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For Olivia Bentley, Lucky Harbor is more than the town where she runs her new vintage shop. It’s the place where folks are friendly to strangers-and nobody knows her real name. Olivia does a good job of keeping her past buried, not getting too cozy with anyone . . . until she sees a man drowning. Suddenly she’s rushing into the surf, getting up close and personal with the hottest guy she’s ever laid hands on.
Charter boat captain Cole Donovan has no problem with a gorgeous woman throwing her arms around his neck in an effort to “save” him. In fact, he’d like to spend a lot more time skin-to-skin with Olivia. He’s just not expecting that real trouble is about to come her way. Will it bring her deeper into Cole’s heart, or will it be the end of Olivia’s days in little Lucky Harbor?
5 of 5 stars
Seriously, Jill Shalvis only gets better and better and better. I am completely addicted to this Lucky Harbor series. Every couple is so different. They have their own issues and challenges to overcome, but within their imperfections, they’re perfect for each other.
That’s exactly how how I felt about Olivia and Cole in HE’S SO FINE. When it comes to their pasts, Cole is an open book and Olivia is as closed as can be. But as they learn to trust and respect each other, they find new ways to be open and honest and to forgive.
Here’s some of the things I loved:
1. The differences between Olivia’s family and Cole’s family. Cole’s is an invasion and loving. Olivia’s is greedy and unloving. The contrast is striking and relatable.
2. Despite being afraid to open herself up to Cole, Olivia does so, and it changes her.
3. Cole embraces a new relationship, despite his fear of getting burned.
4. Cole is loyal and devoted to his family, even though they can be incredibly annoying.
5. Best friends – Cole has Tanner and Sam, who are loyal even when Cole pushes them away. Olivia has Becca, who doesn’t judge and has her back.
6. Challenges – Cole has to face past relationships and deal with the loss of his friend Gil. Plus he jumps at the flick of a lighter or a spark. Olivia hides her past, changed her identity and has to face it.
7. I love what Cole has in all his pockets! Handyman extraordinaire!
8. A swoon-worthy ending!
The entire Lucky Harbor series is a must read for anyone who loves romance novels! Don’t miss any of them!
View all my reviews
New York Times bestselling author Jill Shalvis lives in a small town in the Sierras full of quirky characters. Any resemblance to the quirky characters in her books is, um, mostly coincidental. Look for Jill’s bestselling, award-winning books wherever romances are sold and visit her website for a complete book list and daily blog detailing her city-girl-living-in-the-mountains adventures.
Twelve-year-old Jocelyn dreams of becoming every bit as daring as her infamous father, Captain James Hook. Her grandfather, on the other hand, intends to see her starched and pressed into a fine society lady. When she’s sent to Miss Eliza Crumb-Biddlecomb’s Finishing School for Young Ladies, Jocelyn’s hopes of following in her father’s fearsome footsteps are lost in a heap of dance lessons, white gloves, and way too much pink.
So when Jocelyn receives a letter from her father challenging her to avenge his untimely demise at the jaws of the Neverland crocodile, she doesn’t hesitate-here at last is the adventure she has been waiting for. But Jocelyn finds that being a pirate is a bit more difficult than she’d bargained for. As if attempting to defeat the Neverland’s most fearsome beast isn’t enough to deal with, she’s tasked with captaining a crew of woefully untrained pirates, outwitting cannibals wild for English cuisine, and rescuing her best friend from a certain pack of lost children, not to mention that pesky Peter Pan who keeps barging in uninvited.
The crocodile’s clock is always ticking in Heidi Schulz’s debut novel, a story told by an irascible narrator who is both dazzlingly witty and sharp as a sword. Will Jocelyn find the courage to beat the incessant monster before time runs out?
