Blog Tour, Giveaway, and Guest Post: Shifter’s Heart by Desiree Williams

Blog tour banner for Shifter's Heart by Desiree Williams

I’m happy to participate in the blog tour for Shifter’s Heart, the second book in the Heart Song trilogy by Desiree Williams! Shifter’s Heart was released last week, and I can’t recommend it enough – it’s an exciting romance with great humor, likable characters, and a love story that’s equally steamy and sweet. In a nod to this wonderful romance, I’ve asked Desiree if she’d be willing to do a guest post on love and relationships, and she’s kindly obliged.

After reading her advice, don’t forget to enter the giveaway at the end of the post – you could win a great prize pack with jewelry and gift cards!

Desiree’s Tips for a Good Relationship

Photo of Heart Song author Desiree WilliamsHello, everybody! Before we get started, I want to personally thank Angela for allowing me to guest post on her blog today. It really is an honor.

Go pull up a chair and hang out, as we chat about two tips for a good relationship.

I insert a laugh right here because most guys shudder when they hear the term—relationship. Either they’re commitment-phobes, jaded to what love could be like, or they don’t want anyone to read past their tough-guy facade to know that, deep down, they’re a big softy. But in reality everyone wants a relationship at some point in time. Life was meant to be shared with someone we love.

I’ve worked with a lot of teens and young adults, and have seen their ups and downs with relationships. As a writer, my imagination wanders to what the relationships could be like for my characters. When I set out to create each story, I want the characters to have something that goes deeper than the physical. An unbreakable connection.

Now, don’t get me wrong, all the tingly feelings and stolen kisses are great. They make us smile and feel all warm and fuzzy inside. But if that’s all the relationship is based on, then there isn’t any depth. It won’t be long lasting.

Tip #1: Be emotionally invested.

A good relationship is solid when the two individuals are emotionally connected, in a way that they know the other individual. They know their likes, dislikes, what they crave, what they aspire to become/achieve—they know because they’ve invested the time to listen. That’s not a razz on the guys, girls are just as guilty for not being invested listeners.

Challenge #1: Order a meal for your significate other the next time you go out to eat, without asking them what they want first. And please don’t go through the fast food land. Choose something nice! =) If you can successfully order their meal by knowing ahead of time their likes and dislikes, then that’s a good sign you are—or are on the path to becoming—emotionally invested.

Tip #2: Be YOURSELF

There is too much pressure to be “perfect.” I’ll tell you right now, being perfect is overrated. Save the time, energy, heartache, and just be yourself. How can someone truly get to know you, when you aren’t even being you? Be unique, be YOU, because you are the one and only you.

Challenge #2: When you’re getting all fancied-up for your dinner to complete Challenge #1, ask yourself: am I dressing to impress myself, or am I dressing to impress everyone else? If it’s the latter, please stop. You are precious and worthy and don’t need the validation of someone else to give you self-worth. (And insert sappy virtual hug here. =))

So, do you dare to take up my challenges? Hmm? If so, I’d love to hear about them!

Special thanks again to Angela for allowing me to stop by. I had so much fun. Blessings!

You can find out more about Desiree and her books at www.desireewilliamsbooks.blogspot.com.

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About Shifter’s Heart

Book cover for Shifter's Heart by Desiree WilliamsAs the flames of Varkadon spread, war rips through the Shifter Territory…

With the Aldonnian kingdom celebrating the news of her brother’s soul bonding, Laelynn seizes every opportunity to drive herself to the brink of exhaustion. If her body is worn, then her brain would be too tired to dream. Laelynn knew the men who’d captured her were gone from this world, but that didn’t stop the haunting images from plaguing her mind. Not even the pesky thorn-in-her-side Shifter Prince could keep the dreams at bay. Though Dustan’s commentary through their mental bond had kept a lingering smile on her lips, despite the battles that rage within her.

Yet when Dustan distances himself Laelynn questions the connection between them. Those fears rise when her own talents begin to morph and growth into the unexpected. Torn between love and faith, Laelynn strives to find the purpose behind the evolving gifts. What she discovers is far more than she ever imagined.

As tragedy befalls the Shifter Territory and brother battles against brother, Laelynn knows what must be done. Face her demons and triumph, or she’ll never claim the song of her heart.

