PH Blog Tour: Wildcard by Marie Lu (Excerpt + Giveaway)

Easily one of the most anticipated sequels of the year, Wildcard by Marie Lu is the final book in the Warcross duology. With it’s fair share of virtual reality and technological marvels, the awaited finale is sure to bring a lot in the house. The technology is bigger, the stakes are higher, and our rainbow-haired gal takes on her biggest challenge yet.

While I will not be sharing my review, I will be sharing an excerpt below. Read on to get a grasp of what to expect in Wildcard.

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WildcardTitle: Wildcard

Author: Marie Lu

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction

Date Published: 18th of September 2018

Series: Warcross #2

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

Buy it on: National Bookstore | Amazon | Audible | Kobo | Barnes & Noble | Apple iBooks | The Book Depository

Summary:

Emika Chen barely made it out of the Warcross Championships alive. Now that she knows the truth behind Hideo’s new NeuroLink algorithm, she can no longer trust the one person she’s always looked up to, who she once thought was on her side.

Determined to put a stop to Hideo’s grim plans, Emika and the Phoenix Riders band together, only to find a new threat lurking on the neon-lit streets of Tokyo. Someone’s put a bounty on Emika’s head, and her sole chance for survival lies with Zero and the Blackcoats, his ruthless crew. But Emika soon learns that Zero isn’t all that he seems–and his protection comes at a price.

Caught in a web of betrayal, with the future of free will at risk, just how far will Emika go to take down the man she loves?

