A Death-Struck Year Review

Title: A Death-Struck Year
Author: Makiia Lucier
Publish Date: March 4th 2014 by HMH Books for Young Readers
A deadly pandemic, a budding romance, and the heartache of loss make for a stunning coming-of-age teen debut about the struggle to survive during the 1918 flu.

For Cleo Berry, the people dying of the Spanish Influenza in cities like New York and Philadelphia may as well be in another country--that's how far away they feel from the safety of Portland, Oregon. And then cases start being reported in the Pacific Northwest. Schools, churches, and theaters shut down. The entire city is thrust into survival mode--and into a panic. Headstrong and foolish, seventeen-year-old Cleo is determined to ride out the pandemic in the comfort of her own home, rather than in her quarantined boarding school dorms. But when the Red Cross pleads for volunteers, she can't ignore the call. As Cleo struggles to navigate the world around her, she is surprised by how much she finds herself caring about near-strangers. Strangers like Edmund, a handsome medical student and war vet. Strangers who could be gone tomorrow. And as the bodies begin to pile up, Cleo can't help but wonder: when will her own luck run out?

Riveting and well-researched, A Death-Struck Year is based on the real-life pandemic considered the most devastating in recorded world history. Readers will be captured by the suspenseful storytelling and the lingering questions of: what would I do for a neighbor? At what risk to myself? An afterword explains the Spanish flu phenomenon, placing it within the historical context of the early 20th century. Source notes are extensive and interesting.
I don’t read a lot of historical fiction. I used to read a fair amount of historical romance fiction, but not for the history ;). When I read the synopsis of A Death-Struck Year, I kid you not, the first thing I thought of was Edward Cullen from Twilight. He was “turned” during the Spanish Influenza in 1918, and that’s about the extent on what I knew about that time, fictionally. As for the actual events, I was clueless. Luckily, there is a lot of information about the flu in the story, and for a novice such as myself, it helped. But I can see how readers would be turned off by all the descriptions and lists of symptoms that are involved in the discussions/conversations by the characters.

(Minor/medium spoilers ahead…)

The majority of YA novels are about the main character finding a purpose or going on a mission, and I felt that Cleo Berry, our protagonist, was able to find herself coincidentally due to this awful flu pandemic. One of the first impressions we get of Cleo is that she’s a seventeen year old girl who has no idea what she wants to do with her life. She’s in the upper class, so she has more opportunities than most girls her age in her time, but she’s still stuck. All her classmates have plans of college or careers, and she spends her time looking through magazines/books about possible careers that make her less sure of herself in her transition to adulthood. As the story progresses, we get to see Cleo step out of her upper class comfort zone and take it upon herself to help those who can’t help themselves, by assisting the Red Cross as a volunteer. She has a rough go of it her first few days, but it just goes to show how seriously the flu spread and crippled the nation. Since Cleo lives with her brother and sister-in-law, we don’t find out what happened to her parents right away, but it helps fuel Cleo’s reasoning behind her decision to volunteer with the Red Cross.

Sometimes in YA novels, friendships take a backseat to the romance, but I was happy to see that Cleo was able to form strong friendships with the people she met and worked with, especially Kate – another volunteer. Kate comes from a huge family – 13 siblings in total, so we see two different dynamics in family. As Cleo is a decade younger than her brother, she is seen more as an only child, as her brother raised her when her parents died. Kate, who has 12 siblings ranging in adulthood to infantry, definitely has a middle child syndrome attitude going on. Most of her older sisters and mother were nurses, so she feels pressured into following in their footsteps. But one particularly beautiful scene, we see that Kate is actually a talented pianist, who had to put her dream on hold because of the flu. When Kate becomes infected, it’s as if the soul of the story is represented in her circumstance. Kate was offered a full ride to a prominent music school in NYC, and had to put it all on hold to help with the epidemic, to just eventually die alongside those she was helping. Pulling at my heart strings even more, was the fact that she got sick the day that a shipment of vaccinations arrived, with instructions that it did not work on those who were already sick with the flu. This is where I put my book down and thought out loud, quite loudly in the middle of the library, ‘life sucks!” If I wasn’t holding a book, I think I would have been kicked out…