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Giveaway

Desiree is giving away a lovely Origami Owl bracelet, a $10 Amazon gift card, and a $10 iTunes gift card! For a chance to win, enter the giveaway using the Rafflecopter form below. The winner will be announced on Desiree’s blog, Facebook, and Twitter account the morning of February 7.

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Review: Gone by Michael Grant

Gone Book Cover Gone
Michael Grant

Gone. Everyone except for the young. Teens. Middle schoolers. Toddlers. But not a single adult. No teachers, no cops, no doctors, no parents. Gone, too, are the phones, internet and television. There is no way to get help.

Hunger threatens. Bullies rule. A sinister creature lurks. Animals are mutating. And the teens themselves are changing, developing new talents – unimaginable, dangerous, deadly powers – that grow stronger by the day.

 It’s a terrifying new world. Sides are being chosen and war is imminent.

Review: 

The last time I went to the mall, I stopped by the bookstore not intending to buy anything. I figured I’d just pass the time and browse while my husband spent his usual half an hour drooling over the latest gadgets in the Apple store. When I saw Gone, however, something just spoke to me, and I knew I had to buy it.

I am so, so glad that I did. The characters are well developed and the plot perfectly paced. Best of all, the book is convincing.

If you read my review of Midnight City, you’ll recall that I found the book’s adult-less, kid-run world a bit too PG to be realistic. That is definitely not the case in Gone. As many other reviewers have pointed out, Gone has a distinct Lord of the Flies feel, in which the basest, most dangerous side of humanity is revealed as children fight for survival.

After parents, teachers, law enforcement, and everyone else over the age of 15 disappear, the youth of San Perdido, California, are left to fend for themselves. Some of them rise to the occasion and try to make the best of the situation, caring for newly orphaned toddlers and sending search parties to collect first aid kits, food, and other necessities. Others, however, are not so noble, and raids, looting, and aggression reign. There’s a decent amount of violence and also a good measure of creepiness, especially after the animals – and humans – of San Perdido begin to mutate.

Also contributing to Gone’s believability is that the fact that it is multi-dimensional. There isn’t one villain against whom the hero and his friends are fighting; there are several, and they are all vying for power and survival in a world where the old rules no longer apply. Just when you think you have a feel for someone’s allegiance, the plot shifts, and you realize that the situation is much more complicated and dynamic than you previously thought. There are so many variables at play that you never know what to expect and are kept on the edge of your seat.

Another element that makes this novel so fantastic is that it is smart. As I read, there were no moments that made me roll my eyes in frustration, as many creepy movies make me do. I never felt the urge to yell, “Don’t do it, you moron, it’s a trap!” or “Why are you going in there? It’s obvious that so-and-so is really in the hotel!” It was very refreshing to read a book about characters who think logically and actually use their brains.

Speaking of characters, let’s discuss the book’s cast. I was a little concerned that reading a book in which the main characters are 14-year-olds would be disappointingly censored and watered down, but while it’s true that there are almost no curse words in Gone, and very little in the way of physical romance, the characters still manage to be gritty and real. They may be young, but they’re desperate, resourceful, and clever, and this causes some crazy stuff to happen. Neither “good” nor “bad” characters are simple tropes, and I can honestly say that every single character is unique and well developed. I was fascinated by each and every one of them, and I can’t wait to read more about what makes them tick in the rest of Michael Grant’s books.

Review: Altered by Jennifer Rush

Altered Book Cover Altered
Jennifer Rush

Everything about Anna’s life is a secret. Her father works for the Branch, at the helm of its latest project: monitoring and administering treatments to the four genetically altered boys in the lab below their farmhouse. There’s Nick, solemn and brooding; Cas, light-hearted and playful; Trev, smart and caring; and Sam…who’s stolen Anna’s heart. 

When the Branch decides it’s time to take the boys, Sam stages an escape. Anna’s father pushes her to go with them, making Sam promise to keep her away from the Branch, at all costs.

On the run, with her father’s warning in her head, Anna begins to doubt everything she thought she knew about herself. She soon discovers that she and Sam are connected in more ways than either of them expected. And if they’re both going to survive, they must piece together the clues of their past before the Branch catches up to them and steals it all away.

Review:

For reasons I can’t quite put my finger on, Altered just didn’t do it for me. It’s the opposite of the well-known saying “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” Taken individually, the elements of the novel sound pretty interesting. There are secret codes, impossibly attractive young men with superhuman abilities, an escape from a laboratory in which the young men have been genetically altered, messages left in safe-houses, dark government secrets, etc. All of these components sound great, but when put together in a storyline they just don’t click.

