Friday, December 2, 2016

Cover Reveal: RELEASE, by SF Benson


Title: Release: the Alliance Chronicles
Author: SF Benson
Genre: New Adult Dystopian
Cover Designer: Regina Wamba, Mae I Design
Expected Publication Date: January 12, 2017


Blurb: Years before the United States collapses and the New Order takes over, Asher Jones is a teenager living in Taylor, Michigan. Turmoil rocks the country. Citizens are dismayed. But for Asher, his only concern is the girl next door. His world is perfect until the night his family is brutally killed. Asher struggles to make sense of his life. Drugs and alcohol become his constant companions and land him in jail. Now he’s at a crossroad—clean up his act or continue down the path of self-destruction. Every choice, however, comes with a consequence. When a kid from the right side of the tracks veers left, how does he find his way back? Tag Line: “Out of pain comes growth.”

Add to Goodreads:


One of our favorite places to hang out was the Taylor Twist ice cream parlor on Eureka Road. It was a family-friendly place with the best sundaes in town. Cindy ordered her usual brownie sundae with a scoop of mint chocolate chip ice cream and extra whipped cream. I was happy with a double scoop of Superman—blue, red, and yellow ice cream. Taylor Twist’s version came in blueberry, cherry, and banana flavors. We took our orders to one of the plain brown tables in a corner. My multi-colored ice cream melted over my fingers watching Cindy. Her tongue swirled around the spoon licking off the ice cream and whipped cream. She plunged the spoon back into the bowl. This time she stuck the whole thing in her mouth and sucked it off slowly. I gulped, wanting to trade places with the spoon. Cindy’s pretty lips lifted into a smile. “If you planned on watching me eat, why’d you order anything?” Her words brought me back to reality. I grabbed a stack of napkins and cleaned up the mess I made. “Yeah. Looks like you’re enjoying your ice cream.” “Nope.” “No?” I was confused. “I’m enjoying the expression on your face. Want some?” Cindy held the spoon out for me. Hell, yeah. But what I wanted didn’t come on a spoon. So I lied and tried not to notice the boner her little display gave me. “Naw. I’m good.” “I bet you are,” she teased. Cindy closed her eyes, putting a scoop of ice cream on her tongue. Her lips opened and closed around the spoon. She gave a little moan. I didn’t know if she was doing it on purpose, but I couldn’t tear my eyes away. As her sundae disappeared, so did my resolve. If I got this wrong, I was going to die.


About the Author
author pic
SF Benson, a native of Michigan, resides in Georgia with her husband, a human daughter, and a couple of miniature fur kids (two female short-haired guinea pigs). At one time she wrangled a household which included three Samoyeds, saltwater fish, a hamster, and three guinea pigs. When she’s not busy playing Doctor Doolittle, she enjoys answering the question “what if” by writing mostly Dystopian/science fiction and paranormal stories for young adults and new adults. And if a spare moment happens, she morphs into a bookworm and devours a few books simultaneously.

Find her online at:
Amazon Author Page:
Instagram: @authorsfbenson Email:

The Alliance Chronicles Series Buy Links

Wednesday, November 30, 2016


I met Chelsea at this year's NCIBA Fall Discovery Show, and I was immediately intrigued by the book cover and premise of THE HUNDRED LIES OF LIZZIE LOVETT. The book doesn't come out until January, but here's a sneak peek:

A teenage misfit named Hawthorn Creely inserts herself in the investigation of missing person Lizzie Lovett, who disappeared mysteriously while camping with her boyfriend. Hawthorn doesn't mean to interfere, but she has a pretty crazy theory about what happened to Lizzie. In order to prove it, she decides to immerse herself in Lizzie's life. That includes taking her job... and her boyfriend. It's a huge risk — but it's just what Hawthorn needs to find her own place in the world.

In your website bio, you said, "I rock climb, even though I’m afraid of heights." In what ways do you overcome your fear to climb?

