Sunday, 31 March 2013

Review of THE PRELUDE by KaSonndra Leigh

Publication Date: March 31st 2013
Source: ARC provided by the author in exchange for an honest review

"After finishing design school six months ago, Erin Angelo left her tragic past behind in the States and started a new life in Milan, Italy. Burying the grief, silencing her demons, and living a life without any real attachments has worked well for her so far. But when Erin secures her first real job as a budding clothing designer, her controlled world is shaken to its core by the mysteriously sexy director of the local symphony.

Alek Dostov is a man who knows what he wants and how to get it. He’s successful, hot, the son of a millionaire, and women all over the world flock to see one of his performances. For Alek, Erin represents the ultimate challenge: sexy, smart, and unaffected by his charms…or so she thinks. Just like Erin, Alek avoids attachments that leave him emotionally vulnerable. But unlike Erin, his pursuit of all things pleasurable is ruthless. 

Knowing how wary they both are concerning any kind of committed relationship, Alek finds a way to pursue Erin, satisfying the intense attraction between them without sacrificing the freedom they both enjoy. Sometimes the deepest passion brings out the darkest emotions. And Erin finds herself completely unprepared for the forbidden world of the young maestro and his truths and even his secrets, as she struggles to deal with her own.

Music, passion, betrayal and forbidden love spun together in one of the most romantic cities in the world.

This novel contains sexual situations and mature language. It is intended for an audience at 17+ years of age"

Here are two excerpts from the story. One from Erin and one from Alek...

Erin Gets Her Happy Dance On…

I’m walking in a daze.
I think I’m going to pass out. Whoa! What just happened out there? The most gorgeous, successful, beautifully arrogant man ever just kissed my hand. My best friend, Selene is going to hate me for being so lucky. I can’t wait to tell her.
“Alright, chill out, Cinderella.” I walk through my door and let all the pretense, aka Miss Control USA, go flying out the window. I hop right up in the middle of my living room floor and start doing my hot damn dance.
So, yeah, Alek’s statement about the prelude freaked me out for a second. The word reminded me of something Jada used to say. His line was just the tiniest bit corny, too. But I meant what I said when I told him I thought his words were cute. He can say anything with that accent and get away with it.
I glance at my watch. 10p.m. It’s too early to call Selene. She works as a bartender in Florence. Sometimes her nights don’t end until around 2am.
I sniff the contract Alek gave me. His scent still lingers on the paper, reminding me of the day I first experienced the scent of his cologne. That was the day I fell on my butt, and he offered me his jacket to cover my body. He’s a true gentleman. Well, maybe a little.
So what if the gesture came after I had bolted for the door because he was looking me up and down at first. I feel myself forgiving his neglect to inform me of his true identity. He’s yet to explain himself. I consider agreeing to meet him for dinner just so he can tell me why he led me to believe he was an assistant.
I shower and throw on my Betty Boop sleeping shirt, a pair of booties, and then try to bring my racing thoughts back under control. Heading to my bedroom, I lie down on the bed and pull out a romance novel Selene let me borrow.
She thinks I’m destined to become either a nun or a homicidal maniac. Her reasoning being that no normal person goes without sex as long as I have done. Selene’s boyfriend and my old design lab partner from school, Christopher, even chimed in to help drill the thought into me one day when the two of them visited. I study the book in my hands.
This just doesn’t seem right. Erin Angelo is pulling out a romance novel and actually considering reading it. Now I know something’s wrong with me.


Alek’s POV
Erin Meets the Ex

 “So, your mother was born in Dallas? That means you’re all mixed up, like me. Interesting,” Erin says and shakes her head as though she’s in deep thought.
She takes a bite of her focaccia, a type of yeast roll covered in garlic. Since we’re still well into the aperitivo, Milan’s happy hour, this is about all we’re going to be served for the time being. “It all makes sense now. I was wondering why Adriana doesn’t have a Russian sounding name. And how you got those…nevermind.”
“Don’t do that stopping mid-sentence thing. It drives me insane, yes. Finish. What do I have?” I lean over on the table, so I’m closer to her face. A rush of pink spreads through her cheeks. She blushes so easily. I enjoy watching it happen.
She shrugs and stabs at her food until I’m ready to snatch the plate away and eat the bread myself. I place my hand over hers. “Erin, you were going to tell me something, yes?” Our gazes meet, and she stares deep into my eyes.
“Your eyes. They’re not blue like a lot of Russians. That’s all. You don’t need me to be telling you things you’ve heard all your life, I’m sure.” She glances down at her plate and then over at my hand massaging the skin on top of hers.
“Look at me, Erin.”
“No. I mean, I’d rather not.”
“Because it’s—”
“What have we here? The two of you look cozy,” a familiar female’s voice says, ripping through our bonding moment. Nadya. I sit back and give her a hard look. She’s wearing fur in July, the same thing Mother likes to do. And she looks ridiculous.
“Nadya. You look warm today,” I say, smiling.
“I am. These Milan nights can get a little chilly. Especially when a girl sits at home alone more often than not,” she replies.
“I’m sure a woman of your means can easily find male companionship,” I say with a smirking grin. She turns to Erin.
“Hi there. I’m Nadya, Alek’s ex-girlfriend.” She holds out her hand for Erin to shake.
“I’m Erin. And I’m not the new girlfriend.” Shaking her hand, Erin passes a quick glance in my direction.
“Erin Angelo, the student designer who wooed and won the hearts of all three Martuccio brothers? I’m in awe. Tell me, what kind of sexual favors did you do in order to convince them to take you in and spend all that money for you?”
“Nadya. This isn’t the time or place for that shit,” I warn.
“Oh, Alek, this is girl talk. Obviously, Erin has what it takes to survive in the fashion capital of the world. I simply want pointers on how she managed to snag yet another successful man so very quickly. Has he taken you to the waterfall yet?” Nadya gushes, her voice dripping with sarcasm. I stand up and face her.
“I’m warning you, Nadya,” I repeat.
“No, Alek, it’s okay, really. I don’t mind helping Nadya out,” Erin says, a devious gleam in her gorgeous eyes. Easing back down to my seat, I get the feeling that Nadya is in for a surprise.
“First, I signed up for design school. This meant I actually had to use intelligence over sex,” Erin begins, using the sweetest voice I’ve ever heard on a female. “And then, my instructors noticed I had a sharp eye for identifying trends. You know what I mean, right? Real. Raw. Talent. Now, this doesn’t include shopping sprees and matching up the designer labels in all my outfits. I’m one of the people who actually sat down and created the design for that acrylic, also known as, fake fur vest you’re wearing.”
Erin beams a smile at Nadya and then glances at me just before she says, “Men can’t help but to notice someone who does this kind of thing. Right, Alek?”
“Damn right. I couldn’t help it, anyway,” I add, feeling more turned on by Erin than I’ll ever care to admit. She removes her shawl and exposes the way her dress dips low enough to show off her generous cleavage. I lower my head so neither one of them will catch me laughing.
“In fact, Alek told me that my ambitious nature outside of the bedroom turns him on so much that he can’t wait to get back and make mad, passionate love to me tonight,” Erin says with a smile. I almost choke on my saliva.
“Obviously. Have a nice dinner,” Nadya says in a flat voice and walks off toward a man standing near the bar.
“I cannot believe I just said those shitty things to her,” Erin says, shaking her head and gasping.
“She opened the door wide,” I answer.
“Can we have a subject-change moment, please?” she asks and moves on without questioning me about the waterfall statement Nadya made. I appreciate that she doesn’t question or judge me. Not yet.

