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Monday, November 4, 2013

Blog Tour: The Lair (The Farm #2) by Emily McKay (Review & Interview)

Young Adult, Paranormal, Horror, Dystopia
Publication.Date  November 5th 2013
Published By:  Berkley Trade
AuthorEmily McKay

The Lair on Goodreads
My review copy:Received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Where to get:

In the battle against the vampiric Ticks, humanity was slowly but certainly headed for extinction. For months, twin sisters Lily and Mel had been "quarantined” with thousands of other young people being harvested for their blood—food for the Ticks. Finally escaping with a few friends, the twins are separated—and must continue the fight on their own . . . 

After making it to a resistance base camp in Utah, Lily learned to survive at all costs. But when a Tick attack decimates the fighters, Lily and her pregnant friend, McKenna, decide to make the hard trek north to Canada—and safety.

Meanwhile, Mel is being taught how to survive by the very vampire that turned her. Living without her sister is hard, but dealing with the fact that her autism was cured by the vampire bite is an even bigger challenge.

But when a monstrous betrayal places Lily in mortal danger, Mel must set out to find her, save her, and begin to unravel the empire of destruction that the Ticks have built.

No one starts a rebellion expecting to fail. No one leads the charge into battle thinking their troops will be massacred. And no one falls in love knowing their girl will die horribly. 
She leaned forward, and I couldn't resist slipping my hand behind her neck to pull her in for a kiss. Her hair was soft against the back of my hand and her breath warm on my mouth. She tasted like cinnamon and hope. And fear. 
Sebastian - my "mentor" would have been so proud. When you're fighting for survival, there's no room for emotion; only strategy, action, and reaction.
Then again, Sebastian had been a bloodsucking monster for the past two thousand years and he wouldn't know a human emotional if it threw him to the ground and beat the crap out of him. So maybe he wasn't the best role model, but in this situation, he was all I had.

     Fast paced, thrilling and intensely captivating, The Lair by Emily McKay is even better than the previous book in the series, The Farm. The characters are way more likeable, the action - even more breathtaking and twisty, and the completely jaw-dropping plot developments are sure to leave you stunned and begging for the next book. I'm so glad I finally got to read the first two books in this awesome series! 

     I'll be honest with you, I wasn't particularly impressed with The Farm. I really enjoyed the unique take on the vampire lore, combined with Mckay's truly blood-chilling dystopian vision, but I really hated the lead character, Lilly. I couldn't get past her annoying attitude. She was always picking fights, complaining and sabotaging every plan Carter came up with along the way. Stubborn and often times completely irrational, she made it very difficult for me to really enjoy the awesome plot and creepy atmosphere of The Farm. And Carter, while definitely better that Lily, wasn't perfect either. Some of the things he said really bothered me and I ended up disliking him by the end of the first book. That being said, I was extremely happy to see that all these characters - Lily, Carter, even McKenna and Mel - were so much better in The Lair. Sure, Carter and Lily still argued sometimes, but it wasn't pointless bickering anymore, it was simply two strong characters having different opinions. And, considering everything that happened at the end of The Farm, and everything we learned about Lily and Mel, it all made so much more sense now! Carter was way overprotective of Lily, but he had his reasons, and it wasn't just that he had feelings for her, it was more than that. Most importantly, Mel wasn't the guarded, bitchy Ms. I Know Better Than Everyone Else, she was more rational in her decisions, more thoughtful and more mindful of the people around her. She was still opinionated and fierce, but there was finally some logic to her behavior now.

     The narration is still divided between three characters - Lily, Carter and Mel, with Carter's now being in first person's POV. I liked the shift. I was really tired of being in Lily's head, it was too messy in there, too tiring. Plus, being able to see the world through his eyes, and learn more about him and his relationship with Sebastian, provided me with some priceless insight and made the plot even more interesting to follow. I thought this was a brilliant move on McKay's part! 

     Then there's also the new Mel. In The Farm, Mel was probably my favorite character. Struggling with autism, she saw the world differently and her strong connection with Lily was fascinating to me. At the same time, while so rich on the inside, she was boxed in, trapped inside her brilliant mind, unable to fully express herself. The chapters dedicated to her character were very short and often times too bizarre and confusing for my taste. In The Lair, we meet a new Mel. I can't really talk about her transformation in detail without giving away some very important things about the plot, but I can say that overall, I was happy with all the changes. It was a bold and risky move on McKay's part, but personally I think it all worked out very well for the story. 

     The plot itself was completely mind-blowing. Full of unexpected twists and shocking betrayals, it was deliciously readable. I breezed through this instalment in a little over one afternoon, and I was completely absorbed in the events. On top of that, McKay's writing style improved so much! It was more captivating, more beautiful and evocative. It wasn't all focused on describing what was happening anymore. It was more reflective, filled with thoughts and passages I'd re-read over and over again, simply because they were meaningful and worth remembering. I was really impressed. 

     Overall, this was a fantastic sequel! If you enjoyed The Farm, you will love The Lair even more. And just like me, you'll be left begging for the third book in the series!

Author interview:

Was THE LAIR any easier or harder to write than the first book in the series, THE FARM?

