Thrilled by EASTLAND–Review and Giveaway

Eastland bannerHi there! And welcome to my stop on the EASTLAND Blog Tour hosted by YA Bound Book Tours. For other stops on the tour, click here. Today’s book is a Historical YA Romance, a fantastic read from my good friend, and fellow SCBWI critique partner, Marian Cheatam.

eastlandBook Summary:
WOULD YOU RISK YOUR LIFE FOR JUST ONE DAY OF FREEDOM?

For hardworking teen, Dee Pageau, the annual employee picnic will let her escape the drudgery of work and possibly find love with her best friend Mae’s older brother, Karel. But in 1915 Chicago, girls don’t go on picnics without their mother’s approval. 

Unfortunately for Dee, Mama has had a premonition of disaster and forbids Dee from going. Forced to watch as Mae and Karel leave without her, Dee defies Mama and rushes off to join her friends.

But Dee’s joy soon turns to terror when the ship ferrying them to the picnic capsizes. Rescued not once but twice-by Karel and a mysterious sailor-Dee finds herself tested in unimaginable ways. What happens next turns out to be worse … and better … than anything Dee ever expected.

My Review:
The SS Eastland capsized in the Chicago River at 7:30am on July 24, 1915 killing 844 passengers. This novel follows the horror of the event and its gruesome aftermath through the eyes of Dee Pageau, a seventeen year-old employee of the Western Electric Company who had hired the steamer to transport workers and their families to Michigan City, Indiana for the company’s annual picnic.

While many stories take the reader to new and exotic worlds, this captivating historical novel recounts the tragedy of the SS Eastland in a way that transports the reader to a world before house phones, a time when ice boxes, streetcars, and milk delivery was the norm.

Dee is aboard the Hurricane (top) Deck of the Eastland, chatting with her best friend Mae’s brother, Karel, when the ship lists, and then capsizes. Mae was trapped belowdecks, and Karel—after ensuring Dee is safely settled on the ship’s hull–dives into the putrid water to find his younger sister.

Hours later, having witnessed more dead bodies than survivors recovered, shock has set in for Dee. Desperate without her childhood friend, she nearly topples into the murky depths, but is rescued (again) by a crewman—Lars.

Dee is whisked off the boat and driven back to the grief-ravaged streets of suburban Cicero—home to Western Electric’s headquarters and many of its employees. Anxious families descend on Dee and her overwrought mother, fearing the worst. Throughout the day the bleak news pours in, household by household. When Karel returns alone, the long hunt begins to track down the missing Mae.

This meticulously researched work provides a rare glimpse into a tragedy that consumed Chicago. Dee and Karol search hospital after hospital only to be ushered ever closer to the makeshift morgue. Days of mourning and wakes, enormous funeral masses presided over by the Bishop soon follow. Through this melancholy, Dee realizes that she must remain strong. Stronger than she ever had to be, before. At times, she is bolstered by Karol and Lars—both men who survived the harrowing ordeal and recognize the need for moving on with life.

In the week following the tragedy, Dee returns to work—finding that only one other woman in her 30-person division had survived. The loss of so many workers propels Dee into a managerial position—but she struggles to get over the loss of so many of her friends.

The development of not one, but two, potential romantic entanglements allows Dee to grow further out of her meek shell. Being a survivor will do that, too.

Dee learns, like Karol and Lars, to appreciate the best things in life. Despite the gruesome event and realistic setting, the hopeful ending and clear promise of love will resonate for young and old alike. I loved this book and recommend it to all fans of romance, historical fiction and YA romance. It gave me chills, and I gasped aloud so many times I lost count. Throughout the read I was simply captivated.

Interested? You can find EASTLAND on Goodreads, Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

b59e6About the Author:
Marian Cheatham lives in a suburb of Chicago with her family and their menagerie of pets. A graduate of Northern Illinois University, Marian taught Special Education for many years before becoming a full-time writer.

