YA

Grift by: Jason Mosberg

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Why would a 17-year-old girl pretend to be a high class escort?

Piper is a con artist whose canvas is the city of Las Vegas. She rolls with a crew of young grifters including a card-counting genius, a tourist-hustling pool shark, and a pocket-picking magician. Together, this crew of teenage outlaws live with their mentor Max in the penthouse of a hotel casino. They work hard and play harder. But unlike the others, Piper must balance her hyper-real Vegas fantasy with the reality of raising her 14-year-old half-sister Sophie. Disaster strikes when the Las Vegas mafia kidnaps Sophie and demands a multimillion-dollar ransom. With only five days to piece together the money, the crew races the clock to save her.

 

 

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My Review

Piper is a 17 year old con-artist in Las Vegas living in a top floor penthouse in the Treasure Island hotel near the strip with 4 young con-artists, their mentor and surrogate father, Max, and her 14 year old sister, Sophie.

Piper and the rest of group work for Max by luring tourists from their money using various scams and in turn Max provides a place to live and coaches them in their respective trade. Piper works by exploiting men as a high-end escort. She seduces men into a hotel room and takes their money without providing any service. While her roommates spend their money on whatever their heart desires, Piper saves all her money so she can leave Las Vegas and give her sister a more normal life.

One evening, Piper comes home to a beaten and bloody Max, thousands of dollars missing and her sister kidnapped! The ransom demanded puts the group in a frenzy – can they con enough money to save her?

I enjoyed this book. While I believe the plot in this book, in one way or another, had been done, I was excited to see a twist with the main character being a young female. When I began reading, I had a distinct feeling of reading a fairy tale with the characters coming from nothing, finding Max and then having everything they could ever want. However, that feeling is short lived as the characters join together to bring Sophie home. The story had potential: a strong lead character, a love interest, internal conflict, external conflict, but falls short with supporting character development and overall execution.

The additional roommates and even Max himself fall seem like ghosts, appearing only to help further Piper’s cause of rescuing her sister. Having an illustrated back story for the group would have helped the reader feel the familial relations rather than being told (“show don’t tell.”)

Which leads to my next point, execution. When writing a story with a twist or mystery, it is important to leave proper bread crumbs of foreshadowing and misleading clues to keep the reader guessing. Unfortunately, with this book the plot was a bit transparent.

I still enjoyed reading about the trials and tribulations as the group fought to collect $1,000,000 in 36 hours. It was exciting and well thought out. A promising beginning for Jason Mosberg.

-JL

“A Trip Down Reality Lane” by Ian Thomas Malone

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College life can be tough…

For a junior pursuing a degree in English with no plans for his future, living in the present is far better than the alternative.

One morning he wakes up and embarks on an acid trip to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts with two of his friends.

A step outside reality might be the best way to come back down to earth…

Along the way, the three friends discover what matters most to them, and more importantly, that life is not so much about answers as it is about the exploration of the questions.

When the real world doesn’t quite cut it, take a journey down the rabbit hole.

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Interview with the Author:

Ian Thomas Malone

  • Why do you write?

It’s a very natural process for me. When I get an idea, I let it grow until it’s ready to come out.

  • Which novelists do you admire?

Many. William Faulkner, Kurt Vonnegut, Philip K. Dick, Vladimir Nabokov, P.G. Wodehouse, and George R.R. Martin are a few of my favorites. From a contemporary standpoint, I have a lot of respect for Rainbow Rowell’s style and ability to market her work.

  • What inspired you to write such a unique “coming of age” book?

The fact that it was unique! That can be hard in today’s market. I wanted to write a coming of age story that felt refreshing.

  • You are still early in your writing career; what do you see for yourself in the next year?

I start grad school in September so I’m still figuring out how I’ll incorporate my writing into that. I have some shorter projects that I hope to work on as well as some finished work that hasn’t been published yet.

  • What is your favorite genre to write/read?

I bounce around. I almost never read consecutive books from the same genre. I do have a soft spot for reading fantasy as well as writing from the Beat generation. As far as writing goes, most of my work is contemporary. I have plans to expand into other genres in the future, including a sci-fi epic!

  • Who is your target audience?