Part of the problem might be that the stakes never feel very high, so the action and suspense fall flat. Sam, Nick, Cas, and Trev have spent several years of their lives in a laboratory being tested and observed, but they don’t seem to be mistreated, nor do they seem to be more than mildly upset about their containment. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying it’d be pleasant living in a lab – but the conditions don’t seem terrible, and the boys don’t appear to be tortured or abused in any way.

Cas is so lighthearted, and Trev so thoughtful, that there’s no weight behind their “suffering” at the hands of the Branch. Also, while Nick is pretty grumpy, I got the impression that this could just be attributed to his general personality rather than the fact that he’s a genetic experiment. The only person who seems to legitimately have an issue with the Branch is Sam, and even then it seems as if he is fighting them less out of a fear that they’re a threat to society and more because he has a personal vendetta against them.

Altered just didn’t hold my attention, and I found my mind wandering almost constantly while reading it. Anna is a likable character, and Sam is mysterious, troubled, and occasionally even alluring, but this just wasn’t enough to keep me interested.

Review: Pivot Point by Kasie West

Pivot Point Book Cover Pivot Point
Kasie West

Addison Coleman’s life is one big “What if?” As a Searcher, whenever Addie is faced with a choice, she can look into the future and see both outcomes. It’s the ultimate insurance plan against disaster. Or so she thought. When Addie’s parents ambush her with the news of their divorce, she has to pick who she wants to live with – her father, who is leaving the paranormal compound to live among the “Norms,” or her mother, who is staying in the life Addie has always known. Addie loves her life just as it is, so her answer should be easy. One Search six weeks into the future proves it’s not. 

In one potential future, Addie is adjusting to life outside the Compound as the new girl in a Norm high school where she meets Trevor, a cute, sensitive artist who understands her. In the other path, Addie is being pursued by the hottest guy in school – but she never wanted to be a quarterback’s girlfriend. When Addie’s father is asked to consult on a murder in the Compound, she’s unwittingly drawn into a dangerous game that threatens everything she holds dear. With love and loss in both lives, it all comes down to which reality she’s willing to live through…and who she can’t live without.

Review:

Have you ever stopped to wonder how your life might have turned out differently if just one detail had been altered? As an example, I always joke with my husband that we were lucky not to live in the same school district growing up. We started dating at 16, but that probably wouldn’t have been the case if we’d attended the same high school; we were in vastly different social circles and wouldn’t have looked twice at one another. Because we first met on neutral territory, however – a dance company located halfway between his school and mine – we were able to get to know each other’s true personality without the influence of our classmates and established cliques getting in the way.

The point of the above illustration is that one small detail has the potential to drastically change a person’s future, a concept that lies at the core of Pivot Point.  The protagonist, Addie, lives in a place called the Compound, where individuals with supernatural abilities hone their skills and go about their lives apart from the rest of the world. Addie’s gift is that she is able to “Search” her future and see how her life will play out based on the decisions she makes.

When Addie’s parents unexpectedly announce that they’re getting a divorce, she must decide which parent she’s going to live with. Is it better to stay with her strict mother in the familiarity of the Compound, where Addie has lived her entire life? Or should she move away to the “Norm” world, where she’ll be forced to hide her special abilities, in order to maintain her close relationship with her father? To answer this question, Addie decides to Search her future to see which path will make her happier.

The chapters in Pivot Point alternate between the two possible versions of Addie’s future. There are several key elements and occurrences that appear in both versions, but the effect they have on Addie and her loved ones differs greatly from one version to the other. This provides some delicious irony, as the reader has the benefit of viewing both possible outcomes and knowing just how dire the consequences of Addie’s various choices will be.

It’s especially fascinating to watch Addie’s interactions with her two potential love interests; both of the boys will play a role in her future regardless of which parent she decides to live with, but what those roles will be are largely dependent on the path Addie chooses. Foreshadowing and details that initially seem minor but are ultimately revealed as important are woven into the plot, tying everything together expertly.

The unique premise and nearly flawless execution would have been more than enough to convince me of West’s immeasurable talent, but my high opinion of her was cemented by how well she navigated the ending of her story. It wasn’t the conclusion that I’d been hoping for, but it was the conclusion that was right for the story, and I really admire that. I highly recommend Pivot Point and can’t wait to read the sequel!