Netgalley Review: The Shape of Ideas

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I received an e-arc of this book from netgalley and this is my honest review.

Original Release Date:

April 18th, 2017

Date I Read The Book:

May 2017

My Star Rating:

4 Stars

Official Summary:

What does an idea look like? And where do they come from? Grant Snider’s illustrations will motivate you to explore these questions, inspire you to come up with your own answers and, like all Gordian knots, prompt even more questions. Whether you are a professional artist or designer, a student pursuing a creative career, a person of faith, someone who likes walks on the beach, or a dreamer who sits on the front porch contemplating life, this collection of one- and two-page comics will provide insight into the joys and frustrations of creativity, inspiration, and process—no matter your age or creative background.

My Review: (Vague Spoilers)

This is a little graphic novel type book on creativity from the perspective of an artist. Its pretty clever, using different ideas, stereotypes, etc. of art to convey a message. The artwork is really well done with a pretty distinct style that I enjoyed. Some sections were more enjoyable than others, but if you enjoy art or other creative end overs, it may be worth checking out. Its quick to get through and it made me smile.

Blog Tour: The Dragon Orb – Review

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The Dragon Orb (The Alaris Chronicles #1)
by Mike Shelton
Genre: YA Fantasy
Release Date: March 1st 2017

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Summary from Goodreads:

The fate of a kingdom rests on the shoulders of three young wizards who couldn’t be more different.

Bakari is a brilliant scholar wizard who’s more at home in a library than a battlefield. Alli is a beautiful young battle wizard whose grace in battle is both enchanting and deadly. Roland is a counselor wizard with a seemingly limitless depth of untapped power — and the ego to match it.

As the magical barrier protecting the kingdom of Alaris from dangerous outsiders begins to fail, and a fomenting rebellion threatens to divide the country in a civil war, the three wizards are thrust into the middle of a power struggle.

When the barrier comes down, the truth comes out. Was everything they were taught about their kingdom based on a lie? Will they all choose to fight on the same side, or end up enemies in the battle over who should rule Alaris?

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The Alaris Chronicles Praise:

The first book of the Alaris Chronicles series brings a refreshing take on magic and politics in fantasy. The world feels very much alive as the wizards take on their new challenges, struggling with their personal demons as much as those of the land they are expected to protect. For people wanting a fantasy kingdom-based read that is more sorcery than swords with a depth of intrigue that goes well beyond blood and debauchery, The Dragon Orb is a solid new entry in the genre.” –Self-Publishing Review

The Dragon Orb is full of magic and adventure, and a way for younger readers to get a peek into the world of politics. The book is a strange combination of a Dungeons and Dragons adventure with Game of Thrones, but with kids as the movers and shakers of the story — and with a PG rating. It is a very easy read, a page turner. I love the fact that the protagonists of this story come in all colors, shapes and sizes, and that our leads are not your usual all-white characters. As mentioned before, the world our characters inhabit borrows from already established fantasy folklore; from Lord of the Rings to the Wheel of Time series. The biggest innovation on these series by Mr. Shelton is the inclusion of how politics work (hence the Game of Thrones reference), but accessible for a younger audience.” –  Erika Grediaga for Readers’ Favorite

“Dragon Rider is packed with action, adventure and a well-thought fantasy world. In a sort of collage of a wide variety of fantasy literature, from Lord of the Rings to The Wheel of Time, Mike Shelton goes into the ugliness of power and politics in a very interesting way, creating this type of introductory and age-appropriate version of Game of Thrones for kids. I think any tween or teen, from age ten on, would love to immerse themselves in this world of treason and power, where children are the ones who hold everyone in check.” – Readers’ Favorite


About the Author

Author

Mike was born in California and has lived in multiple states from the west coast to the east coast. He cannot remember a time when he wasn’t reading a book. At school, home, on vacation, at work at lunch time, and yes even a few pages in the car (at times when he just couldn’t put that great book down). Though he has read all sorts of genres he has always been drawn to fantasy. It is his way of escaping to a simpler time filled with magic, wonders and heroics of young men and women.

Other than reading, Mike has always enjoyed the outdoors. From the beaches in Southern California to the warm waters of North Carolina. From the waterfalls in the Northwest to the Rocky Mountains in Utah. Mike has appreciated the beauty that God provides for us. He also enjoys hiking, discovering nature, playing a little basketball or volleyball, and most recently disc golf. He has a lovely wife who has always supported him, and three beautiful children who have been the center of his life.

Mike began writing stories in elementary school and moved on to larger novels in his early adult years. He has worked in corporate finance for most of his career. That, along with spending time with his wonderful family and obligations at church has made it difficult to find the time to truly dedicate to writing. In the last few years as his children have become older he has returned to doing what he truly enjoys – writing!

Author Links:

WebsiteGoodreadsTwitterFacebookAmazonInstagram


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4 stars

Review:

I was sent a e-copy of the book for the tour and this is my honest review.

I LOVE dragons and that, especially, was the reason I wanted to review this book.

The Dragon Orb is the first in a new fantasy series, and it was pretty fantastic.

Great magic, well paced action, and well rounded and relatable characters.

A bit slow and/or cliche in places but over all, a good read. If you like dragons, wizards, and fantasy, its worth checking out.


Blog Tour Schedule –

June 12th

June 13th

June 14th

June 15th

June 16th

AudioBook Review: Batgirl At Superhero High

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ABOUT
BATGIRL AT SUPER HERO HIGH
(DC SUPER HERO GIRLS)

Get your cape on with the DC Super Hero Girls™— the unprecedented new Super Hero universe especially for girls! Readers of all ages can fly high with the all-new adventures of Wonder Woman™, Supergirl™, Batgirl™, and some of the world’s most iconic female super heroes as high schoolers!

