The Surrendered Review & A Giveaway!

Yesterday, I introduced you to CASE MAYNARD. Today, I have the privilege of introducing you to her debut novel for Blaze Publishing: THE SURRENDERED.




After a financial collapse devastates the United States, the new government imposes a tax on the nation’s most valuable resource―the children.

Surrendered at age ten―after her parents could no longer afford her exorbitant fees―Vee Delancourt has spent six hard years at the Mills, alongside her twin, Oliver. With just a year to freedom, they do what they can to stay off the Master’s radar. But when Vee discovers unspeakable things happening to the younger girls in service, she has no choice but to take a stand―a decision that lands her on the run and outside the fence for the first time since the System robbed her of her liberty.

Vee knows the Master will stop at nothing to prove he holds ultimate authority over the Surrendered. But when he makes a threat that goes beyond what even she considers possible, she accepts the aid of an unlikely group of allies. Problem is, with opposing factions gunning for the one thing that might save them all, Vee must find a way to turn oppression and desperation into hope and determination―or risk failing all the children and the brother she left behind.


FIRST THOUGHTS: I was blown away by this novel, hooked from the very first sentence/scene until the end. Case took all my favorite elements of story and put them together. Strong, but flawed characters, intense plotline, great dialogue and action, touches of romance, the ability to make me forget the world around me, and a BOOK COMA because of the ending—seriously, it took me days to recover!

PLOT: The plot was well-developed and kept me on my toes. The backdrop was familiar–America in the future after a financial collapse–but the ideas and execution of the story were fresh. They hit a little close to home . . .

CHARACTERS: Strong, relatable characters with flaws. Case did a great job of blurring that line between the good guys and bad. She gave me characters to love, hate, and relate too. Vee was definitely someone to root for and also at times, made me cringe from her thoughts, actions, and dialogue. No one was as they seemed. When a new character came on the scene, I doubted them, even if I was HOPING they would show up in the story again. I got so into the characters lives and struggles, that when something happened to them it affected me deeply. Case wasn’t afraid of making her bad guys evil and actually allowing them to do bad things, not just talk about how evil they were gonna be. She also wasn’t afraid to kill off characters, but there was always a PURPOSE when she did.

“I want to live too, you idiot! But life without freedom is no life at all. And a life where friends choose their life over yours is one I want no part of.”

My whole life I’ve had to fight for myself. I’ve fought hunger and hatred and terror and despair. I’ve fought for any freedoms I could get and for any joy I could garner. I’ve fought for my own sanity. But most of all, I’ve fought to hold onto hope. Because somewhere deep inside me I know that without hope, there is nothing. -Vee’s words and thoughts from page 197.

MOOD: Suspenseful, darker, times of playfulness. Case didn’t shy away from some tough topics. The characters went through a lot. And, I loved that their past/problems didn’t just magically disappear when they were “free.” They had baggage and still had to deal with it and the consequences of their actions–nothing was packed neatly into a box, there were a lot of messy situations that forced the characters to be who they needed to be. Case did a marvelous job!

PACE: I was hooked from the first scene and couldn’t stop reading! (I even missed making dinner for my family because I COULDN’T STOP!!) It was a fast-paced read, although, I did have to take a break near the end to recover…oh, the feels!

WRITING: Flawless, tight writing. Great dialogue and action sequences . . . and romance *SIGH* (Vee and Cason are a couple that I totally ship!)


“I like to read too.” His gaze roams my face, as though he’s amazed we share this similarity. “The greatest thing about being introduced to new worlds in books is that you can revisit them as often as you like.”

I agree wholeheartedly. “I read those books multiple times before the Regulators discovered them during a bunk toss. The books were taken from me, but they couldn’t get the new places Id experiences. They couldn’t take the new friends I’d met . . . friends that had lives so different from the one I was living behind the fence.” I draw a deep breath. “I got twenty lashes for those books, but the joy I gained was worth every one of them.”  (page 97)

WOULD I RECOMMEND THIS BOOK: Oh, YES! This was hands-down the best dystopian novel I’ve read in a long time! Any fan of the dystopian will love this book. Especially fans of the Divergent Series, Maze Runner, and fans of Marie Lu. It will leave you craving the next book!


Up for grabs: $5 AMAZON gift card

There are several ways to get your name in the drawing.

