Sunday, August 26, 2012

Author guest post & Int’l giveaway: Temptation by Karen Ann Hopkins

Hi everyone

Today I’d like to welcome Karen Ann Hopkins, author of Temptation, a YA novel about a young girl who falls in love with an Amish boy.

Of course, me being the curious sort, and not knowing all that much about Amish communities beyond the basics, I immediately jumped at the chance to host Karen when she offered to talk about what life is like living near to an Amish community.

The result of this exchange, is a fascinating and in-depth look into the lives of the people, specifically the Amish teens, in the community that Karen has gotten to know.

About the book:
Your heart misleads you. That's what my friends and family say. 

But I love Noah. And he loves me. 

We met and fell in love in the sleepy farming community of Meadowview, while we rode our horses together through the grassy fields and in those moments in each other's arms.

It should be ROSE & NOAH,  forever, easy.

But it won't be.

Because he's Amish. And I'm not.
Head on over here to add Temptation to your TBR pile.

Over to Karen. 

When I moved to Mays Lick, Kentucky four years ago, I had no idea that my life was about to drastically change. Like most other people, I’d seen Amish occasionally. 

I knew the basics, such as the culture’s choice of living electric and motor vehicle free.  What I didn’t realize was that I would become immersed in the primitive culture. 

Within days of moving to our new farm, a steady-stream of Amish teens arrived to welcome me and my five children to the neighborhood.  

The Amish adults were friendly too, but the younger members of the community were the ones who really made us feel at home. 

The bond that tied us all together were the horses. 

I’d brought twenty-one of them with me from the riding lesson business I owned in Tennessee and the neighborhood kids were anxious to observe and eventually learn a more disciplined form of horse-back riding from the bare-back escapades they were used to.

It didn’t take long for me to notice the interesting dynamics going on between the Amish kids and the non-Amish ones who rode at the farm.  Along with some obvious flirting, there were also late night visits from Amish teens who simply wanted to watch a movie on my TV or play video games with my kids.

Eventually, the community elders restricted the amount of time that the teens could spend at the farm. 

The adults were worried that their children were interacting too much time with Englishers (that’s what the Amish call anyone who isn’t Amish) and the group gatherings in the arena were against the already established rules.

You see, the Amish youth don’t enjoy the freedom of assembly that we all take for granted.  They are only allowed to gather for church services and organized Amish events. 

Most Amish youth go through a state of rebellion where the question of whether they will remain Amish is decided.  This self-discovery time is called rumspringa.  Not all communities allow the young people to practice this tradition though, and my own community is of the stricter societies.  

The Amish teens surrounding my farm have two choices.  They can either follow their community’s rules, or sneak around.  A fair amount of the kids choose the later and suffer the consequences when caught. 

The punishment for watching a movie, playing a video game, taking pictures, or using a cell phone can be severe, so the art of sneaking is a required skill for every Amish teen.

Time is a major factor that limits the trouble most of the teens get into.  There is just too little of it.  

Upon graduation from school at the end of the eighth grade, a typical boy will go straight into the work force, either employed by a family business such as building, welding or farming or they’ll work for another family in the community. 

The girls might take an outside job, but many stay home to help care for their younger siblings and the household.  The ones that do work outside the home, might take a job at the community butcher shop, bakery, or do babysitting or house-cleaning for their non-Amish neighbors.  

Most of the teens who earn an income will subsequently pay their parents approximately ninety percent of that income. 

The remainder of their earnings is spent on personal items or saved for their future married lives. 

The teens will continue to pay a large portion of their earnings to their parents until they turn twenty years old or when they themselves are ready to marry, which is usually between eighteen and twenty-one years of age. 

Even though the teens work forty hour work weeks, they also have daily chores to do at their homes.  These tasks include farm work, child care, cleaning and laundry. 

You’d think with that kind of schedule, they’d have no energy for fun, but they still do.  Each week they participate in an organized youth activity, which is held at community member’s home. 

Singing hymns and eating a basic meal are normal for the gatherings.  Following fellowship, volley ball nets are raised or a softball game begins.  

The youth are well supervised and there is little mingling between the girls and the boys at these gatherings, but the teens still look forward to the time to relax and have some fun.

In my own community, I’ve watched a group of teens go through the rebellious period, begin courting, get married and have babies, all in the course of four years.  The seasons of life move quicker in the quiet country landscape of the Plain people than they do in the outside world. 

But for all the negatives that non-Amish people might perceive with the culture, the Amish themselves appear happy and content.   And in the end, that’s all that matters.
You can find Karen on:

A special thanks to Karen, who has kindly offered to sponsor a giveaway for a signed copy of Temptation. All you need to do is fill in your details below. OPEN INTERNATIONALLY.