Author Heidi Schulz reading HOOK’S REVENGE
Heidi Schulz is a writer, reader, and giraffe suspicioner. She lives in Salem, Oregon with her husband, co-captaining a crew made of their teen daughter, a terrible little dog, and five irascible chickens. Her debut novel for middle grade readers, HOOK’S REVENGE, will be published by Disney•Hyperion on September 16, 2014. A sequel, HOOK’S REVENGE: THE PIRATE CODE, will follow in fall 2015. Bloomsbury Kids will publish her picture book debut, GIRAFFES RUIN EVERYTHING, in 2016.
Hi Liza! Thank you for hosting me today! I thought I could talk to your readers a little bit about fairies—specifically the fairies in Hook’s Revenge. Sound good?
I’m sure most of you are familiar with Peter Pan’s fairy, Tinker Bell. Remember in Peter Pan, how Tink almost got Wendy killed because she was so jealous over Peter? Well, I’m sorry to say she hasn’t changed much by the time Jocelyn gets to the Neverland. But she’s not the only lovesick fairy you’ll have a chance to encounter. Wait until you meet Prince Meriwether!
You’ll also get to spend some time at a fairy ball and meet Queen Mab herself. And then there is that whole business with Jocelyn’s fairy wish—but oh, I’m afraid saying more would spoil it for you. Instead, why don’t I show you how to build a fairy garden? Who knows, perhaps you’ll attract a fairy of your very own.
My daughter and I built this particular fairy garden a few years ago. If you would like to make one, here’s how:
Find a suitable container. Use a clay pot, planter, sand bucket, or even a ceramic bowl. Think about whether you will want this for indoor or outdoor use and plan according.
Fill your container with potting soil, but don’t just make it flat and level. Spend some time adding variety to your landscape. We chose to make a hill and a dry creek bed in ours. If your dirt resists sculpting because it is too dry and powdery, a few sprays with a spray bottle of water will make things easier.
If you have made a creek bed, line it with small pebbles. Likewise for any stone paths you may wish to have.
Plant your vegetation. We chose to use a small plant purchased at a local nursery and a few weed from the yard. Usually we want to keep weeds out of our gardens, but in this case, they can be really lovely. (Just don’t use anything that will irritate your skin. You might attract a fairy with a prickly attitude.)
Cover all remaining dirt with ground cover. We live in Oregon, so moss was an easy choice for us. It can be found abundantly around our yard. If you live in a moss-free zone, perhaps use bark dust, sand, or purchased peet moss.
Accessorize! This is the fun part. Look around your yard. What natural materials could you incorporate? We made a stone table with tiny shell dishes, walnut shell and pebble stools, and a shell pond. A bit of red and white paint turned a small rock into a mushroom. Hot glue transformed some twigs into a bridge. The scene is rounded out by a miniature wash line (created from felt, string, and a pair of slender sticks) and a tiny house (purchased for $1.00 at a local craft store).
I’m certain a fairy moved right into our little garden and she was so enamored with it, she completely forgot to bring in the washing. If you happen to make one of your own, I’d love to see it. Tweet me a picture @HeidiSchulz or tag me on Instagram @HeidiSchulzBooks.
And if you do happen to attract a fairy of your own, warn your loved ones to watch out. You never know what kinds of things a jealous fairy may do!
Thanks again! I really appreciate you hosting me!
Note from Liza: Hey, Heidi & awesome readers. It’s truly my pleasure to feature HOOK’S REVENGE on this blog. On a personal note, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Heidi and spending time with her in person. You don’t meet sweet, creative, warm, friendly, vivacious, fun, interesting, bright women like her every day. Not surprising, then, that Heidi wrote such an imaginative, clever MG debut novel. Congrats, Heidi!
Thank you to Disney for providing an ARC of Hook’s Revenge!
Thank you to Hannah McBride of The Irish Banana Review for arranging this blog tour with Disney!