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1
 
Eight Days until the Warcross Closing Ceremony  
Someone is watching me.
I can feel it—the eerie sensation of being followed, an invisible gaze locked on my back. It prickles my skin, and as I make my way through Tokyo’s rain-soaked streets to meet up with the Phoenix Riders, I keep looking over my shoulder. People hurry by in a steady stream of colorful umbrellas and business suits, heels and oversize coats. I can’t stop imagining their downcast faces all turned in my direction, no matter which way I go.
Maybe it’s the paranoia that comes with years of being a bounty hunter. You’re on a crowded street, I tell myself. No one’s following you.
It’s been three days since Hideo’s algorithm was triggered. Technically, the world should now be the safest it’s ever been. Every single person who has used the new Henka Games contact lenses—even just once—should now be completely under Hideo’s control, rendered unable to break the law or harm another person.
Only the few who still use the beta lenses, like me, are unaffected.
So, in theory, I shouldn’t be worried about someone following me. The algorithm won’t let them do anything to hurt me.
But even as I think this, I slow down to stare at the long line wrapping around a local police station. There must be hundreds of people. They’re all turning themselves in to the authorities for anything and everything unlawful they’ve ever done, from unpaid parking tickets to petty theft—even murder. It’s been like this for the past three days.
My attention shifts to a police barricade at the end of the street. They’re directing us to detour down a different block. Ambulance lights flash against the walls, illuminating a covered gurney being lifted into the vehicle. I only need to catch a glimpse of officers pointing up at the roof of a nearby building before I figure out what occurred here. Another criminal must have jumped to their death. Suicides like this have been peppering the news.
And I helped make all of this happen.
I swallow my unease and turn away. There’s a subtle but significant blankness in everyone’s eyes. They don’t know an artificial hand is inside their minds, bending their free will.
Hideo’s hand.
The reminder is enough to make me pause in the middle of the street and close my eyes. My fists clench and unclench, even as my heart lurches at his name. I’m such an idiot.
How can the thought of him fill me with disgust and desire at the same time? How can I stare in horror at this line of people waiting in the rain outside a police station—but still blush at my dream of being in Hideo’s bed, running my hands along his back?
We’re over. Forget him. I open my eyes again and continue on, trying to contain the anger beating in my chest.
By the time I duck into the heated halls of a Shinjuku shopping center, rain is coming down in wavy sheets, smearing the reflections of neon lights against the slick pavement.
Not that the storm is stopping preparations for the upcoming Warcross closing ceremony, which will mark the end of this year’s games. With my beta lenses on, I can see the roads and sidewalks color-coded in hues of scarlet and gold. Each Tokyo district is highlighted like this right now, the streets shaded the colors of the most popular team in that neighborhood.
Overhead, a lavish display of virtual fireworks is going off, piercing the dark sky with bursts of colored light. Shinjuku district’s favorite team is the Phoenix Riders, so the fireworks here are currently forming the shape of a rising phoenix, arching its flaming neck in a cry of victory.
Every day over the next week or so, the top ten players of this year’s championships will be announced worldwide after a vote by all Warcross fans. Those ten players will compete in a final, all-star tournament during the closing ceremony, and then spend a year as the biggest celebrities in the world before they play again next spring, in the opening ceremony’s game.
Like the one I once hacked into and disrupted, that upended my entire life and landed me here.
People on the streets are proudly dressed up as their top-ten vote this year. I see a few Asher lookalikes sporting his outfit from our championship game in the White World; someone’s decked out as Jena, another as Roshan. Still others are arguing heatedly about the Final. There had obviously been a cheat—power-ups that shouldn’t have been in play.
Of course, I had done that.
I adjust my face mask, letting my rainbow hair tumble out from underneath my red raincoat’s hood. My rain boots squelch against the sidewalk. I have a randomized virtual face laid over my own, so at least people who are wearing their NeuroLink glasses or contacts will look at me and see a complete stranger. For the rare person who isn’t, the face mask should cover enough to make me blend in with everyone else wearing masks on the street.
Sugoi!” someone passing me exclaims, and when I turn, I see a pair of wide-eyed girls grinning at my hair. Their Japanese words translate into English in my view. “Wow! Good Emika Chen costume!”
They make a gesture like they want to take a photo of me, and I play along, putting up my hands in V-for-victory signs. Are you both under Hideo’s control, too? I wonder.
The girls bob their heads in thanks and move along. I adjust my electric skateboard strapped over my shoulder. It’s a good temporary disguise, pretending to be myself, but for someone used to stalking others, I still feel weirdly exposed.
Emi! Almost here?
Hammie’s message appears before me as translucent white text, cutting through my tension. I smile instinctively and quicken my steps.
Almost.
It would’ve been easier, you know, if you’d just come with us.
I cast a glance over my shoulder again. It would’ve definitely been easier—but the last time I stayed in the same space as my teammates, Zero nearly killed us in an explosion.
I’m not an official Rider anymore. People would ask questions if they saw us heading out as a group tonight.
But you’d be safer if you did.
It’s safer if I didn’t.
I can practically hear her sigh. She sends the address of the bar again.
See you soon.
I pass through the mall and out the other side. Here, the colorful blocks of Shinjuku shift into the seedy streets of Kabukichō, Tokyo’s red-light district. I tense my shoulders. It’s not an unsafe area—certainly not compared to where I came from in New York—but the walls are covered with glowing screens featuring the services of beautiful girls and handsome, spiky-haired boys, along with shadier banners I don’t want to understand.
Virtual models dressed in scanty outfits stand outside bars, beckoning visitors to enter. They ignore me when they realize my profile marks me as a foreigner and turn their attention to the more lucrative Japanese locals navigating the streets.
Still, I pick up my pace. No red-light district in the world is safe.
I duck into a narrow street on the border of Kabukichō. Piss Alley, so this cluster of little walkways is called. The Riders picked it for tonight because it’s closed to tourists during the Warcross championship season. Scowling bodyguards in suits stand at the entrances and exits of the alleys, shooing away curious passersby.
I take down my disguise for a second so they can see my real identity. One bodyguard bows his head and lets me in.
Both sides of the alleys are lined with tiny sake bars and yakitori stands. Through each of their fogged glass doors, I can see the backs of other teams huddled in front of smoking grills, arguing loudly at virtual projections on the walls showing interviews with players. The scent of fresh rain mixes with aromas of garlic, miso, and fried meat.
I pull off my raincoat, shake it out, and fold it inside out into my backpack. Then I head to the last stall. This bar is a little bigger than the others, facing a quiet alley blocked off on either side. Its doorway is lit by a row of cheery red lanterns, and men in suits stand in strategic positions around it. One of them notices me and moves aside, ushering me forward.
I walk under the lanterns and enter through the sliding glass door. A curtain of warm air envelops me.
Checked into Midnight Sense Bar!
+500 Points. Daily Score: +950
Level 36 |  N120,064
 