You can find her on her webpage, Goodreads, and Facebook.

On a personal note I have known Marian for four years–she’s a fellow member of my SCBWI Illinois chapter, a good friend, and a writing critique partner. I just love her historical YA. EASTLAND is a fantastic novelization of Chicago’s biggest loss-of-life tragedies.

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Cover Reveal! EASTLAND by Marian Cheatham

Eastland

by Marian Cheatham

Coming 2/14/14

Would you risk your life for just one day of freedom?

Book Summary:
For hardworking teen, Dee Pageau, the annual employee picnic will let her escape the drudgery of work and possibly find love with her best friend Mae’s older brother, Karel. But in 1915 Chicago,
girls don’t go on picnics without their mother’s approval.

Unfortunately for Dee, Mama has had a premonition of disaster and forbids Dee from going. Forced
to watch as Mae and Karel leave without her, Dee defies Mama and rushes off to join her friends.

But Dee’s joy soon turns to terror when the ship ferrying them to the picnic capsizes. Rescued not once, but twice, by Karel and a mysterious sailor, Dee finds herself tested in unimaginable ways. What happens next turns out to be worse … and better … than anything Dee ever expected.

My PhotoAbout the Author:
Marian Cheatham lives in a suburb of Chicago with her family and their menagerie of pets. A graduate of Northern Illinois University, Marian taught Special Education for many years before becoming a full-time writer.

Catch up with Marian on her blog, Goodreads and Facebook.

I’ll be blogging a review for this book later in the month, so stay tuned! And, as always, keep reading my friends!

Flooded with emotion FORTY DAYS/FORTY NIGHTS–Reviews and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m blitzing Stephanie Parent’s two-part YA epic historical romance. Why? Because they rock…As you will see below.
Forty Days (Neima’s Ark #1)
Summary from Goodreads:
The entire village knows Neima’s grandfather is a madman. For years the old man has prophesied that a great flood is coming, a flood disastrous enough to blot out the entire earth. He’s even built an enormous ark that he claims will allow his family to survive the deluge. But no one believes the ravings of a lunatic…
…until the rain starts. And doesn’t stop. Soon sixteen-year-old Neima finds her
entire world transformed, her life and those of the people she loves in peril. Trapped on the ark with her grandfather Noah, the rest of her family, and a noisy, filthy, and hungry assortment of wild animals, will Neima find a way to survive?

With lions, tigers, and bears oh my, elephants and flamingos too, along with rivalries and betrayals, a mysterious stowaway, and perhaps even an unexpected romance, FORTY DAYS is not your grandfather’s Noah’s Ark story.
My Review:
Holy Moly! So to be clear, while the center of this story is Noah and the flood, the heart of the story is Neima–the awkward, ungainly grand-daughter of Noah. She’s sixteen and an independent thinker, even if she doesn’t say what she thinks often.

Still, she’s dutiful, and follows orders even when it means loading the Ark. The Ark that she’s hated her entire life. Because that Ark has poisoned her entire village. It looms over everyone, and the villagers find her whole family tainted by Noah’s perceived madness.

Her two best friends, Debya and Jorin, stand by her side until the unthinkable happens.
Neima’s cousin Kenaan–a highly attractive young man–sure that they will be betrothed actually takes the matter into his own hands. He attempts to coerce Neima into relations, which breaks Debya’s heart and sets Jorin back. See, Jorin’s always loved Neima. And Debya wanted Kenaan for herself.

And then the flood happens. And Neima’s trapped on the Ark with Kenaan, his parents and sister, her parents, grandparents, and another uncle and aunt–and about a million stinking animals. All her friends are washed away. Gone. Destroyed in this One God’s watery wrath.
Neima can’t make sense of this new world. This world where Noah isn’t crazy and Kenaan stalks her in the shadows.

Until she finds the stowaway. One she’s willing to cast her life overboard to save.

FORTY DAYS is heady and amazing and nothing I imagined it would be. It does contain a cliffhanger ending.