9/12-Liza from Reading with ABC
9/15-Nicole from Paperback Princess
9/16-Hannah from The Irish Banana Review
9/17-Katie from Mundie Moms
9/18-Jen from Jenuine Cupcakes
9/19-Gabby from Queen Ella Bee Reads
9/22-Christina from Allodoxophobia
9/23-Amy from Kissed by Ink
9/24-Liza from Who RU Blog
9/25-Jenny from Supernatural Snark
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Hook’s Revenge by Heidi Schulz
Take a beloved children’s classic story & continue the tale? Not an easy feat. But then do it exceptionally well, and you get HOOK’S REVENGE by Heidi Schulz.
WOW! This isn’t just a MG novel, this is a novel the entire family can enjoy. Clever and imaginative, Captain Hook and Peter Pan’s story continues in HOOK”S REVENGE! There’s adventure, danger, fun, humor, friendship, family, magic, and of course, the crocodile!
Once again, journey into Neverland. Meet fairies, pirates, and lost boys. Meet Captain Hook’s daughter Joselyn, and go on her quest to slay the crocodile that took her father’s life. Meet her best friend Roger, the horrible girls in her finishing school and Miss Eliza Crumb-Biddlecom, the head mistress. Life isn’t so good for Joselyn, but she manages to get away. That’s when the true adventure begins.
Hook’s Revenge can very well turn into a classic along with its original counterpart, PETER PAN. Boys will love the action, girls will appreciate the strong female character. It’s a fantasy work you’re want to read over and over again.Highly recommend.
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On September 10, 2014 Melissa de la Cruz came to Milwaukee and spoke to a wonderful crowd at the Oak Creek Public Library. Then, a few of us bloggers had the privilege of hanging out with Melissa at her hotel to talk about a wide range of subjects. What can I say except that I am deeply impressed with Melissa’s sense of humor, perseverance, dedication to her craft, and her accomplishments. She grew up with supportive parents, but they didn’t quite expect that she would actually go after her dream and become a published author. But she did! And what a success she has become! It may look like it’s been easy, but it’s been quite the journey for Melissa. She had books rejected and had worked for six months on the TV pilot for the Blue Bloods Series, only to have the studio say no. That was six months of working for ZERO dollars! Nada.
But . . . good things did happen!
Melissa’s WITCHES OF EAST END series turned into a series on Lifetime. (I love the show!)
The Vampires of Manhattan is “hipster horror”–the memorable characters from her Blue Bloods series are older and cooler than before, trying to build “Millennial” lives in the bustle of Manhattan while battling forces of evil and, of course, each other.
Hero of this sexy, paranormal action tale is Oliver Hazard-Perry, former human conduit, and Manhattan’s only human-turned-vampire, now the head of the Blue Bloods Coven. When his all-too-human lover is found murdered on the eve of the coven’s annual Four Hundred Ball–a celebration meant to usher in a new era in vampire society, and to mark the re-unification of the Coven after decades of unrest and decay–Oliver is devastated.
Now, not only is he trying to create a new world order for the immortal elite, he’s the prime suspect and is stalked by the newly installed head of the vampire secret police. Because according to the new rules, vampires who take human life can now be executed. Burned.
How can an immortal sentenced to die fight back? He has to find the killer–and the answers lie deep in vampire lore.
Vampires of Manhattan by Melissa de la Cruz
Thank you, Hachette Books, for the review copy and on my blog – readers have a chance to win a SIGNED COPY! through October 13, 2014, 11:59 PM CST. http://wp.me/pAaOH-SO
The cover: Gorgeous! Perfect! Definitely does exactly what a cover should do: peak your interest and create a desire to find out more!
Never read the Blue Bloods Series? Don’t worry! You can start with VAMPIRES OF MANHATTAN and follow along beautifully. The novel is geared to New Adults/Adults. It’s for anyone who appreciates great world building, fantasy, vampires, or outstanding storytelling. The characters jump off the page and keep you guessing. Kingsley happens to be one of my favorites.
