Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Book Blitz and Giveaway: Skin Hunter by Tania Hutley

Skin Hunter
Tania Hutley
Publication date: June 18th 2019
Genres: Dystopian, Science Fiction, Young Adult
She didn’t want to do it… But she was desperate.
Trying to escape the dangerous streets of Old Triton, the buried city, Milla takes the ultimate risk
Could a dead girl’s identity be her way out? A ticket to a richer, brighter world high above the muck and gloom of her old life?
Now she’s part of a high tech contest, with a prize beyond money, fame and everything she has ever known. A chance to become something… new.
But if anyone finds out who Milla really is, she’s dead.
The other competitors come from privilege, their faces and bodies tweaked to perfection. Rich and handsome Cale could be the most dangerous of all. Why is he so interested in a scarred, ugly “sinker” like Milla?
To survive, she needs to be brave.
To win, she needs to evolve.
Just try and stop her.
Skin Hunter is an upper YA science fiction novel – a futuristic, dystopian thrill-ride with a spark of romance.

Author Bio:
Tania Hutley is a USA Today bestselling author who loves sci fi movies and wishes she lived in the Whedon-verse.
Tania also writes sexy contemporary romance using a top-secret pen name. She could tell you what that pen name is, but then she'd have to turn you into a chicken.


Wednesday, June 5, 2019

The Top Three Reasons I Love The Little Prince

About the Book

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
First published in April 1943

GoodReads Description

Moral allegory and spiritual autobiography, The Little Prince is the most translated book in the French language. With a timeless charm it tells the story of a little boy who leaves the safety of his own tiny planet to travel the universe, learning the vagaries of adult behaviour through a series of extraordinary encounters. His personal odyssey culminates in a voyage to Earth and further adventures.

The Top Three Reasons I Love The Little Prince

  1. The Little Prince provides its audience with several important moral lessons.  The strongest of these discuss love, loss, and the imagination.  Each of these things are too easily neglected in our adult lives. We look more toward money and daily problems than to the strength of love.  I know that this sounds rather cliche, but these are the small things that turn out to be BIG things.  These are the things that we need to hold onto in order to improve our world. 
  2. Death is handled not as a horrifying thing but as a passage to a new part of life.  I think that this is one of the most beautiful and most peaceful ways to explain death.  I truly think that if we taught our children about death the way that this book teaches it, death would sound less terrifying to our children.  Death is final and it is sad for those left behind, but it is a permanent transition and a part of life.
  3. I am so in love with the illustrations in this book.  I know that most people look for more realistic art or more advanced art skills, but the child-like illustrations truly bring the moral lessons of this novel to life.  I think this book would lose a lot of its charm and meaning if the illustrations were changed at all.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Book Blitz and Giveaway: Silver Batal and the Water Dragon Races

Silver Batal and the Water Dragon Races
K.D. Halbrook
(Water Dragon Races, #1)
Published by: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Publication date: June 4th 2019
Genres: Fantasy, Middle-Grade
Set in a vivid, Arab-inspired world filled with friendly and fearsome water dragons, K.D. Halbrook’s Silver Batal and the Water Dragon Races is a middle-grade fantasy adventure, with illustrations by Ilse Gort, that’s perfect for fans of Tui T. Sutherland, Sayantani DasGupta, and Roshani Chokshi.
Silver’s dreams of becoming a legendary water dragon racer come true when she befriends a rare dragon that can swim and fly.