I find myself standing in a cozy room with a handful of filled seats arranged around a bar, where a chef is busy putting out bowls of ramen. He pauses to call out my arrival.
A round of greetings hits me as everyone turns in my direction.
There’s Hammie, our Thief, and Roshan, our Shield. Asher, our Captain, is sitting on one of the stools with his stylish wheelchair folded behind him. Even Tremaine, who technically plays for the Demon Brigade, is here. He keeps his elbows propped up on the bar as he nods at me through the steam rising from his bowl. He’s sitting away from Roshan, who’s fiddling with a bracelet of prayer beads on his wrist and making a point of ignoring his former boyfriend.
My team. My friends. The eerie feeling of being watched subsides as I take in their faces.
Hammie waves me over. I slide gratefully into the empty stool beside her. The chef puts down a bowl of ramen before me and steps out to give us privacy. “The whole city’s celebrating,” I mutter. “People have no idea what Hideo’s done.”
She starts pulling her curls tight into a thick pouf high on her head. Then she juts her chin at a virtual screen playing footage from the Final against the wall. “You’re just in time,” she replies. “Hideo’s about to make his announcement.”
We stare at the screen as Hammie pours me a cup of tea. It now shows a room of reporters with their faces turned toward a massive stage, all waiting impatiently for Hideo to arrive. Kenn, the Warcross creative director, and Mari Nakamura, Henka Games’ chief operating officer, are already there, whispering to each other.
The room on the screen suddenly bursts into commotion as Hideo walks onstage. He straightens the lapels of his suit jacket once as he strides over to join his companions, shaking hands as he goes with his usual cool, careful grace.
Even the sight of him onscreen feels as overwhelming as if he’d walked right into this bar. All I see is the same boy I’ve watched my whole life, the face I’d stop to look for at newsstands and take in on TV. I dig my nails into the counter, trying not to show how embarrassingly weak it makes me feel.
Hammie notices. She casts me a sympathetic glance. “No one expects you to be over him already,” she says. “I know he’s trying to take over the world and all, but he still rocks a suit harder than a Balmain catwalk.”
Asher scowls. “I’m right here.”
“I didn’t say I wanted to date him,” Hammie replies, reaching over to pat Asher’s cheek once.
I look on as Hideo and Kenn talk in low voices and wonder how much Kenn and Mari know about Hideo’s plans. Has the entire company been in on this all along? Is it possible to keep such a thing secret? Would that many people take part in something so awful?
“As you all know,” Hideo begins, “a cheat was activated during the Final of this year’s championship that benefited one team—the Phoenix Riders—over the other—Team Andromeda. After reviewing the matter with our creative team”—he pauses to glance at Kenn—“it seems the cheat was activated not by one of the players, but by an outside party. We’ve decided the best way to resolve this, then, is to hold an official rematch between Team Andromeda and the Phoenix Riders, four days from today. This will be followed by the closing ceremony four days later.”
An instant buzz of conversation fills the room at Hideo’s words. Asher leans back and frowns at the screen. “Well, it’s happening,” he says to us all. “An official rematch. We’ve got three days to get ready.”
Hammie slurps up a mouthful of noodles. “An official rematch,” she echoes, although there’s no enthusiasm in her voice. “Never happened in the history of the championships.”
“Gonna be a lot of Phoenix Rider haters out there,” Tremaine adds. Already, a few shouts of “Cheaters!” can be clearly heard from the other bars outside.
Asher shrugs. “Nothing we haven’t faced before. Isn’t that right, Blackbourne?”
Tremaine’s expression is blank. The excitement of the new game is lost on all of us as we continue to stare at the screen. A rematch isn’t the big news. If only those reporters knew what Hideo was really doing with the NeuroLink.
I’m tired of the horror in the world, he’d said to me. So I will force it to end.
“Well,” Roshan begins, rubbing a hand across his face, “if Hideo’s bothered by anything that’s happened in the last few days, he’s not showing it.”
Tremaine’s concentrating on something invisible in his view and tapping rapidly against the bar. A few weeks ago, I would’ve bristled at being in the same room as him. He still isn’t my favorite person, and I keep waiting for him to sneer and call me Princess Peach again, but for now he’s on our side. And we can use all the help we can get.
“Find anything?” I ask him.
“I dug up some solid numbers on how many people have the new lenses.” Tremaine sits back and huffs out a sigh. “Ninety-eight percent.”
I could cut the silence in here like a cake. Ninety-eight percent of all users are now controlled by Hideo’s algorithm. I think of the long lines, the police tape. The sheer scale of it makes me dizzy.
“And the other two percent?” Asher manages to ask.
“Is made up of anybody still using the beta test lenses,” Tremaine replies, “and who haven’t switched over yet. Those folks are safe for now.” He peers around the bar. “Us, of course, and a number of the official players, since we got the beta lenses before the full version went out. A lot of people in the Dark World, I bet. And the tiny number of people worldwide who don’t use the NeuroLink at all. That’s it. Everybody else is locked in.”
No one wants to add anything to that. I don’t say it out loud, but I know we can’t stay on the beta lenses forever. Word on the street is that those lenses will download a patch that converts them into algorithm lenses on the day of the Warcross closing ceremony.
That’s happening in eight days.
“Seven days of freedom left,” Asher finally says, voicing what we’re all thinking. “If you want to rob a bank, now’s your chance.”
I glance at Tremaine. “Any luck digging up more info about the algorithm itself?”
He shakes his head and pulls up a screen for all of us to see. It’s a maze of glowing letters. “I can’t even find the faintest trace of it. See this?” He stops to point at a block of code. “The main log-on sequence? Something should be here.”
“You’re saying it’s impossible that there’s an algorithm here,” I reply.
“I’m saying it’s impossible, yes. It’s like watching a chair float in midair without any wires.”
It’s the same conclusion I came up with over the past few sleepless nights. I’d spent them searching every crevice of the NeuroLink. Nothing. However Hideo is implementing his algorithm, I can’t find it.
I sigh. “The only way to access it might be through Hideo himself.”