Each of the books had their challenges. With THE FARM, there was so much world building that went into plotting the book. That was the hard part of that book. I had the basic idea (vampires farming kids as food) long before I knew how to execute it and who the characters would be. Getting from idea to workable story took years.

Of course, with the second book in a series, the world is already built. You already know what basic characters you're dealing with, so some things are easier. But there are plenty of other things that are hard. To begin with, I didn't have years to write the second book, I only had four or five months. And with a second book, you're dealing with reader expectations. People are invested in the characters. You don't want to let anyone down.

What were the challenges in bringing this story to life? Did you have to do any research for your book?

When THE LAIR opens, Carter and Lily are living at base camp in the mountains of Utah. Over a hundred teenagers live at base camp. So I spent a lot of time worrying about how you feed that many people in a world without grocery stores. It ended up being a very minor element in the book, but I got a little ... well, obsessed with it. Before long, I was up in the middle of the night googling how to have a year's worth of food drop-shipped to my house. (Which I didn't do.) Then one day, I was at the grocery store and they were completely out of zucchini. There I was, standing in the middle of the veggies actually thinking, "This is it! Food shortages are coming! It's the beginning of the end!" 

About a month later, my husband and I had this conversation:

Hubby: "Hey, I was out in the barn and found a couple of boxes of beans and rice and stuff."

Me: "No. No, we do not."

Can you share with us a few of your favorite quotes from THE FARM and/or THE LAIR?

From The Farm:

“You just told me you didn't intend to love me. You didn't want to love me. You got yourself arrested to keep yourself away from me. That's not love. That's a compulsion. And, by the way, kudos on coming up with the worst pickup line of all time.” ~ Lily

"This is not my choice and it is as silent as a grave without dirt or coffin. It is as still as bones. The world itself must have vanished to make a hole in the music this deep and wide." ~ Mel

From The Lair:

"People say kids can be cruel, but they aren't. They are natural predators. They are as proud as lions but more cackle than pride. Like hyenas, they hunt and scavenge. They pick off the weak, the strange, the affected. The girl I was, was perfect prey for a cackle of hyenas." ~ Mel

"Texas fell because of shit like this. It fell because more than half the damn state was armed and because none of them trusted each other." ~ Carter

What are some of your literary inspirations? Favorite books/authors?

I'm huge fan of Jane Austen, of course. She invented the basic structure of the romantic novel. Plus, Mr. Darcy! What's not to love?

If we're talking more recent books, I have two favorite series: The Amelia Peabody mysteries by Elizabeth Peters and The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher. Love, love, love both of those series. Oh, and Harry Potter. Everyone loves Harry Potter, right? 

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

My novels are always going to be about taking care of the people you love and doing the right thing, even when it's hard. I honestly believe that if we all treat one another better, the world will be a better place. It's sappy, but that's how I feel.

Fill in the blanks: 

1) If I was magically transported back in time to the Dark Ages, I'd... Have someone make me one of those beautiful medieval gowns. I’m thinking something very Princess Bridey. Though my friend Sherry Thomas points out that back then only the nobility could wear the really nice fabrics, so I really hope I’m taken in by a handsome nobleman. 

2) I'm a pro at... making pumpkin-chocolate cheesecake. Unfortunately no one’s willing to pay me to do that yet. 

3) I'm addicted to... right now? Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I didn’t watch it when it was out, but I’m a huge Joss Whedon fan. My friend Shellee Roberts convinced me that I couldn’t write vampire books if I haven’t watched Buffy. About a month ago I started from the beginning and I’m working my way through. I love it! 

4) I'm scared of... you know, the normal stuff: terminal brain cancer, fracking, the apocalypse, that kind of thing. 

5) The last book I faked reading was... Actually, I haven’t faked reading a book since college. I always really intend to read the serious, insightful non-fiction/literary fiction type books. If you see in my goodreads profile that I’m currently reading the English lit classic North and South or the thought provoking exploration of race in America and the ethics of the biotech industry The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, then I really am reading them. It’s just that I’m not reading all of them. I’m starting the book, getting a couple of chapters in and then getting distracted by some fun, sassy novel like Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl. 

But I really am going to finish those other books. Someday. 

I just can’t help it. I have the soul of a genre fiction reader. And I’m not even sorry about it. 

Last question: I'm super curious and I'm sure your fans are all wondering about it too: are you working on a new book now? If so, when can we expect it? Can you share some juicy details to keep our appetites going? 

Right now, I’m working on the third book in The Farm trilogy, which I’m calling The Vault. Most of the crew from the first two books are back (but I can’t say who, because I don’t want to give any spoilers). They’re searching for a cure to the Tick virus and they’re very motivated to find it.They’re finally taking on Genexome Corporation, the company that released the Tick Virus, as well as the vampiric forces behind the Virus.

About the author:

Twitter | Goodreads | Website

Emily McKay loves to read, shop, and geek out about movies. When she's not writing, she reads online gossip and bakes luscious deserts. She pretends that her weekly yoga practice balances out both of those things. She lives in central Texas with her family and her crazy pets. She also co-writes young adult novels as Ivy Adams.
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