many to list, but here are some of them; Rachel Caine, Richelle Mead, Cassandra Clare, Maggie Stiefvater, Becca Fitzpatrick, and Julie Kagawa. 

*What interesting jobs have you had before becoming a published author?
As a teen I worked for an insurance company, ice cream shop, and held a host of positions at the local movie theater. As an adult, my husband was in the military for twenty years so we were constantly moving. Each job was unique; bank teller, customer service and loan counselor/officer for a credit union. Did a stint as a stay at home mom (best job ever - hardest, too)! I worked daycare at a gym. I was a preschool teacher. I cleaned houses, and I worked customer service for a tax company. Since then, to be able to keep up with my family's crazy schedule, I only do volunteer work at the kids schools. It's not a paycheck, but I like to help, and it gets me out of the house.  

*What are you currently working on?  What's next for you?
The novel I'm diligently working on right now, is the next installment in the world of The Keeper. I can't tell you the title, it's too spoiler-ish. I still have to submit it to the publisher, so it isn't a done deal, far from it. Other than that, I have two more YA novels started, but I've put them on hold for now. I will say, one of those is the third and final story of The Keeper. I never meant for it to be a series, it just happened. The characters insisted on it. 

Thank you so much, Natalie!  You are awesome.

Natalie is giving away an ebook of The Keeper along with some signed swag.  YAY!  Being that I like to keep things simple, in order to enter this giveaway all you have to do is leave a comment about this interview or about the book itself at the bottom of this post.   In order to be considered, you MUST be a listed follower of my blog.  Contest closes March 30 at midnight.  A winner will be chosen using  Open international.  Buena suerte! Good luck!

Review of WATCHED

Watched by Cindy M. Hogan
Series Book 1 in Watched Series
Summary via Goodreads
It takes more than a school trip to Washington, D.C. to change fifteen-year-old Christy's life. It takes murder.
A witness to the brutal slaying of a Senator's aide, Christy finds herself watched not only by the killers and the FBI, but also by two hot boys.
She discovers that if she can't help the FBI, who want to protect her, it will cost her and her new friends their lives.

My Review: 5/5
Fifteen year old Christy Hadden is book-smart, shy, unpopular, boring and never been kissed.  That is, until she wins a scholarship that pays for 2 weeks touring Washington D.C.  This trip means Christy can start fresh and be someone else for a change.  Especially, when she's accepted into the circle of cool, good-looking kids, for the first time in her life.  In order to maintain their acceptance, she goes against her better judgement and joins them in sneaking out of their hotel at night for a game.  Things go terribly wrong when she and her new friends become witnesses to a murder.  The FBI assures them that they're well protected and being watched.  But, Christy knows they're not the only ones watching.   With no arrests made, how safe can they be with terrorists on the loose?

As if that isn't enough to preoccupy Christy's mind, her existence is  FINALLY being noticed by the opposite sex.  Not one, but TWO incredibly hot guys are vying for her attention.  This can't possibly sit well with the other girls, can it?  Like she doesn't have enough to worry about as it is.  

With killers closing in on her, will she survive long enough to see justice served?  And with zero experience in the romance department, how can she know which guy is for her?  Or if she's even READY for a relationship?

I really and truly enjoyed this book from beginning to end.  Seriously hooked from page 1!  If the sequel, PROTECTED (which I'm about to begin when I'm done with this review), is as good as WATCHED, this series will be well on it's way to finding a spot on my Favorite YA Series list.

This book has everything it needs to be a great YA book - strong protagonist, suspense, mystery, thrills, lots of action, chase scenes, intrigue, angst and romance.

Cindy captures the teenage mind really well.  Christy's internal dialogue was spot on with how teenagers work through wants vs. needs and begin to get a feel for the strength of their own character.  She finds herself questioning what her beliefs really are.  What does that make you when you believe strongly in certain principles and judge others accordingly, then when tested, discover you didn't adhere to those principles?  She learns the hard way that it's easier to judge people from an outside perspective, but when you find yourself in someone else's shoes, things aren't always so clear cut or black and white.

I really enjoyed the political element in this story, it reminded me of the movie, The Pelican Brief.  I'd describe this book as a Young Adult version of TPB, but with a romantic spin.  The story had intense moments and kept a great pace.  All the characters were vivid, well-rounded and realistic.  You WILL have your favorites!  I already know which ones I'm hoping make appearances in PROTECTED.  This is a really clean read that I recommend for teens AND adults.  You've got to pick this one up!

