Saturday, April 28, 2018

Book Blitz: Evading the Dark

Evading The Dark
E.M. Rinaldi
(The Cross Chronicles #1)
Published by: CHBB Publishing
Publication date: April 24th 2018
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult

Find it on Amazon!
High school sucks. It doesn’t matter who you ask; jock, cheerleader, computer nerd, or band geek, they will all say the same thing: It’s a nightmare. But Casey is still wondering how she got the short end of the stick. Just a Sophomore at the prestigious Luthos Academy for Magical Beings, Casey already knows more about heartache and fear than any almost-sixteen-year-old should. Orphaned and left to be raised by the Academy, she spends her days training to become a Guardian, but that dream is looking dimmer with every day that passes.Unlike the wand-waving heroines in all her favorite books, Witches in her world don’t cast spells, they are born wielding the power of nature: water, fire, earth, or air; powers Casey never developed. She’ll be lucky if they even allow her to take her final exams.
She is top of her training class, but that doesn’t keep her from being looked down upon by every other being at her school. All Casey wants is to be given a chance, instead she finds the only life she’s ever known targeted by an unfathomable evil. Thrust into the center of an age-old prophecy, a war is coming with Casey at the reins.
Will relying on her hard earned training be enough for her to make it out alive?
Are you a book reviewer?
Request a review copy here!
10 years earlier …
I should have known that something bad was going to happen, but at only six years old, I didn’t know how to put my feelings into words. At least, not those feelings. How was I supposed to tell mommy that something dark was following us; that I could feel its eyes on me while its hungry breath fogged up the window? I knew she wouldn’t understand, outside it was anything but dark. The sun was shining clear and bright and laughter trickled in from the barbeque next door. Why would she believe me, a kid, when what I felt was not reflected around us?
I should have told her anyway. I should have screamed it until she listened, because, as it turned out, she knew the darkness was there too.
Looking back, all the signs were there—blatantly so. It was a Sunday, the day that my mom always took me to the park. I loved those days. She would always have a new adventure planned for us: catching butterflies that we’d pretend were fairies or climbing trees that she made me believe were the tallest mountains.
But not that Sunday. I thought it was weird that she didn’t want to go outside, mommy loved being out with the trees, but I didn’t argue. I had my own reasons for not wanting to go out. And it wasn’t too bad in the house; true to form, mommy tried to play the night out like it was just another adventure.
“We’re really in a secret cave hunting for lost treasure,” she said.
She led me all around the house, making obstacles out of the furniture until we made it to the “treasure”—a fresh baked batch of brownies. The whole time I thought it was just a new game. It was my naivety that kept me from seeing how my mother moved a kitchen knife from its drawer to the counter, or how all the “obstacles” looked strategically placed.
I couldn’t tell then, but now it’s all too clear; she knew that something was coming. Or someone.
They came late in the night. We were halfway through The Lion King when there was a knock at the door. My mom turned off the movie and instantly knelt in front of me to quiet my cries of dismay. There was no explanation for why the movie was gone; she had no chance to give one. The knock at the door swiftly turned violent, with more blows sounding on the back door and surrounding windows.
I was ushered into the dark crevice where our couch met the wall. Almost too big to fit, I managed to squeeze in just as she ran to the kitchen and grabbed the knife. I heard her yell frantically into her phone as the harsh pounding became so vehement that it felt as if the whole house shook. Whether it’s because I was too young or unintentionally blocked it out, I can only remember bits and pieces of what she said.
“Eli, they’re here! Help! … 120 Huckleberry …”
At one point I heard a splintering crack as one of the doors started to break. I crawled further into the crevice as my mom spoke faster.
“… not enough time! … I’m so sorry. Take care of her.”
I never saw what happened next, but I remember every sound: the high pitch of our glass windows shattering, the harsh moan and crack as the already fragmented door gave way, followed closely by my mom’s scream. And I heard what I now recognize as the sound of a fight. I sometimes dream that my mom won that fight and came to get me and everything was okay. But that’s not how it happened.
The fighting ended in an eerie silence. I almost crawled out of my hiding spot, but even my undeveloped instincts could tell that I wasn’t alone. Whoever was still there was looking for something. Before I knew it, it was silent yet again, but this time it was real. This time, it was forever.