Thirteen-year-old Silver Batal calls the desert home, but her heart belongs to the waters. Although she’s expected to become a jeweler like her father, Silver harbors a secret and forbidden wish to race water dragons. Destiny comes calling when her friendship with a mysterious old woman leads her to Hiyyan, a baby dragon that can swim and fly.
Risking everything, Silver, Hiyyan, and her resourceful cousin Brajon set off across the desert to join the legendary races in the royal city. But the road to Calidia is filled with danger, and the trio must band together as they encounter ferocious cave beasts, clever desert foxes, and cutthroat competition.
Nebekker whistled. “Come on out, pretty one. My turn to be your mama for a little while.”
Silver waited, pretending not to be watching. Who in the desert was Nebekker talking to? Surely there couldn’t be children down in the cavern.
Nebekker whistled again. Her teeth flashed as she grinned. Silver followed her gaze across the river. There was something moving among the stalactites. Crouched…or even slithering. Something that matched the blue light and pale silver of the cavern.
The thing across the river purred.
The sound touched Silver to her very core. She got to her feet and moved toward the river without thinking, as though a string tied to her middle pulled her. There was no staying away if she’d wanted to. The need to meet the creature on the other side of the river was far too great. She stepped into the river.
The ice-cold water over her boots slowed her down for only a moment. But that was long enough for Nebekker to grab her arm and hold her in place.
“Of course this would happen.” Nebekker sighed wearily.
“Let me go!” Silver had to get to the other side of the river.
“Stay right here. He’ll come to you. The stars know it’ll affect the both of you.”
In the back of her mind, Silver wondered what the old woman meant, but she didn’t ask because the pull to cross the river was still so powerful.
“I have to…”
She struggled to free herself, but Nebekker was incredibly strong. Just then a shadow slipped into the river with a splash and made its way to Silver and Nebekker. Silver knelt into the water, waiting. She didn’t know what for or if she was in danger. She only knew that she had to open her arms and greet it.
When the creature finally burst from the water, it bowled Silver over. She landed on her back hard, rocks digging into her spine. Her arms and chest became even colder than before, soaking in the river water. But she didn’t care. She was awash with euphoria. Within seconds, the warmth of the creature bled into her skin. Its happy heartbeat thudded in time with Silver’s. It purred again and licked her face until the smell of fish and river weeds overwhelmed her nostrils.
Silver laughed and opened her eyes. A pair of obsidian-dark eyes looked back down at her from a sky-blue face ringed with white.
“Another Aquinder,” Silver marveled. “A little one!”
“If your definition of little means the size of a house.” Nebekker stood over them. Her hands were on her hips and she didn’t seem particularly happy. “Kirja’s son. Another troublemaker, if you ask me.”
“No, he’s perfect.” Silver’s heart swelled nearly to bursting. “And I won’t have you calling him names or else.”
Nebekker snorted. “Or else what?”
“I don’t know what. But I’ll think of something. I’d do anything for…for…what’s his name?”
The water dragon licked Silver some more, then rolled over and let his tongue loll out to the side, just like Kirja had. Silver rubbed his belly.

Author Bio:
K.D. Halbrook is an author of Middle Grade and Young Adult novels (as Kristin Halbrook). Her debut Middle Grade book, SMOKE AND MIRRORS (Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books) was called "captivating," "enchanting," and "artful" in trade reviews and, in a starred review, the BCCB said, "The novel's wistful prose and a relatable search for the Light will be rewarding for readers who can see in the Smoke any number of metaphors for the things that haunt us."
K.D.'s next Middle Grade is the first in an exciting series: SILVER BATAL AND THE WATER DRAGON RACES, releasing in June, 2019 from Macmillan/Henry Holt BFYR.
K.D. is a graduate of the University of Washington and lives with her family and floofy goldendoodle in Seattle. When not writing and sharing her love of books with readers, she enjoys cooking and baking, running and triathlon training, yoga, gardening, painting, hiking, and travel. She would love a dragon that swims AND flies.


Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Review: The Mosaic by Chris Keaton and Rick Taubold

About the Book

The Mosaic by Chris Keaton and Rick Taubold
Published on July 12, 2017

GoodReads Description

Twin girls discover a mystical world contained within a crumbling mosaic, and they must restore it before an evil witch seizes its power, even if doing so could tear their family apart. 

Secrets. It all started while looking for secret passages. Chloe Tozier’s impulsive twin, Zoe, insisted that all old mansions had them. Grandma denied the existence of any here. Except for the boarded-up service elevator that she conveniently forgot to mention before the girls discovered it, the elevator that didn’t seem to go anywhere. They had been living in this private museum with their grandparents since the death of their parents during an archaeology trip to Egypt.

Mysteries. Why have a museum in a tiny town in the middle of Kansas when what’s on display is nothing unusual? Sometimes packages arrived wrapped in plain brown paper that the girls never saw again. Grandpa disappeared overnight and they haven’t heard from him since. And before going to Egypt their parents had mentioned something about a mysterious mosaic. Maybe Zoe was right about family secrets. Maybe it was time to dig further.

My Thoughts

I really liked this book!  I had it on my TBR for a long time, but I just hadn't gotten to it.  Now that I have, I'm pretty excited that I did!  

Chloe Tozier was a phenomenal character.  She was someone that I could easily relate to as a curious bookworm.  Although she has a twin, she's just more believable.  I can't think of anyone as fearless or as reckless as Zoe Tozier, but I can think of several people who are as reserved and cautious as Chloe.  Together, they make a fabulous team because they balance each other out.

The world-building in this book was done excellently as well.  I loved that I could picture each place that the girls visited to retrieve pieces of the mosaic.  The descriptions of each of the mythical creatures came to life in very vivid ways.  