Batgirl has always hidden in the shadows—but does she have what it takes to stand in the spotlight at Super Hero High?

Barbara Gordon has always been an off-the-charts, just-forget-about-the-test super-genius and tech whiz, and then she gets the offer of a lifetime when Supergirl recognizes that Barbara’s talents make her an ideal candidate for Super Hero High. Donning the cape and cowl, Barbara Gordon becomes Batgirl, ready to train at the most elite school on the planet, next to some of the most powerful teenagers in the galaxy. She’s always had the heart of a hero . . . but now she’ll have to prove that she can be one. Good thing she loves a challenge!

Award-winning author Lisa Yee brings mystery, thrills, and laughs to this groundbreaking series that follows DC Comics most iconic female Super Heroes and Super-Villains. Move over Batman™ and Superman™—the DC Super Hero Girls are ready to save the day and have fun doing it!


Chronology:
Companion/third in series (but can standalone)

Release Date:
January 3rd 2017

Age Range:
Definitely older children, lower middle grade. Maybe ages 8-12, ideally.


Star Rating:

4 Stars


Review:

If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you’ll know two things. I rarely read middle grade, and I loathe audiobooks. Actually, when I requested this book I didn’t realize it was an audiobook. But I went with it. My sister was watching the show, and it made me want to request this.

I like the idea of these books, making superheroes for girls too, not just books. Encouraging reading with the books etc. Its pretty cheesy and dumbed down, but it is a lower middle grade book, so I expected as much. I do think pretween girls, which its intended for, will enjoy it if they enjoy superhero stories at all.

In the beginning, it was pretty clear this was a sequel/companion, as previous events are recapped, but it didn’t impair the story at all past the initial “wait what” moment. At certain times, the characters seemed to act a bit older than their supposed ages, and it through me off when hearing a familiar DC comic name that was characterized differently, so get used to the idea of “alternate DC universe with every hero and villain a 12 year old in superhero boarding school”.

I did think it was well written, and I like Mae Whitman’s narrating, even if I cannot get into it as much as I’d’ve liked because the audiobook took about 5x as long to listen to as it would have been to read.

Overall, I thought it was a cute story. If you fall into the target audience (or enjoy books for that target audience) I’d recommend it.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lisa Yee’s debut novel, Millicent Min, Girl Genius, won the prestigious Sid Fleischman Humor Award. Her other novels for young people, with nearly two million copies in print, include Stanford Wong Flunks Big-Time, So Totally Emily Ebers, Absolutely Maybe, and two books about a fourth grader, Bobby vs. Girls (Accidentally) and Bobby the Brave (Sometimes). Lisa is also the author of American Girl’s Kanani books and Good Luck, Ivy. Her recent novel, Warp Speed, is about a Star Trek geek who gets beat up every day at school.Lisa is a former Thurber House Children’s Writer-in-Residence whose books have been chosen as an NPR Best Summer Read, a Sports Illustrated Kids Hot Summer Read, and a USA Today Critics’ Top Pick.

Visit Lisa at lisayee.com or check out her blog at lisayee.livejournal.com.


 I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for this review. This is my honest opinion.

Blog Tour: Black Blade – Review

Black-Blade

Black Blade
by Alexander Charalambides
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy
Release Date: June 11th 2017


Summary:

Lance is a hero.

With his friend Megan, he does his best to survive high school in a world that doesn’t always make sense, and is almost never fair.

When their school receives a donation from an anonymous millionaire, Lance and Megan find themselves on an international field trip to England, where the two receive an irresistible call to a supernatural adventure that could change their destinies, and the destiny of the country, forever.

Together with three mysterious adults who all claim to be wizards, Lance must safe-guard the legendary Excalibur. Traveling into a strange parallel world and keeping his friends, new and old, safe from harm at the hands of a malevolent army of magical soldiers, Lance discovers the truth about heroism and the content of his character.

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About the Author

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Alexander Charalambides was born in London and grew up in Berkshire.

He studied Creative Writing, and graduated from the Open University.

In 2008 he moved to the United States, and now lives in New Hampshire.

As a freelance writer Alexander enjoys storytelling just as much as editing and analysis, but often takes time off to enjoy wind surfing, do the sickest of motorcycle flips, wrestle with deadly animals and lie about his hobbies.

Author Links:

WebsiteGoodreadsFacebook


3.5 stars

Review:

I was sent a e-copy of the book for the tour and this is my honest review.

Black Blade is a great story based of the legends of King Arthur, full of its own unique twists, magic and dark humor.

The characters are all great – they irritating at times, its well written, with the changes in point of view clear and easy to follow.

Its a little slow in places, but an overall good read.