*I Hereby Award This book 5 Wings!*

When I was first asked if I wanted to be part of the Street Team for release day of this book, I was excited to get my hands on the book and dive in. Unfortunately, I had other blog tour commitments that meant I couldn't get to it right away. However, when I picked this book up yesterday, there was no putting it down.
I read the first 76% in one sitting and then finished the rest this morning.
It's taken me a few minutes to compose myself enough to write a review though because I was sat with tears streaming down my face as I got to the end. Well, technically I had tears in my eyes from about 83% I think it was. Why? Read on to find out...

The Prelude is an amazing story, it totally blew me away. Right from the first word on the first page, I was sucked in. There was nowhere for me to go except head first into the pages. From then, I was surrounded by a world of music, art, passion, pleasure and love. But in this world, there was also loss, guilt, heartache and betrayal. This culmination of things made for one of my favourite books of the year, if not that I've EVER read! 

Alternating chapters are told from two POV's. One is Erin and the other, Alek. For me, this was a lot of fun. It meant we had insights not only as to one MC, but two. Both of whom are passionate, feisty and stubborn as mules. They both have a love of music and the arts. Theirs is a beautiful, yet tragic tale - they both have obstacles to overcome in their lives before they can see their way to love.

Erin is in Italy, working for Black Butterfly Designs. She co-runs the place with two other people, the delectable Luca and Rafe. She has an assistant called Carla who helps her make her creations come to life after her initial designs on paper. That's right, Erin is a very talented clothing designer. BBD is a small, yet very good design house. They have a possible new contract with a man called Alek Dostov, a prominent maestro. He's a man who knows what he wants and just how to get it.

Erin's designs land BBD the contract, meaning they have to create 6 sets of outfits for an upcoming ballet that Alek is arranging. His friend Nikolai is a dancer and together, they are hoping to pull off the performance of a lifetime, Requiem. 

When Erin meets Alek, she's not interested in men. Well, she is, but in a no-strings way, not looking for a relationship. She can't help but think he's very handsome, but still, her interest in him is to remain professional. That doesn't mean to say he doesn't ask her out on a date though. She just keeps refusing him.

There's a reason for Erin's reticence. Her past still haunts her every day. Before she moved to Italy, when she was younger, there was love and happiness in her family until one tragic day, her father and sister are killed in a car accident. After which, Erin made a promise to herself that she would never be happy again, never love again. She would remain stoic, because if she didn't, and she let herself feel, she would be opening herself up to a world of hurt. She believed that she didn't deserve to feel happiness as a result of what happened that day. She said it should have been her in the car that day, not Jada. She thought her sister was meant to go on and become someone, make her mark on the world, not her.

Back to present day and Alek is still pursuing the idea of getting Erin to go on a date with him, but he's not sure why he cares so much. He doesn't normally care about women, he just uses them and tosses them aside. His mother usually sets him up with women with whom a lucrative future could be paved. But there's something different about Erin. She challenges him in a way no-one has done before.

Erin finally agrees to go on a date with him, for the sake of appearance. She doesn't want to lose the design contract for BBD. But more than that, she actually likes Alek. she won't admit it, not even to herself, but she does.

What ensues from here is a beautifully told story of how Erin and Alek both must face their demons and overcome many obstacles set on their path. Erin must come to terms with what happened in the past not being her fault, and Alek must learn what it's like to truly woo a woman - he needs to win her affection, and ultimately her heart. 
They say the path to true love never runs smooth, well that is certainly true in this case. I heard something once, and it holds true in this instance; Ad Astra Per Aspera - A Rough Road Leads To The Stars.

This is a story laced with many emotions. The layers of the story are complex and at times, I wanted to reach in and smack Erin upside the head. But the fact is, she needed to come to terms with things in her own time and her own way. Whether she will always carry these demons around with her or whether she will let herself truly live and be free, is up to her. 

We meet some amazing characters in this story, as well as some not so great. We even meet one or two who aren't all they make us believe they are. But obviously, I can't tell you who - you need to read The Prelude and find out for yourself. 