Purchase links for WATCHED:

Where to find Cindy M. Hogan:

Cindy M Hogan graduated from BYU with a B.A. in education. She is inspired by the unpredictable teenagers she teaches. She loves the outdoors and spending time with her husband and two daughters. Most of all, she loves to laugh.

Sunday, March 18, 2012


In My Mailbox is a meme created by The Story Siren and inspired by Alea of Pop Culture Junkie! It features a list of what books you have received over the previous week, either for review, from the library, or from the bookstore.
 Protected by Cindy M. Hogan Book 2 in the WATCHED series
She has the guy. The terrorists have been taken care of. She has a shot at becoming popular.
Life is great!
Until they find her.
Now she must run and leave behind everything she knows, including herself.

Open Minds by Susan Kaye Quinn Book 1 in the Open Minds series
Sixteen-year-old Kira Moore is a zero, someone who can’t read thoughts or be read by others. Zeros are outcasts who can’t be trusted, leaving her no chance with Raf, a regular mindreader and the best friend she secretly loves. When she accidentally controls Raf’s mind and nearly kills him, Kira tries to hide her frightening new ability from her family and an increasingly suspicious Raf. But lies tangle around her, and she’s dragged deep into a hidden world of mindjackers, where having to mind control everyone she loves is just the beginning of the deadly choices before her.

Undertow by Callie Kingston
 Marissa is nearly eighteen and can't wait to leave behind her traumatic past. With long time boyfriend Drake, she thinks she has her future all figured out--until she discovers his betrayal. She flees to a desolate beach on the wild Oregon coast hoping to escape her pain, where, overcome with emotional and physical exhaustion, she dozes off beside a log. When the first icy waves strike her, it is too late: a rogue wave drags her out to sea. Somehow she survives, and now each night she dreams of a creature who rescues her. Determined to discover the truth, her obsession deepens until she once again risks her life in the frigid ocean. Will the creature Marissa seeks save her? Will she be lost forever in the eddies of her mind, or will Jim, her new boyfriend, keep her from drowning in the abyss?

 What's in YOUR mailbox?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Review of THE KEEPER

The Keeper by Natalie Star
Summary via Goodreads
 The morning of her sixteenth birthday, Billie feels blessed despite the reoccurring nightmare that wakes her. Loving parents, a caring boyfriend, and great friends surround her until an heirloom necklace throws her into a world she never imagined.

“Gifted” with supernatural powers and an unexpected destiny as the Keeper, Billie and a mysterious boy from her past must work together to find answers. But, as they begin to discover feelings for one another, he disappears leaving her to fight evil alone. Her life spirals out of control. She breaks up with her boyfriend, Tony, and alienates her best friends Arianna and Jocelyn to protect them from the truth.

As dark forces pursue her, Billie longs to run away from it all, yet a need to do what’s right compels her to face the future as the keeper of more than her own fortune.

My Review:  5/5
Wow! I loved this bookI immediately took to Natalie Star's writing style. It was clean, simple and direct with just the right amount of description to allow the reader to become submerged in the story.  She had me from page one and never let me go.  I'm still riding on the just-finished-a-good-book high.

The story begins with the protagonist, Billie, turning 16.  She wakes up from the same nightmare she has every year on her birthday.  She does her best to shrug it off and go through her normal day at home and at school.  She has 2 best friends, Arianna and Jocelyn, and a loving, attentive boyfriend, Tony.  Her family life is picture perfect too.  Yet, she feels like she doesn't quite fit in, she's just going through the motions.  Then, an emo-type boy who's been in the same classes with Billie since Kindergarten, who she's NEVER spoken to till this day, drops a bomb on her.  She's special, she's chosen......she has a destiny.   And he is her Watchman.  She learns his name is Tyler and he's been watching her for years, waiting till she was ready to learn the truth.  From this day on, Billie's life is in upheaval.  It's a roller coaster ride as she's "gifted" with multiple powers, learning to wield them to protect herself and those she loves from the evil that relentlessly pursues her.  She faces all of this while trying to keep her love life straight.  She's developing deep feelings for her Watchman, but can their relationship have any real future?