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Promo:

~~~~~~~~~~

MUSIC PLAYLIST 

Music is an extremely powerful tool for the imagination, it strengths atmosphere and preserves the author’s intent while still allowing the reader to freely imagine the details and texture the author choses to leave blank.

The said, Black Blade’s atmosphere, and therefore “imaginary” soundtrack is sort of set in stone. Since Black Blade is almost a comedy, you might expect me to have listened to all sorts of silly music (which is what I usually listen to), but this is where the “almost” is important. Black Blade’s characters are pretty over the top, sometimes absurd, but the plot and atmosphere are always serious and often sombre, so the comedy really comes from contrast rather than any specific action.

I can’t score the whole thing, but plenty of musical pieces went into building the atmosphere, and since the atmosphere really grew from John Boorman’s Excalibur, we’ll start there.

If you watch Excalibur (and I highly recommend you do) the soundtrack will stand out immediately, the key player being Wagner’s Siegfrieds Funeral March. It’s the keystone of the film’s atmosphere and Black Blade’s as well. In fact, I’m listening to it right now and feeling really proud of myself.

Obviously, though, playlists aren’t composed of a single song. I tried to diversify and ended up with a lot of classical stuff.

Most people know Night On Bald Mountain, which I think comes in louder and louder towards Black Blade’s end, and I always imagined the crowded breathing and clattering equipment of the Mason’s Guild accompanied by Prokofiev’s Dance Of The Knights.

I know, you probably think I’m boring. All posturing about authorial intent and atmosphere aside, I found that writing with these really old, forbidding pieces added something that I couldn’t find in more modern music, and lyrics were right out.

Maybe I’m just ignorant of the music I really needed since all I usually listen to are non-sense mashups and songs made of sampled dog barks.


 MY DREAM CAST FOR BLACK BLADE 

Books are amazing things because you don’t need to cast anyone. It’s one of the things that’s always stood out to me as important about the medium. Because of that, I don’t usually detail my characters or “cast” them, and when details about their personal appearances come up it’s always because they’re relevant to what’s happening in the story. I want to preserve the freedom of anyone to imagine any of my characters to be as much like or unlike them as they want.

That said, I understand why people like to talk about their “dream casts”. It’s a fantasy probably every author has shared at one point or another, sitting down and talking to a casting director about who they can get for the movie adaption, why you want who you want and why they’d be perfect.

Unfortunately, because of the approach I take to how characters look, and because I want my readers to have as much freedom as possible imagining them, I never “cast” anyone I write about, but I can talk about some influences particular performances have had on my decisions about those characters.

The clearest influence I can trace is for Lance, an adolescent malcontent and Black Blade’s “hero”. He whines, he judges, and he is a haver of wrong opinions. I’m sure you’re picturing him already, but I drew a lot on Shia Labeouf for this character, particularly his roles in all the Transformers movies. Please forgive me.

Next are the wizards (spoiler warning: there are wizards in this book), and they’re much harder to pin down to any specific actors. It’s essential that they are aloof, condescending (and in one case very angry), but I have a heard time narrowing their casting beyond the traditional stable of Very Serious British actors.

Last is Megan. Black Blade is driven by an obligation that forces the characters on a supernatural journey. If you think of the story of the book as the story of this quest, Megan is peripheral, or even irrelevant.

She’s really small, almost never confrontational, and almost never takes the initiative. She is (as far as I’m concerned) by far the most important character. Why haven’t I mentioned a cast yet, you might be asking?

The answer is the most important reason that we keep writing books: I’ve never seen an actress cast that would be appropriate for her, and there probably isn’t one for the simple reason that no executive or casting director would employ someone so “ordinary”.

We can write about whoever we want, people who could never be represented by any actor. Without that willingness to write about ugly, strange, ordinary people, we cripple ourselves creatively, so when you think about your “dream cast” while writing, please don’t forget that not all people are actors.


READ BLACK BLADE IF YOU LIKE… 

I think writers are defined by what they take from their influences, and one of the great things about this is that there are no “conventions”. When I look at an author’s work and then read about their influences I can usually see what came from where but I’m always surprised by the whys and hows.

To be honest, this is a subject I could talk about all day, and the way books can be influenced and influence others faster and more fluidly than any other medium is why they’re so important. Obviously, though, I’m supposed to talk about my own influences, since, after all, those are the only ones I can be completely certain of. In fact, writing this post helped me realize some influences I’d completely overlooked.

The most important influences on any writer are the books that first interested him or her in writing, although not necessarily reading. I remember refusing to read anything other than non-fiction until I was press-ganged into enjoying Harry Potter, but I never really thought about story-telling or applying my own creativity until I discovered Cliff McNish’s Doomspell and Silver series. They really stood out to me for their imagination, concise communication with the reader and intelligently detailed worlds. Bot of them captured an atmosphere of mundane gloom, like something bad everyone knew would happen, was pointless to try to stop, and that more than anything else found its way into Black Blade.

I have to admit, for a long time I was coasting creatively. My storytelling ideas advanced, but technically speaking my writing wasn’t improving. That changed after I read Melvin Burgess’ Junk. The book’s influence extends beyond atmosphere, and even though in terms of plot it has almost no relation to Black Blade at all, it’s probably the work that had the biggest impact on my book for a very simple reason: Voice. Without Junk I never would would’ve worked on differentiating my voices, or realized how important narration can be for characterization.

By now we’re on to the visual stuff, the movies. This first one won’t really surprise you, but John Boorman’s 1981 Excalibur really defined for me the atmosphere I feel myth should have, and while Black Blade’s characters and world are very different, you’ll find the same sense of predestination and determination in both.

Lastly is the one I didn’t realize influenced me until I started to really think about atmosphere. Black Blade has mythic themes, sometimes mythic language and even mythic style over-acting and over-emotional characters, but I think what really formed the spine of my book comes from Jacob’s Ladder.