On the screen, Hideo is answering questions from the press now. His face is serious, his stance easy, and his hair perfectly tousled. As put together as ever. How does he stay so calm? I lean forward, as if the few moments we’d had together in our brief relationship were enough for me to see what he’s thinking.
My dream from last night flashes through my mind again, and I can almost feel his hands running down my bare arms, his expression undone. I’m sorry, he’d whispered. Then, the dark silhouette watching me from the corner of the room. The glass all around us shattering.
“And what about you?” Tremaine says, snapping me out of my reverie. “Heard anything new from Zero? Have you contacted Hideo?”
I take a deep breath and shake my head. “I haven’t reached out to anyone. Not yet, anyway.”
“You’re not still seriously thinking about Zero’s offer, are you?” Asher has his head propped against one hand, and he’s looking warily at me. It’s the same expression he used to give me as a Captain, whenever he thought I wasn’t going to listen to his commands. “Don’t do it. It’s obviously a trap.”
“Hideo was a trap, too, Ash,” Hammie says. “And none of us saw that coming.”
“Yeah, well, Hideo never tried to blow up our dorm,” Asher mutters. “Look—even if Zero is serious about wanting Emi to join him in stopping Hideo, there’s got to be some strings attached. He’s not exactly a model citizen. His help might come with more problems than it’s worth.”
Tremaine rests his elbows against the counter. I’m still not used to seeing genuine concern on his face, but it’s comforting. A reminder that I’m not alone. “If you and I work together, Em, we can try to avoid Zero’s help. There have got to be hints about Sasuke Tanaka out there somewhere.”
“Sasuke Tanaka vanished without a trace,” Roshan says. His quiet voice is cool and cutting as he wraps a length of noodle around his chopsticks.
Tremaine glances at him. “There is always a trace,” he replies.
Asher speaks up before things turn more awkward between Roshan and Tremaine. “What if you contact Hideo first? Tell him you found out that his brother’s alive. You said he created all of this—Warcross, the algorithm—because of his brother, right? Wouldn’t he do anything for him?”
In my mind, I see Hideo look at me. Everything I do is because of him. He’d said that to me only a couple of weeks ago, in the steam of a hot spring, as we watched the stars wink into existence.
Even then, he’d been planning his algorithm. His words take on new meaning now, and I shrink inward, the warmth of that memory hardening into ice.
If Zero really is his brother,” I reply.
“Are you saying he isn’t? We all saw it.”
“I’m saying I can’t be sure.” I stir the noodles around my bowl, unable to work up an appetite.
Hammie tilts her head thoughtfully, and I can see the cogs of her chess mind working. “It could be someone who stole Sasuke’s identity. It could be someone trying to throw people off his trail by using a dead boy’s name.”
“Ghosting,” I murmur in agreement. I know the term for it because I’ve done it before.
“Emi can’t tell Hideo something this big if it might not even be true,” Hammie continues. “It could make him do something unpredictable. We need proof first.”
Roshan suddenly gets up. His chair scoots back with a grating clatter against the floor. I glance abruptly up to see him turning his back to us and heading out of the bar through the sliding door.
“Hey,” Hammie calls out. “You okay?”
He pauses to look back at us. “Okay with what? That we’re all sitting here, talking about the technicalities of how Emi should throw herself into a situation that might kill her?”
The rest of us halt in our conversation, words hanging unspoken in the air. I’ve never heard real anger in Roshan’s voice before, and the sound seems wrong.
He looks around at his teammates before letting his eyes settle on me. “You don’t owe Hideo anything,” he says softly. “You did what you were hired to do. It’s not your responsibility to dig deeper into this—into Zero’s past or what happened between him and Hideo or even what he plans on doing to Hideo.”
“Emi’s the only one who—” Asher begins.
“Like you’ve always looked out for what she needs,” Roshan snaps back. My eyebrow raises in surprise.
“Roshan,” Asher says, watching him carefully.
But Roshan tightens his lips. “Look—if Zero’s team is still set on stopping Hideo, then let him do it. Let the two of them go at each other. Step back and remove yourself from this. You don’t have to do it. And none of us should be convincing you of anything different.”
Before I can respond, Roshan turns away and heads out into the night air. The door slides shut behind him with a sharp bang. Around me, the others let out an inaudible breath.
Hammie shakes her head when I look at her. “It’s because he’s here,” she mutters, nodding to Tremaine. “He throws Roshan off.”
Tremaine clears his throat uncomfortably. “He’s not wrong,” he finally says. “About the danger, I mean.”
I stare at the space where Roshan had been and picture his prayer beads sliding against his wrist. In my view, I can still see the last message from Zero sitting in my archives, the letters small and white and waiting.
My offer to you still stands.
Hammie sits back and crosses her arms. “Why are you going on with this?” she asks me.
“Is the fate of the world not enough of a reason?”
“No, there’s more to it than that.”
Irritation rises in my chest. “This is all happening because of me—I was directly involved.”
Hammie doesn’t back down from the edge in my words. “But you know it’s not your fault. Tell me—why?
I hesitate, not wanting to say it. In the corner of my view, I see Hideo’s profile haloed in green. He’s awake and online. It’s enough to make me want to reach out and Link with him.
I hate that he still has this pull on me. After all, everyone has had that one person they can’t help but obsess over. It’s not like I haven’t enjoyed flings that came and went in the span of a few weeks. And yet . . .
He’s more than a fling or a bounty or a mark. He’s forever bound to my history. The Hideo who has stolen the world’s free will is still the same Hideo who grieved his brother so deeply that it left a permanent thread of silver in his dark hair. The same Hideo who loves his mother and father. The same Hideo who once lifted me out of my darkness and dared me to dream of better things.
I refuse to believe that he’s nothing more than a monster. I can’t watch him sink like this. I keep going because I need to find that boy again, the beating heart buried underneath his lie. I have to stop him in order to save him.
He was once the hand that pulled me up. Now I have to be his.
***
By  the  time  we  leave  the  bar,  it’s  well  past  midnight,  and  the pouring rain has dwindled to a fine mist. Some people still dot the streets. The first two all-star players have just been announced, and virtual figures of them now hover under every streetlight in the city. 
 