I’d say I write for a younger audience, but I’ve found that my writing resonates well with older generations. Reviewers have noted that I have an “old soul.” I hope that’s true!

  • What is your biggest challenge when writing?

It’s harder to drown out what’s going on in your life, especially now that I have multiple books out. We’ve all got other things to worry about, which makes staying on track all the more difficult.

  • What habits do you employ to be a successful writer?

Set (realistic) deadlines for yourself. That encourages me to stay on track. By now I know what I’m capable of doing in terms of word counts and scheduling so it’s usually a matter of maintaining the structure required to actually get it done.

  • What advice can you offer an aspiring writer?

Enjoy the process. Writing a book is hard, especially your first book. You’ll get frustrated. You’ll feel self-doubt (that doesn’t go away). If you’re writing a book, it’s presumably because you enjoy writing. Don’t forget that even when the times are tough.

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My Review

I was skeptical reading a book about a person “planning” an acid trip with a couple of friends…do I really want to read about someones first hand experience on a hallucinogen? I kept picturing Paul Rudd and Seth Rogen in “Knocked Up” the movie, ingesting shrooms in Vegas while watching Cirque Du Soleil…I didn’t know if I want to read that…? However, I have had little success in resisting a “coming of age” story, especially one with a unique premise.

Our main character is a young man in his junior year of a college in Boston. He wakes up one morning…

“Misery. Pure misery. Mixed in with just a dab of hatred for life. That just about describes how my Saturday morning began. I’m not entirely sure what I consumed last night, but the wonderful combination seems completely irrelevant now that I’m facing the consequences of my actions.”

Grabbing? Check. Relatable? Check. Realistic? Check. You’ve got me reading. As I continue reading it is evident that our young English major is not only in pain from his previous nights adventures, but is starting to feel the pressures of adulthood. In effort to jump start his creative muse and relax in his own skin, he and his friends, Charles and James, have planned to ingest acid, attend the Museum of Fine Arts and then The Lion King movie. As our narrator fumbles through the fog of the groups high, he periodically finds himself pondering his purpose in life.

What starts as an edgy young adult coming of age tale, transgresses into a simple account of someones day. As far as adventure, the most exciting events consist of one friend pretending to be tour guide and a the failed attempt at picking up the hot museum attendant. The adventure continues as Malone describes each wing of the museum, followed closely by the hallucinated version and finally any coherent dialogue between the characters fill the gaps.

The author fails to deliver on a few key elements, specifically “show, don’t tell.” As a reader, I became cross eyed with the amount of explanation given for each thought and action. I can appreciate the creative reach Malone attempted, but I believe he fell short.

First Time Novelist Publishes Epic Fantasy Novel

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Knowing the future can save her city – but not her heart.

Fifteen-year-old Clio should have never been the Oracle of Sheehan. That power is passed from mother to eldest daughter, and Clio is the youngest of four sisters. But when her entire family is murdered by Mannix, the king’s adviser, Clio is left all alone and heir to a power she never wanted and doesn’t understand.

Hunted by Mannix, Clio seeks refuge in a foreign city where oracles are absolutely forbidden. If she’s found out, she will be sacrificed atop a great pyramid.

Clio has no choice but to win the trust of Riece, an enemy warrior. Despite the growing feelings between them, Clio knows that if he finds out what she really is, he won’t hesitate to kill her.

Clio tries to hide her budding powers, longing only to be a normal girl and fall in love, but the visions she has of Mannix bringing a barbarian army into Sheehan torture her conscience. She alone has the strength and foresight to stop him, but only if she can embrace her destiny and sacrifice everything.

 

About the Author:

Here are five quick things about me:

  1. I’m just starting out so I’m not “the best-selling author” of anything, but…
  2. I did once stand in line to meet Joss Whedon at a comic book signing when I was in middle school and got him to autograph a Buffy the Vampire Slayer poster for me.
  3. I was the flute section leader in my high school’s marching band.
  4. I recently graduated from Princeton University with a lot of people who are a lot smarter than I am.
  5. I’m love Jane Austen so much I’ve taken multiple classes on her books.

 

Goodreads | Amazon | Website

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Interview with the Author

Emily Wibberley

How did you come up with the idea for this book?