Black Blade isn’t even approaching that level of suspense or horror, but the journey through an abstract, shifting landscape that seems to represent parts of the characters, and shifting perspective traveling through past and future to give the audience a unique changing perspective is definitely something I learned from Jacob’s Ladder.

When I started out I was worried that this whole thing might sound derivative, but now I feel as confident as an author can. What is creativity except a long list of debts?


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Adaptation Review: Everything Everything


Book To Movie Adaptation

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Details:

A teenager who’s spent her whole life confined to her home falls for the boy next door.

Director:

Stella Meghie

Writers:

J. Mills Goodloe (screenplay),  Nicola Yoon (based on the book by)

Stars:

Amandla Stenberg,  Nick Robinson,  Anika Noni Rose

PG-13 |  1h 36min | DramaRomance | 19 May 2017 (USA)

Book Details

Published September 1st 2015

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My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.

But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.

Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.


Book Review:

I read the book earlier last year and gave it four stars.

Its well written, funny, with great characters and the romance is well paced. I won’t spoil anything but – like for most people – the ending felt a bit, well, off. Like a cop out. What was done could have been done better. But it was four stars none-the-less and I over all enjoyed it.


Movie Review:

I watched Everything Everything the week after it opened with a group of friends. Of the group, I was the only one who’d read the book before hand. I will say my friends who didn’t read the book did really enjoy the movie – it it holds up well as a movie, not just as an adaptation. My mom keeps referring to it as “teen angst, Fault in our stars B***s***” though its no where near as sad.

The movie is well paced, it doesn’t feel rushed (well, the end does a bit, but its the same with the book so…), the acting and dialogue I thought were really good. I loved the casting and the way the set was done, and the outfits. Everything fit really well.

Maddie and Olly are completely awkward in the cutest way – definitely not instalove. And me and my friends were giggling for most of the movie from the dialogue and the bundtcake. The way they weave in the texting etc. actually worked really well and wasn’t a weird interruption.

I overall really liked the movie, and I thought as an adaptation, its one of the best I’m seen, as it stayed completely true to the book – both in plot and character feel – which is rare.

If you liked the book – or think you might but haven’t gotten around to it – I’d say check it out. And if you’re worried about sadness, it is nowhere near as sad as If I stay or The Fault in our Stars (as my mom enjoys comparing it to).

Blog Tour: It Could Happen – Book Review

It Could Happen tour banner


It Could Happen
by Mia Kerick
Genre: NA Romance (LGBT)
Release Date: June 5th 2017
Dreamspinner Press

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Summary:

Three misfits, mismatched in every way—Henry Perkins, Brody Decker, and Danny Denisco—have been friends throughout high school. Now in their senior year, the boys realize their relationship is changing, that they’re falling in love. But they face opposition at every turn—from outside and from within themselves. Moving to the next level will take all the courage, understanding, and commitment they can muster. But it could happen.

Henry is a star athlete and the son of religious parents who have little concern for the future he wants. Brody is a quirky dreamer and adrenaline junkie, and Danny is an emo artist and the target of bullies. Despite their differences they’ve always had each other’s backs, and with each of them facing a new and unique set of challenges, that support is more important than ever. Is it worth risking the friendship they all depend on for the physical and romantic relationship they all desire?

In this unconventional new adult romance, three gay teens brave societal backlash—as well as the chance that they might lose their treasured friendship—to embark on a committed polyamorous relationship.

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About the Author

mia kerick

Mia Kerick is the mother of four exceptional children—all named after saints—and five nonpedigreed cats—all named after the next best thing to saints, Boston Red Sox players. Her husband of twenty years has been told by many that he has the patience of Job, but don’t ask Mia about that, as it is a sensitive subject.

Mia focuses her stories on the emotional growth of troubled men and their relationships, and she believes that sex has a place in a love story, but not until it is firmly established as a love story. As a teen, Mia filled spiral-bound notebooks with romantic tales of tortured heroes (most of whom happened to strongly resemble lead vocalists of 1980s big-hair bands) and stuffed them under her mattress for safekeeping. She is thankful to Dreamspinner Press for providing her with an alternate place to stash her stories.

Mia is proud of her involvement with the Human Rights Campaign and cheers for each and every victory made in the name of marital equality. Her only major regret: never having taken typing or computer class in school, destining her to a life consumed with two-fingered pecking and constant prayer to the Gods of Technology.

Contact Mia at miakerick@gmail.com.

Author Links:

WebsiteGoodreadsTwitterFacebook

Buy Link: Amazon


3.5 Stars

Review:

I was sent a e-copy of the book for the tour and this is my honest review.

It Could Happen was a cute, quick read. I haven’t read many New Adult books, so I don’t have much to compare it to, but it was a quick, cute read. The writing was well done, I liked the transitions in writing type between POVs (Brody’s Journal, Henry in 1st person, Danny is poems – the poems were kind of cringe, but there are meant to be written by a teenage boy so it gets a pass).

Some aspects of the story felt a little forced. I’ve never read about a three-person couple before, but it felt a little forced initially, as did some of the more “look at how bad his life is” aspects.

But overall, I liked the book and I’m glad I read it. If you like NA, consider picking it up!


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Excerpt #1

CHAPTER 1 MEET THE PLAYERS

Brody’s notebook

Monday, September 15
Before I bare my soul on paper, I’d like to set the record straight. 1. I’m not a ten-year-old girl.
2. My journal isn’t pink and fuzzy with a heart-shaped lock.
3. I don’t make daily entries with a magenta gel pen.
4. There’s nothing simple about bromance.
I feel better after getting that off my chest—my flat chest, and

I’m not in the market for a training bra. See #1, above.