HAMILTON JIMÉNEZ of USA | PHOENIX RIDERS
PARK JIMIN of SOUTH KOREA | BLOODHOUNDS
 
Hammie barely glances at the images of her best in-game moves now dancing below the light posts. “You should head back with us,” she says, eyeing the neighborhood.
“I’ll be fine,” I reassure her. If someone really is following me, best not to make it so that they’re following my teammates, too.
“It’s Kabukichō, Em.”
I give her a wry smile. “So? Hideo’s algorithm is running on most of these people now. What’s there to be afraid of?”
“Very funny,” Hammie responds with an exasperated lift of her eyebrow.
“Look, we shouldn’t all be traveling together. You know that makes us too tempting a target, regardless of the algorithm. I’ll call you when I’m in back in my hotel.”
Hammie hears the note of finality in my voice. Her lips twist in frustration, but then she nods and starts to walk away. “Yeah, you better,” she says over her shoulder, waving her hand at me as she hurries off.
I watch her join the others as they head toward the subway station, where a private car waits for them. I try to picture each of them before they were famous, the first times they arrived in Tokyo, whether or not they felt invisible enough to take the subway. Whether they felt alone.
When my teammates disappear into the haze of rain, I turn away.
I’m used to traveling by myself. Still, my solitude feels sharper now, and the space around me seems emptier without my teammates. I shove my hands back into my pockets and try to ignore the virtual male model that now saunters up to me with a smile, inviting me in English into one of the host clubs that line the street.
“Nope,” I reply to him. He vanishes immediately, then resets at the entrance of the club and looks for another potential customer.
I tuck the rest of my hair completely under my hood and keep going. Just a week ago, I probably would’ve been walking with Hideo beside me. His arm wrapped around my waist, his coat over my shoulders. He might’ve been laughing at something I said.
But I’m on my own here, listening to the lonely splash of my boots in the dirty street puddles. The echo of water dripping from signs and overhangs keeps distracting me. It sounds like someone else’s footsteps. The feeling of being watched has returned.
A static buzz vibrates in my ears. I pause for a moment at an intersection, tilting my head this way and that until it stops.
I glance again at Hideo’s green-haloed icon in my view. Where is he now, and what is he doing? I imagine contacting him, his virtual form appearing before me, as Asher’s question rings in my ears. What if I did tell him about Zero’s connection to his brother? Would it be so bad to see what happens, even without being entirely sure?
I clench my teeth, annoyed with myself for thinking of excuses to hear his voice. If I just give myself enough distance from him and focus on this whole thing like it’s a job, then maybe I’ll stop wanting to be near him so much.
The static buzzes in my ear again. This time I halt and listen carefully. Nothing. Only a few people are on the street with me now, each a nondescript silhouette. Maybe someone’s trying to hack me. I start an inspection of my NeuroLink system to make sure everything’s in order. Green text floats past my view, the scan looking normal.
Until it skips over running a diagnostic on my messages.
I frown, but before I can examine it closer, all the text vanishes from my view. It’s replaced by a single sentence.
I’m still waiting, Emika.
Every hair on the back of my neck rises. It’s Zero.

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Marie Lu is the author of the #1 New York Times bestselling series The Young Elites, as well as the blockbuster bestselling Legend series. She graduated from the University of Southern California and jumped into the video game industry as an artist. Now a full-time writer, she spends her spare time reading, drawing, playing games, and getting stuck in traffic. She lives in Los Angeles with her illustrator/author husband, Primo Gallanosa, and their dogs.

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Win a copy of Wildcard by Marie Lu! Click the giveaway tag or here.

Huge thanks to Rafael at The Royal Polar Bear Reads for letting me join this blog tour and for Penguin Random House in providing copies for the tour. You are all amazing. *hugs*

Follow the rest of the tour here:

September 3 : 
September 4 :
Mary Jane @ The Book Dragon
September 5 :
Nikki @ Book Allure
Avy Marielle @ The Reading Fangeek
September 6 :
Soleil @ Queen Soleil
September 7 :
Floricci @ Wanderlust Reader
September 10 :
Kat @ Kat Reads PH
September 11 :
Jonathan @ Wander with Jon
September 12 :
Jenny @ Levicorps Blog
September 13 :
Carmel @ Bookable Reads
September 14 :
Myrth @ Cliste Belle
*will be updating when the tour stops are completed.