As for the romance, Cleo meets a young Lt. Doctor, Edmund, who’s working at the Auditorium that the Red Cross is operating out of. And thankfully, it’s not love at first sight. It’s slow going, and has some sweet moments, but it’s very chaste. It’s important to remember that Cleo would have never met Edmund if not for the flu outbreak, and that a girl of her class would never have socialized with men her age in such circumstances. Cleo finds herself in situations unfamiliar, and the way she handles them couldn’t have been practiced or planned. There are a few scenes where Cleo walks in on characters half dressed, or men not wearing shirts, and I’m reminded that it’s 1918 when it was scandalous to be presented in any other fashion besides completely reserved. A small instance of this was when Kate gives Cleo a birth control pamphlet, which at the time was practically illegal. It was interesting to see Lucier put that bit in, as if the flu wasn’t the only thing during that time that was challenging people. I think if the story wasn’t focused around the Red Cross and their efforts to help, it would have seemed extremely out of place. I read it as an attempt at humor in the story, to help balance out the seriousness of the flu. I would have liked to see more happen, other than Cleo reading it and dropping it, then having Edmund pick it up and say that he’s read the work of the nurse who wrote it. I wouldn’t have minded if it was developed more into the story, seeing as how Cleo was trying to figure out what to do with her life before surviving past 1918 was an issue.

At the end of the story is a sliver of what their community looks like at the end of the pandemic, when the Auditorium goes back to being a music hall, and when Edmund has to go back to school to continue his education. It’s unclear as to what Cleo will do with herself, after finishing school, and that’s sort of a let down, but I guess it’s up to the reader to decide if she goes into a life of ‘helping others’ or not. I think the ending thought Lucier leaves us with is that things happen in our lives and we can either choose to adapt and grow with the experience or put it behind us as if it never happened.

I’d recommend this novel to anyone interested in a YA that focuses on a pandemic from the past, that isn’t so much concerned with romance or action – but real life events and the effects they have on society/community. Or even someone who’s interested in the time period of 1918 might find this to be enjoyable.

My Over All Rating: 


After The End Blog Tour: Review

Welcome to the AFTER THE END blog tour. I'm thrilled to be apart of the celebration for Amy Plum's upcoming release. 

About the Book:

By: Amy Plum
Published by: Harper Teen
Hitting Book Shelves on: May 6, 2014
Pre-Order from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound
World War III has left the world ravaged by nuclear radiation. A lucky few escaped to the Alaskan wilderness. They′e survived for the last thirty years by living off the land, being one with nature, and hiding from whoever else might still be out there. At least, this is what Juneau has been told her entire life.

When Juneau returns from a hunting trip to discover that everyone in her clan has vanished, she sets off to find them. Leaving the boundaries of their land for the very first time, she learns something horrifying: There never was a war. Cities were never destroyed. The world is intact.

Everything was a lie.

Now Juneau is adrift in a modern-day world she never knew existed. But while she′s trying to find a way to rescue her friends and family, someone else is looking for her. Someone who knows the extraordinary truth about the secrets of her past.

About Amy Plum:

Amy Plum is the author of DIE FOR ME, a YA series set in Paris. The first three books—DIE FOR ME, UNTIL I DIE, and IF I SHOULD DIE—are international bestsellers, and have been translated into eleven different languages. The fourth book is an eNovella, entitled DIE FOR HER. The first book of Amy’s new series, AFTER THE END, releases in May 2014.
Amy grew up in Birmingham, Alabama before venturing further afield to Chicago, Paris, London and New York. An art historian by training, she can be found on most days either daydreaming or writing (or both) in a Parisian café.
Visit her on:  Blog | Twitter | Facebook | GoodReads

The Giveaway:

Each stop on the tour will be hosting a giveaway! We're giving away:

  • 13 SIGNED After The End books
  •  6 iPhone After the End shells. 
  • This is open Internationally
  • To enter, please be sure to fill out the form featured on each stop along the tour. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The first 300 people who pre-order AFTER THE END and show proof of their pre-order will receive one of these limited edition After The End water bottles. *see below*

  • Water bottle offer is for US and Canada, and is being hosted by Harper Teen. This is NOT part of the blog tour, but something we wanted to let fans know about.
Please be sure to send your mailing address and receipt to katieloumercier@gmail.com

The Blog Tour

Be sure to follow the entire After The End blog tour! Trust me, you don't want to miss this Truth or Dare themed tour stops! Authors like Beth Revis, Kimberly Derting, Josephine Angelini & more will be on the tour. As Amy mentioned in her recent newsletter, the truth-or-dacfre theme is particularly relevant to AFTER THE END, since Juneau's oracle has said she has to tell the truth or she won't find her clan.


After the End is a crazy, unique, twisted tale that keeps you guessing and then leaves you wanting to know more. 

Juneau has always lived a very secluded post apocalyptic life, she is the third generation born to her tribe since World War III. Juneau is one with nature and has the ability of "sight" or as her tribe calls it, she connects with Yara.  Juneau is off on a hunting trip when she hears a strange noise. She rushes back to her tribe to find out that someone has taken them and slaughtered their animals. Juneau assumes it's a brigade of marauders, but things just don't add up. Nothing is missing other than her friends and family. 

It's Juneau's responsibility to protect her tribe, after "getting a vision" of her father she decides to do something that is against her tribes rules - she leaves tribe land in search of her friends and family. Once she leaves land she slowly starts to understand that her life has been a lie.  Because of these lies Juneau, starts to struggle with her faith in Yara. This is the part of the story that really interested me - teens struggle with their faith all the time; to see this heroine with amazing supernatural powers, who has witness and felt the power of Yara question her faith really made it hit home and become relatable.  

Juneau finds Miles on her quest to find her tribe. Miles is actually looking for Juneau, because his father is after her for some unknown reason. Miles thinks if he finds her he will win his dads acceptance. Juneau and Miles don't see eye to eye, she knows she can't trust him and he thinks she is a crazy brainwashed hippie cult member. Their world-wind story unfolds together as both of them narrate what is going on in their world. 

I found After The End to be a bit confusing; the alternating story line was really hard for me to follow at first. Juneau is very naive to the outside world, but over the course of a few days, things that she had no clue about before come naturally to her. I would have liked to see her have a harder time fitting into our current electronic world. I was really disappointed that this was not a stand alone. It just ended, without really wrapping up anything. We learn why Miles dad is after Juneau, but we don't know much about the other group that kidnapped her family, or why her mentor, who should had foreseen then tribe getting kidnapped ran off before hand, and made sure she wasn't around when the tribe was kidnapped??? I want to know more about this story line - so I will definitely be reading the next one. 


#Rockthedrop: Support Teen Literature Day

Here is how you can take part!

  • Find a YA book or books to donate.  
  • Print the bookplate and paste it in your book/books. 
  • Leave the book in a public place to be found. 
  • If you are worried someone won't pick it up, put a post it on it, letting people know it's a free book.
For more information about #ROCKTHEDROP stop by Readergirlz blog!

We will post pictures of our drops tomorrow!


Remnants Blog Tour Stop #14: Inspiration Behind the Locale -- Zanzibar

You guys know how much we loved Lisa's River of Time series and her Grand Tour series, so we're truly excited to see what she does with a dystopian-fantasy world, with a Remnant and a Knight Protector?!?

THEIR ARRIVAL WAS FORETOLD FOR YEARS…. Andriana is a Remnant, gifted as an empath and one of the Ailith, destined to act as humanity’s last shield against the horrors that now plague those who remain.

After years of training in stealth and warfare, Andriana and her Knight protector, Ronan, are finally ready to answer the Call and begin the life they were designed for. But as they embark with the other Remnants on the first of their assignments, they quickly discover that the world beyond their protected Valley is more dangerous than they imagined.

