Linked by Susanne Valenti

Linked

Goodreads Blurb

In a world she never knew existed, Maya is coming to terms with how much her life has changed. Danger lurks around every corner, nothing is as she expects and she’s never felt so alive. But the choices she makes could change everything and jeopardise the things she cherishes most. There is so much to learn and so much to love but her heart is pulling her back. The Guardians are hiding in the shadow cast by their Wall, concealing the truth from the people inside. It’s a shadow that darkens her happiness and she can’t stop fighting until the truth comes to light. It would be easier to walk away but Maya has never run from anything and she’s not about to start now.

Review

I cannot stop reading these books. Chained and Linked are two of the best books I have read this year. I have fallen in love with all of the characters. Coal, Maya, Taylor, Laurie, Alicia, Hunter, etc. All of them. Even Crystal! Even though she’s hard to love.

This installment of the Cage of Lies series was even more action packed than the first book. Coal and Maya and the gang meet all kinds of people on the way to the city to save her parents. They run into the Creeper King again, Barlow and his crew of bandits, and the horsemen. The have a few new group members helping them get to the city as well. Crystal, Gregor, Luca, and Adam all have their own dark pasts and quirks.

They face new struggles and dangers that lurk in the wilderness. Some of the dangers, those outside The Wall like Coal’s group have never even com across before.There were so many adventures in this one book! The setting changed a lot and the group expanded, new bonds were formed. It was great. If the next book doesn’t come out soon I’ll have to reread these to get my fix.

I am so impressed with Valenti’s skill. She has truly woven an enchanting, whirlwind adventure. Reading these books make me want to go out and learn survival skills and how to be tough like Maya.

I like how gritty this series is. There’s nothing pretty in it. *Except Coal’s muscles. Those sound pretty hot.* Everything is survival of the toughest, and most determined. Which surprisingly turns out to be tiny Maya half the time. The tiniest are always the toughest though! They have more to prove.

I love how I thought the book was going to end one way and Valenti threw a curve ball and sent it a completely unexpected direction. I MUST READ THE NEXT BOOK. They suspense is driving me mad. I enjoy when writer’s do that, throw you off the trail and what not. I don’t think I could do it. I would get so invested in my characters that I would get too attached to them that I would be afraid to take chances. Knowing that I think that way makes me really appreciate brave writers.

I think readers of any dystopian stories would enjoy Valenti’s books. She takes the whole survival aspect of a dystopian world and takes it to a new level. The plot to this series is so amazing due to all of the rising actions building up to the climax. In a way, it’s like the reader hasn’t even gotten to the main climax yet. Hence why I’m sitting on my seat and getting ready to run straight to the next book as fast as I can. It can’t get here fast enough.

You can find Valenti here 🙂

You can find Linked here 🙂

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3 Day Weekend for Fair Day

I so needed this long weekend. Teaching is great but it’s a never ending job. Teachers never work 40 hours a week. NEVER.

Friday is always my “catch up on TV I missed during the week” night. My husband and my best friend/roommate were working late so I came home after school and watched Awkward, Scream Queens, Vampire Diaries, Teen Mom, and Finding Carter. I was a total couch potato and it was awesome. I made dinner in between and just relaxed.

Saturday was Educator Appreciation at Barnes & Noble so I talked Ricardo into going with me and Tab. We got free coffee, posters and pencils for our rooms and signed up for different teacher giveaways that Barnes & Noble was hosting. We took papers to grade and bought the new Rick Riordan book Magnus Chase: The Sword of Summer. I was going to buy the new illustrated Harry Potter book but it was $40! That’s a little much for me. I’ll have to get that one later.

Oh! And Barnes & Noble did a Blind Date with a Book for teachers. It was the first time I had ever participated in that. They wrap up all different kinds of books and just put a brief description of the plot on the front of the book and you have to decide on a book based off the plot without seeing the title, cover, or author. And you get them for free! Is that not the coolest thing you’ve heard of? I love nerdy book things like that.

Here’s the before. Mines the pink:

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And here are the books we got with our free coffee and passion tea! 🙂

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She got the Dead to Me novel and I got Dream a Little Dream. I think the cover is gorgeous! I’ve seen this book before. I remember walking by it once and the cover making me think of the 80’s movie Dream a Little Dream with Corey Haim and Corey Feldman.