Are you excited for Wildcard?

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PH Blog Tour: Are We All Lemmings & Snowflakes? (+ Giveaway)

Before Reading:

“Wait… Holly has a new book out? SIGN ME UP.”

That was essentially my reaction once I learned that Holly Bourne has a new book coming out this year. Basically, any opportunity for me to read her books will not pass by. So when Erika at The Nocturnal Fey once again hosted a tour for Holly’s new release, my hands went all ninja for the sign-up form. Since I started this blog, I have been a fan of Holly Bourne. But long story short: I love Holly and her writing style. I’m pretty sure I can read her new book in one sitting. (Spoiler alert: I didn’t but in a good way.)

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Cover (1)Title: Are We All Lemmings and Snowflakes?

Author: Holly Bourne

Genre: Contemporary, Mental Health

Date Published: 9th of August 2018

ISBN: 9781474933612

Series: None

Publisher: Usborne Publishing

Buy it on: Usborne |AmazonKobo | iBooks | Book Depository | Waterstones

Are We All Lemmings & Snowflakes is also available at National Bookstore branches nationwide for PH readers!

Summary:

Welcome to Camp Reset, a summer camp with a difference. A place offering a shot at “normality” for Olive, a girl on the edge, and for the new friends she never expected to make – who each have their own reasons for being there. Luckily Olive has a plan to solve all their problems. But how do you fix the world when you can’t fix yourself?

After Reading:

My initial reaction after finishing this book goes like this, “Well, aren’t you just a peach?” (Pun intended because the copies for the tour were pink *laughs*) With that in mind,  I cannot help but compare it to her past work. Although Are We All Lemmings & Snowflakes is hard-hitting as well, there’s something different about it. The overall tone and the character development is something to point out on. It was also realistically blunt.

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Speaking as a Holly Bourne fan, I’m not going to lie when I say that I had some pretty high expectations for this book. But of course I still had to read it and not just give the 5-star bomb right then and there. Then I met the main character Olive and the circumstances that went with her story. Let’a start with the premise.

Olive has been chosen to go to Camp Reset, since she has been dealing with mental health issues that she chose not to exactly know to avoid labeling herself. In Camp Reset, she goes through various sessions that help her realize thoughts and actions that would not only affect her, but everyone else. Hence the birth of the slogan ‘ #Kindness is contagious‘. What I loved about this book is that it was emotionally blunt and raw, each page bursting with emotions and thoughts that work like the human mind. It’s like the manifestation of a soliloquy in one’s head. The realness and the way the book is presented is also reflected in on Olive. She’s flawed, and she admits that going a few pages in. Not many people like her, especially girls her age. She is fully aware of what she is. As a reader, I found this complexity and honesty in her character frustrating at times. But it is also what made me (and maybe other readers as well) keep on reading. It’s her journey in camp and her interaction with the others that made this book a good read.

With that said, I love the friendship dynamic that grew into this story. It was the support and the kindness that really stuck with me. While the other campers were also great, I really loved the development of the characters of Lewis and Sophie in particular. I love the way they brought out a particular side of Olive’s character, and the way they grew in story. It made me want to cheer for them and hope for all the best.

However, what shined in this book the best is Holly Bourne’s magnetic and brutally honest writing style. The punches were real, and the book managed to encapsulate such strong feelings in almost 400 pages. It didn’t feel like it had that intimidating number of pages because quite frankly, I wanted to read more. There was this little voice in the back of head wanting to read more about Olive and Camp Reset. All of the hard-hitting notes were needed to be said. I also admire the way this book explained how a certain type of disorder was like. The way it was thoroughly expounded made me grasp the context of it and how a person going through that disorder feels. Holly Bourne made me understand the “highs” and the “lows” and for that, I am thankful that this books exists.

For me, Are We All Lemmings & Snowflakes is a very important book to read. Mental health matters as much as our physical health, and Holly’s book reiterates that in all of its 400-paged glory. It’s not perfect, but the message it wants to convey is something we have to keep in mind and do our best to manifest in our daily lives.

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(Know more about my rating system here.)

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Holly Bourne

Holly Bourne writes YA novels and blogs about feminist issues. Her favourite things to complain loudly about are: the stigma of mental health, women’s rights, and the under-appreciation of Keanu Reeves’ acting ability.

Holly’s first two books, Soulmates and The Manifesto on How to be Interesting, have been critically acclaimed and translated into six languages. The first book in the ‘Normal’ series, Am I Normal Yet?, has been chosen as a World Book Night book for 2016 and has inspired the formation of Spinster Clubs around the country.

