Tuesday, July 30, 2013


FTC DISCLAIMER: This book was provided to me as an Advance Review Copy via Rockstar Blog Tours for an honest review.

by Cindi Madsen

   Published: July 2, 2013 by HarperTeen
   Format: Hardcover and e-book
   Source: Advance Review Copy
   Genre: Young Adult
   Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Synopsis ... 
Summer Davis sees deaths before they happen. She attempts to live a normal life by focusing on the dance team and her quarterback boyfriend. But then the way-too-cheery Angel of Death shows up and tells her she’s a Cipher—a person chosen to help people who are going to die resolve problems with their loved ones. Ashlyn Moore, one of Summer’s classmates, is going to die, and she needs Summer’s help before that happens.

It’s nearly impossible to get through to Ashlyn, who surrounds herself with chess nerds and geeks and makes it clear she doesn’t want to be friends. Desperate to complete her Cipher task before it’s too late, Summer turns to Troy, the guy who’s always been there for her and one of the few people she can trust. With his help, she makes progress. In fact, the closer she gets to Ashlyn and her friends, the more she feels like she’s finally found where she belongs.

As the clock starts running down on Ashlyn’s life, Summer decides to change her objective. She’s going to save her new friend before it’s too late—even if it means messing with fate.
As a new blogger, I've made every effort I can to fully embrace the world of book blogging. Part of that is signing up with book touring companies and I couldn't be happier or more honored for Cipher to be the first be the first book that makes a tour stop here with Rockstar Book Tours. Cipher is a book I truly enjoyed reading and there were just so many things that I loved about it. In addition to this review, I've got an interview with author, Cindi Madsen, and a giveaway! Make sure you read this WHOLE post for all the goodies.

From the beginning to the end, I thoroughly enjoying Madsen's Cipher. The characters were engaging, the story was unique, and the pace was fast. It didn't take me long to plow through the book.

As a former dancer myself, I really appreciated the fact Summer was a dancer and that it was something so important to her and defining for her. I also really enjoyed the careful crafting of the individual characters.

For example, Summer's best friend at the beginning of the book is a girl named Kendall. Kendall is that friend that almost everyone has had -- the fair weather friend. The one who is the when times are good and never when they are bad. The friend that walks all over you to get to the top and smiles while she does it, saying sorry along the way, but never means it. She's the one who wants you around to validate her behavior and her life choices (good or bad), but doesn't want to have to call on her own conscience.

I also really, truly loved the development of Summer and Ashlyn's friendship. Even though Summer knows that Ashlyn is going to die, she eventually (after some prodding and some soul searching) commits herself fully to the friendship. Her bravery in loving Ashlyn and being her best friend and growing to need her and be needed by her shows a selfless side that you don't necessarily think Summer is capable of at the beginning of the book. Her character growth is so impressive and the story of their friendship is not at all contrived and is so authentic and real.

Another huge selling point for this book is that it carefully and realistically depicts some very big issues for teen. One of these issues is the topic of sex. At the beginning of the novel, Summer is in a relationship with Cody, the star quarterback, who is constantly pressing Summer towards something she isn't ready for. How Summer feels about it and the way that Madsen depicts this is so honest -- it's the way any teen or young adult who has been in this situation has felt. The thoughts that raced through Summer's mind, the issues that kept getting stuck in her mind, yet her deep desire to not want to let go of yet another person in her life -- it was all so accurate.

This is one of Madsen's gifts as an author: Writing the thoughts of her characters in a way that is so believable. They are consistent with the way any teen would feel. As an adult who is far enough separated from her high school experience to reflect honestly, but also someone close enough to still remember how these things felt, I can honestly say I feel like Madsen was in my head. 

It was hard for me to review this book because there were so many things that I loved and I think the premise is amazing and unique. I enjoyed the book thoroughly. But I did have a few things that I didn't love ...

I felt like some of Troy and Summer's arguments were unrealistic and unclear and I felt like they should've gotten together a little sooner. I also felt that there were some scenes that were kind of choppy and that didn't flow. 

However, those things in general didn't change the fact that I did really, really like this book and that I would recommend it to anyone! This book has so much character and heart and in reality, it deals with some of life's toughest questions. Everyone on earth dies. Yet we choose to establish relationships and love in the face of that, even once we've been burned death before and have felt that pain. This book will be successful and will really resonate not only with teens who are just starting to contemplate these things, but with people of all ages. Cipher will inspire readers to be brave and courageous, even when life is at its most difficult, and will possibly even change the way readers relate to those important people in their life in the face of uncertain futures.