Author Bio:
E.M. Rinaldi lives in Charlotte, North Carolina with her fiancé, Milz, and their slightly psychotic pup, Boone. She works as a Registered Radiologic Technologist,taking pictures of mangled bones for hours on end- then she writes about all the bizarre situations her characters get themselves into while she was away. She is a Second Degree Blackbelt and can’t write a story without at least one fight scene in it.
When she’s not writing or trapped at work, E.M. likes to read (obsessively), clear her DVR, and have all night Buffy marathons with her friends, complete with cookies and cinnamon rolls.
Her love for writing stems from an early age where she would create stories on an old computer program and force anyone within grabbing distance to read them. Not much has changed; be warned: stay out of grabbing distance.

E.M. is a new YA author and her debut novel, Evading The Dark, is available now. ​


Friday, April 27, 2018

Promo Post: ISAN by Mary Ting

Mary Ting
Published by: Vesuvian Books
Publication date: May 1st 2018
Genres: Dystopian, Science Fiction, Young Adult

Find it on Amazon!
Meteors devastated the Earth. World Governments developed plans to help surviving citizens. The United States disbanded and salvageable land was divided into our quadrants—North, South, East, and West—governed by The Remnant Council.
Struggling to survive, seventeen-year-old Ava ends up in juvenile detention, until she is selected for a new life—with a catch. She must be injected with an experimental serum. The results will be life changing. The serum will make her “better.” To receive the serum, Ava agrees to join a program controlled by ISAN, the International Sensory Assassin Network.
While on a mission, she is abducted by a rebel group led by Rhett and told that not only does she have a history with him, but her entire past is a lie perpetuated by ISAN to ensure her compliance. Unsure of who to trust, Ava must decide if her strangely familiar and handsome captor is her enemy or her savior—and time is running out.
When the bodyguard with the gun directed the weapon at Roxy, something dangerous ignited in me knowing my team would be next. This foreign existence in my core wanted blood. It wanted death. It wanted destruction. I became a monster. Helix transformed me into a shallow shell to servitude—a perfect model of ISAN assassin.
I pulled my gun from the side of my boot and took aim. The bodyguard who had shot Roxy’s team went down first, followed by the others.
Don’t look at their faces. Don’t make eye contact. But I did look at their faces, and I did make eye contact.
Each guard held my foster father’s cruel face, his steel malevolent eyes. I saw the man who ripped the happiness out of my soul, who towered over me into submission, and molded me into a terrified little girl. For a heartbeat I froze, knees buckling, heart palpitating with trepidation and regret. I became that little girl. A rat, he had called me, and beat me until I stopped crying from missing my mother.
No more. No more. I am no longer that petrified girl.
Then, one after the other, as hunger for revenge drove me, as if each of the men was him, I shot them until they were all down.

Author Bio:
International Bestselling Author Mary Ting/M. Clarke resides in Southern California with her husband and two children. She enjoys oil painting and making jewelry. Writing her first novel, Crossroads Saga, happened by chance. It was a way to grieve the death of her beloved grandmother, and inspired by a dream she once had as a young girl. When she started reading new adult novels, she fell in love with the genre. It was the reason she had to write one-Something Great. Why the pen name, M Clarke? She tours with Magic Johnson Foundation to promote literacy and her children’s chapter book-No Bullies Allowed.

<a Rafflecopter giveaway XBTBanner1

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

The Maze Runner (Review)

About the Book

Published by Delacorte Press on October 6, 2009

Find it on Amazon!

GoodReads Description

If you ain’t scared, you ain’t human.

When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his name. He’s surrounded by strangers—boys whose memories are also gone.

Nice to meet ya, shank. Welcome to the Glade.