I should probably start by admitting I boulder, and don’t do vertical climbing. With bouldering you don’t use a rope or harness… but you also never get more than six feet off the ground.

But, but, for someone who’s afraid of heights, that’s still plenty daunting. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve reached the top of a route and had a meltdown. And when you’re hanging upside down in the air, you really don’t want to get shaky. I wouldn’t die if I fell, but it wouldn’t be pleasant either.

The thing is, I love climbing. It’s ridiculously fun. I can’t change my fear of heights, but I don’t want it to keep me from doing something I enjoy.

The same goes for other things in my life. (Sometimes I think I have an excessive number of fears.) I’m terrified of airplanes, but I don’t want that to prevent me from traveling. I get nervous in large crowds, but I don’t want that to prevent me from having new experiences.

I’m envious of fearless, daredevil types. I wish I was braver. But I have a friend who once pointed out that being brave doesn’t mean you’re never afraid. Bravery is being afraid of something and doing it anyway.

That’s how I try to live my life. It’s okay to be a huge baby sometimes. It’s okay to get scared of silly things that no one else seems bothered by. But if I can push through that fear, and not let it control me, I think I’m doing pretty alright.

Indeed you are--and finding ways to be comfortable within uncertainty is something we can all strive for. Speaking of uncertainty, I love Hawthorn's voice--especially its stream-of-consciousness nature. In what ways did she speak to you while you wrote her story, and were there moments where she surprised you?

First of all, thank you for the compliment! Writing Hawthorn was a blast—and in a way, everything about her surprised me.

When I sat down to begin The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett, I knew Hawthorn’s story, but I didn’t really know her. Then I wrote the first line:

The first thing that happened was Lizzie Lovett disappeared and everyone was all, “How can someone like Lizzie be missing?” and I was like, “Who cares?”

And that line set the tone for the rest of the book. Before I knew it, I had an entire chapter of Hawthorn’s off-the-wall, wandery, musings. Then another chapter, then another.

I never intended for Hawthorn to be quite so odd. Or funny, for that matter. In a way, she told me who she was supposed to be, not the other way around. And it was thrilling to uncover her personality along the way.

It's wonderful when characters speak on their own--and I love Hawthorn the way she is. I also love the layout of your website! What were some of your main priorities in building an online platform?

Ah, the online platform. So necessary today, yet to mysterious. (To me, anyway.)

As someone who’s very shy, connecting with people in general is hard for me. I know other people with social anxiety, and a lot of them prefer online interactions to in-person. It makes sense that it should be easier to be outgoing online. Yet, for me, it’s just as difficult.

Example: I’ll be about to press “publish” on a blog post and have a rush of fear about how terribly written it is, or how anyone who reads it will think I’m strange, or how I have no interesting things to say. Has anyone ever actually made me feel that way? No. Yet, I can’t prevent those thoughts from running through my mind.

As you can imagine, this makes building an online platform a little complicated.

My main priority has been putting myself out there. Pushing through the fear, like I mentioned earlier. I try to make myself accessible through my website or on social media, and always get excited when someone starts a conversation with me. And even though blogging or Tweeting or posting to Instagram might make me nervous, I try to suck it up and do it anyway.

Does this mean I have the greatest online platform? Of course not. There are so many authors who do it better than me. But I’m trying, and I’ll continue to.

So, I guess my biggest priority, is simply to be present.

Definitely a priority for us all. What are some of your current projects?

I’m currently revising my second book. I don’t want to give too much away yet. But briefly: It’s about a strange town in the Nevada desert, a very broken boy who lives there, and… wishes. A lot of wishes.

Pre-Order: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

Monday, November 28, 2016

Book/Movie Review: FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM (Warning! Spoilers Ahead!)

I'll admit, I've been a little more than excited about seeing Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, and while I left the movie relatively satisfied, I definitely have some minor critiques, especially now that I've also read the screenplay.