Billie is a fun, cool character, someone I would've loved to have hung out with in high school.  She has major attitude and is no-nonsense.  She has a kind of I-don't-have-time-for-stupid-people outlook.   I found it refreshing and entertaining.  When she's first introduced, her attitude causes more trouble for her than good.  But, as the story progresses her attitude becomes useful and is one of her many strengths.  It gets her through a lot of the adversity she encounters.  She's funny, honest, sarcastic and sometimes cutthroat.  People should NOT get on her bad side or in her way.  She's aware of her status as "bitchy girl" at school and it bothers her not one iota.  But somehow it's endearing, especially with her softer side.  She's very relatable.  I took an instant liking to Billie and I was rooting for her all the way.  

Every one of the characters in this book is distinct and likable, even the bad ones.  If you read this book and see how difficult it would've been to keep certain characters distinct, you'll recognize what a talent Natalie Star is.  I don't know how many authors could've pulled off such an intricate storyline with some very complicated characters like she did.  She made it flow perfectly and seem easy, and I can't help but be impressed with where her imagination and writing skills led her.

What I liked the most about this book were all the risks the author took with the whole storyline.  The twists and turns could've proved fatal to the book in someone else's hands, but in hers, they paid off big time. I thought I had a sense of where the story might head, and then it would end up somewhere totally different than I expected, in a good way.  It wasn't predictable, but a continuity was maintained and she stayed true to the story and the characters to the very end.  I also got the closure I'm always looking for at the end of a book.  I'm definitely picking up whatever Natalie Star releases next.

There is some mild language, the "s" word is used a few times, and the intimate scenes, though steamy, were kept to what I'd call a PGish rating.  I'd say they were HOT as well as tastefully done.  I recommend this book to jr. high aged kids and adults.  Very fun and enjoyable!

Purchase links for THE KEEPER:
Barnes and Noble
Where to find NATALIE STAR:

Thursday, March 8, 2012


Today is Jamie McHenry's birthday and the debut of his novel, ON FALLEN WINGS!  This author and father of 5 is celebrating by giving away the kindle version for three days and also holding a contest for the paperback version.  Two lucky winners will walk away with a SIGNED copy of  Jamie's novel! This contest will run through Saturday and he'll announce the winners on next Monday's post.  So hop on over to his website to submit your entry.

For the free Kindle version click HERE.

Blurb via Goodreads:
Faeries are supposed to be perfect.
Rhiannon was. Her life was. Then her fiancé disappeared.
She tried to be strong. She asked for help. There’s only so much trying and asking will do.
So, she took action.
That’s when everything fell apart.

 Sounds terrific, right?  I'm getting my Kindle version right now.  Happy birthday, Jamie!  And best of luck with your novel!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Interview with author SHAY FABBRO

Dr. Shay Fabbro

Me.. . . .don't you say it!

Now that I've given you accurate visuals, picture this. . . . .
Shay and I are sitting in the corner of a quiet little cafe, legs tucked under us, each with a soft throw across our laps, enjoying a slice of the best raspberry cheesecake known to man, as she graciously answers some of my questions in relation to her book, Dangerous Reflections.  At least that's how I'd like to envision this interview taking place (no one burst my bubble, please). 

If you missed it, you can read my review of the first book in her time travel themed YA series HERE.      

The protagonist in her YA book, Alexis Davenport, has got it rough.  Her dad wiped out her mom's bank account, leaving them penniless and then took off.  What a winner, eh?  In order to survive, Alex and her mom move to a different city and into her mom's estranged sister's guesthouse.  Saying she's not a happy camper is an understatement.  To top things off, Alex is seeing strange people in the mirror from different periods in history and then being sent back in time to inhabit their bodies. 

Around a mouthful of cheesecake, I ask Shay the following: 

* What led you to write this book?  Why this genre?
I have always loved scifi and fantasy, ever since I was a child. My dad and I used to watch the old Star Trek together. I had a dream while in grad school and the more I thought about it, the more I realized I was building something that could potentially be a novel.

* Why do you think you're able to perfectly capture the teenage voice?  Because Alexis embodies every teenager I know and what I remember sounding like too.
I had a tough time with that one! Writing adult scifi/fantasy is quite different from writing YA fantasy. Thankfully, I got some great advise early on that helped me forge my way into the YA genre. And I really watched a lot of teenagers to see how they talked with one another (minus all the cuss words of course) and just remembered what it was like back in high school. Kids change every year but there are always things about teens that remain the same.