Outside the towering stone walls that surround the Glade is a limitless, ever-changing maze. It’s the only way out—and no one’s ever made it through alive.

Everything is going to change.

Then a girl arrives. The first girl ever. And the message she delivers is terrifying.

Remember. Survive. Run.

My Thoughts

The Maze Runner was not a series that I could get into when it was popular.  I just simply did not think it looked even remotely interesting.  Then, I read The Eye of Minds  by James Dashner and simply was not impressed.  I figured if that couldn't impress me, why would something else by the same guy?  

So here I am a year later, reading and reviewing The Maze Runner.  Just like The Eye of Minds, it was suggested by a student.  Comically enough, by the brother of the girl who suggested The Eye of Minds.

This one started out fast enough.  I enjoyed the fast paced beginning because it truly pulled me into the story.  There was so much intrigue in Thomas not having a shucking clue where he was and how (or why) he got there.  The suspense in this book was absolutely phenomenal.  Dashner definitely created a story that leaves readers wanting more and more and more.

Unfortunately, however, the characters are pretty flat.  They all seem to have the same personality.  I would have loved to see the true colors of these characters so much more.  Yes, Gally and Alby are strongly written.  But what about Chuck?  The kid you're really supposed to give a klunk about near the end and you can't care because the shuck-faced author didn't layer his personality in??? Grrrrrr.

Dashner does have a mind for action, however.  I enjoyed reading all of the battle scenes between the Gladers and the Grievers as well as the terrifying moments throughout the novel. It will most definitely keep you on the edge of your seat.

Finally, I have to mention the ending.  I don't want to spoil anything, but WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?  I'm really not sure if I'm just mad about the things that happened or frustrated enough that I'm excited to read the next book.  Those of you who have read it, what did you think?

Overall, I enjoyed this book.  There were parts where I felt like I'd been reading for ages and it would never end, but I'm glad that I stuck with it.  It's not a favorite, but it is one that I might eventually reread.  I will be reading the other books in the series.

My Rating

Monday, April 23, 2018

Marilyn Monroe: The Defiant Broad Disguised as a Dumb Blonde (Review)

About the Book

Published January 30, 2018 by in60Learning

Find it on Amazon!

I received a copy of this ebook from the publisher in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.

GoodReads Description

Smarter in sixty minutes.
Get smarter in just 60 minutes with in60Learning. Concise and elegantly written non-fiction books and audiobooks help you learn the core subject matter in 20% of the time that it takes to read a typical book. Life is short, so explore a multitude of fascinating historical, biographical, scientific, political, and financial topics in only an hour each.

Marilyn Monroe was famous for playing naïve, “dumb blonde” film characters, but she herself was anything but that. Born to a psychologically unstable mother, she was passed between foster families and orphanages, and was molested on more than one occasion. She married at age 16 to escape this cycle, and while her first husband was deployed, she began to make a name for herself as a pin-up model. From there, Monroe’s career in modeling and film took off, culminating in her establishing her own production company: Marilyn Monroe Productions. While she did everything she could to escape the circumstances of her youth, her family’s predisposition to mental illness caught up to her at the end of her life; this biography of Monroe’s personal and professional life reveals the resilient broad behind the winking blonde.

My Thoughts

When I was asked to review this title, I wasn't really sure what I'd gotten myself into.  I don't generally enjoy reviewing nonfiction.  But, I saw that this was a rather short read so I thought I'd give it a try.  

I'm glad that I did.

This was an incredibly informative book!  It was so jam-packed with facts that I found myself want to keep reading to find out more things that I never knew I didn't know I didn't know.  Instead of reading like an exhausting and dry biography, this felt more like a story which helped to keep my interest.

I was also fascinated by the many pictures included.  Because of friends in college, I'd heard a lot about Marilyn Monroe but these images really brought the facts and rumors to light.  Not only did it include some of the more famous pictures that she is known for, it included images of her with Joe DiMaggio and even as her body was removed from her home.