The Sons of Sheol will stop at nothing to prevent Dri and Ronan from rescuing anyone sympathetic to the Remnants’ cause. And as the Remnants battle the demonic forces, still other enemies close in. Dangers intensity, but so do Dri’s feelings for Ronan–the one emotion she is not meant to feel. In the midst of their mission, Andriana must fine a way to master her feelings. Or risk compromising everything…

amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

I’ve been blessed to travel in the Middle East (Israel and Egypt) and here in the USA, in the Southwest. So Zanzibar, the horrible, evil city the Remnants first encounter, became a cross between a pueblo:

Photo source

…And an adobe, walled city. I had a bit of Jericho (a seemingly impenetrable ancient city) in my mind, as well as this city from the movie “Sahara,” which I think was a scene shot in Morocco.

Picture Source
I wanted the city to feel very primal, exotic, as if we’d gone back in time and perhaps even to a different land. Given that REMNANTS: SEASON OF WONDER is futuristic, after a terrible plague and world war, and has returned to a medieval sort of society in which warlords rule only the land directly about them, I thought it fit. The city had been a sort of refuge for others who have left other war-ravaged towns and huddled together. They bring together the last vestiges of haves-and have-nots. And in the novel, it’s a rough place. Every citizen is tattooed with a symbol that identifies them as a Zanzibarian. Half the men are seeking a bride and contribute to human trafficking because every couple is only allowed one child, and the girls are routinely killed. It’s a dark, dark place, and ultimately, a place that will cry out for redemption…

Be sure to write down this STOP #14 LAUNCH TOUR CLUE: play

Collect all the clues and fill out Lisa’s Rafflecopter form on her launch tour post at LisaBergren.com at the end of April and you could win either a Kindle Fire HDX ($229) or iPod Touch ($229)!

What’s YOUR favorite locale from a movie or book? Why? Comment below!

Lisa Tawn Bergren is the best-selling, award-winning author of over 40 books, with more than 2.5 million copies sold. Her most recent works includes a YA series called River of Time (Waterfall, Cascade, Torrent, Bourne & Tributary), God Gave Us Easter, a devotional called Upside-Down Prayers for Parents and the Grand Tour Series (Glamorous Illusions, Grave Consequences, and Glittering Promises). She’s currently at work on a new YA series called Remnants, coming out in 2014.

Lisa’s time is split between managing home base, writing, and working on ducks with her husband, Tim (RMrustic.com). Tim’s a worship leader, graphic designer and duck-sculptor. They have three kids–Olivia (18), Emma (15) and Jack (10).

The Bergrens make their home in Colorado Springs, Colorado.


Allegiant to be Two Movies!

Summit Entertainment, a Lionsgate label, announced today that they are splitting the 3rd book of the Divergent Trilogy, ALLEGIANT, into two movies releasing in March 2016 and 2017.  This now brings up the question about how they will set up  the divided Allegiant in INSURGENT, out March 20, 2015, that starts production this May.  The other big question I'm sure fans will be pondering is where the split will occur to divide the book into two movies.

Press Release from Summit

Allegiant -- Part 1 To Be Released on Lionsgate’s Summit Entertainment Label On March 18, 2016;
Allegiant -- Part 2 To Arrive in Theatres Nationwide on March 24, 2017

SANTA MONICA, CA, and VANCOUVER, BC, April 11, 2014 – Lionsgate (NYSE: LGF), a leading global entertainment company, will produce and release Allegiant, starring Shailene Woodley and Theo James and based on the third book in Veronica Roth’s best-selling Divergent trilogy, as two separate films, it was announced today by Lionsgate Motion Picture Group Co-Chairmen Rob Friedman and Patrick Wachsberger. The Company will release a total of four Divergent films on its Summit Entertainment label, with the next film, Insurgent, which begins production next month, slated for release on March 20, 2015 and Allegiant -- Parts 1 & 2 scheduled for release on March 18, 2016, and March 24, 2017, respectively.