My end goal is to create a user manual for my relationship with Henry and Danny, because I’m seriously confused about where we go from here—wherever here is—and how we get past everything that stands in our way to make it there. In theory, if I write down what goes on with us, I’ll be able to read it back to myself and make sense of things before I do something stupid and/or dangerous.

To get back to my original point, I am not keeping a diary. It’s just the third section of my AP Physics notebook, which I consider a safe place to record my most top-secret thoughts about life, as nobody on earth gives a shit about my half-assed notes.

Maybe I’m not the creative one, but I can write stuff down as well as the next guy. And everybody knows that getting started is the hardest part, so I won’t obsess over it… too much.

I’ll start here, about Henry.

Mostly Henry Perkins strives to live life by the book—it makes it easier to deal with his parents’ rules and expectations. The problem is that the smaller, more insistent—and much hornier—part of Henry wants to do whatever the hell he wants to do. But the thing is, Henry can’t get any of the stuff he wants if he lives by the book, which his mom and dad wrote.

I nailed that summary, so I’ll move on to Danny.

Next there’s Danny Denisco, who is the creative one. He can do stuff like write poetry and paint pictures and still not come off as lame. I can sum up what he wants in a couple of simple sentences. Danny wants only one thing out of life and, more specifically, from the guys he goes out with. And no, it’s not sex. Danny’s looking for the L word, but his problem is that he’ll settle for any liar’s promise of affection, and lie is the wrong L word.

Then there’s me. It’s tough to look objectively at the big picture of yourself, conclude that “Brody Decker’s main objective is to _____,” and then fill in the blank with something profound. Because all kinds of shit comes to mind when I think about what want—to feel the wind in my face and to find the highest adrenaline rush of all time are on the top of the list. But there’s this other guy in me. He gets freaked out easily, so he lives life by the “don’t ask, don’t tell” code. I’m starting to think he wants some of the stuff Henry and Danny want too.

Wind and adrenaline don’t take much effort to find where there’s speed, and I’ve got that part covered. But maybe I want the stuff Henry and Danny want more.


Excerpt #2

Henry: My life

Something’s off with Danny. He didn’t come to the movies with us on Saturday night because he had a date with that thirty-five-year- old fry cook he met at work. I spent this Sunday, like all the rest, with my family, doing the church and Sunday-dinner thing, but Brody texted me that night to let me know that Danny never returned his calls. And Danny was out of school yesterday.

When we stopped by his apartment after cross-country practice today, he didn’t answer the door. Maybe he wasn’t home, but Brody’s got “inner feelings” about things, and he says Danny was in there. I tend to believe him.

You can’t distract Brody when he’s worried about one of us, although he uses distraction to throw us off track when we’re worried about him. And since we’re almost always worried about him, he has to distract us a lot.

“I just want to hear Danny say he’s okay. Until I hear that, I’m not going to stop trying to reach him.” Brody’s draped across my bed on his belly. His T-shirt is twisted in a way that lets me see his skinny back. I think he forgets to eat when he’s worried, but he still looks good.

And then there’s his ass…. I stare at it a little bit too long, but he can’t see my eyes, so it’s okay. I shake my head in an effort to get my unwanted horniness under control, and I say, “My folks aren’t about to let me out tonight, not after I was late coming home from cross-country.”

Eleven months until I leave for college. I can survive eleven more months trapped in this split-level ranch prison with controlling parents who think they own me.

Do over—controlling parents who actually do own me.


Excerpt #3

Brody’s notebook

Tuesday, September 23

Memoir of a Stalker—I sincerely hope this is only a temporary title.

I’m not exactly a stalker, but when it comes to Danny and Henry, sometimes I play the part of one.

And the situation with Danny is seriously messed up. I keep telling Henry that it will sort itself out. I hope I’m not lying to him.

Before I picked up Henry for school today, I drove by Danny’s apartment building three times. Or maybe it was five times. I lost count.

Extremely stalkeresque.

I stared at the building each time I drove by, but there was nothing out of the ordinary—one beige cement building, nine nondescript windows with torn screens, five crumbling brick steps leading to a cracked plate glass door, zero landscaping. The place is almost invisible in its plainness. The only thing that draws any attention to the residence is the number of beat-up SUVs, ancient boats on trailers, and motorcycles that have seen better days that surround it. The property looks like a used-vehicle auction lot.

The first three times I passed by, I saw a couple of wrinkled old men with bloated bellies smoking cigarettes on the front walkway. I also noticed about five skinny cats skulking around the property. But no Danny. I was tempted to park behind the row of overgrown shrubs on the corner and wait as long as it took to see if he emerged alone or arm-in-arm with Jared, the jealous fry cook.

But I didn’t stop. I passed by unnoticed… unless Danny happened to glance out the window. Lime-green Jeep Wranglers are hardly stealthy.

There’s no valid reason for me to be snooping on him. Danny Denisco is not my boyfriend. He’s not my best friend’s boyfriend. We’re straight. He’s gay. The whole romance thing is not possible.

Danny’s not a mystery I need to solve. He’s just a guy from the bad part of town who happens to enjoy the darker side of life. He has an extraordinary gift for painting fluorescent sunsets on black velvet without making them look redneck tacky. His poetry could even bring tears to Lionel Wagner’s eyes.

Danny has a fashion sense that, on a good day, could be called peculiar. Most of the time, Danny comes to school looking like a boy witch. He has multiple piercings in his ears, nose, bottom lip, right eyebrow, and probably other places I don’t want to know about. Add to that an emo haircut, complete with sideswept bangs and neon-blue tips, and way too much black eyeliner.

That’s Danny.
Like I said, no mystery.
Danny defines “gay, emo, Goth boy.”
He looks radical, but he just wants what everybody else wants out of life.

And Danny is not my boyfriend. I don’t know how I feel about that.


Excerpt #4

Free Verse Poetry by Danny D

“Secure”

everything aching joins into one,

an opaque cloud blocking the sun

I must walk through this storm

alone, like a martyr at death

guilty that I stole their breath

afraid as a child in the night

injured, the loser of a fight

jealous, like the one in last place

lost as a call with no trace

the only shelter I can see

is in this false security


Excerpt #5

Henry: My life

First Wagner surges past me, and then the top three runners on the Wilson Brown Bears Cross-Country Team go by me, one by one. Each time I get passed feels like a stab in the gut. But when No-neck Nelson awkwardly lopes by, I know I’m up a creek.