I think that this may be the gateway piece that someone like me needs to enter the world of non-fiction.  I'm really looking forward to seeing what other titles in60Learning puts out.  If you think that this would work for you as well, I strongly encourage you to visit this link where you can sign up for amazing updates from in60Learning!  

My Rating

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Review: Manga Classics: Sense and Sensibility

About the Book

Manga Classics: Sense and Sensibility by Stacy King, Po Tse, and Jane Austen
Published on August 9, 2016 by Udon Entertainment

Find it on Amazon!

GoodReads Description

Impulsive Marianne Dashwood and cautious Elinor are as different as two sisters could be, yet both are shattered by their father's sudden Death. Elinor's attachment to the reserved Edward Ferrars is torn asunder by family opposition and his own dark secret, while Marianne's brilliant romance with the dashing John Willoughby comes to a tumultuous end in a devastating public betrayal. Can the two sisters overcome these trials to find true, lasting happiness?

Jane Austen's beloved first novel, filled with romance, redemption and social critique, is brought to life for a modern audience in this gorgeous manga-style adaptation!

My Thoughts

Sometimes, it's really easy to be an English teacher.  The students can be interested in the literature or in the creative writing.  Most of the time, it's a struggle.  The kids typically don't see the intrigue or the entertainment in reading classic literature.  Most of the kids will say that they think it's boring or dry because they simply don't want to admit that the archaic language tends to make these stories rather inaccessible.  Many of my students struggle with reading pieces at their reading level, let alone anything that could challenge them.  I mention this not to make my students sound unintelligent, but to emphasize the usefulness of graphic novels in the classroom.

Cue in Udon Entertainment's Manga Classic Series.

Unfortunately, I have not had the pleasure to teach with this series.  I would jump at the chance.  

I found their rendition of Sense and Sensibility absolutely delightful!  They did a terrific job in a tremendous number of ways.  In the interest of brevity, I will only discuss two here.

First, I loved the illustrations.  I have read graphic novels in the past that made it difficult to differentiate between settings and characters.  There was no confusion in this one.  It was so easy to tell which house the action was happening in and who the different characters were.  And, as an added bonus, if there was EVER any question, King and Tse made sure to clearly and artistically label it so that confusion was swiftly blasted away.

Second, the abridgment of the novel was done rather well.  The story was told so well that I believe the most complex details could be easily understood by students.  The language was kept rather similar to Austen's original writing, which would make for an easy transition from the graphic novel to the original should a person seek a more challenging or more "authentic" experience.

The biggest issue that I found, however, was that the digital copy that I received started at the wrong end of the book.  I hated having to click through to the last page and click on the wrong side of the page to turn it.  This definitely took away some of my reading enjoyment.  I understand, and appreciate, the authenticity of the manga style.  I just think that this particular formatting was rather annoying.

Overall, I absolutely loved this book and am excited to read others in the series.

My Rating

Saturday, April 7, 2018

6 Degrees of Separation: April 7, 2018

This meme is brought to you by Books are my Favourite and Best.

This month, the starting book is Memoirs of a Geisha.

I love this book!  It's definitely one of my all time favorites.  I think the movie could have been a lot better though, which brings me to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy because that movie was a major flop.

Again, another favorite book.  This book takes place in England, which brings me to my third book...Pride and Prejudice.

What a great romance!  As long as we're on the topic of terrific romances, please allow me to call up my favorite author, Neil Gaiman and the beautiful love of Tristran and Yvaine in Stardust.

I love Gaiman's ability to create wonderful worlds.  He is such a skilled author.  Lately, there has been a lot of talk about his book, Coraline, in my classroom.

Now, Coraline is a terrific book that involves a very horrific villain, the Beldam.  Now, the last book doesn't have a beldam, but it does have a pretty scary monster.  