#Divergent Fathead Graphic Review & Giveaway

I'm are SUPER excited to bring you this review and giveaway today! I've seen the commercials for Fathead for years and always thought they had cool wall graphics, but I had never tried them out.  So I was very happy when we were contacted to help show you all the awesome new Divergent wall graphics they have to offer.  We got a design for review, I choose the Faction Symbols, because as much as I'd like to look at Theo or Shailene, life sized "cutouts" kind of freak me out, and the factions now adorn my apartment hallway. 

The Divergent Fathead collection has six (6) different graphic options.  There's "The Divergent Faction Logo Collection," "Tris and Four," "Divergent Character Posters," "Divergent Movie Poster Mural," "Four Eaton," and "Tris Prior."  Check out the Collections page and then click into each design to see all the fun extras you get beyond the featured graphics.  For example, the Faction Logos comes with the faction names and a mini movie poster that aren't shown in the picture below.  (Check out the rest of the entertainment collection HERE, they have everything from sports, to Disney, to video game graphics, and some non entertainment stuff too, really something for everyone!)

The 6 designs, click to view larger or visit the
Divergent Collection Page.

The Faction Logos - I'm flattening out the sheet before
putting the logos on my wall.
Fatheads are, in general terms, non permanent wall art.  They have an adhesive on the back that allows you to stick them and remove them from your walls (I tried this out a couple times, I couldn't quite make up my mind on where to put the names or the mini poster) without any damage to your paint. Each Fathead graphic comes on what is basically a big sticker sheet that comes to you rolled up in a big poster rube. You lay it flat for a bit, wipe down your walls and once they are dry and your design has flattened out, your're ready to start putting up your new wall art.

The hardest part for me was figuring out where I wanted them on my hallway wall and then getting the spacing right.  The actual application of the symbols was super easy.  They pealed off the backing sheet with ease and went up nice and smooth, it was a nice Saturday afternoon project.

They Faction logos are very well done, they have kind of a dystopian feel to them.  They aren't all perfect, the background kind of looks like dripping paint or water running down a wall.  They just totally fit the feel of the Divergent world and they look amazing up on my wall.  Here are a couple close up pics I took in black and white so you can see some of that detail.

They have been up on my wall for 3 days now and everything is still awesome.  This was the perfect choice for my apartment.  I think this is such a cool way to add a little something to a wall without a ton time invested in painting and what not.  You can also take it with you or change it's location with ease, which is always a plus.

Here's a pic of 3 of the logos on my wall and the mini movie poster.  Because they are down a hallway it's hard to get all of them in one shot.  I also did a short video of all the logos on my wall so you can see what they look like in detail.


Thanks to Fathead, we have this awesome giveaway for you!  One (1) winner will get their choice of one of the Divergent Collection Fathead wall graphics! This giveaway is open internationally, please use the Rafflecopter widget below to enter.

About Fathead LLC
Fathead LLC is the industry leader of graphics products for large & small spaces – led by authentic, officially licensed sports & entertainment graphics. Fathead gives fans the opportunity to feel passion For Real by bringing their favorite inspiration to life. Based in Detroit, Michigan, Fathead manufactures all products in the USA and Canada for purchase worldwide. Fathead carries thousands of images and maintains over 500 license agreements with leading consumer brands across many industries and professional sports leagues. For more information, visit www.Fathead.com. Connect with us on FacebookTwitter and Google+. Fathead. FOR REAL.™


The Forever Song by Julie Kagawa Blog Tour - Jackal Interview

Title: The Forever Song, 3rd and final book in the Blood of Eden series
Author: Julie Kagawa
Published: April 15th, 2014 by Harlequin Teen
Goodreads  Pre-Order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound
Synopsis: Not included, kind of spoilery.  Click on the Goodreads link above to check it out though!