1. Leave a comment on yesterday’s blog post CASE MAYNARD: THE INTERVIEW, telling us your favorite joke (Case couldn’t think of any and admitting she’s bad at telling jokes, so let’s help her!)

2. Buy THE SURRENDERED, either paperback or e-book and comment on this post when you have.

3. Leave a review! (1 entry for every place you leave a review: Goodreads, Amazon, your blog, Facebook . . .)

**I will draw the winner September 30th**

Thanks for hanging out with us! Hope you all have a wonderful week! READ ON!


Case Maynard: The Interview


I’m so excited to be doing my third YAA! Chat (Review:YA = Young Adult, A = Adult, ! = Excitement, Chat = Interviews, getting behind-the-scenes with other writers).

 Today, I will be introducing you to super-talented, Case Maynard and her debut novel with Blaze Publishing: THE SURRENDERED. Tomorrow, I will post my actual review. So stay tuned! 


<—–This is CASE! Author of young adult fiction. When not reading or writing, she can be found binge-watching Netflix or watching NCAA football (Go Noles!)


This is the AMAZING cover for THE SURRENDERED! —–>


The “Serious” Questions

JKL: The CLIFF NOTES version of your writing journey . . . when you started, etc.

CM: I sometimes think I came out of the womb reading a book. I can’t remember a time in my life that wasn’t full of stories—humor, romance, horror, bad guys, and good. With the end of each story, I was often left feeling that “book hangover” that every reader knows about. I hated for them to end and wanted more! Sometimes I would daydream continuations to the stories, creating new plots and introducing new characters into them. And it wasn’t long before I realized that I was actually creating stories of my own. I knew then I was a writer.

JKL: What authors inspired you to write?

CM: There are so many writers who I love and who inspired me to write. When I was very young, some of my favorites were Judy Blume, Beverly Cleary, Francine Pascal, and Astrid Lindgren. As I became a teenager, my tastes in books changed, and I suddenly couldn’t get enough of Stephen King, Clive Barker, and Dean Koontz. Now, my absolute favorite author is Kresley Cole, but I also enjoy Monica McCarty, Sara J. Maas, Maggie Steifvater, and Marie Lu. There are really too many to name!

JKL: How do you pick your character names? (How did you pick Vera, Oliver, Cason’s names?)

CM: A lot of times my character names come from people who I actually know. For example, I have a great Aunt Vera, who is also known to my family as Aunt Vee. Another example would be Oliver’s character, who is loosely based on my son, Riley. When Riley was born, I wanted to name him Oliver, but my husband fought it. So I went with Oliver as his name this time around (and didn’t ask my husband’s opinion either lol)! Cason is actually the name that I chose for my daughter, Olivia—had she been a boy. It was a play on my own name, Case. John William, another character in The Surrendered, was based on my father, also named John William.

JKL: Are you a Plotter, Panster, or Staller (play on Facebook, Pinterest, clean, do tons of research…not much writing until the deadline is looming)?

CM: When I write, I generally just sit down and see where the words take me. I do normally have a broad idea of where I am going but don’t hold myself to any overall plot. I’m a fly-by-the-seat-of-my- pants type of writer! On top of that, I’m the world’s biggest procrastinator, so I often wait until the last minute to get started. Sometimes those two things are not the best combination of writing traits to have, but luckily, I work best under pressure!

JKL: Did you do anything weird while researching The Surrendered?

CM:All I can say is I hope that the government is not tracking my google searches. If they are, I have likely been flagged as a suspected extremist. While researching The Surrendered, I googled lots of information on topics like killing someone with herbs, ways that the government might fail under pressure, how to break someone’s neck, and how to live only off of the land. I need a special tag for my searches that let’s others know I’m a writer and not a terrorist!

JKL: Do you have any strange writing habits (like writing in the shower or writing under the covers at night?)

CM: Not really, but I do need extreme quiet while I’m writing. If anything is happening in the background, my head can start spinning. This is unfortunate because I have teenagers at home who are rarely, if ever, silent.

JKL: Which actors do you have in mind to play your main characters?

CM: I love to do Pinterest boards that depict actors and models for my characters. Some of the ones I have chosen for characters can be found at my personal Pinterest here: 

JKL: What’s your favorite way to get past writer’s block?

CM: When I experience writer’s block, the best thing I can do for myself is to take a break from whatever it is that I am writing. I might take several day or even longer, binge watch some Netflix, or read one of my favorite books. Sometimes, you can be too close to a work, and you just need to take a step back and return later to reevaluate.