 And that, ladies and gents, is how we get from Memoirs of a Geisha  to A Monster Calls through six degrees of separation.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Book Blitz: Mage Rising by Alina Jacobs

Mage Rising
Alina Jacobs
(The Black Tower Series, #1)
Publication date: December 10th 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult

Find it on Amazon!
Zsanette of the Wulfila clan has just had her world turned upside down. Her best friend, Misko, was kicked out of the clan, and her mother just told her she’s the Emperor’s daughter. After stealing away in the night, she travels to the capital city to rescue Misko. On the way she is captured to be trained as a Black Tower mage. 
Teaming up with friends she meets on the way and a small dragon, Zsanette bounces from one mishap to another as she tries to control her unusual and destructive power of magyk. 
As she deals with obnoxious fellow students and races to solve a dangerous mystery, Zsanette finds herself fighting to get past the defenses of the handsome and secretive Garrett Walton, the powerful leader of the mages who fascinates her as much as the enigmatic society of Black Tower mages does.
Garrett slowly raised a hand and gently took the dagger from her.
“It’s me. It’s just me,” he said.
“There was a…a daemon…and it…it tried to kill me… I…” she stammered, trying to explain.
“There’s no such thing as daemons,” he said soothingly, as you would to a child with a bad dream. “Everything is all right.”
“I know what I saw,” she snapped at him, angry at being condescended to.
He ignored her, putting out a hand and petting her hair, repeating, “Everything is all right.”
Zsanette brushed him off and climbed to her feet. Her legs ached, and she felt stiff. Her dragon hopped around, all four legs straight out, spitting acid that landed on the floor in smoking droplets. He had obviously seen the monster.
She tried again to explain. “It was a skeleton; I touched it. It had wings and claws.” She flexed her fingers to mimic the creature.
Garrett stood and stroked the side of her scratched face with the back of his hand letting his magyk heal her wounds. As he did so, he looked into her eyes, searching for something.

Author Bio:
Alina is an architect by day, writer by night. Her favorite thing to do is curl up with a hot drink and a good book. She lives in a large Southern city in an old house with an old dog.
Alina Jacobs is a pen name.


Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Review: Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman

About the Book

Published on December 14, 2014 by HarperTeen

GoodReads Description

Newbery Medal-winning Seedfolks from Paul Fleischman tells thirteen stories from diverse perspectives—young and old, immigrant and native, haunted and hopeful. A fractured neighborhood unites with just a few seeds, turning a drab empty lot in Cleveland into beautiful green garden.

Seedfolks has been chosen as a state- and city-wide read in communities across the country for its inspiring message of unity.

Kim begins the garden, planting a few lima beans to connect with her father who died when she was a baby in Vietnam. Then Tío Juan, a farmer from Guatemala, gains purpose when he teaches the neighborhood children how to plant. Soon curious neighbors join in and together they grow a beautiful garden. With each bean sprout and cucumber blossom the residents of Gibs Street find hope and meaning in their little green paradise.

As the Christian Science Monitor noted, "The size of this slim volume belies the profound message of hope it contains."

My Thoughts

I was introduced to this book by my town's community theater.  They had come to our school to discuss an upcoming presentation of this novel as a one-woman play.  At first, I was rather put off.  I didn't think that the premise of the novel sounded interesting and I knew that I had to read it because our school was going to go see the play, but that didn't mean I was going to enjoy it.

I was wrong.  I ADORED this book and devoured it in one night.  I simply could not put the darn thing down!  I actually finished it the same night that I finished The Guttersnipes.  And now that I have my seventh grade homeroom reading it, they are really getting into it as well.  In fact, one student got so caught up in it, he read straight past what was assigned and wanted to keep going. 

My favorite thing about this book is the message.  I have never seen another piece that brings so many people together despite any generational or cultural boundaries.  I loved the image of a garden growing amidst the trash and a community of a wide variety of individuals coming together to beautify the place and to grow it into something that benefits an entire community. 

Fleischman showed true skill by writing each chapter from a different character's point of view while telling a single cohesive story the entire way through.  Not only does this allow for absolutely stunning character development, it allows the plot to be more complex. 

There are very few books that I can't give any constructive criticism or negative feedback.  This is one of those rare occurrences.