KaSonndra Leigh is a very talented author who builds an amazing story, one in which I became quickly immersed. She paints the most vivid picture with her words and you can't help but truly lose yourself.
Erin and Alek are both very similar in their ways, even though they don't know it at first. Or is it that they just won't admit it?
I must admit, this is one emotional journey from the moment it begins and it only builds and gets more emotional along the way. When I reached around 83% I began to cry and I didn't stop until long after I had read the final word on the very last page.
I really hope that this is a series that will continue for a long time because I want to learn more about the secondary characters as well as read more about Erin and Alek. Maybe we'll get a book from Luca and Adriana's POV's? I truly don't know what the future holds for the characters within these pages but I know one thing, the road ahead won't be an easy one. But they do say, if something is easy then it isn't worth doing!

I hope you all will pick up a copy of The Prelude today. I hope you enjoyed the excerpts that KaSonndra chose to share with you and I hope you were persuaded by my words to give it a try for yourself.

Thank you to KaSonndra for the ARC copy of this fantastic story. I hope it's released in paperback because it's something I'd like to own a signed copy of - it can sit in my collection of signed, most favourite books.

Thank you all who came by to read my review. I hope to see you all here again soon!

Meet your word sculptress...

Author of the Lost Immortals Saga and the Path Seekers Series. I’m also a mother, blogger, reader, gardener, home renovator, and a slayer of undead Egyptian mummies in Tomb Raider. I believe in karma, coffee, and seriously wish that the producers of Xena would bring my favorite show ever back.

Strange things about me: Everything. I am weird, odd, unusual, and generally tend to make people think I swooped down from another planet. I don’t know. Maybe I did. Who knows? I’m also a member of the #zombiesurvivalcrew on twitter. So if you need protection from the upcoming apocalypse, don’t hesitate to call on us.

I was born in the race-car city of Charlotte, NC, and now live in the City of Alchemy and Medicine, NC, when I’m not hanging out in Bardonia (Lost Immortals). Most of my characters are based on people that I’ve met throughout my travels and adventures. People tend to stop and start conversations with me as if I’ve known them my entire life. Does this freak me out? Not really. My mom says that one day I’ll get kidnapped by one of them. I told her that if it weren’t for these lovely people then I wouldn’t be able to create the stories that I do.

KaSonndra’s Author website:

KaSonndra’s Twitter:

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Author Interview S.Walden

Hello Everyone *waves* 

Today I am lucky enough to have an interview with Summer Walden, author of Hoodie, Honeysuckle and her latest novel Going Under.

Hi Summer, firstly, I’d like to ask some background questions about you…

Name: Summer Walden (pen name: S. Walden)
Age: 32
Place of Birth: Fayetteville, North Carolina, USA
Place of Residence: Atlanta, Georgia, USA
Marital Status: Married
Do You Have Children? : I’m terrified of them and will always be, so no.
Favourite Food: Cake. Delicate, velvety cake with swirly-twirly icing.
Favourite Film: I go through stages. In high school it was Sense and Sensibility (1995). Now? The Painted Veil. (Hated the book, by the way. First that’s ever happened, that I preferred the screenplay to the book.)
Favourite Singer/Band: Toss up: Yes and Genesis (two bands who made it big before I was even born)
Favourite Book: Yikes. Really? Let me go with three that really affected me. Maybe that’s the same thing as favorite. The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare, Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson, and Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya.
Favourite Author: I really and truly do not have one. And I can’t list all of the ones I like here, or this interview would never end.
Favourite Quote (book or film): How about a book quote in a film? Sense and Sensibility (1995). Marianne quoting Shakespeare: “Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds, or bends with the remover to remove. Oh no! It is an ever-fixed mark that looks on tempests, and is never shaken.” But then you have to whisper at the end: “Willoughby . . . Willoughby.”

Now onto the more in-depth questions…

     1)    Did you always know you wanted to be an author? 
        Yes, though I thought it was impossible. When you’re 14 and just starting to take your writing seriously, the idea of completing a full-length novel seems daunting. At least for me it was. I started about a bazillion drafts before actually finishing one . . . at 30 years old!

      2)  What age did you decide to become an author?
       Well, I got serious last August, so age 31. I taught before that, but I was so all over the place with teaching. I didn’t know where I fit in until I realized that I didn’t fit in anywhere! Then I had an existential crisis about the purpose of my life before I decided to stop being so freaking scared and start doing what I always wanted to do. Write!

      3)   If you couldn’t be an author, what do you think you would like to be? 
       Well, I hope to be an innkeeper some day. I want to own and operate my own beachside inn. Hmm, I say “operate,” but my ultimate plan is to leave that in the capable hands of my husband while I write on the beach every day! I figure that’s fair: I wrote the business plan, after all. J

      4)   Who are your writing influences? 
         Writers: Stephen King, David Sedaris, Diana Gabaldon, J. K. Rowling, Faulkner. Non-writers: Every person I come into contact with.

      5)   What was the first book you read and how old were you? 
         I think it was One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss, but I’m not sure. (I remember that as my favorite, though.) And I don’t know how old I was, but I know I wasn’t some child genius reading one week after I was born. I think it’s amazing, those kids who are reading when they’re one week old. J

      6)    How old were you when you first wrote something, be it a poem or a short/full-length novel? 
      Oh man. I know I was writing at a very young age, though I cannot remember the first piece. And I know I probably shared a lot of that writing in school, but I cannot remember. At least not before seventh grade. I do, however, distinctly remember my experience sharing in seventh grade. I didn’t want to read my piece, but my teacher made me. Let me preface this by saying that, yeah, I was a pretty deep 12-year-old. I was not suicidal; however, I wrote a lyrical story of a woman who takes her life by throwing herself off a cliff into the sea. Very dramatic. (Roll your eyes.) Now for the mortifying part. My teacher forced me to read it to the entire class (after she’d read it herself!). I think she did it on purpose to punish me for writing a story with such a taboo topic . . . oh my God, I just realized why I like to write stories with taboo topics!

      7)    What was your first published piece of writing? 
            I was featured in Elizabeth Ervin’s book, Public Literacy. I co-wrote a grant for my university, and she used it as an example in her grant writing chapter. Ask me to write a grant for you today and I’d reply, “What’s a grant?”