Well, first I would say I realized I had a rather serious YA addiction. When I realized I wanted to write a novel, I knew it had to be YA. The specifics for Sacrificed were inspired by Cassandra from Greek mythology. I kept coming across her in a variety of different sources, and each time I was yearning for her to have more agency. Cassandra is a beautifully tragic figure, and I liked that, but I also wondered what it would be like if a young girl not only inherited prophetic powers but also could actually kick some butt in the process.

How much research did you have to do during the process of writing this book?

Sacrificed takes place in a fantastical world, so I was able to take some liberties with my world-building. That said, I drew inspiration from ancient Mesoamerican civilizations, which required a lot of research on Aztec and Mayan cultures.

When you aren’t writing, what books do you like to read?

Basically anything. I can’t function if I don’t get my hands on a book during the day. Obviously, there’s a ton of YA on my shelves, but I also love to read more “adult” things like A Game of Thrones and Cormac McCarthy novels.

If someone came up to you and asked for one tip on how to become a successful author, what would you say to them?

Being successful at writing involves more than just writing—it’s a business as well. Yes, you have to write everyday, but you also have to market your books. Nowadays, you can’t just be an author; you have to be an authorprenuer.

What’s the worst thing anyone has said about your writing?

“I loved the action. You write like a guy.” My dad said that. He meant it as a compliment.

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My Review

Clio is the youngest of four and the daughter to the Oracle of Sheehan. When a female child of the oracle reaches 16 she then becomes a vessel for the Oracle to use to complete her work. However, to Clio it seems being a vessel also includes becoming cold and inhuman. When Ali, the second youngest, turns 16 Clio begs her mother not to take her sister from her, but unfortunately no one can stop the Oracle.

Loosing Ali, Clio feels starts to feel isolated and she runs to last person she trusts, her childhood friend and Prince of Sheehan, Derik. Meeting him outside the palace, she tells him about her mother and sisters treatment of her and falls asleep with him in a tree.

While asleep, she dreams her mother and two eldest sisters are murdered in their beds and the youngest, Ali, is kidnapped and taken away by men in red capes. Woken by the nightmare, she describes her strange dream to Derik before being interrupted by Mannix, the King’s adviser, searching for the Prince. Wary of Mannix, Derik keeps Clio’s presence a secret and climbs down to address Mannix when he is told his father, the King of Sheehan, has been murdered by the Oracle and her Vessels. Mannix continues saying he has had them killed and the youngest sent to be sacrificed in Morek. Derik makes plans to assume the throne, but learns before his father’s death the King directed Mannix to obtain the throne as Regent King until he feels Derik is fit to rule. This effectively leaves Mannix as the ruler of Sheehan until he decides otherwise.

Hearing all of this, Clio begins to question her family while grieving the loss of her friend’s loss. However, in order to save her sister, she must leave for Morek.

I know it sounds like I’ve given you the entire story, but I haven’t. I promise. This book is just that good!

“Scarafice: The Last Oracle” is very imaginative and intricately woven story. It includes aspects of mystery, magic, romance and fantasy. These elements are put together in an entertaining and magnificent whirl-wind, leaving me to crave more.

To start, the characters in this book grab me right away. Clio begging her mother to spare her sister and only friend, Ali, and losing her despite her effort was a very touching opening to this book.

What is more stunning is the care Emily Wibberley took with plot construction. The impressive amount of research done to bring details into the story and develop the main characters brought this fantastical story to life. As a person who reads new authors, I truly appreciate the thought and effort put into creating this wonderful book.

My only disappointment was Chapter 30 when Clio gets lost watching Riece fight off Manix’s guards. It was wonderful watching the powerful and confident Clio come into her own and embrace her new role as Oracle for the people of Sheehan and yet in this scene she is depicted as a love struck ogling teenager. It leaves me perplexed? What happened to the strong and fearless Clio I know?

The action and adventure in this book is excruciatingly good! I couldn’t look away from its pages and I was constantly finding myself saying “just one more chapter…” Needless to say nothing else was completed the week I took to finish this book. I would highly recommend this book to anyone in the mood for a new YA fantasy.

-JL