Monday, September 12, 2016

Nerd Blast & Giveaway ~ VICARIOUS by Paula Stokes


by Paula Stokes
Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Tor Teen (August 16, 2016)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0765380943
ISBN-13: 978-0765380944

Winter Kim and her sister, Rose, have always been inseparable. Together the two of them survived growing up in a Korean orphanage and being trafficked into the United States. But they've escaped the past and started over in a new place where no one knows who they used to be.

Now they work as digital stunt girls for Rose's ex-boyfriend, Gideon, engaging in dangerous and enticing activities while recording their neural impulses for his Vicarious Sensory Experiences, or ViSEs. Whether it's bungee jumping, shark diving, or grinding up against celebrities in the city's hottest dance clubs, Gideon can make it happen for you--for a price.

When Rose disappears and a ViSE recording of her murder is delivered to Gideon, Winter is devastated. She won't rest until she finds her sister's killer. But when the clues she uncovers conflict with the digital recordings her sister made, Winter isn't sure what to believe. To find out what happened to Rose, she'll have to untangle what's real from what only seems real, risking her own life in the process.

Paula Stokes weaves together a series of mysteries and the story of an unbreakable bond between sisters in this unforgettable high-tech thrill ride.

 When he woke, the sun was just north of the horizon. The sky was deep coral and lavender with bursts of gold spinning away from a few low, wispy clouds.
He felt bad for snapping at Anna. It wasn’t her fault that his girlfriend had flown away from him in a spaceship or that he couldn’t go home if he wanted to stay out of jail and off Sewell’s shit list.
“Look, I’m sorry I snapped at you. I’m having a bad day, okay?”
Anna nodded and walked toward the restaurant. Her long hair bounced about her shoulders and her hips swayed gently as she walked. The setting sun shone on her hair and made it look like it was somehow lit from within. Jack wondered what it would feel like to run his hands through it.
The parking lot was long and wide, and Anna had parked near the back. There was a huge neon cowboy hovering over the restaurant by a sign that said ‘The Big Texan.’ Another sign announced it was home to the ‘72-Ounce Steak’. Of all the unlikely things Jack had done with Anna Sturgis so far, this was by far the most surreal. It seemed like the last place Miss Spinach Salad would choose to eat. Jack looked toward the horizon in every direction as he walked and realized she likely didn’t have much choice. There was nothing but open range in every direction.
They checked in at the hostess stand set below walls filled from eye level to ceiling with stuffed heads of dead animals. Erika wouldn’t have set another foot further in the place no matter how hungry she was. The thought of her made Jack’s hurt redouble.
The huge menu nearly covered Anna completely as she read it. Jack thought for sure she’d order water with lemon and a salad. But she surprised him and ordered a Shock Top and beef filet.
“I’ll have the same,” Jack said.
The waiter carded him and grudgingly accepted the fact that ‘Steve Harper’ was indeed twenty-two years old that day and of legal age to drink the beer he’d just ordered.
Anna maintained her aloof mask. Jack wished he could reel his angry outburst back in. He hated conflict.
When the beers came, Anna began to take a sip but stopped. She held her glass up. “A toast,” she said.
Jack halted himself from taking the sip he was ready to take. He raised his glass as well.
“To you, Jack Wilson. Happy birthday.”
They clinked their glasses and each took a long draw of the bubbly liquid. It went down smooth and warmed Jack’s insides.
After they sucked down half their beer and made the bread into a pile of crumbs, the mood had lightened considerably. They made small talk about inconsequential things and got into a raging debate about which franchise was better: Star Trek or Star Wars. Jack argued on behalf of Star Wars while Anna made a passionate argument for Star Trek. The truth was, Jack didn’t care. He was just happy to learn that his driving companion liked either. Most girls he’d met wouldn’t have known the difference between the two. Heck, even Erika rolled her eyes if he mentioned Star Wars.
They stuffed themselves with French fries and steak cooked rare. The waiter cleared the dishes, and Jack was getting ready to hit the head when a horde of servers came toward them, singing happy birthday and carrying a piece of chocolate cake with a lit sparkler coming out of the top. Jack had thus far lived his life without having to succumb to the embarrassment of a whole restaurant staring at him while having people sing happy birthday to him off key. The two beers he’d downed made him chill with it.
The sparkler reflected in Anna’s twinkling eyes as she sang along with them. She smiled, and the fire cast a soft glow on her pink skin. Maybe it was the beers talking, but Jack had the urge to kiss her. It was like for a brief moment, he was living someone else’s life. If someone was looking at them, they might think the two were boyfriend and girlfriend out for a special meal to celebrate his day. Kissing her would look natural. Be natural.
If she was his girlfriend. If his girlfriend wasn’t a billion miles away.
Jack forced the thoughts of Erika down and put a smile on. The sparkler died down and the magic of its fire was gone. Anna was a business companion forced on him by the situation, and he was no more than that to her. She was making the best of it. He should too.
He dug into the gooey cake and shoved the plate toward Anna so she could eat some as well. She ate a bite. A smile crept across her face as the sugar dissolved in her mouth.
“If we keep this up, I’m going to be as big as a house by the time this is over.” She took another huge bite.
Jack answered by digging his fork into the chocolate fluff icing. It wasn’t the eighteenth birthday he’d imagined or how he’d hoped to usher in adulthood. But he figured he’d always remember it, drinking beer and eating cake with one of the wealthiest and most beautiful women in the world.
They got into the car and Anna undid the top button on her jeans. Jack laughed and did the same.
They found a cash-only hotel. Jack was both relieved and disappointed when Anna requested a room with two beds. They wormed their way into sleeping bags so they didn’t have to take their chances with getting bedbugs. As Jack drifted off to sleep that night of his eighteenth birthday, he decided that life was better when he kept himself in the here and now without thoughts about his past or his future. Without thoughts about Erika and what might have been.
In the here and now, he had spent a very pleasant evening with a woman that, as it turned out, was an amiable companion. He was now Steve Harper. Jack Wilson’s past was full of might-have-beens. His future held the prospect of going up against Croft’s men to liberate Alecto, who was just as likely to kill him as help him. With his belly full of good food and drink, and Anna lightly snoring next to him, Steve Harper contentedly slept away the last few hours of Jack Wilson’s eighteenth birthday.

The Makers (H.A.L.F. #2), by Natalie Wright
Copyright 2016


Paula Stokes writes stories about flawed characters with good hearts. She’s the author of several novels, most recently Vicarious and Girl Against the Universe. Her writing has been translated into eleven foreign languages. Paula loves kayaking, hiking, reading, and seeking out new adventures in faraway lands She also loves interacting with readers. Find her online at or on twitter as @pstokesbooks.

A signed copy of Vicarious or an ARC of the sequel, when available by Paula Stokes + Special Mystery Bookish Gifts 

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