“You can do this, Perky.” Brody’s not even wearing running shoes, but he breaks out of the small crowd at the top of Linden Hill to run beside me. And then he’s with me—baggy cargo-pocket fatigues and work boots with a loose button-down shirt flying behind him, and even wearing his backpack—racing along, offering encouragement.

“Pick up the pace now. Focus on getting past just Nelson for starters. You’re so much faster than him it’s not even funny.”

Brody doesn’t look at me, but he keeps on rambling words of inspiration until I pass Nelson. Then he retreats back into the scattered group of spectators and calls out a final bit of advice. “Keep it up, Henry. You’ve got this!”

But I don’t “got it” at all. I run into the finish with my tail between my legs and end up in fifth place.

Dad is in my face before I can blink.

“What on earth do you call that?” He grabs my shirt by the Golden Eagle emblem on the front. “You call that an effort?”

I look around for Brody. I’m not sure why. It’s not like he can save me from my dad. All I can see are teammates crossing the line and their parents and other students congratulating them.

“Look at me, son,” Dad barks, and then he shakes me to make sure he has my full attention. “You think you’re going to get into a Division One track school with a performance like this?” He jabs his watch with a pointed finger.

The people around us can’t miss that Dad is basically exploding all over me in an ugly show of public parental frustration. It’s like he thinks I ran slowly to hurt him.

“This is unacceptable.” Again he looks at his watch. “I’m speechless.”

As I again look around for Brody, I sincerely wish Dad actually could be speechless.

“Have you been taking lessons on how to get slower? Have you?” He won’t let up.

Finally I see Brody come through the crowd. I think he heard my father’s last insult, as he steps up to my side in an act of solidarity. “And this pothead loser”—he gestures toward Brody with his elbow—“is most certainly the one who’s teaching you how to run at the pace of a damned turtle.”

We now have the attention of the entire crowd. Coach Wentworth stands behind Dad, looking seriously disturbed. He places his hand on Dad’s shoulder and says, “Mr. Perkins, with all due respect, this is just one race. Henry’s a little bit off his game today. I’m sure he’ll perform much better next time.”

Dad turns around and glares at Coach, who shakes his head in mute frustration but steps back.

“I’m seriously considering sending you off for a postgrad year at Northrop Sports Academy. Maybe there you’ll be able to concentrate on the important things in life, like running faster, rather than wasting your time hanging around with boys who are never going to amount to anything.” The crowd’s attention shifts to Brody. He looks down at the grass.

I can’t help it. I make one of those lame choking noises. I want to cry because everything is so fucked-up in my life, but I can’t. So the messed-up, strangled sound just pops out from deep in my throat. Even Lionel Wagner cringes, none too eager to see an eighteen-year- old guy cry ten feet past the finish line of a stupid cross-country race. Brody leans against me, and we stand shoulder to shoulder and wait for what comes next.

Dad storms off—finally speechless—but before I have a chance to breathe a sigh of relief, Mom steps up and shepherds me a few yards away from Brody.

“Kneel down,” she says in all seriousness and then drops to her knees on the grass despite the fact she’s wearing a skirt. “Get on your knees and pray with me, Henry.”

I look back at Brody, and his face is pale. He shakes his head slowly, but obedient as always, I get down on my knees in the grass beside Mom. The shocked stare of the crowd heats all of my exposed skin.

“Lord Jesus, we thank You for all of the blessings You have bestowed upon us. We ask that You hear our humble prayer,” she begins, her head bowed and her eyes closed. “Please help our son to succeed, dear Jesus.”

I don’t bow my head or close my eyes. But I do pray. Silently. Oh God. Public prayer. Please, no.
“Let’s do this at home, Mom,” I manage to utter.
Apparently God hears my desperate plea and passes it on to my mother. She rises to her feet, as I do, takes me by the hand, and leads me to the family minivan. I don’t look back at Brody. There’s no point. Dad is waiting in the driver’s seat. He refuses to look at me when I slide open the door and climb in back.

This afternoon was the crowning glory on a week from hell.


Blog Tour Schedule –

Adding the tour schedule to promote my fellow bloggers. Check out their posts!

June 6th

June 7th

June 8th

June 9th

June 12th

June13th

June 14th

June 15th

June 16th

Netgalley Review: Tash Hearts Tolstoy

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I received an e-arc of this book from the publisher via netgalley and this is my honest review.

Original Release Date:

June 6th, 2017

Date I Read The Book:

May 2017

My Star Rating:

5 Stars

Official Summary:

After a shout-out from one of the Internet’s superstar vloggers, Natasha “Tash” Zelenka finds herself and her obscure, amateur web series, Unhappy Families, thrust into the limelight: She’s gone viral.

Her show is a modern adaptation of Anna Karenina—written by Tash’s literary love Count Lev Nikolayevich “Leo” Tolstoy. Tash is a fan of the forty thousand new subscribers, their gushing tweets, and flashy Tumblr GIFs. Not so much the pressure to deliver the best web series ever.

And when Unhappy Families is nominated for a Golden Tuba award, Tash’s cyber-flirtation with Thom Causer, a fellow award nominee, suddenly has the potential to become something IRL—if she can figure out how to tell said crush that she’s romantic asexual.

Tash wants to enjoy her newfound fame, but will she lose her friends in her rise to the top? What would Tolstoy do?

My Review: (Vague Spoilers)

I requested an arc of this book for several reasons:
1) a nerdy, smart, bookworm main character,
2) Classic adaptation as a blog series a la Lizzie Bennet Diaries and
3) AN ASEXUAL CHARACTER OH MY GOD.

I haven’t read much classic literature, Tolstoy included, so that didn’t grab me in more than the abstract, unlike some reviewers.

The ace representation did draw me in though. I’m ace (somewhere on the scale not quite sure where) so I was super excited to read a book with an asexual MC because I have never in my life heard of one let along read one.

Let me tell you I was not disappointed!

 To me at least, I thought the representation of asexuality was very realistic. People say stupid things about it, and it feels weird to be different, but at the end of the day, you have the same feelings as everyone else (Tash is asexual but NOT romantic which are often equated when they are NOT the same thing).

The characters are all real (occasionally flawed) people, the character growth is great and I loved it. The friendships were really realistic and I related to Tash so hard!

Plot wise, it was really interesting. YA stories featuring you tubers are particularly common now, but I thought the story of the making of their show was well done. A bit slow at times, but it balanced out.

The writing was good, quick, easy, cute YA reading.

I highly recommend this story!

Buddy Read – Book Review: The Night Circus

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I buddy read this book with the ever amazing Icebreaker694