When Magizoologist Newt Scamander arrives in New York, he intends his stay to be just a brief stopover. However, when his magical case is misplaced and some of Newt's fantastic beasts escape, it spells trouble for everyone…

Review: I was very intrigued by the American side of the Wizarding World, and I thought most of the developments made sense. For example, it's quite plausible that wizards in America would have much stricter regulations, especially after what happened in Salem. I also enjoyed the tie-ins to the British Wizarding World, particularly the banter regarding whether Ilvermorny, the American Wizarding School, was better than Hogwarts. The Niffler, also alluded to in the Harry Potter universe, was portrayed well, and was endearing despite its kleptomaniac tendencies. Two of the characters that I was wholly unfamiliar with, Jacob Kowalski, the American No-Maj (Muggle), and Queenie, a sweet and unassuming Legilimens, were perhaps the most engaging. If anything, they seemed more fleshed out than the main characters (Newt Schmander, and Auror Tina Goldstein). Granted, Newt was very charming when it came to his pets, and I loved that his manuscript, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, eventually made it into the Hogwarts textbook canon. But I definitely think Tina's motivations could have been fleshed out a lot more, and that her interactions with Percival Graves could have used more depth and explaining. Perhaps the character that was my least favorite was Seraphina Picquery, the President of MACUSA, the American equivalent of the Ministry of Magic. Not only was she terribly one-dimensional, she seemed to forget events that had transpired the previous day. For example, when she accused Tina of knowing about an outbreak of beasts in New York for 24 hours and not telling her, she'd completely forgotten that Tina had tried to tell her the day before--only to get kicked out of the exclusive Auror meeting. There were also a few places that I felt were a bit "deus ex machina," such as the real villain's reveal and Newt's suitcase (why did some of the beasts need to leave when their habitats were both enormous and enchanting?). Overall, though, the story was extremely compelling to watch, and to read--this is a solid effort for J.K. Rowling's first screenplay. I especially like the concept of the Obscurus, and hope to see it in later films.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

THE BOY WITH 17 SENSES, by Sheila Grau

I had the pleasure of meeting Sheila Grau at this year's NCIBA Fall Discovery Show. Her book is not only intriguing because it takes place on a very interesting planet, but it also reflects a very real condition--synesthesia, which I first learned about when I was helping a Linguistics graduate student with her dissertation research. The book also got a great review from School Library Journal: "Cleverly told, this original take on a classic tale uses an unconventional setting to explore universal emotions. Hand this to fans of whimsical retellings."

Every resident of the planet Yipsmix has synesthesia—they don’t just hear sounds; they see and taste them, too. On this unusual planet, poor Jaq Rollop must save his family’s farm. To do so, Jaq is forced to sell his beloved pet and only friend. Trusting and, Jaq gets swindled into trading his pet for a seemingly worthless key. But then something very strange happens. The key leads Jaq through a wormhole to a terrifying and magical land full of riches, overwhelming sensations, and giants. The name of this frightening land? Earth.

According to your website bio, you grew up in an old house that had a secret closet nestled behind bookshelves. Who were some of the authors that you enjoyed reading, and could you tell us more about your journey toward publication?

I remember sitting in that closet with an illustrated copy of The Jungle Book. The idea that a kid could grow up in the jungle, raised by wolves, and have friends like a black panther and a bear, just enthralled me. I loved the fantasy and adventure of that story.

But the truth is, I wasn’t much of a reader as a child. I thought reading was a chore. Sadly, I wasn’t cured of this disability until high school, when we were assigned to read Jack London’s The Sea Wolf. It was such a new experience for me, to actually enjoy a reading assignment.

As a result of this unfortunate upbringing, I missed out on a LOT of fantastic middle grade books. It took having kids of my own to discover them. As a parent, I knew how important it is to encourage a love of reading in children. Not just so they could do better in school, but because it helps kids grow into imaginative, creative, curious and empathetic people. Reading is the key to everything. It opens minds, and doors.