The Blue Bloods won the war and are celebrating their victory of Lucifer. But wait . . . someone is killing young adults girls and burning or painting pentagrams all over Manhattan. Alarm bells sound for the soon-to-be Regis Oliver and his human female familiar Finn, who is planning the Four Hundred Ball to commemorate the victory. Someone wants to stop the celebration. Venator Ara Scott is on the case to find out who. I love Ara. She’s a strong, flawed character, struggling to make a difference and keep Manhattan peaceful. Maybe someday, she’ll do more than kick some major butt. Maybe she’ll find love?
I love the mystery and surprises of this novel. For Blue Bloods fans, you’ll be thrilled with the continuation of the series. For people who love to read NA, you’ll gobble up this sophisticated book geared toward you. It has a plot that will have you hooked and begging for the next book in the series.
VAMPIRES OF MANHATTAN is a page-turner. I can’t wait for more.
General comments: Great cover with the river of red fabric for the cloak worn by a young woman. Symbolic and powerful. Stunning artwork alongside Christine Heppermann’s poems.
Bite and taste
down girls throats
diet aids, beauty.
for feminism. Take
a good long look
in the mirror, mirror
on the wall
who’s the fairest
of all. See how
to believe so little
as girls, women.
fairy tales. Damsels
in distress we’re NOT!
the real world
filled with Poisoned Apples.
Poisoned Apples is a brilliant must-read, critical for both male and female young adults. I hope teachers in upper middle school and high schools will have the courage to put this in the hands of students and utilize it for a strong social discussion of society’s pressures caused by stereotypes and negative self-image. A clever, revealing, heartbreaking, honest window into beauty and society through a retelling of fairy tales.
Deep gratitude to Hannah McBride of the Irish Banana Review for putting together and including me in this blog tour. Thank you so much to Greenwillow Books, an imprint of HarperCollins for a ARC copy in exchange for an honest review.
Seventeen-year-old Bianca Piper is cynical and loyal, and she doesn’t think she’s the prettiest of her friends by a long shot. She’s also way too smart to fall for the charms of man-slut and slimy school hottie Wesley Rush. In fact, Bianca hates him. And when he nicknames her “the Duff,” she throws her Coke in his face. But things aren’t so great at home right now, and Bianca is desperate for a distraction. She ends up kissing Wesley. Worse, she likes it. Eager for escape, Bianca throws herself into a closeted enemies-with-benefits relationship with him.
Until it all goes horribly awry. It turns out Wesley isn’t such a bad listener, and his life is pretty screwed up, too. Suddenly Bianca realizes with absolute horror that she’s falling for the guy she thought she hated more than anyone.
The DUFF: Designated Ugly Fat Friend by Kody Keplinger
The Duff is an exceptional one-of-a-kind YA novel. Bianca is an amazing multi-dimensional character with many real life struggles/issues relating to an absent mother, alcoholism, divorce, self-esteem, relationships. The Duff put to the forefront insecurities about acceptance, what true beauty is all about, and how we judge ourselves and judge others. I love how Kody went deeper into the emotional impact on how we can hurt one another. Her characters show the great lengths people will go to find ways to “feel better” about themselves and what it means emotionally and physically. Loved it! Way to go Kody! Whooooooot!
Wednesday, September 5, 1973: The first day of Karl Shoemaker’s senior year in stifling Lightsburg, Ohio. For years, Karl’s been part of what he calls “the Madman Underground” – a group of kids forced (for no apparent reason) to attend group therapy during school hours. Karl has decided that senior year is going to be different. He is going to get out of the Madman Underground for good. He is going to act – and be – Normal. But Normal, of course, is relative. Karl has five after-school jobs, one dead father, one seriously unhinged drunk mother . . . and a huge attitude. Welcome to a gritty, uncensored rollercoaster ride, narrated by the singular Karl Shoemaker.