Today was Sunday Funday of course and we went to the State Fair of Texas. It’s one of the biggest fairs in the country. If you like fried food you should definitely go. Each year the State Fair of Texas comes out with a new food to fry. One year it was Coca Cola, another it was friend Oreos, then fried butter, this year it was fried carrot cake and cheeseburgers. It’s amazing the things you come across.

We started out with a huge turkey leg and funnel cake with apples. For lunch Tab and Ricardo had pizza and I had nachos. I should have taken a picture of my achos because the chips were shaped as the state of Texas. So cute!

And of course, Tab and I had to get our faces painted! We stood in line with all the kids and I’m sure the other adults thought we were crazy. But face painting is one of the best parts of the fair! I’m pretty sure Ricardo was embarrassed!

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We got there pretty early and left after almost 4 hours of being there. It got super hot in the afternoon and we were stuffed on fair food. Unfortunately, I got a pretty wicked sunburned on the left side of my body. Super attractive! I know! It will eventually turn into a nice tan, right?

We have the day off in my school district tomorrow. Tomorrow is technically our Fair Day. I’m spending the day getting my nails done and driving to my grandparents to see them for awhile, and catching up on some reading of course. It will be nice to relax on a Monday! 🙂

Author Interview With Susanne Valenti

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Author Susanne Valenti sent me her new novel Chained at the end of September. (It came out October 1st.) Since then I have read it and her novella Cut Glass. She is a new dystopian author and the second book Linked, in her Cage of Lies series comes out soon. Her novels are fast paced and full of action. Valenti was also kind enough to answer a few interview questions for my blog. I am so excited to share these with you! 🙂
Why a Dystopian?
I’ve got a bit of an overactive imagination and I always find myself thinking things through beyond their realistic conclusion. For example, if I see a news report about an act of war I’ll start thinking about the worst possible way that could end up (nuclear wasteland where society used to be) and then I like to imagine the different ways that people might try to survive in such a world. It’s something I’ve always done and so making one of those words into a reality on paper just felt natural to me. 
Where do you begin your writing process? Do you start with an outline or do you free write?
I free write but I do spend half an hour scribbling down a plot in bullet holes in my notebook. Otherwise I’ll just end up going off on a tangent and as I’m writing a series I need to make sure I end up where I need to be. That doesn’t always mean I stick to it and I refuse to consult the outline until I’ve completed a first draft. Sometimes I’ll find things in my original plan which I forgot or I’ll end up going off on a tangent anyway! I like to let the story live its own life and sometimes things don’t feel right or sometimes new ideas take over and I just go with it.
I really love how all of your characters are so diverse in regards to personality. Do you base your characters off people you know? How do you do it!?
Thank you! I don’t base my characters off of anyone I know. I just spend a lot of time with them and make sure I give them all the attention they need. It’s hard to explain really but I don’t like to pigeon hole any of them. I think of them as real people who have real emotions just like anyone else and then I like to think a lot about their back story so that I have reasons for the way they are. So I’ll start with my ‘cardboard cutout’ idea of them and then flesh them out. This probably makes no sense so I’ll try to give you an example: So my cardboard cutout of Coal would be that he’s tall with black hair and eyes, good looking, cocky, tough and strong. But obviously that’s just an outline of a person not an actual living, breathing character. So then I think about him as a person: he’s closed off because he’s had to deal with a lot of loss in his life. He has a weakness for saving people because