* Are any of your characters modeled after people you know?
There is a LOT of me in Alexis. It was difficult at times revisiting some of the more painful times of my teen years, although for me,  my most awkward times were the middle school years. I was bullied and had to deal with the crush that never noticed I was alive. But it’s all good. In the words of Garth Brooks: “Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers”. I am so secure and happy in my life right now and have the best husband in the universe!

* Would you consider yourself a history buff like Alex?  Do you have a passion for it?
Actually, I didn’t have a passion for history until Alexis wormed her way into my brain. I am a scientist (I teach biology classes at Colorado Mesa University) so I have always been more fascinated with that subject. My husband is a history buff and through his passion, I have grown to appreciate the subject. 

* If you had a capability like Alex's, which time period would you be hoping to visit?
I’d want to go back to see either ancient Egypt or Rome. I can’t imagine how cool it would be to see these places in person! 

* What famous person in history would you most like to meet? 
Honestly? I would go back to visit the time of Jesus. It would be so amazing to follow him and hear him speak, watch him perform miracles, be there after he was Resurrected. 
* Do you have any specific ancestors you'd like to meet? 
I am actually directly related to Charlemagne, the King of France and also directly related to Meriwether Lewis of Lewis and Clark. It would so awesome to go back and have dinner and drinks with those guys! Especially if I could take my cell phone back with me and show them what life is like in the 21st century!

* Your ideal guy?
Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn. Or perhaps Gerard Butler in 300! :D

* Describe your perfect day. 
Sitting in a beautiful mountain landscape, listening to the wind whispering through the aspen leaves, feeling the warmth of the sun, basking in the splendor of the universe. Being in the mountains renews my soul and it’s where I am able to really connect to my characters. 

* What are you currently reading?
I am reading a book called The Camera Guy by Richard Goodship. He used to be a forensic photographer so this book details what that job is like. Fascinating!

* What are your favorite books, movies?  Who is your favorite author?
I would say that JRR Tolkein is my favorite author of all time. I have read his books so many times I have lost count and I always discover something new and amazing every time I pick them up. As far as movies? That’s a tough one! I would have to say the original three Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Oooo and The Fifth Element, Wrath of Khan, Lord of the Rings trilogy, Indiana Jones, Terminator, Aliens...
* Do you have any secret talents? 
Sadly, I really don’t!

* What's next for you or what are you working on?
I am currently doing the final edits for the second book of the Alexis Davenport series, Twisted Reflections! This book will be more intense as Alex  learns more about her strange gift of time travel as well as her life spiraling out of control. I am also working on the final book of my adult scifi/fantasy trilogy (Portals of Destiny).

Thank you so much, Shay.  I think you're fabulous and so so sweet!  I should also mention that it's freakin me out a little that I would've answered about 80% of the questions exactly as you did.  I'd be thinking long lost twin, except, as you can see from the above picture, I have naturally pink hair.  There goes that theory.  We should definitely imagine another cafe meeting/interview sometime.

Here's a peek at the cover of Twisted Reflections, to be released at the end of March (Woot! Woot!).
If you've read the book, like me, your mind is jumping to all sorts of conclusions trying to figure out what scenario the cover is depicting.
 Shay will be giving away (1) DANGEROUS REFLECTIONS ebook to a follower of my blog!  My very first giveaway, thank you, Shay.  The contest begins March 7, 2012 and ends March 13, 2012 at midnight.  To enter, you MUST be listed as a follower of my blog (Leave Mommy Alone), if you aren't already, then simply leave a comment on this blog post (Interview with Shay Fabbro).  Easy!  A winner will be chosen using RANDOM.ORG.  Please add your email address with your comment so you can be notified if you win.  If you don't feel comfortable adding your email address on a comment, send it to my email arla4mom(dot)cook(at)gmail(dot)com   I will announce a winner within 48 hrs of contest closing and forward your email address to Shay so she can hook you up. Open internationally.  Buena suerte!>>>Good luck!

Find Shay:
Purchase links for Dangerous Reflections

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


Dangerous Reflections by Shay Fabbro
Series: Book 1 in Alexis Davenport series
Alexis Davenport wants to go home. She hates her new school, her mother for moving her away from her friends, living in her aunt's guesthouse, and her father for walking out.
To make matters worse, Alex is haunted by the images of strange girls reflected in her mirror. It is bad enough juggling homework, a relentless bully, boys, and a deadbeat dad.
Now, she must save the world from an evil presence hell-bent on changing the past - and our futures. Who knew her A+ in history was going to be this important?