Tales of the Madman Underground by John Barnes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I continue to vacillate between appreciating this book as pure genius and as part insanity. Perhaps that is one of the reasons why it was a ALA Printz Honor Book. At times I wanted to throw the book against the wall and at other times I absolutely couldn’t put it down. We have heard the phrase that ‘the truth is stranger than fiction,’ but in this case I am left wondering how much truth was in the fiction. I am certain that these circumstances had to have taken place in some way to someone at some time. There is true humanity in this book, a sense of compassion, understanding, friendship, and a strong dose of nightmarish circumstances (abuse of all kinds) in the lives of these teens. It may have been set in 1973, but there’s a modern reality to the experiences of these teen characters and the adults who teach/parent/work with/council them. I have a feeling that this is a book that will stay with me for a long, long time.
From the author of LIE, a powerful new young adult novel about a fateful Long Island summer and the lives of three young people who will never be the same.Dreamy, poetic Claire, seventeen, has spent the last few months taking care of her six-year-old sister, Izzy, as their mother lies in a hospital bed recovering from a stroke. Claire believes she has everything under control until she meets “Brent” online. Brent appears to be a kindred spirit, and Claire is initially flattered by his attention. But when she meets Max, the awkward state senator’s son, her feelings become complicated.Max, also seventeen, has been working the worst summer job ever at the beachside Snack Shack. He’s also been popping painkillers. His parents—more involved in his father’s re-election than in their son’s life—fail to see what’s going on with him.Working alongside Max is Barkley, twenty-one. Lonely and obsessive, Barkley has been hearing a voice in his head. No one—not his parents, not his co-workers—realizes that Barkley is suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. Until the voice in his head orders him to take out his gun.Narrated in turns by Claire, Max, and Barkley, Before My Eyes captures a moment when possibilities should be opening up, but instead everything teeters on the brink of destruction.
Author Caroline Bock
I relate to Claire. How could I not?
Like Claire, my mother had a stroke (though my mother never returned home).
Like Claire, I took care of my siblings (though I had two younger brothers and a sister).
Like Claire, I had a father who found it hard to pull it all together after his wife’s stroke (Who could blame him? He had four children under five years old to take care of. He raised us single-handedly; he turned out to be an inspiring and loving Dad).
Like her, I wrote poetry (I was the editor of my New Rochelle High School literary magazine, Opus).
Like her, I was a dreamer (my father always said: if my head wasn’t screwed on, I’d lose that too, but some days I wanted to just lose myself in dreams, and I think he understood. He always encouraged my love of books and writing).
Like her, I was tall and curvy and extremely self aware of my body parts: my breasts, my lips. However, I never had to face someone with a gun. Yet, in my teens I faced some very big life and death issues, (my father went through a serious illness when I was a teenager), which said to me that even a dreamer, even a poet, even someone feeling the loss of their mother, could find the inner strength to face a life- challenging moment, and come out stronger.
Both of my parents suffered serious health issues in my young life (see above), so I had firsthand experience with taking on a lot of responsibility as a teen. I wish I could go back to my teenage self and reassure her that she didn’t have to be perfect. She didn’t have to worry about everything, about the laundry and making dinner and dirty dishes; that she wasn’t responsible for her mother or her father, that in the scheme of life what mattered is that she loved her parents and that they loved her even if they weren’t capable of telling her every day.
I’d tell that teenage self to be the one to say, “I love you,” to my siblings even if it’s late and you’re tired from all the responsibility. In BEFORE MY EYES, Claire does this. Claire tells her sister Izzy that she loves her, and I wish I said this more often to my younger siblings. What I know now is this: Those words— I love you—make us all less lonely and a little less afraid in this imperfect world.
The parents in BEFORE MY EYES see what they want to see about their kids. And what they want to see is that everything is okay. They are caught up in their own lives. As Barkley’s father repeatedly asserts to his son through his closed bedroom door, he’s an “awesome,” kid, and then, races out, not wanting to be late for work. A close reader will catch how many times the parents are talking at their kids—through closed doors, i.e. not seeing them —and not talking with them.