So I read to my kids all the time, and I fell in love with middle grade books. I followed children’s literature blogs for book recommendations, and discovered hundreds of fabulous books. Eventually I decided to try and write one myself. I had no ambitions of publication. My goal was simply to see if I could write a complete story, one with a beginning, middle and end. I did, and it gave me a great feeling of accomplishment, which lasted a few seconds before a new thought crept in: I could do better. So I wrote another one. And another. I read every writing book I could get my hands on. I joined a critique group.

Eventually I worked up the courage to query some agents with one of my stories. And then, a mere 15,000 rejections later (it felt like), I hit the jackpot. Persistence is everything in the publishing game.

Indeed it is! Even though THE BOY WITH 17 SENSES takes place on planet Yipsmix, the planet's inhabitants experience synesthesia, which is a very real condition. What do you want your readers to know about synesthesia, and in what ways, if any, did it shape Jaq's story?

Synesthesia, for those who are unfamiliar, is a neurological condition where people experience more than one sense at a time. While I just hear music, someone with synesthesia might also see music as swishes of color, or taste it, or even feel it as a physical sensation.

I was initially drawn to the creative aspect of synesthesia. I found myself fascinated by the idea that words could have flavor, or that numbers could have personalities. After all, combining unrelated things is what gives us metaphors. Some synesthetic metaphors are so memorable that they’ve become clich├ęs – like when people describe a “loud shirt” – which combines the senses of hearing and sight. Or when Shakespeare described that “bitter cold.”

As for Jaq’s story, I wanted his synesthesia to be a super-power, not a handicap. Since I write for young kids, I thought synesthesia might be a fun way to introduce the concept of neurodiversity, the idea that our brains sometimes work differently from each other. Synesthesia is a neurological condition, but it’s not a disability for most, so there’s no stigma surrounding it. If a brain with synesthesia can exist without the stigma of mental illness, then why not other brain differences, like dyslexia, OCD, anxiety, etc?

Definitely a question worth exploring. Your other series, Dr. Critchlore's School for Minions, was described in School Library Journal as, "...a contemporary fantasy that is a perfect blend of Hogwarts and Monsters University." What was the most fun about writing this series?

So many things! The School for Minions series follows a somewhat gullible kid who goes to a school filled with monsters. The school is in near constant peril, mostly from a rival school, and it’s often up to my main character to save it. There are elements of mystery, humor, and fantasy, which are all things I love. And monsters!

If I had to pick out the most fun thing . . . hmm . . . it’s probably writing the headings for each chapter. I had a lot of fun taking familiar quotations and adapting them to my minion world:

“Give a man a fish, and he eats for a day. Give a man a minion, and the minion will fish for him.”

Or sometimes I use them to expand on the world-building:

“It’s always darkest before the dawn, or if you’re in Fraze Coldheart’s dungeon.”

I love to think of things from a monster’s perspective. For instance, “I left my heart in San Francisco” is a song that might take on a more literal meaning if sung by a skeleton.

Yes, and it would have a great set of lyrics too! What are some of your current projects?

My main focus now is on writing the next book in the School for Minions series. I’m also working on a speculative fiction story with a sibling rivalry component. I like to have more than one work in progress at a time, so if I get stuck on one, I can switch my focus for a bit and then return to the stuck project with a fresh perspective.

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

Buy: BookPassage ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

Monday, November 21, 2016

Book Review: SNOWBIRDS by Crissa-Jean Chappell

A few years back, I interviewed Crissa-Jean Chappell about her groundbreaking book NARC. She has a new book out called SNOWBIRDS, a great innocence to experience story about a Mennonite girl trying to find her place in the world. Have a look:

Every year, Lucy waits eagerly for the arrival of the “snowbirds,” the Old Order Amish who come trundling into Florida on buses from the north, bringing Lucy’s best friend Alice, with whom she’s spent every winter she can remember. This winter is different. At sixteen, Alice is in the middle of “Rumspringa,” a season in which Amish teens try out forbidden temptations, in order to get them out of their system. Lucy is part of a different sect, in which teens aren’t allowed such bold experimentation, and she’s fighting to keep up as Alice races from one wild party to the next. Then, one night after just such a party, Alice vanishes. Wracked by guilt, Lucy knows that she should have been watching out for Alice, but instead, she was kissing Faron, an Older Order boy shunned by his society. Now, Lucy plunges into a search for her best friend—while also hiding her own secret, which could put her in even more danger.