My Review:  4/5
Being a teenager is tough.  Even when your circumstances are ideal.   But when you add dysfunctional family and poverty to the mix, life REALLY sucks.  Just ask Alexis Davenport.  She's been left penniless and abandoned by her father, uprooted from her home, separated from her friends and transferred to a new school, all because her parents can't get their act together.  Sounds harsh, right?   Well, to make matters worse, Alexis starts seeing things that make her question her sanity.  There are girls, who are definitely not her, looking back at her in the mirror.  Great!  That's just what she needs!

Cue the entrance of a hot new crush, who really gets her blood pumping, the evil popular girl hell bent on humiliating her, who, oh yeah, also happens to be dating said crush and you've got 4 yrs of high school anxiety doled out in the span of months.  Then, as if simply seeing strange people isn't enough to freak her out, she's being painfully transported back in time against her will.

I don't know if there's any other person better suited to save the day than Alex.  She's a smart cookie with great instincts.  It would be one thing if Alex could travel through time, walk around and appreciate or experience things she's only read about in her history books (she's a big history buff after all), but no, her situation won't be that simple.  She's being sent back for a purpose.  And the stakes are high.  Like she doesn't have enough to deal with as it is.

It's heartbreaking to witness her experience the emotions and hurt that come with the realization that a parent has abandoned you.  It's not like she and her father, Gary, were close to begin with.  But, to a child it should feel like a given that your parents love you and consider your welfare above theirs, no matter what happens in their lives.  She doesn't necessarily want anything to do with him, but that doesn't mean the desire to feel wanted isn't there.

It took me a few chapters to get into this book, when I did, I loved it.  Shay Fabbro perfectly captures the voice of a teenager.  I laughed quite a bit as Alex has bouts of ungratefulness, tantrums, sulking, outbursts, thinking she knows it all, all while struggling not to wear all her emotions on her sleeve.  Sounds familiar, right?  Like maybe every emotionally unstable, sullen teenager out there.  But, Alex isn't a bad kid.  On the contrary, she's very well-rounded.  Especially considering the circumstances of her upbringing.  She's an excellent student, makes friends easily, holds down a job and shows a great deal of growth and maturity as the story develops.  I really enjoyed her inner dialogue and she tries to juggle being a supportive daughter, a good friend, a dedicated student and a time traveler/hero.

What I liked best about this book is that although Alex can travel back in time, her REAL super power is her intellect and her willingness to follow her instincts.  I rally behind any book that empowers girls to wield their intelligence instead of their looks.  I hated for the book to end with no sequel at the ready (patience isn't my greatest virtue...the sequel is due to be released at the end of this month, for goodness sakes!), especially with the terrific cliffhanger we're left with.  I would recommend this book series to everyone Jr. High age and up.

Interview with author Shay Fabbro and giveaway of a copy of her ebook starting tomorrow!

Purchase links for Dangerous Reflections
Barnes and Noble 
Find Shay Fabbro on the web: 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

New Cover of Nightshade Series Prequel REVEALED!

Andrea Cremer, author of the best-selling Nightshade series, has just revealed the cover of her new book, RIFT, which prequels Nightshade.
Before Calla Tor, there was Ember Morrow

Sixteen-year-old Lady Ember Morrow fulfills a family obligation by joining her friend Alistair in the Conatus Guard and begins training to help with the order’s true mission, to seek out and stop evildoers and their unnatural creations.

RIFT is scheduled to be released August 7, 2012!
(What's that?  You can't want to wait that long?  I'm sorry, there's nothing I can do.  Okay, FINE.  Click here for a taste.) 

Andrea gave MTV the exclusive, here's an excerpt of that interview:

And for those who had been following the story of Calla and her pack from "Nightshade" to "Wolfsbane," Andrea promised that "Rift" will reward their fluency with some connections that only a true fan can make: "I can't wait for readers to discover the ties between 'Nightshade''s present and the distant past. 'Rift' reveals how the Searchers and Keepers came into being and how the gateway between the earth and the nether was first opened. Readers who paid close attention to the history revealed in 'Wolfsbane' will recognize quite a few names and events."
Read the rest of the Andrea's interview here!