*UPDATE:* Giveaway now closed. The winner of the signed copy of Temptation is Dea, who has already been e-mailed. Congratulations!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Book review: Starcrossed

How do you defy destiny when you and the one person you've fallen in love with, are fated to play the primary roles in an ancient and tragic cycle that has repeated itself throughout the course of history?
Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini (Macmillan)
Meet Helen Hamilton.

Shy, chronically awkward and incredibly beautiful (trust me, this is not as clich├ęd as it sounds), Helen has always lived with the knowledge that she’s different.

When she first sets her sights on the blisteringly attractive Lucas Delos, her safe world is suddenly shattered when she tries to kill him in front of the entire school and learns just how different she really is.

Plagued by both an intense hatred and attraction towards the undeniably good-looking Lucas, the painfully shy Helen soon becomes convinced that she's going stark raving mad when she starts seeing ghostly spectres of three women (weeping bloody tears) whenever she's near Lucas or any of one of his family members.

It doesn't take long for her to learn that, like her namesake Helen of Troy, she's ill-fated to start a war by falling in love with the one person she seems to, at first, violently loathe.

When that mutual loathing soon blossoms into love, Helen and Lucas will need to make a decision that not only impacts their lives, but affects the lives of the ones they love most.

Desperately attracted to one another, tied together by a star-crossed fate running parallel to the lives of Helen and Paris, and kept apart by long-ago truce established by the gods,  Helen and Lucas will have to decide just how much they are willing to give up to risk being together.

When I first heard about Starcrossed, I couldn’t help but be both nervous and excited about this book.

Being a huge lover of mythology (Greek mythology in particular), I have to admit that I always tend to be reluctant when it comes to reading modern adaptions or books that base their story line on classic Greek myths.

After all, even though mythological retellings seem to be all the rage these days, it's not everyone who can capture its fundamental essence.

Josephine Angelini?

Not only does she utilize one of the best known Greek myths today, but she takes the story, puts a modern spin on it and makes it her own while staying true to the very nature of Greek mythology in all of its sweeping, haunting, tragic and romantic splendour.

Combine those fantastic elements with her captivating writing skills, her innovative plotline and a cast of believable, highly likeable and totally swoon-worthy (in the case of Lucas), characters, and you'll get a basic idea of just what you can expect.

Even better? She does so in a way that isn’t confusing to those who haven’t read anything related to the classic mythology.

When we meet Helen, we first come across a girl who is incredibly shy and introverted. To many she may have been decidedly annoying, as it does seem as if she could be another Bella just wrapped up in someone else's name.

For me though?

This was not the case - and Josephine proved this so beautifully as we got to know Helen and see her growing from strength-to-strength in both character and physical prowess.

Once she really begins to own her abilities, being witness to her transformation becomes such a pleasure to read.

Josie's introduction into the world of gods, truces and the history behind Helen's star-crossed heritage was incredibly fascinating and for me, felt as if she completely brought a story rooted in the ancient days, so vividly and vibrantly alive. 

The feud, the introduction to the three fates, the Oracle and the different Greek houses are all explained beautifully and adds to a feeling of the insurmountable obstacles that Lucas and Helen have to face.

What really gives this story its packing punch is the characters – both those with good and evil intent.

I often liken the Greek gods and characters to fairies – fickle, capricious and incredibly unpredictable. In Starcrossed we are introduced to quite a few characters that not only embody volatility, but also lead the reader right into a position of not being sure whether or not to trust their intentions.

Case in point: Daphne, Helen’s mother.

There’s something about her that seems rather off. She appears to want to protect her daughter, but her motives aren’t entirely pure. I get the feeling that she’s the sort that you don’t want to turn your back on.

The other characters were equally as interesting, and I found that I really enjoyed reading about Helen’s friendship with Claire (the petite and ferociously adorable Asian girl who’s been her best friend since childhood), her getting to know Ariadne, Hector, Cassandra and Jason (Lucas’ relatives) and of course, the growing attraction between her and Lucas.

I think Lucas is the kind of guy you can’t really give a description to. You need to read about him in order to experience him. Suffice to say, I found myself swooning several times at this boy’s obvious charms.

The romance between him and Helen are what every Greek mythology is: romantic, desperate and doomed. You’ll find yourself rooting for everything to work out between them, even though they’re facing the most challenging of obstacles.

The chemistry between them are just sizzling and with his protective nature, you can’t help but sigh at the more romantic scenes between them.

With opposing forces threatening Helen’s life, a romance destined to end before it even starts and a heritage only beginning to be uncovered, Starcrossed is a book that will keep you on your toes and having you waiting with bated breath for Dreamless, the next book in the trilogy (which thankfully, is out right now and is a book I’ll be reading and reviewing shortly).