Review: SNOWBIRDS is filled with layers of description that breathe life into Lucy's story. "I can't listen to Alice anymore. Her head is full of dreams. I've got big dreams too. I want to go to college and learn about the ocean. Swim with dolphins and sharks. Watch loggerhead turtles lay eggs under the full moon. The world is a living thing that changes and grows. Try explaining that to Dad" (26). This and other sections really gave an intimate view into Lucy's aspirations and experience, and helped me follow her journey to find Alice throughout the novel. Her relationship with Old Order outcast Faron also had wonderful details, and I found him both endearing and sympathetic. There were a few characters who came and went suddenly, and a few story spots that could have been fleshed out, but the ending was very satisfying and unexpected, and I left with a fulfilled sense of what Lucy's next steps would be after the ending pages. Overall, this was a very engaging story, and a great selection for teen readers looking to understand the importance of defining themselves on their terms.

Buy: BookPassage ~ ~ Barnes & Noble ~  IndieBound

Thursday, November 17, 2016

SOUND OF SIRENS by Jennifer Malone Wright

Title: Sound of Sirens
Author: Jennifer Malone Wright
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Hosted by: Lady Amber’s PR
Who can resist the sound of Sirens?
The Hunters are still in Greece, continuing their pursuit of the original vampire, Pavlos.
The goddess Sostrate has warned them that they will encounter creatures they have never fought before … creatures they did not even know existed.
While the search has come to a standstill and they are only left with research, Oscar finally meets his family. The Sirens have been watching the Hunters and waiting to show themselves. The group, especially Oscar, have mixed feelings about trusting the Siren Clan.
But not only do the Sirens have information about Pavlos and what they might be up against, they also hold the secrets of Oscar’s past that his mother never told him about.
Jennifer Malone Wright is best known for her short story series, The Vampire Hunter's Daughter. Other works include the follow up to The Vampire Hunter's Daughter series called The Arcadia Falls Chronicles, The Graveyard Guardians series, and her vampire novel called Savior. Jennifer also co-authors a series called Once Upon A Zombie Apocalypse as well the Beary Tales series. She resides in the beautiful mountains of northern Idaho with her husband and five children where she practices preparing for the zombie apocalypse. Just kidding! But seriously, between the craziness of taking care of her children, Jennifer has little time left for herself. The time she does have left, usually leading far into the night, is spent working on her beloved fiction or chatting with her equally crazy friends. Jennifer also loves coffee, has a passionate affair with red bull, wishes the sushi were better where she lives and dances while she cleans.
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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Love on the Edge series by Molly E. Lee

I met Molly at Utopiacon this year, and her books immediately caught my eye. Her descriptions are off the charts, and her characters jump right off the page, especially in her Love on the Edge series. Have a look:

Blake Caster has been in an emotionally abusive relationship with Justin for so long, she can’t tell what is normal anymore, and so she clings to the one thing that is solidly hers—her passion for extreme weather.

Three years into her Meteorology degree, Blake meets professional storm chaser, Dash Lexington, who is as gorgeous as he is daring. Instantly recognizing her passion and skills in analyzing weather data, he makes a spot for her on his tight-knit storm chasing team. Dash and Blake form a fast friendship and it forces her to realize just how toxic her relationship with Justin is. She can’t deny the lightning-worthy chemistry she has with Dash or how her heart stalls every time he gets too close to a tornado.

With each chase and the cherished moments with Dash, Blake discovers her own self-worth and gains the strength to end things with Justin for good. But he won’t go easily. As Blake tries to sever ties with one man, she fears she’ll lose the other to his dangerous obsession—and she doesn't know if she’ll be enough to save him from the impending storm that could end them all.