he couldn’t save his brother. He doesn’t sleep at night because he’s haunted by the things  that happened in his past. He’s strong because he can’t bear to rely on anyone else for protection and needs to be able to look after himself and his family. His sense of humour tends to be at the expense of others because he tries to keep a distance between himself and anyone else. He scowls a lot and frowns, a further attempt to block people out. And so on and so on. I like to give them habits too, like Alicia flicking her hair or Maya biting her lip. I also spend a lot of time considering the dynamics of the group and the interrelationships (including things that have happened in their past which will likely never even be written down). So I basically do that with every single character in my mind until I’m really sure of them and then make sure it’s consistent throughout!
Were your books ever rejected? Can you give aspiring authors advice on that?
Yes! I’ve been rejected more times than I can count! The main thing to remember is that it’s not necessarily a reflection on your work. I was lucky enough to get many encouraging responses from literary agents (they tell you they won’t give you any feedback so if you get some that’s a really good sign). The thing to remember is that even if they like it they might not take it on. They still have to think about where you’ll fit in their catalogue of authors, or where your book will fit with the other things that are out there. The main thing to remember is not to give up.
Where do you write and read?
Everywhere! I do all of my writing on my iPad (which I’ve been told is odd) I like the fact that I can just keep it with me and write whenever I can. I tend to sit on my couch in front of the tv when I do most of it (apparently that’s odd too but I hate a quiet room and I like to do two things at once). Reading is pretty much the same, my kindle or paperback will ride around in my handbag alongside my iPad and will make an appearance whenever I can find a spare minute. 
I see on your “About Me” page that you have a sister who writes too. Does she write the same genre you do?
She writes ya fantasy which is similar-ish. It’s amazing having a sister who writes too because we really push each other to make our books the very best they can be. We can talk through plot lines and issues with characters and anything else book related. And I’ve got an on-call editor to read, re-read, re-re-read and so on (I do it for her too). 
If you’re not writing where can we find you?
I love binge watching tv shows whilst working out when I’m at home or if can find five minutes I’ll be on my Xbox. I’m a big movie fan so I’m often at the cinema (especially for anything with Dwayne Johnson or a film version of a book). I also spend time with my friends who I’ve known since I was at school, and that often involves a glass or three of wine. Or I’ll be hanging out with my husband and our cats and dogs.
(I love Dwayne Johnson… I’m all about the Fast and Furious movies with him in them!)
What’s your favorite book and who’s your favorite author?
This is impossible to answer. I have favourites, not just one (you can ignore my English spelling there) so I’ll go with a few… Brent Weeks can do no wrong in my eyes, neither can Sarah J Maas and as for a favourite book I’d have to go with the Harry Potter series as a whole because it’s definitely what I’ve re-read the most so I can’t say anything else really comes close.
If you had to pick a fictional world to live in which would it be?
I think I’d have to say the Harry Potter world although I’m seriously tempted to be an Elf in Middle Earth, or a vampire because you can live forever but I’m vegetarian so that might cause a few issues… So I’ll go with Harry Potter and magic because that would be pretty awesome.
(This answer made me so happy. I love anything to do with Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter!)
What are you reading right now?
I’m reading A Clash Of Kings (Game of Thrones book 2). I’m really late to the party because I was saving myself for the tv show and I didn’t want spoilers. Now that the show has caught up with the books I decided to give in to the temptation and I’m so glad I did because they’re brilliant!