My Rating

Monday, April 2, 2018

Book Blitz: The Grown-Ups' Crusade

The Grown Ups’ Crusade
Audrey Greathouse
(The Neverland Wars #3)
Published by: Clean Teen Publishing
Publication date: March 27th 2018
Genres: Fairy Tales, Fantasy, Young Adult
Gwen has returned to Neverland with Peter Pan and the lost children, but this time, the adults are following close behind.
The Anomalous Activity Department has plans to finally conquer Neverland by bringing the final battle to the vulnerable island. The children will have to rally fairies, mermaids, and allies from other magical realms to stand a chance against the shadow-casting army of grown-ups heading for them.
The black-coat soldiers are far from their only problem. Lasiandra is missing. No one has seen her since Gwen left her at the lakeside with Jay, and the mermaids searching have found only grave omens in the stars. With the island on the cusp of a war that threatens to strip the land of its magic, the last thing Peter and Gwen need is the ancient flagship that appears on their horizon, sailing pirates straight for their shores.
When the battle begins amid old and new enemies, Gwen’s maturity will be a double-edged sword. She will either grow stronger or grow up… maybe both.
Gwen gathered fruit as fast as she could in the dim of the early morning. Mangos and marionberries, peaches and papayas, star fruit and oranges… she shoved the land fruit into her bag, never breaking pace as she trekked weast across the island. She needed to get to the coast and back before any fairies awoke. The entire fairy population had indulged in joyful revelries the night before, celebrating some amorphous holiday unknown to humans. The dawn would find even the most temperate fairies still lolling in drunken dreams and merry slumber. But dawn had not yet arrived and not everyone slept; stars still speckled the bluing sky and certain inhabitants of Neverland were still speaking with them.
Tromping over vines and fungi, Gwen bushwhacked her way through the forest-jungle on anxious feet. The mermaids had not been helpful as of late.
The new mermaids she’d met wouldn’t even give her their names. Eglantine and Cynara had been snide at best, and contemptuous at worst. Gwen wouldn’t have minded it—she didn’t care what mermaids thought of her—but she felt certain they knew what had happened to Lasiandra and refused to explain. This drowsy morning offered her a chance to tempt them with an overabundance of land fruit without anyone noticing. She would persuade the mermaids to cede their starry secrets and hurry back before any stray fairy or curious child found her at the incriminating lagoon.
Gwen reached the wood’s end and hurried down the steps carved into the chalky cliff face. She moved so fast she half-flew toward the slender figures half-submerged in the lagoon.
Gwen had not seen Lasiandra since the night she escaped with Jay from Lake Agana. In the chaos, she had never retrieved the scale from Lasiandra, and thus lost her ability to call her friend. She hadn’t worried about it—until days and weeks passed without sight of her at the lagoon.
“What business have you with Lasiandra?” Eglantine had demanded last time Gwen visited. “What matter is she to you?”
“I’m just worried about her,” Gwen had answered, innocent and truthful. The region’s entire Anomalous Activity Department had been on duty that night, trying to apprehend lost children and capture whatever magic followed them. Lasiandra’s disappearance was ominous, to say the least. A few fairies had not returned from the mission, and there was no question of what fate had befallen them.
In response, the mermaids had only mocked her, contorting their melodic voices into cackling imitations of her land-dwelling accent, “I’m just worried about her.”
“Worried about her! Concerned about a mermaid?” Cynara had declared, insulted and amused. “We are not of such a feeble nature as you landmaids. Mermaids have more strength in a single scale than you have in all of your heart. You need not worry for a mermaid, girl. We can take care of ourselves.”
Gwen had wanted to believe her.

Author Bio:
Audrey Greathouse is a lost child in a perpetual quest for her own post-adolescent Neverland. Originally from Seattle, she earned her English B.A. from Southern New Hampshire University's online program while backpacking around the west coast and pretending to be a student at Stanford. A pianist, circus artist, fire-eater, street mime, swing dancer, and novelist, Audrey wears many hats wherever she is. She has grand hopes for the future which include publishing more books and owning a crockpot. You can find her at