Original Release Date:

September 13th 2011

Date I Read The Book:

May 2017

Chronology:

Standalone

My Star Rating:

4.5 stars


Official Summary:

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it, no paper notices plastered on lampposts and billboards. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.

Within these nocturnal black-and-white striped tents awaits an utterly unique, a feast for the senses, where one can get lost in a maze of clouds, meander through a lush garden made of ice, stare in wonderment as the tattooed contortionist folds herself into a small glass box, and become deliciously tipsy from the scents of caramel and cinnamon that waft through the air.

Welcome to Le Cirque des Rêves.

Beyond the smoke and mirrors, however, a fierce competition is under way–a contest between two young illusionists, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood to compete in a “game” to which they have been irrevocably bound by their mercurial masters. Unbeknownst to the players, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will.

As the circus travels around the world, the feats of magic gain fantastical new heights with every stop. The game is well under way and the lives of all those involved–the eccentric circus owner, the elusive contortionist, the mystical fortune-teller, and a pair of red-headed twins born backstage among them–are swept up in a wake of spells and charms.

But when Celia discovers that Marco is her adversary, they begin to think of the game not as a competition but as a wonderful collaboration. With no knowledge of how the game must end, they innocently tumble headfirst into love. A deep, passionate, and magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

Their masters still pull the strings, however, and this unforeseen occurrence forces them to intervene with dangerous consequences, leaving the lives of everyone from the performers to the patrons hanging in the balance.

Both playful and seductive, The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern’s spell-casting debut, is a mesmerizing love story for the ages.


Discussion Questions/Thoughts:

Icebreaker’s Questions:

1)  What food at the circus would you try first?

Icebreaker: I’d love to try those “cinnamon things”. While I was reading the story, I thought they were churros. They don’t disclose if they are, but I’d still eat them if they’re as good as Widget says they are.

RiverMoose: Oh thats a hard one. Probably the “cinnamon things” as they are called – which in my mind were cinnamon buns. I love them, and I bet the circus has the best ones.

2) Which character do you think grew the most?

Icebreaker:  Isobel. I don’t want to reveal too much, but she changes her views on a matter and becomes satisfied after finally trying to move on. At first she struggles knowing the truth, but later she seems to have accepted everything.

RiverMoose: Well I don’t think the Murray twins count… So I’ll say Isobel, she went through a lot of character growth throughout the novel – though I don’t want to say too much on it for those who haven’t read it.

3) If you could rewrite this book, what would you change?

Icebreaker:  I wouldn’t really change anything. I actually enjoyed the slower pace of The Night Circus, the characters, and the style of writing. It’s a lot better than anything I would write, that’s for certain.

RiverMoose: I’d lengthen the ending. It felt kind of abrupt and too “and now everything is perfect because I wanted it to be” instead of actual resolution being worked towards. But wouldn’t really change anything else. It wasn’t even that I disliked the ending – it just felt too fast.

My Questions:

1) Which point of view was your favorite to read from?

Icebreaker: Bailey’s! It took some time for me to really appreciate his chapters, but he ultimately ended up being my favorite POV to read from.

RiverMoose: Honestly? I really liked reading Bailey’s chapters because, even though for most of the book they felt extraneous and not grounded into the story like the rest, it ties in nicely and I liked the little glimpses of the future you get through his because his chapters ran ahead in the timeline of Celia’s and Marco’s. I also really liked Herr Theissen’s. I liked all the POVs though.

2) What did you think of the writing style/multi-narrative structure?

Icebreaker: Oh, I thought it was all really unique. I don’t see many multi-narrative books, and it was refreshing to learn that this story contained second and third person narratives. As for the writing style, I tend to enjoy lots of descriptions, and The Night Circus contained very detailed ones.

RiverMoose: I liked it. It feels floaty and insubstantial at times – very flowery and descriptive but you’re still at times unclear as to whats happening, but I thought it worked really well with the setting of the story, and I liked how the multi-POVs and stories we get to see make the whole thing come together and come to life because it makes it larger scale.

3) Which tent would you most want to visit at The Night Circus?

Icebreaker: I’d love to see the illusionist’s or the fortune teller’s tent! I’ve always loved watching magic acts when I was little and that has never changed. However I’ve never had my future read before, so I’d like to see what’s in store. (I’d also stick around the circus for Poppet and Widget’s kitten act, haha.)

RiverMoose: I’m the sort of person who gets utterly paralyzed by choice so I’d probably just try to methodically work my way through the circus. Knowing many of the tents though, I think I’d enjoy the labyrinth.


My Review: 

I don’t really know how to review this book without spoilers. So here is a mini-non-spoiler review before we get to the full review: It was great, it relies very heavily on pretty, flowery, writing if thats your thing, and has multiple POVs/stories/timepoints woven together very well. I really liked it.

(Spoilers ahead – just a warning)

(Spoilers ahead – just a warning)

 The Night Circus is a slow-paced, world building extravaganza of a book. The story is the circus itself, and the people in and around it. Celia and Marco are the main story – their competition being the focus the other narratives jump off from and the reason for the circuses creation, though we also see the POV of the others involved in the circuses creation (like the Burgesses), those who love the circus (like Herr Theissen), and others in the circus (the Murray twins, along with Bailey whose story runs a few years ahead of the main story before it alines, it was a bit confusing at first, but it made sense after a while).

Its a very slow build, grand scale kind of story, with large time jumps and beautiful descriptive language. The mystery of the circus extends to the reader, as your left just as in the dark as the characters often are.

Its a bit difficult to get into, but once you start its hard to stop. Its very different from other books I’m read, but I found I really enjoyed. You really get to know the characters.