Readers looking for a traditional, religiously oriented version of the Noah’s Ark story should be warned that FORTY DAYS may not appeal to them. The novel will, however, appeal to lovers of apocalyptic fiction, historical fiction, and romance, as well as anyone who’s ever dreamed of having a baby elephant as a pet.
Get your FREE copy:
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Forty Nights (Neima’s Ark #2)
Release Date: September 2013
Summary from Goodreads:
Neima, her family, and her grandfather Noah have found themselves trapped aboard an ark as a great flood destroys all life in the world. As their time aboard the ark lengthens, food begins to run out, wild animals grow restless, and family tensions become as much of a threat as the flood outside. In the second and final installment of Neima’s Ark, the stakes are higher, the conflicts are greater, and Neima finds herself facing a choice as impossible as the destruction all around her.

Forty Nights is a continuation of the story begun in Forty Days, and it’s recommended that you read Forty Days first for the best experience. Forty Nights does, however, contain a character guide to refresh readers’ memories. The Neima’s Ark series is a historical, feminist reimagining of the story of Noah’s Ark rather than a religiously oriented one, and the novels are best suited for readers who are comfortable with new interpretations of biblical stories.

My Review:
When I survived my mini-heart attack from the ending of FORTY DAYS I popped open FORTY NIGHTS.

The story picks up at the exact right moment, a moment where Neima raises her voice to be heard. When the horrors of the past are opened to the light of day. The stowaway has been found and his life is forfeit. Noah is certain only family is to survive–and Neima’s uncle vows to toss himself over, too–sure that his lineage is tainted.

It is Nezmar, Noah’s wife, who acts as the voice of reason. And still, the danger isn’t over. A freak fire and an unnecessary slaughter are blamed upon the stowaway…meanwhile the rain pounds down.

For Neima, it is a time of strife and constant vigilance to keep herself safe from Kenaan and the other predators lurking in the Ark’s holds. But time and again Neima demonstrates that strength is not always physical. Her burgeoning love for the young man whose life she had spared reminds her there are bigger things to hope for, a future to look forward to, perhaps. And love is a force in it’s own right.

With an unlikely ally and her mother’s blessing, Neima finds the strength to overcome her past, and build the future she couldn’t have dreamed.

So powerful. I just really loved this ending. But, then again I loved the beginning and the middle, too. It is a fully realized story of hope and faith and love, that while not religious, calls us to find that inner peace and resilience that most people have cast aside. I picked up on Stephanie Parent back in the summer when I downloaded PRECIOUS THINGS and, after FORTY DAYS and FORTY NIGHTS, I know I’ll be looking for more of her work soon.

Available from:
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PRAISE FOR THE NEIMA’S ARK SERIES: 
“Stephanie Parent takes a story I would have immediately shrugged off and turned it into a story with a surprising amount of reality and despite being religious based is not at all religious. Stephanie somehow created a paradox… When I think of a word to describe this story I think, layers.
The tension is extremely layered. We get internal tension among the characters, tension relating to the animals, and tension from the storming raging outside. It’s not even supernatural elements, it’s all practical points like food and animal needs. The characters are also well defined and fleshed out.”
–Michelle, In Libris Veritas
The romance is slow and imperfect, but it’s realistic and believable. I can honestly say that this love story is one of if not the best one I’ve read so far…a very thrilling read full of some great twists…[the ending] was everything I could have asked for and more, it was a perfect ending to an imperfectly perfect story.
–Zachary Flye, Zach’s YA Reviews
About the Author
Stephanie Parent is a graduate of the Master of Professional Writing program at USC and attended the Baltimore School for the Arts as a piano major. She moved to Los Angeles because of Francesca Lia Block’s WEETZIE BAT books, which might give you some idea of how much books mean to her. She also loves dogs, books about dogs, and sugary coffee drinks both hot and cold.

***Author Links***
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