Are you an AM, PM, or ANYTIME I CAN writer? As I said above, I have to have complete silence to write which means, in my household, that my writing is mostly done early in the morning. Unfortunately, I’m not a morning person though. I would prefer to write deep into the wee hours of the night, but those are the hours my nocturnal teenagers keep.

JKL: What is your favorite quote?

CM: Passion, only passion, can elevate the soul to greatness.

—Thomas Diderot.

JKL: What do you crave when you’re writing?

CM: Solitude? A best-selling epiphany?

JKL: When writing with ink, which color do you prefer?

CM: Up until a couple of months ago, I would have said blue, but this really sweet friend of mine sent me some purple gel pens, and I absolutely adore them. The one downside to them is that everyone at work keeps trying to steal them.

The RANDOMNESS questions

Favorite accent: The sexy Scottish burr. Oh boy am I a sucker for a Scot.

Favorite party game: It, shit, or bullshit OR Drink, drank, drunk.

Favorite dessert: Coconut cream pie

Dream job: Trophy wife? Just kidding. Writer

Weapon you’d choose for a duel: Violence from afar suits me best!

Go to Karaoke song: Crazy by Patsy Cline

Song you’d choose for The VOICE: Thinking Out Loud by Ed Sheeran or Not a Bad Thing by Justin Timberlake

Most interesting thing you could do with 400 pounds of cheddar cheese: Carve a sculpture? Maybe of some famous Wisconsin landmark.

Funniest thing to fill a piñata with: 400 lbs of cheddar cheese?

Pet pet peeves: Oh gosh, I have so many I don’t know where to start. Fairly OCD here.

Coffee or another type of drink and how do you take it: Coffee, with cream and Splenda


And that’s it for now! Thanks for hanging out with us! Hope you enjoyed getting to know more about Case. Stay tuned for my review of THE SURRENDERED!

The Carver: Jacob Devlin

I just finished reading THE CARVER by JACOB DEVLIN. It was extra special because I got to meet Jacob in person!

This is Jacob.


He’s such a great guy. We had so much fun hanging out at UTOPIA—the jaawriters’ event/conference in Tennessee.

<=== We got to ride the employee elevator and get the unofficial tour of the kitchens and offices at the hotel where the conference was held. Don’t ask . . .

**Side note: He’s the one who got me hooked on FUNKO POPS!

This read was extra special because I got to be present when Jacob first saw it in print–first got to hold it! So exciting to see jajthe “inside” of published-author world. And, if that wasn’t enough for this first-time author, The Carver SOLD OUT at the conference!

* * * * 

So, my review . . . I gave THE CARVER 4 Stars. The storyline follows an epic ROAD TRIP with Enzo (the son of Pinocchio), Pietro (grown-up Peter Pan), and Rosana (the daughter of THE Alice—yes, the one who went to Wonderland) as they try to figure out what’s happening to their loved ones–who keep disappearing!

Plot: Here is the short version by way of a quote by HUA MULAN herself (p.191):

“Then let me give you the short version. Hansel is under the control of a dark queen who should have disappeared years ago. She’s trying to come back and using Hansel’s body as a vessel. But to come back in her true form, she needs to gather seven pure souls in the Cavern of Ombre . . . ”

Mood: The Carver was fun all around. There were some darker moments, but overall, I was sucked into both the fairy tale world, and our world–it was amusing experiencing our world through the eyes of the fairy tale characters that found themselves here. (I REALLY want to try Macaroni and Cheese on a stick . . . Didn’t know that existed!!)

Pace: Once I got the hang of the back and forth between the OLD WORLD PRESENT, NEW WORLD PRESENT, and OLD WORLD PAST, it was a fast read.

Characters: Jacob’s twist on the characters was reminiscent of Once Upon a Time, yet he did a wonderful job breathing freshness into the characters and adding lots of twists to the fairy tale world that we all “know.” The characters were unique, and you never knew which beloved (and not so beloved) fairy tale character would show up next.

I loved Jacob’s little snippet about The Boy Who Cried Wolf.

And I’m still chuckling about: Hook. James Hook. HA!

“You cannot win a fight without a pirate, and I’m the best there is.” -Hook p.252

Writing: Grammatically, this book was well-written.