Before becoming a full-time author, Holly was editor and relationship advisor for a charity website.

Connect with Holly!

Blog | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Goodreads

As today is the release day of Are We All Lemmings and Snowflakes, I decided to participate in today’s prompt of 11 Days of Kindness Challenge. Here’s what I want to say to my 3rd year in college self, because she might have badly needed this then. Keep rendering those scenes!

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One lucky PH reader has the chance to win a copy of Are We All Lemmings & Snowflakes. Click the giveaway icon or be redirected here.

Thank you so much to Erika from The Nocturnal Fey for letting me join this lovely tour. Your kindness has reached a lot of people, me included. ❤ Thank you to Usborne Publishing as well for sending review copies our way. Follow the rest of the tour here (will be linking their respective reviews soon):

August 8th
The Nocturnal Fey  – Erika (Review)
Rurouni Jenni Reads  – Jennilyn (Review)
Tesairie’s Book Reads  – Desyerie (Promo post)

August 9th
Bibliophile Soprano  – Fay (Review)
eirareads  – Eira (Promo post)

August 10th
Merv Reads  – Mervilyn (Review)
Amidst the Pages  – Imogene (Review)
The Reading Fangeek  – Avy (Promo Post)

August 11th
That Bookshelf Bitch  – Shealea (Review)
Wanderer in Neverland  – Shaine (Review)
The Royal Polar Bear Reads  – Rafael (Review)

August 12th
Wander with Jon  – Jon (Review)
Diary of an Avid Reader  – Areli (Review)
Novel Thief  – Joefel (Promo post)

Have you read Holly’s newest release? Do you also believe that kindness is contagious?

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PH Blog Tour: Down and Across {Review + Giveaway}

Before Reading:

As soon as it was announced, Down and Across easily became one of my most anticipated reads for 2018. I had a lot of rare moments regarding this book, especially since it is that ONE BOOK where I actually read the summary at the back. Then I cried, because ninjas began cutting onions. Kidding aside, I cried because at that very moment (believe me, I had the chills) I was feeling the exact same thing. EVERY STANZA OF THE SUMMARY hitting me like a pile of bricks. Just change ‘college applications’ to ‘company’ and we’re good to go. Actually, the comparison doesn’t stop there. Soon you’ll see that Scott’s story actually parallels many of our teenage dilemmas.

So when JM from Book Freak Revelations asked me if I wanted to join the tour for this book, I SAID YES immediately. No questions asked. I was too psyched to read it and I practically flailed because “HELLO I AM JUST ABOUT TO READ ONE OF MY MOST ANTICIPATED READ FOR 2018 EARLY. HOW LUCKY CAN I GET?” Forgive my random fangirling. Let’s get to it, shall we?

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35134061Title: Down and Across

Author: Arvin Ahmadi

Genre: Contemporary, Fiction

Age Bracket: Young Adult

Date Published: 6th of February 2018

Series: None

Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers

Buy it on: National Bookstore | AmazonBook Depository

Summary:

Scott Ferdowsi has a track record of quitting. Writing the Great American Novel? Three chapters. His summer internship? One week. His best friends know exactly what they want to do with the rest of their lives, but Scott can hardly commit to a breakfast cereal, let alone a passion.

With college applications looming, Scott’s parents pressure him to get serious and settle on a career path like engineering or medicine. Desperate for help, he sneaks off to Washington, DC, to seek guidance from a famous professor who specializes in grit, the psychology of success.

He never expects an adventure to unfold out of what was supposed to be a one-day visit. But that’s what Scott gets when he meets Fiora Buchanan, a ballsy college student whose life ambition is to write crossword puzzles. When the bicycle she lends him gets Scott into a high-speed chase, he knows he’s in for the ride of his life. Soon, Scott finds himself sneaking into bars, attempting to pick up girls at the National Zoo, and even giving the crossword thing a try–all while opening his eyes to fundamental truths about who he is and who he wants to be.

After Reading:

Fangirl council: Raise your hand if you have been totally smitten by Scott “Saaket” Ferdowsi.

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You see, Down and Across is a wonderful gem. You read and in one way or another, you see yourself. After reading the story, I was keeping myself from screaming at the author himself. I seriously couldn’t contain myself because:

  1. I was contemplating if a flight to America is possible, just so I could personally hug Arvin Ahmadi for all the feels.
  2. Is Scott Ferdowsi real and if so, is he reachable by any means?
  3. This book is scarily accurate with all the feelings I thought I was messed up to think about.