As a parent of a 14-year-old young man, the hardest thing is just talking with him and listening to him, just finding the right moment in time, the right space is my biggest challenge. He’s not a talkative kid. And I’m sure others have noticed that teens are not chatting on the phone these days but on the computer or their smart devices, texting away. Often in the car, alone, when we’re not in a rush to get anywhere, when we have our best conversations. I do my best to ask specific questions that cannot be answered by a Yup or a Nah, and then let him talk (and perhaps drive slower or take a longer route, depending on the conversation!).
Time, patience, listening—as a parent, I feel like I’m working at these every day.
I have to back up to answer this. I envisioned BEFORE MY EYES set in the last days of summer, the time when you are thinking and waiting for the next thing to start —for the heat to break – for school, for autumn. Once I set the time, I wanted a place for all the characters to converge. The beach. No, I didn’t want to write about idle well-to-do suburban teens hanging out waiting for something to happen. My characters would work at the beach at the kind of summer job that so many of us have as teenagers —and hate. The setting – end of the summer, five days over Labor Day weekend, the Atlantic beach, is absolutely key to making BEFORE MY EYES comes together for me as a writer.
But back to the Snack Shack! I learned a few key lessons at my most despised teen job—at a copy center located far from the beach—and realize that I’ve carried the lessons learned there through my working life:
–Show up on time. Ready to work.
–Customers are key, and customers are often difficult. Learn how to deal with difficult customers and your workday will go much more smoothly.
–Work well with others. Workplaces are more diverse than ever, and one often finds oneself working alongside people who are very different from your friends or family. One of the main characters in BEFORE MY EYES, is “forced’ to work a summer job by his father, who is running for re-election as a state senator and thinks it will look good if his son works. Max learns that people who stand by him – the overweight Trish and the developmentally challenged Peter – may be truer friends than many others.
Life is fragile. We all hurt. But with a little luck, and love— always love— we learn something about ourselves, we learn what matters, and we go on.
I hope— teens and adults— find something to take away from BEFORE MY EYES.
As someone who loves libraries, I must admit I feel a teeny bit guilty having written a book called Evil Librarian. But that’s the thing about fiction — despite the old cliché “write what you know,” the most fun is in writing about what you don’t know. Or in taking something that you know and looking at it from an entirely different direction. Maybe that’s why the idea of an evil librarian was so appealing to me.
The library has always been a safe place in my life. I’ve worked in several, beginning with my first library monitor position in junior high school. And all the librarians I’ve known in real life have been wonderful, even the ones who maybe seemed a little scary before I got to know them. Perhaps I seemed a little scary myself sometimes when I worked at the Cornell University Library, at least when the situation called for it … such as when students tried to stay in the library after closing to keep working or attempted to “borrow” materials that weren’t supposed to leave the building.
At Cornell, I was an evening and weekend supervisor, and one of my responsibilities was walking through the entire library after closing to make sure no students were hiding in there, trying to stay in the library all night. On some nights, the library was open until 2am, and walking through the empty hallways and silent rooms at that hour was often pretty spooky.
On some of these late-night walks, I started thinking about writing a scary library story, but instead I ended up writing my picture book Library Lion, which is about as far away from a scary library story as you can get. But I wonder if that scary-library idea hung around in the back of my mind, and eventually turned up again in this novel. The evil librarian certainly makes the high school library in the book a very scary place at times. (Although careful readers will note that even though he’s very, very evil, he takes the librarian part of his existence very seriously. He’s actually a good librarian, when he’s not trying to suck out people’s life forces or do other very, very bad things.)