Books 1 and 2 in the Blood of Eden Series:
  ~~The Immortal Rules (Book 1): Goodreads | Amazon
  ~~The Eternity Cure (Book 2) : Goodreads | Amazon

To celebrate the release of The Forever Song, we thought it'd be fun do a little speed dating interview favorite baddie from the trilogy, Jackal.  For those of you who haven't read the books yet, Jackel is Allison's vampire sibling, they share a maker.  He's not so nice in general, but he has his moments.  We hope you enjoy getting to know him a little bit better, and I'm kind of glad this interview wasn't IRL, I'm not sure I would have survived.

PTB: Favorite Color?
Jackal: Red. Like your blood. Spilling over the ground from the stump of your neck after I tear your head off.

Blond, Brunette or Red Head?
What does it matter? They all taste the same.

What would you do if you could go out in the sun for a day?
Nothing I can't do in the middle of the night. Except maybe get sunburn. Sadly, vampires don't tan.

What human food do you miss most?
I don't miss human food. I can barely recall what it tastes like. Though I do remember I could make a wicked meatloaf.

Craziest adventure as a vampire?
I'd say the one I'm on right now with the old man and my bleeding-heart sister qualifies. Though the time I took on that rival raider gang by myself runs a close second. Lots of blood, guts, flying body parts. Good times.

What’s your Apocalyptic tag line?
What the hell is an Apocalyptic tag line? Do you want me to rip your head off?

Where did you live before you were turned?
A pathetic little homestead in the middle of nowhere. Not surprisingly, it was attacked by raiders who killed everyone there but me. And then, this dark stranger showed up and asked me if I wanted to be immortal. Easiest choice I ever made.

Favorite place to look for a meal.
Lift your head up just a little. Yeah, right there, below your chin.

What’s your favorite book?
You don't run into many books where I come from. Though I did stumble across this old copy of The Divine Comedy, once. It was good for a laugh.

If we could meet in real life, where would you take me and what would you do?
*Evil smile* Why don't I show you, right now, bloodbag? Just step over here and close your eyes. Don't worry, it'll be over in a few seconds.

Harlequin and Kismet Blog Tours are hosting a giveaway along with the tour! Each stop, including us, is giving away winners choice of Immortal Rules, Eternity Cure or The Forever Song.  Two (2) grand prize winners will then be chosen from all the entries.  This giveaway is open to US and Canada residents, use the Rafflecopter widget below to enter. This is not a PTB hosted giveaway, so please be sure to read all the rules on the widget before entering.

About Julie Kagawawebsite | blog | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads
Julie Kagawa was born in Sacramento, California. But nothing exciting really happened to her there. So, at the age of nine she and her family moved to Hawaii, which she soon discovered was inhabited by large carnivorous insects, colonies of house geckos and frequent hurricanes. She spent much of her time in the ocean, when she wasn’t getting chased out of it by reef sharks, jellyfish and the odd eel.

To pay the rent, Julie worked in different bookstores over the years, but discovered the managers frowned upon her reading the books she was supposed to be shelving. So she turned to her other passion: training animals. She worked as a professional dog trainer for several years, dodging Chihuahua bites and overly enthusiastic Labradors, until her first book sold and she stopped training to write full-time.

Julie now lives in Louisville, Kentucky, where the frequency of shark attacks are at an all-time low. She lives with her husband, two obnoxious cats, one Australian shepherd who is too smart for his own good and the latest addition, a hyperactive Papillon puppy.

Check out the rest of the tour: 
Monday, April 7th - Harlequin Paranormal Romance Blog
Tuesday, April 8th - fiktshun
Wednesday, April 9th - The Page Turners
Thursday, April 10st - Books and Things
Friday, April 11th - Ticket To Anywhere

Monday, April 14th - Two Chicks on Books
Tuesday, April 15th - Parajunkee
Wednesday, April 16th - Refracted Light Reviews
Thursday, April 17st - Bewitched Bookworms
Friday, April 18th - Mundie Moms

Monday, April 21th - A Book Obsession
Tuesday, April 22nd - The Book Cellar
Wednesday, April 23th - Supernatural Snark
Thursday, April 24st - The Busy Bibliophile
Friday, April 25th - Tyngas Reviews