Cons for me personally: At times the dialogue seemed a bit juvenile and forced. And the !’s were a bit over-used. And at times I was totally confused with where I was–which story line–and had to flip back to remind myself.

Level of Violence: There were several moments of evilness-in-action (loved the twists of the good being forced to do evil, but for great reasons…so intriguing!) and some great fight scenes.

My favorite fight scene being when Pietro and Enzo were forced into a joust at a Renaissance Fair! Pietro (Peter Pan) is such a sore loser!

Other Thoughts:  I think this sums up the takeaway of this story:

“ . . . I think it was a big shock when they got to the big twists, but, in the end, you have to realize that these fairy tales were also influenced very heavily by reality, and unfortunately reality sometimes includes tragedy. Even for the heroes.” -Heather McClavender AKA Violet p.231

Would I recommend this?: If you can’t get enough of fairy tales, this book is for you! Well, even if you are “eh” about fairy tales, this book is a great read! And, I must say, I think this book will be even better the second read through—now that I know what happens, and I can follow the back and forth of the story line.

The Carver ends with a TO BE CONTINUED . . .

BOOK 2 will be out next year, I will definitely be getting a copy so I can find out what happens to all the characters as they try to save their world and ours from the Ivory Queen—Avoria!

Grab your copy here . . .

 . . . And check out BLAZE PUBLISHING for other AMAZING novels!!



May/June Wrap-Up

I have been living in Non-Existia for 2 months. Busy at work: writing, editing, researching, editing, tweaking, reading, editing, submitting, editing . . . It was a busy two months, writing-wise, and now SUMMER VACATION is happening. While I’m glad I don’t have to get up early to drive my kiddos to school, I’m already missing having a schedule–having somewhere I have to be, having a purpose to get up early and be productive. (That is going to change starting next week!)


I just returned from Nashville: UTOPIA CON (I will be writing a post about my time there…as soon as I recover…). What a wonderful place/people to help me get back into the excitement of writing. Since I returned, I’ve been sucked into Steampunk Victorian London. Stay tuned for exciting things. Hopefully!


  • Scarlett Epstein Hates It Hear By Anna Breslaw (3 STARS)
    • A YA, quirky tale that just had way too much blah in it.
  • Pride and Prejudice By Jane Austen (5 STARS)
    • My all-time favorite book. I have to read this at least once every year.
  • Because I Love You By Tori Rigby (5STARS)
    • Another wonderful book published by Blaze Publishing. This book sent me on an emotional rollercoaster ride. Have tissues handy!


  • Kate By Sharon Srock (4 STARS)
    • Adult, contemporary romance–a quick, enjoyable read.
  • The Last Necromancer By C.J. Archer (4STARS)
    • Adult–fun story with a steampunk feel.
  • The Siren By Kiera Cass (4 STARS)
    • YA Fantasy–a very interesting premise. I listened to this on my drive to Tennessee.
  • The One By Kiera Cass (3 STARS)
    • YA Dystopian–last book of the Selection Trilogy–must say, I didn’t really enjoy this one as much as the first two. Listened to this on my drive to Tennessee.
  • The Heir By Kiera Cass (3 STARS)
    • YA Dystopian–the next generation of the Selection . . . I listened to this as I drove home from Tennessee–I have to say, the main girl REALLY annoyed me with his snottiness, made it hard to enjoy the story.
  • Defy By Sara B. Larson (4 1/2 STARS)
    • YA Fantasy–such a great adventure! Loved every second!
  • The Clockwork Scarab By Colleen Gleason (5 STARS)
    • YA Steampunk–The first book in the Holmes and Stoker Trilogy. Sherlock Holmes niece and Bram Stoker’s sister team up to fight crime, and vampires in Steampunk London! So fun!
  • The Spiritglass Charade By Colleen Gleason (4 STARS)
    • YA Steampunk–Second book in the Holmes and Stoker Trilogy.

And, that is it for now . . . headed back to Non-Existia for awhile to research and write. Have a wonderful 4th of July weekend. GOD BLESS AMERICA!

The Carver in Utopia!

My new friend Jacob sums up Utopia! I’m so glad I got to go!