My Rating:

In addition to being a proud tour host for Cipher today, I am also super lucky to have gotten to interview the amazing author, Cindi Madsen. Let's learn a little bit about her ...

About the author ...
Cindi Madsen sits at her computer every chance she gets, plotting, revising, and falling in love with her characters. Sometimes it makes her a crazy person. Without it, she’d be even crazier. She has way too many shoes, but can always find a reason to buy a new pretty pair, especially if they’re sparkly, colorful, or super tall. She loves music, dancing, and wishes summer lasted all year long. She lives in Colorado (where summer is most definitely NOT all year long) with her husband and three children. She is the author of YA novels All the Broken Pieces and Demons of the Sun, adult contemporary romances Falling for Her Fianc√© and Act Like You love Me, and the women's fiction novel Cinderella Screwed Me Over.

Heather Hearts Books: Dance plays a really important role in Summer's life. Were you a dancer? If so, what kinds? (I was a dancer, so I loved this element of the book!)
Cindi Madsen: I was on the dance team in high school. We competed in the state championship & performed at half-time of the basketball games. I've always loved to dance, whether it was on a team or free-style and can still be found rocking out in my house, music blaring. And it makes me so happy to know you're a fellow dancer. :) 

HHB: How did you come up with the idea for Cipher?
CM: There are quite a few stories about ghosts coming back to try to make amends, or get someone alive to make amends for them. I thought what if there was someone to help people do that before they died? What would that job be like? And instead of having a dark reaper to bring the news, I thought it'd be funny to have a glittery, slightly ditzy Angel of Death. 

HHB: Did anyone inspire any of your characters or part of their personalities?
CM: I once asked my best friend why we didn't hang out sooner. She was a grade younger and both of us had been needing a close friend for years. We knew of each other, but once we had classes together and started hanging out it was instant friendship. So the inspiration was more about finding that perfect friend, than so much their personalities. I did once see twins who resembled Darren and Aaron at a dance I chaperoned (just saying chaperoned makes me feel old). I thought, they're so interesting, I have to put them in a book. And there were a couple boys in my teenage years who provided inspiration for Cody. They weren't bad guys, just definitely wanted things I didn't & I think a lot of girls go through the same thing. 

HHB: How do you eat your Oreos? (Since we know how Summer prefers hers!)
CM: :) My husband thinks I'm a weirdo, but I prefer the regular Oreos over the doublestuf. I like to dip half of one in milk till it's slightly soggy then shove the whole thing in my mouth. When I have ice cream sundaes, I put Oreos in my min-chopper and then pour them over my ice cream. 

HHB: Why did you pick San Diego as the location for Cipher? 
CM: I lived there for 5 years and the beach is one of my favorite places. I knew I wanted it to be the backdrop and that it'd be one thing that brought Summer & Ashlyn together. I live in Colorado now & I love it, but I miss the beach. 

HHB: As a teen, what was your circle of friends like? 
CM: For a long time, I was a loner. No one was really mean to me, I was just alone, and it sucked. My junior year, I started hanging out with Amanda, the best friend I mentioned above. She's still one of my very best friends. When I saw she liked the real me, I felt more comfortable being the real me, not just around her, but all the time. Someone once asked her "What did you do to Cindi? She's so fun now." And Amanda said, "She's always been that fun, you were just too stupid to realize it." See why I love her? We hung out with a couple groups and we had a lot of guy friends, but we could be doing absolutely nothing & laughing our butts off. We went through boyfriend ups & downs together. When I wrote my first book, she was my first reader. To be a little mushy, mushy, she honestly changed my life, & it's why she's in the dedication to this book, along with the other awesome girlfriends I've had. 

HHB: Why did you want to be a writer?
CM: I always had stories going in my head & before I'd fall asleep at night, I needed to get them to a happily ever after ending. I never thought about writing them down until I'd had my first baby. Once I started, everything clicked into place. It made me happy and I knew it was what I wanted to do.

A special thanks goes out to Cindi Madsen and Rockstar Book Tours for making this interview possible! I'm so honored to have had her interview for this blog!

And finally, we have THE GIVEAWAY, furnished by Rockstar Tours!

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