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If I have to describe this book with using only one word, it would have to be: GRITTY. Scott made a decision that would make an impact on his life forever, by taking a risk and going to Washington, DC. He wants to find something he wants to be gritty about, and his adventures took it to another level. Now before you expect something, honestly it’s not grand if you think about it but it is one of a kind. There’s just thrill in the unknown because it works in mysterious ways. Down and Across knows what it wants to be, and it easily became a book solely about a boy who wants something to be passionate about in his life. As we go along through his journey, his thoughts were still profound and fascinating. The ‘puzzled’ teen that he is (yes, I know! Pun score!), he makes the absolute sense. And even with the array of characters, the focus remains on Scott, and how his character grows as a person through every unknown thrown at him. Fiora, who is unpredictable and witty. Dr. Cecilly Mallard, who piques Scott’s interest with grit. Trent, Fiora’s best friend and best guy in the whole world. And many more who are equally hilarious and horrible at the same time. *winks*

A runner-up word would have to be: RELATABLE. It was easy to relate to Scott on so many levels. Case in point: Parents who want the best for you but are very strict on what “the best” is? Check. Friends who know what they want to be? Check. Feeling like you’re not good, the best, because you’re not even sure if you want to do it all? CHECK. See my point? His journey alone remind us how we strive to find what to be gritty about. Why you even try and find yourself in the process. There’s this tiny bit of each and everyone in Scott. He just gets you and he will get you. This is the reason why you would want to tag along with him (and maybe in the process will make you think as well).

Last word to describe it would have to be: IMPORTANT. Arvin Ahmadi has truly delivered a must-read for young adults and basically anyone was has felt lost and out of the zone. A heart-gripping, truly fascinating, and unforgivably gritty coming-of-age story awaits you. I cannot state enough that this book has captured my heart with its honest writing and amazing male lead. I can already imagine myself fangirling over his next book. 5_1.jpg

(Know more about my rating system here.)

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Arvin Ahmadi grew up outside Washington, DC. He graduated from Columbia
University and has worked in the tech industry. When he’s not reading or writing
books, he can be found watching late-night talk show interviews and editing
Wikipedia pages. Down and Across is his first novel.

Connect with Arvin!

Website || Twitter || Instagram || Goodreads

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Up for grabs! An ARC of Down and Across, and it’s open internationally!

Again, huge thanks to JM from Book Freak Revelations for giving me the chance to review this oh-so lovely book. Hugs and fist pumps to Penguin Random House for providing copies for the tour. You guys are the absolute best.

What contemporary novel inspired you to be gritty?

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Batman: Nightwalker || PH Blog Tour

Kudos to Bruce Wayne for making this post extra special. On January 2nd, readers are in for a special treat. The second book in the DC Icons series will be released to the world, and Batman will fill the headlines with Marie Lu. In retrospect, Batman: Nightwalker is a thrilling story about a young boy yearning to know what he wants to be in life. If you’re looking for an origin story, maybe this one’s not for you. But if you want some Bruce Wayne action, you’re in for a solid treat.

While I will not provide a full review for this book, I will be giving out extra contents for this leg of the tour.

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9780399549779

Title: Batman: Nightwalker

Author: Marie Lu

Genre: Action, Fantasy

Date Published: 2nd of January 2018

Series: DC Icons #2

Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers

Summary:

Before he was Batman, he was Bruce Wayne. A reckless boy willing to break the rules for a girl who may be his worst enemy.

The Nightwalkers are terrorizing Gotham City, and Bruce Wayne is next on their list.

One by one, the city’s elites are being executed as their mansions’ security systems turn against them, trapping them like prey. Meanwhile, Bruce is turning eighteen and about to inherit his family’s fortune, not to mention the keys to Wayne Enterprises and all the tech gadgetry his heart could ever desire. But after a run-in with the police, he’s forced to do community service at Arkham Asylum, the infamous prison that holds the city’s most brutal criminals.

Madeleine Wallace is a brilliant killer . . . and Bruce’s only hope.

In Arkham, Bruce meets Madeleine, a brilliant girl with ties to the Nightwalkers. What is she hiding? And why will she speak only to Bruce? Madeleine is the mystery Bruce must unravel. But is he getting her to divulge her secrets, or is he feeding her the information she needs to bring Gotham City to its knees? Bruce will walk the dark line between trust and betrayal as the Nightwalkers circle closer.

Blurb:

Marie Lu delivers a poignant story with the audacity and the chivalry that will make readers fall in love with Bruce Wayne. In a perfectly imperfect way, the bat is etched as he cries out for justice. Glimpses of characters in the canon universe will serve as a delight to fans, while the additional characters will put a spin on this tale. Though dark as portrayed, Gotham City shines with the visual representation presented within the pages of Batman: Nightwalker. The readers shall never fear, for each page contains jam-packed action that will leave them hooked and unsettled, wanting for more.

Bookmarks

Inspired by the canon and this DC Icon story, I have made bookmarks featuring quotes that will give readers a hint of what is in store for them whilst reading. I was feeling a little extra, so decided to name the bookmarks with the places significant to the story. These bookmarks are for personal use only.

– Arkham Asylum

– Gotham City

– Wayne Manor

Download [here]

Huge thanks to JM at Book Freak Revelations for letting me join the tour  and PRH International for providing copies in support of the tour.

Are you excited to read Batman: Nightwalker?

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