      8)    How many articles/books have you subsequently published? 
      Two books. Hoodie and Honeysuckle Love. And they don’t sound anything like Going Under. In fact, none of my books sound like they were written by the same person. I realize I have to change that. Readers like authors to stick with a certain style and a certain genre. So now I’ve got to figure out how to keep from rehashing the same stories and characters over and over and still give my readers what they want.

     9)    Does writing come naturally to you? 
        Yes, though I’m constantly working to hone my skills and to write more succinctly. Writing is a job like any other. If you want to stay sharp, if you want to continue writing clear, fluid descriptions and dialogue, then you have to practice, practice, practice. No different from teachers completing continuing education training courses to keep their certifications current or doctors taking classes to stay current with their licenses.

   10)  How did you become published? Did you ever self-publish or were you picked up by a publishing house right away? 
      I’m self-published. I only received three rejection letters from literary agencies before I decided to go the self-publishing route. I admit I was hesitant at first mostly because I didn’t know what in the world I was doing, but also because of the stigma attached to self-published work. But it seems to be the way to go now. As an author, you almost have to prove your worth in the sales rankings before anyone will even take notice. Very different from the way things were before these self-publishing platforms came on the scene. I’ve seen so many self-published authors picked up by agents and publishing houses as a result of their successes in the marketplace. I’m hoping for the same in the future.

Now for questions specifically related to Going Under…

    11)   What was your inspiration behind Going Under?       
      I was inspired to write this story based on a newspaper article about a high school in the US that got busted for a secret sex club. The boys (all members of various varsity sports teams) drafted girls and rated them on their sexual acts. Some girls knew about the league and willingly participated while others knew nothing. None of the boys were charged with sex crimes. It wasn’t like that; just a seedy club run by horny teens. And when I did more research I learned that these clubs have been discovered in high schools and college campuses all over the US. But many people are unaware of them.

So this article sparked the idea of a story about a sex club with a much darker, sinister side. One where boys prey on girls and take advantage of their ignorance and vulnerability. I actually worked out the details of the club first before developing the overarching revenge theme of the book.

    12)   Why did you choose to write about such a taboo subject? 
       Because the story demanded it. Once I read that article I thought, No one has yet to write a story like this?? Impossible! It was just too juicy, too over-the-top, too scandalous to be true. But it was true. At least the part about the club. My storyline for Going Under is completely fictitious. Nothing about the inner workings of the sex league, rape, depression, or revenge plot are part of that newspaper article.
      My editor doesn’t believe me one bit when I say that I never set out to write a story with the intention of teaching a lesson, but I swear that’s the truth. I don’t think it’s my job to teach a lesson in my books. It’s my job to tell a good story and let readers decide what they want to learn from it. So really it comes down to this: I chose to write this story because it’s a good one. 

   13)   What was it that made you decide how you should go about writing around such a taboo subject?
I never think to myself, Is this going to be too offensive for my readers? I always include disclaimers in my book descriptions to let people know exactly what they’re getting into. I hate to say it’s my “Get out of jail free” card because I know I’ll still receive reviews from people complaining about the offensive language and ideas in my books. However, those disclaimers do lift the burden of responsibility (that sounds so bad!). I can just point to them and say, “I warned you. What are you complaining about?” Instead of trying to figure out how to tread lightly with a taboo topic, I just commit to staying true to the voices of my characters and their stories. Brooke burst onto the page as a complete mess. She’s irreverent, silly, clumsy, beautiful, and flawed. And that’s how the story goes. I knew it would never be neat and tidy. It’s raw and offensive and graphic. How on earth could I write a story about rape and a Fantasy Slut League any other way?

    14)   How did the idea for the ‘Fantasy Slut League’ come about? 
        The newspaper article. It didn’t go into specifics about how the league mirrored Fantasy Football, so I had to learn all about that myself and create my own classification and scoring system. My brother-in-law, who’s an avid Fantasy Football player, helped me with the details. Okay, so I know that the theme of the book is ultra heavy, but I’m going light here for a minute. I wish wish wish I had recorded that conversation in his living room last November during Thanksgiving. It was so ludicrous. Here’s a taste:
“Okay, so we can’t score a blow job from a virgin the same as a blow job from a ho, right?” I ask.
“No, see, you’ve gotta put the girls into classifications and then cross-reference scores based on their sexual experience,” Burt replies.
“Ohhh, that totally makes sense. So, a score sheet that gives all the scores based on the type of girl, and then a separate sheet that labels each girl,” I say.
He nods. “Now if you wanna get really crazy with it, we can talk frequency.”
“Additional points for repeat offenders?” I ask.
He nods again. “If a virgin gives the same guy three blow jobs over the course of two weeks, shouldn’t she get something extra in the way of points? I mean, that blows sex with a ho completely out of the water.”
I stare at him waiting for the inevitable chuckle. He punned, and he knew it.
“That might be too hard to explain in the book,” I say.
My mother walks into the room.
“What are you guys discussing?” she asks.
“Blow jobs,” we say in unison.
“Is this for your next book, Summer?” she asks, trying hard to seem intrigued when she’s completely mortified.
I nod. She turns right around and leaves the room.

     15)  During the writing process, a lot of authors say that their characters talk to them and beg to be written. Did this happen with Beth? Did her story beg to be written? 
          Actually no. I didn’t hear Beth at all. I heard Brooke. In fact, the first flashback in the novel with Brooke and Finn was the very first scene I wrote. I knew afterwards that I had created a main character that people were either going to really love or really hate because she’s just so flawed. Some readers have a hard time with that. They want their main characters to be pretty close to perfect. Brooke isn’t that one bit.

Beth only spoke to me once I started writing her specific scenes. I saw her as the central idea the story revolved around, but not so much as a lead voice in the story. She was more ideal than concrete.