When Cynthia Rothschild’s best friend, Annie, falls head over heels for the new high-school librarian, Cyn can totally see why. He’s really young and super cute and thinks Annie would make an excellent library monitor. But after meeting Mr. Gabriel, Cyn realizes something isn’t quite right. Maybe it’s the creepy look in the librarian’s eyes, or the weird feeling Cyn gets whenever she’s around him. Before long Cyn realizes that Mr. Gabriel is, in fact . . . a demon. Now, in addition to saving the school musical from technical disaster and trying not to make a fool of herself with her own hopeless crush, Cyn has to save her best friend from the clutches of the evil librarian, who also seems to be slowly sucking the life force out of the entire student body! From best-selling author Michelle Knudsen, here is the perfect novel for teens who like their horror served up with a bit of romance, plenty of humor, and some pretty hot guys (of both the good and evil variety).
Evil Librarian by Michelle Knudsen
Cover: Clever – I like the overlay of the devilish outline and fangs with the title in the middle. Red on black = perfect.
I really, really like this. A demon (Mr. Gabriel) gets the job of a school librarian, ends up sucking the essence out of students, and gets girls to swoon, especially Annie, Cyn’s best friend. Cyn, the MC, is immune to the demon’s powers and she’s determined to stop him, whatever the cost.
Things that I liked about this novel:
1. Cyn’s crush on Ryan, the boy she ends up fighting demons with.
2. Cyn’s loyalty as a friend. She would walk to the ends of the earth (or to a Hellish place where demons dwell) for her best friend. I love how she doesn’t give up on Annie, even when Annie is under a spell.
3. The invasion of demons into the school and their murderous ways. Strangely, I was totally into the murder of teachers etc. That’s what’s great about a fiction. It’s make-believe!
4. The development of Ryan and Cyn’s relationship. It wasn’t insta-love. Even though Cyn has crushed on him for a long time, they don’t get together too quickly. I like how they talk with one another, learn about each other. (And sharing banana bread!)
5. The inclusion of the play Sweeney Todd. Cyn is in charge of props/stage crew and Ryan plays lead. Love that the demons are into the play and can’t wait to see the production.
6. The description of the store Books of Darkness: Your One-Stop Shop for Magic, Mystery, Hidden Secrets of the Universe. I could completely visualize the place.
7. Cyn is a strong female character, and I loved that she stood her ground, wasn’t swayed to change her mind once she decided what she felt was right.
8. The tackle!!!! Swoon. (You have to read it to understand!)
I really believe that young adults will enjoy this one very much! Even though the cover says 14 and up, I wouldn’t have a problem giving this to a seventh grader to read. And YES! libraries should absolutely carry this book!
The opening of FERAL centers on a girl who has just died, who is being drawn from the window of her high school. A dead girl who still feels pain.
Unlike Susie Salmon of THE LOVELY BONES, Serena, the murdered Peculiar High student, is not the protagonist of FERAL. Instead, Serena serves as a setup for the rest of the book: Serena is stuck inside a broken body, unable to move yet still able to feel everything. This is reflective of where Claire, the protagonist, is as well. The previous spring, Claire suffered a brutal beating in her hometown of Chicago. As she crosses the city limits of Peculiar with her father (who’s on sabbatical), she swears she’s moved on from the beating…but she hasn’t. She’s stuck—and afraid. Just like Serena.
FERAL is, essentially, a classic psychological thriller—and one of the aspects of a psychological thriller is the quest to untangle what is real from what isn’t real. The spirit of Serena also helps put that quest into motion AND, in the end, helps to draw the line between truth and the imagined.
Many physical events in the book are undeniably real: Serena goes missing and is found dead. Her spirit is forced to let go of the earthly world, make its journey to the afterlife. The town police do overlook clues regarding her death. A former Peculiar High student has died in the basement. A car malfunctions. A feral cat follows Claire.
FERAL also includes what I would call malicious paranormal events: angry ghosts, soul-filled fog. Claire also witnesses Serena’s spirit invading a feral cat’s body. Unhappy with the gnarled, ugly look of the cat she inhabits, the spirit of Serena sets her sights on another body: Claire’s. But during a scene at the school dance toward the end of the book, these malicious events are revealed to be something else—namely, a horrifying truth about Claire. The spirit of Serena, as Claire has been seeing it, really reflects (again) Claire’s own unspoken desires—mostly, to be free of her own gnarled, post-beating body.