(This series is awesome! I’m so glad you jumped on the bandwagon!)

Chained

Buy Chained here 🙂

Find Susanne Valenti here 🙂

Cut Glass by Susanne Valenti

I had the privilege of getting to read another one of Susanne Valenti‘s new Cage of Lies stories. I recently read and reviewed Chained, the first book in the Cage of Lies series and yesterday I finished reading Cut Glass, a prequel novella that introduces one of the characters that will be in the series later.

Once I start these books I cannot put them down. 2015 has been a great year for books! I have come across so many new books and authors this year. I think it’s mostly from making myself break out of my reading comfort zone. I have gotten more comfortable (and enjoying!) contemporary, controversial, and darker books. I feel as if I have broadened my horizons with literature!

Cut Glass was a great quick read. It really appeals to the teen readers. It’s about a girl named Crystal who stumbles into the world of some of the main characters in Chained. I won’t tell you who because you’ll just have to read it!

There’s not as much adventure in this one as in Chained, but it’s a great in depth story about a girl (and a boy really) trying to find their place in the world. In a much darker, sinister world where survival is the main driving factor to every day life. Both characters are emotionally beaten and broken. They suffer great loss and grief in their own ways.

I feel as if Valenti needs special kudos for her character writing ability. No two characters of hers are similar. They each have their own personalities, desires, needs, wants, etc. They really are their own people in this dystopian world she has built. Crystal has series emotional problems, but her story is also about just being a teenage girl and exploring sexuality and understanding (or trying really hard to) the difference between needs and wants. Teens struggle with identity. It’s no secret, we’ve all been there. It’s tough deciding what kind of person you want to be. Reading about Crystal’s journey is sad but eye opening. I read this novella as a coming of age story, but also as a young girl breaking down gender stereotypes.

Does Crystal behave the way a proper, young 16 year old girl should? No, definitely not. Is she behaving that way for a reason? Yes, and it’s an ugly, sad reality of her past and need for affection. Is it true that in society it is more appropriate for males to act the way she is acting? For the most part yes but she breaks that rule by deciding to go after what she wants and not apologizing for it.

I can’t tell at this point if this will work in her favor or if it will come back to bite her in the rear end. She’s halfway being independent throughout the story and halfway caving into her need of love and affection from a boy she knows will never truly love her the way she should be loved.

I think this is a great fictional, dystopian story for people who like books by Ellen Hopkins. If you feel like dipping your toes in the dystopian genre you should try this one out. I read this novella within a few hours and love what it adds to the story of Chained.

Chained by Susanne Valenti

Chained

“It was almost as though everything in the world was perfect. Almost. ”

-Susanne Valenti. Chained ARC.

Goodreads Blurb

Terrified of the contamination and the creatures it has created, humanity hides behind The Wall. No one knows what lies beyond the wasteland. Maya has never thought much about what might still be out there, lurking in the forgotten places. But when she’s thrust into the unknown, she is forced to question everything she has ever been told. Not everyone outside died, some of them became something… else. As her heart is torn in two, every choice she makes is harder than the last. What she discovers will change her forever. She knows she will probably die, but Maya has seen enough of death and she won’t let it have her without a fight.

Review

I came across Susanne Valenti on WordPress. I started following her blog awhile back and saw that she was giving out a few ebook ARCs. Seeing that it’s YA and a dystopian, I jumped at the opportunity and sent her an email. Holy cow. I have loved the book ever since I started reading it. I spent several nights staying up well past a teachers bedtime reading this book. It’s fast paced and changes so much! Nothing in it is stagnant.

The setting in the beginning of the book feels very similar to Divergent. But it changes SO MUCH. It’s a wild, whirlwind adventure throughout the entire novel. The main character Maya starts off in the city, but then ventures outside the walls, and then gets sent to Subwar, which is basically like the battleground outside of the city. From here, you think she is going to have to fight to survive with her friend Taylor so that they can eventually get back to their lives in the city, tucked safely behind The Walls. Everything outside of the walls is “contaminated.”

During their training for Subwar, they meet a few unlikely friends (another criminal and a Warden) and they make a few enemies. In the beginning of the book you, as the reader, think this is the plot of the novel. That they are supposed to survive Subwar and the enemies they make there. Ohhhhhh no. Hold your horses. You’re barely to the rising action of this book.

I don’t want to spoil the rest. It’s definitely a novel you need to purchase to enjoy the full plot and climax. But you meet some outsiders who Maya comes to depend on and befriend. Through her friendship with them, she begins to question the world she knows. She starts to contemplate where she really belongs. Valenti did an awesome job of character and relationship building. I love the sense of camaraderie between Maya and Coal, Maya and Alicia, and Maya and Taylor, Coal and Alicia, Laurie and Maya, etc. Each character has their own faults, but it makes them all the more loveable and relatable. They all mesh well together and build each other up.

Chained  also reminded me a lot of the Studio Ghibli film Princess Mononoke and the television show The Walking Dead. As a reader I was able to make so many world connections with this novel. I love how it was an entity of itself but brought together all of these different aspects from other films and novels that I find interesting. Someone needs to pick this series up and make it into a show or movie. It would be HUGE.

I gave this novel 5/5 stars on Goodreads.

Sidenote: Susanne Valenti did a giveaway for eReader copies of her novella Cut Glass, which is a prequel to Chained and the other books that will be a part of the Cage of Lies series, and I won one of them! Wooooo-Hoooo! I just received it via email 🙂 Just when I thought I would have to figure out a new book to read! Cut Glass it is! 🙂

Find Chained on Amazon.