     16)   You wrote about not one but two taboo subjects really, rape and suicide. What made you choose to have Beth commit suicide as a result of her rape?
I needed a reason for Brooke’s revenge plot. This might sound harsh, but if Beth lived, there would have been no story. And while the story does focus on revenge, I really tried my hardest to highlight the theme of friendship among girls—how important girlfriends are. How special they are and how much we need them. I thought a lot about my own best friend as I wrote Going Under. All of our adventures. All the times she took care of me in college when I was drunk off my ass. The boys. The fights. The flat-out truth that we sometimes didn’t want to hear. The make-ups. Growing together. It’s an incredible thing: a best friend. And I wanted to show Brooke’s utter devastation, give her a reason to be so absolutely crazy with her plan for revenge. She failed at being loyal to Beth before Beth died, so she’s determined to be loyal to her in death. It’s powerful, that female connection. It is both a beautiful and frightening thing.

    17)   Would you say that you can relate to Brooke and what she decided to do as recompense for what happened to Beth? 
      Well, I’ll put it this way: I think Brooke’s plan actually resonates with all of us because we all have people in our lives to which we are insanely loyal. People we love fiercely and forever. People we would die for. That kind of love for another human being compels all kinds of actions, and when it’s mixed with guilt, those actions become ones of desperation.

    18)   Did you ever consider writing the book from Beth’s POV instead of Brooke’s?
No. Again, Beth was more of the central idea that the sex club and revenge plot revolved around. But I wanted the reader to know Beth, at least a little, and that’s why I wrote flashback scenes. Maybe I didn’t give enough of a taste, but I didn’t want to do the whole “I’m dead and narrating this story” thing. I think it can work in some books, but it could definitely not work in this one. 

     19)   How long did it take to come up with the first draft of Going Under? 
      Two months. I wrote nonstop, at least 8-hour days. Sometimes longer. And the original title was Slut. Everyone apart from my editor said, “No way! You can’t market that!” So after lots of brainstorming, cutting, revising, and throwing away, the title was changed to Going Under. And I dig it.

     20)   How many subsequent drafts were there before you had the polished finished draft? 
      A bazillion. No, scratch that. A trillion-bazillion. And I’m not even joking. I’ve never revised a manuscript so much. I took out half the curse words. Yeah, go ahead and laugh. I know Brooke has a mouth on her. That’s the only trait she and I share. My husband likes to ask me, “Why do you cuss as a writer when you know so many words?” to which I reply, “Because sometimes it just feels good to say ‘f**k’.”

      21)   Was there ever a scene that you wrote and then found yourself deleting and leaving out of the final draft?
      Sure. Scenes with Brooke and Finn (as Beth’s older brother, not boyfriend.) That was the original plan, but then I thought, Why would Beth care that Brooke is dating her older brother? She wouldn’t. Even if they sneaked around, I couldn’t see Beth getting so upset about it. She’d be like, “What the hell, Brooke? My brother? Gross.” But she wouldn’t have felt deeply betrayed. So Finn went from brother to boyfriend. And that last sentence sounds kind of gross.

     22)   Was there anything you cut but later replaced or wish that you had after the book’s publication?
I’m pretty happy with the outcome. I think I cut all the unimportant scenes I wrote in the early stages of the story, but I do wish I would have included a few more Ryan scenes (without them going at it!). That’s a hard one for me because I like them going at it. It’s almost comical because Brooke is so silly with her sexuality. I kind of like the idea of readers shouting at Brooke, “Girl, get yourself together! You’re acting like a ho!” every time they get to a Ryan scene. But I hope I conveyed that they had a relationship that went beyond the physical. I imagined them hanging out a lot painting, playing video games, going to the movies . . . all those things teenagers do when they’re dating. And so I didn’t include additional scenes like that because, again, I thought it was understood.

23)   Do you think or hope that your book will touch young women and maybe make them come forward about their own experiences?
It’s humbling to think that a book can have such a profound effect on someone, and I do hope that mine will. I hesitate to encourage rape victims to read the book, but that’s mostly because I don’t want to imagine that I’ve made them relive their experiences through reading Brooke’s story. I hate the idea of making someone cry over her past pain. That being said, I probably need to give victims more credit, and my hope is that Going Under can be some sort of catalyst in changing how we approach and discuss rape in our society.

and lastly...

      24)  Do you like it when people write you fan-mail about their experience with your book?
Hell yeah! My goal is to be inundated with emails until one day I have a nervous breakdown over them because I can’t possibly answer them all. I LOVE replying to my fans. It was actually funny when one of them wrote me back and said, “I didn’t expect you to reply to me!” I should have told her, “Well, I’m keeping track, and you’re my fifth fan. So you see, I’ve got time.” J

Thank you for taking the time out of your busy day to answer my questions Summer, the answers are very enlightening.
Having read Going Under for myself and reviewed it on this blog, I hope that girls or women who have similar experiences will be more forthcoming. I believe it is high time society did away with such constrictions and made these kinds of subjects easier for people to talk about – making these things less ‘taboo’.

Thank you to everyone who came by today. I hope that you will read Going Under for yourselves. 
I said in my review - I am a victim of rape and this books is just the tonic I needed. It turned out to be the first chapter in the story of the rest of my life - this chapter is aptly entitled "Closure".
When I first picked up this book, I knew that I was possibly letting myself in for a world of hurt but actually, the underlying messages as well as those at the forefront are more helpful than hurtful. 
So my last message to you is, be warned that the book contains elements that some may find upsetting. But please, give this book a chance.

PS: If you would like the chance to win a 'Going Under' Prize Pack, enter here: (it's open for the month of April)

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Welcome To My Stop On The Blog Tour For NAKED AS WE CAME by Amberly Wynn

Author: Amberly Wynn
Publication Date: January 21st 2013
Source: e-copy provided by RABT for review purposes

"Escaping Earth was the first triumph. Surviving Nyx will be the last…

Sixteen-year-old Cassidy Tomei was one of the lucky few airlifted aboard the Wonder to the planet Nyx. This emergency exodus from Earth was meant to bring new hope for the remaining survivors of humankind, but there’s one problem. Humankind isn’t alone on this mysterious new planet. 