The end annoyed me just a bit (hence the 4.5 stars rather than 5) because it felt a bit rushed. All the talk of making their own choices, and preserving the circus being draining, needing to make it independent after they are gone, only for it to fall on Bailey? It felt like a copout, and as a resolution in general, it felt a bit rushed. I didn’t dislike it, it just could have been a bit better. I did really like the epilogue and how it was all wrapped up for everyone, I do wish we got a better explanation of why Mr. A. H. and Prospero have their competitions the way they do though.


Favorite Quotes:

“People see what they wish to see. And in most cases, what they are told that they see.”
― Erin Morgenstern, The Night Circus

“Someone needs to tell those tales. When the battles are fought and won and lost, when the pirates find their treasures and the dragons eat their foes for breakfast with a nice cup of Lapsang souchong, someone needs to tell their bits of overlapping narrative. There’s magic in that. It’s in the listener, and for each and every ear it will be different, and it will affect them in ways they can never predict. From the mundane to the profound. You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone’s soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows what they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift. Your sister may be able to see the future, but you yourself can shape it, boy. Do not forget that… there are many kinds of magic, after all.”
― Erin Morgenstern, The Night Circus

“The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.”
― Erin Morgenstern, The Night Circus

“Stories have changed, my dear boy,” the man in the grey suit says, his voice almost imperceptibly sad. “There are no more battles between good and evil, no monsters to slay, no maidens in need of rescue. Most maidens are perfectly capable of rescuing themselves in my experience, at least the ones worth something, in any case. There are no longer simple tales with quests and beasts and happy endings. The quests lack clarity of goal or path. The beasts take different forms and are difficult to recognize for what they are. And there are never really endings, happy or otherwise. Things keep overlapping and blur, your story is part of your sister’s story is part of many other stories, and there in no telling where any of them may lead. Good and evil are a great deal more complex than a princess and a dragon, or a wolf and a scarlet-clad little girl. And is not the dragon the hero of his own story? Is not the wolf simply acting as a wolf should act? Though perhaps it is a singular wolf who goes to such lengths as to dress as a grandmother to toy with its prey.”
― Erin Morgenstern, The Night Circus

“The most difficult thing to read is time. Maybe because it changes so many things.”
― Erin Morgenstern, The Night Circus

“You’re in the right place at the right time, and you care enough to do what needs to be done. Sometimes that’s enough.”
― Erin Morgenstern, The Night Circus

“I have been surrounded by love letters you two have built each other for years, encased in tents.”
― Erin Morgenstern, The Night Circus

Netgalley Review: One of Us is Lying

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I received an e-arc of this book from netgalley and this is my honest review.

Original Release Date:

May 30th 2017

Date I Read The Book:

March 2017

My Star Rating:

5 Stars

Chronology:

Debut, Standalone

Official Summary:

One of Us Is Lying is the story of what happens when five strangers walk into detention and only four walk out alive. Everyone is a suspect, and everyone has something to hide.

Pay close attention and you might solve this.
On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.
Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.
Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.
Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.
Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.
And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app.

Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention Simon’s dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose?

Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.

My Review: (Vague Spoilers)

Cover:

I love this cover, with the cut out faces and sharpie it looks like a defaced yearbook and it is great.
Characters:
All the characters are unique, and their voices are distinct. I did find my self most drawn to Bronwyn’s POV but since I relate most to her that’s understandable. I like that they all begin to defy their stereotypes throughout. And that their is diversity sprinkled through without a big deal being made about it. Everyone has different home lives, and not every character is straight and white. I liked he side characters and sibling relationships a lot. And I like that the romances were varied, none the main focus, and nine were instalove or an instant fix to anyone’s problems.
Plot:
There is foreshadowing like crazy and I loved it. The story is fast paced and intriguing all the way through, and lots of little details and side plots for each character really tie it together. I guessed part of the ending before he characters did, but not the whole think, and I like that it was able to surprise me. I had some issues with the legality of some of the police actions and certain things that seemed overlooked by adults irked me, but these were all things addressed later on in the story and it was good.

Netgalley Review: New Americans

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I received an e-copy of this book from netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

Original Release Date:

January 15th 2014

Date I Read The Book:

March 2017

My Star Rating:

4 stars

Chronology:

Nonfiction

Official Summary:

America has been called a country of immigrants. Yet the country has rarely welcomed them with open arms. Newcomers have been encountering fear, suspicion, and misunderstanding for more than 200 years. “New Americans” tells the story of immigration in the United States, stopping at key moments along the way to examine the great debates that have altered the course of national policy and changed the face of a nation. Young readers will discover that the push and pull over immigration policy today is astonishingly similar to the social and political questions that have sparked controversy since the 1700s. “New Americans” engages young readers and provides them with the context and history needed to join the debate on these issues…and ultimately issues the challenge to Find Your Voice. Aligns with Common Core Language Arts Anchor Standards for Reading Informational Text and Speaking and Listening. Text contains critical thinking components in regards to social issues and history.

My Review: (Vague Spoilers)

This is a history book for young readers, I’m thinking 8-13 content wise, maybe up to 10-13 reading level wise.

It is a pretty good overview of immigration in America, dating back to before even Columbus, through colonization and into modern day. The pictures and layout are clean and eye catching. And the book does its best to present both sides of the dispute equally and easily for young readers. I like that legislation throughout American history and the social consequences of it are touched upon.

I gave it four stars because it does what it set out to do nicely. But, since I’m in APUSH, it was not particularly enjoyable. I’d recommend it to a 5th grade classroom, but not for anyone looking for nonfiction to read.