Jacob Devlin

Tonight I’m writing you from Nashville, Tennessee. I used my afternoon to get a little touristy. I walked along the river, checked out the Opry Mills, strolled Broadway and popped in and out of some local bars. I’ve never exactly been a huge country guy, but I appreciate what Nashville has to offer. The air was a little too thick with humidity, but in a charming way it reminded me of Charlottesville. Unfortunately I left my cowboy boots back home, but the smell of brand new leather and the flashing neon on Broadway reminded me that I easily could’ve picked up a new pair from one of about seven or eight different shops along a 3-block radius. Oh, and did I mention I stumbled on a FREE showing of Independence Day Resurgence in IMAX 3D? (Not a great movie, but I loved it! We all have movies like that, right?)

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April Wrap-Up

Another month gone . . .

Life-Happenings Summary: April was such a fun, exciting month! I went out to Amish country in Ohio with my mom and sister. Did some sight-seeing, shopping, eating at the CHEESE BARN (survived eating ghost pepper cheese…), and a little bit of research for a novel idea I’ve been working on. It’s about an Amish girl (17) . . . But that’s where the similarities between Amish fiction end. Stay tuned! Gonna be a fun one . . . hopefully!

On the 23ponmrd, I went with my partner in crime, Laurel, to the CHILLER EXPO in New Jersey. I got to see (looked around a corner at him after waiting in line for 25 minutes…) Alice Cooper and Weird Al, and got to meet the guys from CHiPs! They were all genuinely-sweet men. Really enjoyed chatting (being mauled by Ponch) with them!

Larry Wilcox = Jon Baker.






Robert Pine (Chris Pine’s dad!) = Sgt. Getraer





Erik Estrada = Ponch.


Writing Summary: I’ve been busy working on a series I started during NANOWRIMO. I’m hoping to have the first draft done soon so I can get to editing!

Editing = LOVE

Exciting things coming in June: Last week I was introduced to a writers conference, UTOPIA. After some, but really not much–all the doors opened wide–finagling, I’m GOING to Nashville, Tennessee in JUNE!! It’s a long drive, but gonna be so worth it! I’m especially looking forward to meeting, and hanging out with, the wonderful staff and authors of Blaze Publishing! I’ve been able to connect with a lot of their authors through Facebook–seriously, go check out this publishing house (their new website logo is AWESOME!). Their second book comes out May 17th! Already ordered my copy!

Reading Summary: I read 9 books this month. That brings my total to 28 for the year . . . only 72 to go until I reach my year goal of 100 books!

Shadow Queen by C.J. Redwine: 2 STARS. This was a Snow White, Evil Queen, Huntsman twist. It pulled me in at first, but then I quickly lost interest and ended up skimming through just to get to the end. The characters were okay, nothing memorable.

Unhooked by Lisa Maxwell: 3 1/2 STARS. This was a neat, unexpected twist on Peter Pan and Captain Hook.

The Duff by Kody Keplinger: 2 STARS. . . I picked up this book after watching the movie. Must say that out of the two, I enjoyed the movie a lot better–there was more of a plotline. The novel, well all they did was have sex and try to keep that fact from everyone. I did like the ending of the book (but the ending of the movie I could watch over and over, I love their playful, friend-banter…and Robbie Amell…) . . . Overall, it was a quick read . . .

Rebel Mechanics by Shanna Swendson: 5 STARS. I absolutely LOVED this book! The characters were well-written and spunky. It had a Scarlet Pimpernel feel with a hint of Robin Hood. This was the first book I’ve read by this author, can’t wait to read more!

The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey: 4 STARS. This was the second book in the series. It picked up right at the end of the last story and continued on it’s merry way. Can’t wait to pick up the next book and see what happens next for all the characters.

Trouble is a Friend of Mine by Stephanie Tromly: 5 STARS. If you’re looking for a fun, fast read, grab this one. It was a riot! The characters were quirky and well-written and I laughed out loud several times at their antics.

A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn: 4 1/2 STARS. (Adult romance). I’ve read several of Deanna Raybourn’s novels, but this was definitely my favorite! A quirky heroine living in Victorian England + A murder mystery = FUN! Can’t wait to continue in this series.

The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury: 4 STARS. I really enjoyed this twist on Aladdin (Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves). “Aladdin” made his wish to be a prince and marry the princess . . .  but what happens if ithe genie is female and he starts to fall for her instead? The characters were very well-written, and it had several twists and surprises along the way

Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton: 4 1/2 STARS. This was a very unique and fun story. I loved the main characters and the journey they went on. Looking forward to picking up the next book in the series.