On Nyx, Cassidy is one of many living amongst subzero temperatures and with nothing, but a meager ration of food for every household. When the rations deplete, she flees to into unfamiliar wilderness in search of food, but instead discovers debris from a foreign spacecraft that proves humankind is no longer the dominate species. 

Soon, everything she knows is at stake and everyone she loves is dead. But she’s got one more battle to fight when she’s taken prisoner within Pelhoi, a concentration camp constructed specifically for humans where hominoid creatures dubbed, “the Achillai” reign supreme.

She seeks freedom, but finds romance with someone who might either save her or get her killed."


Tariq’s screams wake me.
I jerk up in a daze, colliding headfirst with the frame of the top bunk. The whole wooden bed trembles in rhythm with Tariq’s thrashing body. It wouldn’t surprise me if he rolled out of bed and hit the floor. Poor kid. This is the third cold he’s had this month.
It’s no wonder why. The fire is a smolder. Nothing but ashes burns in the belly of the furnace across the room. He’s probably freezing to death up there.
 “Cassidy, are you up yet?” Mama shouts. Her voice quavers from the other side of my bedroom door when she knocks. She’s catching a cold too.
We’re all on the same schedule for cold season this year. It’s not unusual these days. Born and raised in southern Arizona, none of us have gotten used to planet Nyx’s everlasting winter. But it’s a sacrifice we had to make to keep from perishing on Earth with the others.
“Yeah,” I say. “I’m up.” But I’m not. I remain in bed, basking in the small ray of warm light casting a gleam onto the dull hardwood floors. Tariq gasps again, this time, crying out as his coughs amplify.
On my tiptoes I look onto the top bunk. There, my little brother lays cocooned in the tattered quilts, shivering, but sound asleep nonetheless.
“Hey, little bug, are you okay?” I coo. He doesn’t move. I lean in, wondering if he’s even still breathing. “Tariq? Come on, it’s time to wake up.”
He rolls over and I note the purple tint in his brown cheeks and the yellowing hue of his eyes. This doesn’t look like an ordinary cold.  
“Tar, wake up.” He doesn’t answer. I put my hand to his forehead. “Geez, boy, you’re cold as ice. Are you okay? Answer me!”
There’s a pause then a gasp and he coughs, spraying blood through his teeth.
“Oh my god.” I unravel him from the sheath of blankets and tote him down the narrow hallway into Mama’s bedroom. She’s all ready for the day and fixing her hair into a bun when I stop in her doorway, knocking on the frame.
“Mama, something’s wrong with Tariq.”
She sighs. “This weather is getting the best of all of us, isn’t it?”
“He’s not breathing,” I say and she scurries over, snatching him out of my arms to rest him atop her sunken burlap cot. In a matter of seconds, she checks for a pulse then vitals, putting all of her previous nursing school training to good use.
“Get me water and a towel,” she says. “Hot water, now, Cassidy!”
I rush out, grabbing a tin bucket from the hallway cupboard, full speed from the hut, neglecting a coat or even a pair of socks. The moment my toes touch the snow outside, my feet burn with blisters as the dry ice cooks the skin.
The wind collides, knocking against my featherweight body so hard that I topple over, forced to crawl the rest of the way. If the wind were any stronger it’d sweep me into the air as I forge against it toward the pump behind our hut.
The rusty thing squeaks when I wind the handle and flushes nothing but brown droplets of water from the faucet. Crap. Of course. It’s only 5AM. They don’t turn on the water until eleven.
They don’t even crank up the underground  generators for electricity until noon. All that talk from before about “conserving our provisions” from Earth was pointless on a planet that is subzero ninety percent of the time.
I need to think fast. Let’s see…the Strip opens at six. Around that time, there’ll be a crowd of colonists already outside the gates fending each other off for the best lumber.
Water isn’t an option for five more hours. Venturing into the forest for wood isn’t forbidden, but inadvisable if you have no idea what you’re doing. Whether I like it or not, braving the inevitable pandemonium at the Strip is all I can do. I rush back inside. Mama hovers over Tariq in the den, cocooning him in blankets on the floor in front the last flame of fire smoldering in the furnace.
“Where’s the water?” she asks. “Cassidy, he’s freezing!”
“There’s no water,” I say. “The pump is dry until eleven. I’m going to the Strip for firewood, okay?”
“There’s no time for that!”
“We don’t have a choice, Mama! I have to go. I’ll be back. Keep Tariq as warm as you can. I promise you, I will be back. Okay?”
She nods. I hurry to my bedroom and slide a large plastic storage bin from beneath the bottom bunk and pick out my best coat along with a pair of mukluks, hand-me-downs courtesy of my older brother, Lonnie.
I dress fast and rush out onto the porch. The first thing that hits me is the wind. It hits me so hard that it dries my face. I lick my cracked lips and taste the fleck of dried blood down the center of a cut. I stuff my hair in handfuls beneath my snowcap, neglecting the stray strands peeking from under.  
Before descending the wooden porch stairway, I make sure to click close the padlock on the hut door and check all the windows for locks as well. It’s better this way to keep others in the colony from getting any ideas.
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house isn’t exactly a practiced commandment around here.
I follow the gravel pathway downward, around the bend of the block. More turf huts dot the edges, separated, padlocked and boxed into little sections by rusty wire fences. None of them have smoke in their chimneys which means that either they’re still asleep or heading to the Strip to wait in line with the rest of us.
I’m hoping for the former. The longer they sleep in, the fewer people I’ll have to deal with for the day’s portions. This would be a worthwhile venture it if the wood they threw at us through the shafts were any good.
Every once and a while there’s at least one sadistic woodsman that doles out a fine piece of wood that people swarm over until someone is either shot to death or beaten into submission.