At the end of the book, Serena’s POV offers a sense of closure, but also emphasizes what has been real and what hasn’t: while Serena is a spirit, she denounces one last time any possibility of her having haunted Claire, claiming the story Claire tells her at the cemetery about seeing her inside a cat is “strange”—outside of her own experiences.
What I most love about Serena’s voice and spiritual character, as she appears in FERAL, is that she serves to both propel the action and illuminate Claire’s internal story.
The Lovely Bones meets Black Swan in this haunting psychological thriller with twists and turns that will make you question everything you think you know.
It’s too late for you. You’re dead. Those words continue to haunt Claire Cain months after she barely survived a brutal beating in Chicago. So when her father is offered a job in another state, Claire is hopeful that getting out will offer her a way to start anew.
But when she arrives in Peculiar, Missouri, Claire feels an overwhelming sense of danger, and her fears are confirmed when she discovers the body of a popular high school student in the icy woods behind the school, surrounded by the town’s feral cats. While everyone is quick to say it was an accident, Claire knows there’s more to it, and vows to learn the truth about what happened.
But the closer she gets to uncovering the mystery, the closer she also gets to realizing a frightening reality about herself and the damage she truly sustained in that Chicago alley….
Holly Schindler’s gripping story is filled with heart-stopping twists and turns that will keep readers guessing until the very last page.
FERAL falls squarely into the realm of the classic psychological thriller. While the book features mystery, horror, and paranormal elements, the emphasis is on the “psychological” rather than thriller / action. The novel features a Hitchcockian pace and focus on character development (here, we’re exploring the inner workings of the main character, Claire Cain). Essentially, every aspect of FERAL is used to explore Claire’s inner workings—that even includes the wintry Ozarks setting. The water metaphor is employed frequently in psychological thrillers to represent the subconscious, and here is incorporated in the form of a brutal ice storm (that represents Claire’s “frozen” inner state). The attempt to untangle what is real from what is unreal (another frequently-used aspect of the psychological thriller) also begins to highlight the extent to which Claire was hurt in that Chicago alley. Even the explanation of the odd occurrences in the town of Peculiar offers an exploration into and portrait of Claire’s psyche. Ultimately, FERAL is a book about recovering from violence—that’s not just a lengthy or hard process; it’s a terrifying process, too. The classic psychological thriller allowed me to explore that frightening process in detail.
Holly Schindler is the author of the critically acclaimed A BLUE SO DARK (Booklist starred review, ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year silver medal recipient, IPPY Awards gold medal recipient) as well as PLAYING HURT(both YAs).
Her debut MG, THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY, also released in ’14, and became a favorite of teachers and librarians, who used the book as a read-aloud. KirkusReviewscalled THE JUNCTION “…a heartwarming and uplifting story…[that] shines…with vibrant themes of community, self-empowerment and artistic vision delivered with a satisfying verve.”
FERAL is Schindler’s third YA and first psychological thriller. Publishers Weekly gave FERAL a starred review, stating, “Opening with back-to-back scenes of exquisitely imagined yet very real horror, Schindler’s third YA novel hearkens to the uncompromising demands of her debut, A BLUE SO DARK…This time, the focus is on women’s voices and the consequences they suffer for speaking…This is a story about reclaiming and healing, a process that is scary, imperfect, and carries no guarantees.”
Schindler encourages readers to get in touch. Booksellers, librarians, and teachers can also contact her directly regarding Skype visits. She can be reached at hollyschindlerbooks (at) gmail (dot) com, and can also be found at hollyschindler.com, hollyschindler.blogspot.com, @holly_schindler, Facebook.com/HollySchindlerAuthor, and hollyschindler.tumblr.com