Easton Wells has spent years burying his guilt by digging up some of the world’s most renowned treasures while surviving the dangerous terrains in which they’re located—all captured for television. When his producers threaten to axe the show, he has no choice but to turn to the last person he still trusts—the girl he left behind.

Rain Walker has made a name for herself documenting wild and endangered animals, and the last voice she expects to hear while shooting in South Africa is Easton’s. He’s more gorgeous than she remembers, but the pain in her heart is as fresh as ever. They’d once planned on spending the rest of their lives together, but after her father’s tragic death while on expedition in Israel with him, Easton bailed on their future together without an explanation. It’s been nine years, and yet the intense love they shared seems only a moment ago.

When he asks her to film his latest treasure hunt, Rain wants to turn him down instantly. But when he explains it’s to the same cave that swallowed her father, she can’t say no. She wants to experience the last place her father was alive, and she’s beyond curious about what happened to the boy she used to love.

They’ve got two weeks to locate a treasure that’s been lost for centuries, or Easton will lose the one thing in his life he’s come to depend on. As their old passion is reignited—and dark secrets uncovered—they face the extreme terrain of the mountain range that threatens them at every turn. As more than the wildlife and sharp drop-offs tries to kill them, Rain starts to question if the legendary treasure they seek—the same one her father had died trying to unearth—is truly meant to be found, or if some things, including their feelings for each other, are better left buried.

According to your website bio, you write both New Adult Contemporary and Young Adult Urban Fantasy novels. What do you like most about each genre and why?

 There are many aspects that appeal to me about both genres. With NA Contemporary there is more freedom to push the boundaries with the romance and emotional content because the characters are adults but they are still trying to figure themselves out. And with YA Urban Fantasy I love the endless possibilities with world building and stakes. With young adults, the stakes are always different than they would be for an adult novel, and it’s wonderful to be able to explore all the “firsts” you get with teenage characters.

In EAST OF REDEMPTION, Easton Wells and Rain Walker are definitely trying to figure themselves out--and I love them both because of it. Did they come to you fully fleshed or did they develop as you wrote them? Did they surprise you in any way?

 Thanks so much! I’m so glad you liked them!

Easton is one of my favorite characters and he came to me almost completely as you see him in East of Redemption! I loved writing him because he was a complex man carrying around such a heavy pain inside of him and yet he held on to it because he didn’t see any other way to live. Rain surprised me throughout the book with how forgiving she was of Easton’s faults…something that would be hard to do but it came naturally for her and I really enjoyed that characteristic. She was a strong woman who was confident in who she was and that made forgiving Easton as often as she did easier.

It's great when characters redeem one another. Your other book, EDGE OF CHAOS, deals with emotionally abusive relationships. What would you like readers to take away after reading Blake Caster's experience?

This is a popular question for those that have read Edge of Chaos. And when I sat down to write the novel, I didn’t have an agenda in mind…it was just how Blake’s story unfolded. The emotional abuse that takes place in the novel is very real and if I wanted anything out of it it was to show women or men in similar situations that they are not alone. There are so many people (unfortunately) that are experiencing this lesser known form of abuse and it can be very isolating. Often it can feel like no one will ever understand the situation because it’s hard to explain the type of abuse that doesn’t leave physical scars…so I hoped that people reading this book would be able to connect and hopefully find the strength they needed to get help. It’s been a wonderful experience to hear from readers who found strength from the book and shared their own stories with me and it means more to me than anyone will ever know.

I'm glad your stories have reached the people who need them! What are some of your current projects?

Currently I’m working on the continuation of Blake and Dash’s story! I had to give them another book because their relationship started so late in Edge of Chaos and their story just wasn’t finished yet. So, I’m in edits on that novel and will hope to have a release date to announce soon!

Buy: BookPassage  ~ IndieBound