I’ll take whatever I can get right now. Even if it’s scraps, I’ll make do with it for Tariq’s sake. After all, we’ve lived off less. So long as it’s enough to spark a decent flame, I don’t have a problem with accepting second best today.
Halfway down the path, I see the usual grey smoke signal through the thorny treetops. Sometimes, when Nyx’s fog is too thick, the smoke transitions to purple to help fellow colonists see their way into the Heart.
After landing on Nyx, the only things we learnt when the schools were built were trades that would only benefit the colony.
Things like firewood, crop picking and smoke signals are amongst the curriculum for graduation, insisting we learn the exact potion formulated for changing the color of smoke to fit specific situations. Red is for danger. Blue is for weather advisories. Purple is for times like this when seeing is the utmost importance and pink is an SOS.
It’s amazing what a dash of food coloring, potassium chlorate oxidizer and lactose can concoct under the right conditions. I follow the purple smoke in, rounding the gravel pathways further into the most populated part of my colony, Cere –- the Heart. 
Further in, past the horizontal rows of unmarked huts, the lone Quonset amongst a fleet of wooden shacks sits in waiting with the purple smoke signal seeping out from its tin chimney. I smell the fire raging from inside and covet the heat like a dying flower craving water. I rub my hands together, peeling the dead skin rolling off my palms.
These daily windburns have done a number on my skin and caused so much of my complexion to fade in patches of dry cardboard colored flesh. Once, I was blessed with a brilliant brown complexion that’s now sallow beige.
If you’d look at me now, you could almost never tell that I was once teased for being the blackest girl with the kinkiest hair at school in Arizona. I’m a ghost of my former self in this weather and on this planet.
I’m not the only one sucking my cracked lips to keep them from chapping in the wind. There’s already a small huddle of people gathered before the Quonset. The frosted windows are still barred shut and the tin log chutes jutting out its sides are clearly inaccessible.
Nonetheless, there are already people lying outside the place in makeshift sleeping bags and heavy coats. The huge sundial hanging from the Quonset’s hood is around forty-five after five. In a cluster of maybe ten or fifteen people, I figure, I’ve made some good time.
I can handle a crowd this small. I think. There aren’t many people here to fight. I remind myself to not underestimate the company. I stay behind the crowd, burrowing my hands inside my coat pockets, wondering which strategy I’ll go with from here.
I could make a run for it as soon as the chutes open, but that would take some quick feet not to mention some tricky footwork to keep out of the crossfire of others who will be tempted to do the same thing.
Or I could stay back and out of the way until the trampling starts. By then wood will be flying from people’s arms one log at a time. I’m small for my age. I could squeeze into the crowd unnoticed and retrieve the dropped lumber before anyone catches me.
Yeah, that’s best. It’s best not to push my luck by getting too cocky. I’ll stay out of the way and pick up whatever is dropped. As the crowd thickens, I wonder more and more how possible that plan is. What started as a crowd of fifteen is now a twice the number and growing by the second.
I don’t have much wiggle room to maneuver through. I can’t see over the heads of the taller people blocking my view of the chutes. Still, I stand as far away as I can to wait with everyone else as dawn casts light over the colony sundial’s sixth hour. The chutes unlock and the first batch of wood shoots out like torpedoes.
People have to duck to keep from getting hit. I dodge behind the biggest man I find to shield myself. The first batch incites the usual brawl. Two men battle it out over one huge log that’s big enough to fuel a continuous fire for at least two weeks.
The rest of us scatter. We know better than to get in the way of this once the knife is drawn. I make a beeline for the opposite direction, dodging the log that flies at my head. Someone jerks me around. I get out of their way and fall all-fours to search the ground for dropped wood. Overhead, I watch a nice piece of timber burst from another one of the chutes.
It’s right in my path, aiming for me like it’s meant to be mine. I open my arms to catch it then something hits me from the left and takes me down in a tackle that knocks the wind out of me. I sit up wheezing as a boy intercepts the wood midair, looks down at me chuckling then says, “Oops. Better luck next time?”
“What was that?”
Holding my stomach, I prop myself onto my feet. “I called you an asshole.”
“It’s not my fault you’re slow with poor reflexes.”
“Whatever,” I say. “Take the wood and get out of my face.” I dust myself off, bruised from limb to ego. All I want to do is disappear even if it’s with nothing, but my tail between my legs so I try, but he sidesteps and blocks off my path.
“Wait…you take it,” he says then shoves the wood at me. “Go on. It’s yours. Take it before I change my mind.”
“I don’t need your charity.”
“You also don’t need that attitude either, but we’re all forced to deal with the cards we’re dealt, right? Besides, there’s no way you’re getting past these other vultures for anything better. Take the wood.”
“Forget it.”
Again, he shoves the wood in my direction. I step back. He steps forward.
“Take the damn wood and stop being so stupid. I’m fast and a good jumper. I can easily catch another piece of wood.”
“I can catch my own wood,” I say, determined to do just that. “Now move!”
A second log whizzes over us. It hits the snow as me and two others scurry toward it. The girl who reaches it first draws a pocketknife and waves it at the rest of us to keep us at bay.
As we stagger back, the man behind her grabs her by the neck and snaps it with one quick motion. In a matter of seconds, he swipes the wood and rushes off. I stand still holding my breath. The boy steps in front of me and drops the log into my arms.
“Here,” he says. “Someone has gotta show some humanity around here.” 
I don’t reply. I watch as he disappears back into the crowd. With him gone, my eyes return to the girl in the snow. I bet she’s no older than Tariq and died over a stupid piece of wood.

*I Hereby Award This Book 4 Wings*
My Review:

When I was first offered the chance to be on this blog tour, I jumped at the opportunity to read something a little different to all the romances and stuff I have been reading. Let me tell you now, I am so glad I did. Naked As We Came was different enough to peak my interest and yet not so much as to be out of my comfort zone. 
Cassidy Tomei is one of my new favourite kick-A heroines. Why? Well you need to read the story to find out the full reason, but here's my cut-a-long-story-short review. I'll try to get to the point. 
Cassidy lives on the planet Nyx. The reason for this? Because Earth got evacuated. The people left behind were sure to tragically perish and die. So it's a good job for Cassie and her family that they got spaces aboard the shuttles leaving to settle on Nyx. 
Or is it such a good job?
When people first settled on Nyx, there was enough food to go around, enough wood to create fires, enough supplies of everything really. But one thing they didn't factor in when evacuating Earth was that though Nyx was a habitable planet, they wouldn't be able to replenish supplies - they made room for more people aboard the shuttles than for supplies and the things in demand soon became few and far between - meaning that the people would have to fight to be the first to get what they needed. 
One morning, Cassie's younger brother Tariq is sick, their Mama has to hold tight to him to share her body warmth so that he doesn't freeze before Cassie can get some water. But what Cassie forgot is that the water is rationed and only turned on between certain times of the day. This being the case, she must rush to get firewood to build a small fire to warm her brother and keep him from perishing from hypothermia.
Cassie returns with the wood, but thankfully their older brother Lonnie got home before her and now Tariq isn't as bad as he was.
You might ask why he stood the chance of catching hypothermia. Well, one of the things also not mentioned about Nyx was that though it was habitable, there would be snow covering the ground and cold seeping into the homes and the bones of the residents. It's all they can do to stay alive these days.

Cassie and Lonnie want to go out into the woods to forage for berries and other things they might be able to eat. they know that soon the food will run out and then they will all be left to waste away. Nothing more to be done.
So when Cassie and Lonnie go foraging, it is with the hopes of finding berries, right? Well what they don't bank on coming across is an alien spaceship. Or what seems that way at first.
What started as an alien ship soon turns out to be the spacecraft of the inhabitants of the planet Nyx - the Achillai.  Cassie is abducted and by the Achillai and taken to Pelhoi (their prison) - just when you thought things couldn't get worse, she has her meagre clothing taken from her and her head shaved bald. She is given an itchy garment, almost like a burlap sack to wear and then is shoved into the vast space that would be far more vast were it not crammed with bodies.
She searches for her family, hoping they are safe back in their home but at the same time hoping that she isn't here alone. But the vast sea of shaven heads makes it impossible to tell who's who.

{spoiler extracted}

The Achillai, it turns out, don't have much of a liking for the human race. They see them as only fit to do menial jobs on their colony and to be treated as if they were nothing but the lowest form of life. 
After having kicked off in the beginning, Cassie tries not to make waves. She has a strong personality and she hates the fact she's being treated so badly, but what can a girl do but try to fit in, when standing out in any way will get you killed? Anyone who is found to be insubordinate is shot on the spot. 

{more spoilers avoided}

Cassie was fearful of one guard in particular in the beginning, the one with the red eyes. But she soon learned that there was one to be feared more - Kivo Nixo. He especially despises everything about humankind and is looking for any excuse to get rid of Cassie once and for all. But the guard with the red eyes stands in his way every time. Why does he stand up for her? And what will standing up for herself earn Cassie if not trouble? Well I'll leave that to you to find out for yourself.

I very much enjoyed Naked As We Came. As I said before, it was different but not out of my comfort zone. At first I wasn't quite sure what to make of what I was reading, but after the first couple of chapters, I was gripped and needed to know what was going to become of Cassie and her kick-A attitude. 
Amberly Wynn is an author I hadn't heard of prior to reading this book. but she's sure one I'll be looking out for in the future. I can't wait for book two in the Cassidy Tomei Chronicles. I need to know what will become of everyone. 
Amberly's writing style is one that only took a couple of chapters to get acquainted with. You really just slide into the story and feel as though you could be living this strange life on a strange planet with the meanest race I have ever heard of. 
I am grateful to RABT for giving me the chance to be on this tour and I thank Amberly for introducing me to one of my new favourite heroines. 

Author Bio:
Amberly is an avid reader, a writer and a lazy blogger. Raised in the dirty south, she is a lover of BBQ as well. At just the tender age of 22, she's had her share of college and refuses to go back for as long as possible. After earning an associate’s degree in Graphic Design and Media Arts, she returned to her first love of writing full-time. She currently lives in Memphis TN.
Her favorite tales come from a plethora of the classics such as Jane Austen and some of today's modern favorites such as John Green and Laurie Halse Anderson. She's a lover of all things YA and enjoys even more putting her own spin on the genre herself. She writes for horror, suspense and sci-fi audiences of all ages and loves every second of this whimsical writer's life.

Virtual Book Tour March 1 - March 31

March 1 -Reading Addiction Blog Tours - Meet and Greet
March 2 - Pixie Dust Reviews - Review/interview
March 4 - Willing to See Less - Review/Guest Post
March 5 - Overflowing Bookshelves - Review
March 6 -Author Ever Leigh - Review
March 8 -
March 11 - The Kooky Book Worm - Review/Guest Post
March 12 - My Reading Addiction - Review
March 13 -  Words I Write Crazy - Review/Guest Post
March 15 - Weakling No. 14 - Review/Guest Post
March 17 - The Little Bookstar - Review/Interview
March 18 - Cozie Corner - Review
March 20 - Inside BJ's Head - Review
March 21 - Kindle Obsessed - Review
March 22 - Must Read Faster - Review
March 25 - The Life and Lies of an Inanimate Object - Review/Interview
March 26 - Turning the Pages - Review
March 27 - Read-A-Holicz - Review/Interview
March 28 - Twinsie Talk - Review
March 29 - Leeanna.Me - Review/Guest Post
March 30 - Gothic Angel Book Reviews - Review/Guest Post
March 31 - Musings of a Blodger - Review/Interview
March 31 - Owlnestly Book Reviews - Review

Thank you to everyone who came to read my review today. I hope to see you all again soon!

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