Unfortunately, I felt like a lot of the action was rushed through.  A lot of time is spent bringing Dahwen to the mosaic.  Once she arrives, however, the battle ends rather quickly.  I think that it would have been a huge improvement if the authors would have brought some more description to the battle.  The audience is so invested in the characters that it would have kept us on the edge of our seats were there more details.

Overall, I thought this was a really good book!  There were parts that made me want to cry and others that I thought were absolutely beautifully written.  I look forward to seeing what Keaton and Taubold give us next.

My Rating

Monday, May 27, 2019

Book Blitz and Giveaway: Kingdom of Sand and Wishes

Kingdom of Sand & Wishes: A Limited Edition Collection of Aladdin Retellings
Publication date: May 24th 2019
Genres: Fairy Tales, Fantasy, Young Adult
Aladdin, but not as you remember it….
On the dusty streets, around the bustling bazaars, being overlooked by a Sultan’s Palace was a land. A land of magic, secrets and treasures buried deep beneath the desert.
Through Arabian nights, dark forces are at work. Dark forces that can threaten the peace of everyone in the Kingdom. Watch our authors as they answer the question, can three wishes save the day?
Join our award winning and USA Today best selling authors for nine action packed fantasy and contemporary retellings with Sultans, sorcerers, romance and more magic than a genie’s lamp can hold.
One click now for your happily ever after….
Three Wishes by J.A.Armitage
Her future was mapped out…
She would one day be queen…
When a curse was cast, trapping Jini in an old lamp, her life ended along with everyone she had ever known and loved. Centuries of darkness passed and then a young man made a wish.
He wanted to be the Sultan.
So did she.
The only problem? There already was a Sultan and his mysterious son had already laid claim to the throne
Read this powerful new rendition of the age old classic, Aladdin, where things are not as they seem and magic might not be enough to save them all.
The Djinn Curse By Margo Ryerkerk
How far will you go to reclaim your freedom?
My name is Roxelana, and my human life was stolen from me.
Turned by force into a djinn, I’ve waited for 100 years for a shot at freedom.
My current assignment in Istanbul presents an opportunity to break the connection to my lamp and escape my eternal slavery. There’s just one problem. Doing so means sacrificing the sultan prince to the king of djinns. I shouldn’t care about the prince, but I can’t stop myself. He has a pull on me I can’t explain. Coupled with his kindness and the care he shows his people, I’m in deep trouble.
When push comes to shove, who will I choose? Him or myself?
Filled with adventure, love, magic, and a strong heroine, this clean YA Fairy Tale is the perfect read!
If you like K.M Shea, Melanie Cellier, and Kiera Cass, you’ll love this!
Granting Wishes (A Once Upon a Curse Prequel) by Kaitlyn Davis
She’s about to discover a whole new world…
“His words come back to me—magic is the law. I guess I’m making my own set of rules.”
Alanna thought rock climbing in Yosemite National Park would be the trip of a lifetime. Until an earthquake strikes and she finds herself plummeting to her death. But instead of slamming into the forest floor, Alanna drops into a secret underground cave where she’s confronted by the impossible—magic.
A mysterious man named Erick uses incredible powers to save her life, then tells her that his magical world has collided with earth, merging the two together. Alanna writes it off as crazy, until he shows her a vision of her brother being dragged down a sandy cobblestone street in chains. Crazy or not, she’ll do anything to save him.
As Alanna and Erick team up to rescue her brother from the clutches of a decrepit sorcerer king, fate intervenes in the form of a handsome prince. Alanna doesn’t know who to trust, but in this foreign land, flying solo just might get her killed…
Don’t miss GRANTING WISHES, a fantasy romance from bestselling author Kaitlyn Davis that reimagines the classic fairy tale of Aladdin.
Sultana of Amethyst Sands by Emma Savant
A beautiful genie craves her freedom. A handsome prince longs to heal his kingdom. And a con artist named Aladdah has big plans for them all.
Between theft, sleight of hand, and her indentured servitude to a powerful magician, Aladdah has always managed to survive the brutal streets of Citron. But survival isn’t enough for a woman of Aladdah’s ambition. She craves more—more food, more power, and more magic than her master has seen fit to teach her.
When she demands a greater challenge, her master sends her on a mission into an enchanted cavern beneath the desert sands. There, in an abandoned garden glittering with the lights of precious jewels, Aladdah discovers a genie whose power and beauty are matched only by her determination to escape the bonds of her servitude.
But the genie is bound by her magic lamp, subject to Aladdah’s every wish, and it’s an opportunity no self-respecting street rat could resist. Aladdah forms a plan to use the genie to destroy the sultan and establish herself as a new ruler who will turn the savage inequality of Citron on its head.
But the sultan has many protectors, from his court magicians to the beautiful, idealistic son who infuriates and enchants Aladdah in equal measure. Her genie fights her at every turn. And her old master will not be dismissed so easily, not when he has a plan to gain power the likes of which the kingdoms have never seen.
Sultana of Amethyst Sands is a romantic, fast-paced adventure through the sands of a faraway kingdom of magic, genies, and wishes come true.


Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Review: Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate

About the Book

Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate
Published by Feiwel & Friends on August 21, 2007

GoodReads Description

Kek comes from Africa. In America he sees snow for the first time, and feels its sting. He's never walked on ice, and he falls. He wonders if the people in this new place will be like the winter – cold and unkind.

In Africa, Kek lived with his mother, father, and brother. But only he and his mother have survived, and now she's missing. Kek is on his own. Slowly, he makes friends: a girl who is in foster care; an old woman who owns a rundown farm, and a cow whose name means "family" in Kek's native language. As Kek awaits word of his mother's fate, he weathers the tough Minnesota winter by finding warmth in his new friendships, strength in his memories, and belief in his new country.

Bestselling author Katherine Applegate presents a beautifully wrought novel about an immigrant's journey from hardship to hope.

Home of the Brave is a 2008 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year.

My Thoughts

I am definitely becoming a big fan of Applegate's writing!  I love that she finds ways to address important issues in ways that can be easily understood by younger students.  She not only teaches children about these issues, but finds ways to encourage empathy.  I think this is a phenomenal way to encourage our youth to become caring members of society.

I loved that Kek is such a complex character.  He wants to learn and he is so grateful for his new place in Minnesota.  In fact, he is so truly thankful for most things that are generally taken for granted.  Although he is overwhelmed by all that is new and exciting, he strives to hang on to the ways of Sudan.  He wants so badly to be considered a man by his people.  He wants to care for cows and be kind to people.  He is a strong little guy going through challenges that would be hard for most adults.  The fact that he takes it all in stride and does his best with every situation is absolutely inspiring.

I can't say that I had a least favorite character in this book.  However, I would have loved to have heard more from Ganwar.  He was definitely the strong and silent type, but something was eating away at his insides.  I would have loved to see him get a little more resolution as well.  I know that sometimes in life, that resolution just isn't coming.  Perhaps that was the point Applegate wanted to make here as well.

Overall, I absolutely devoured this book.  As a verse novel, it was a quick read.  It was a very meaningful read, however.  I definitely think that a lot of the substance and poignancy would have been lost if it had been in prose form.  I look forward to reading more from Applegate!

My Rating

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Book Blitz and Giveaway: Neliem by Clare DiLiscia

Clare DiLiscia
Published by: Month9Books
Publication date: May 21st 2019
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Half the population of the island of Madera are dead, killed by an unforgiving and indiscriminate plague. Oriana dreams of escaping her life of ruthless cruelty from the people who now rule over those who remain. No telling whom the plague will strike next, Oriana means to find freedom for herself and her people. Drawing strength from ancient tales of her enemy, young Oriana transforms herself from victim to warrior with the help of a mysterious and powerful dagger given to her by a kind and dying boy.
Years later, during her enemy’s betrothal ritual, Ezra, a boy she has never before seen, selects her as his mate. With servitude her only option, Oriana accepts the offer. Whisked away to a seemingly perfect world, Oriana discovers sinister secrets at every turn, including the identity of Tristan, a boy with whom she shares an undeniable but impossible connection.
Why would a boy she doesn’t know wish her to be his betrothed? Why does she feel such a strong pull toward a stranger? Someone in Ezra’s family not only knows the answer to both those questions, but also about the dagger Oriana possesses. He will do anything to stop the union. Now, with everything on the line, Oriana turns inward to find the strength she needs to seize the full power of the dagger so that she may protect herself and save her people.
I cringe; not wanting to confess the extent of my obsession of finding the boy I’ve convinced myself for too long never existed. After I’d miraculously healed from the fever, I went half mad looking everywhere for him. Like a maniac, I searched in every room, closet and under every desk at the schoolhouse for any indication where he might’ve gone. Then I took it one step further. Dressed like Neliem himself, I snuck at the crack of dawn into the Untouchable section of town which we are forbidden to enter. I scourged the marketplace, the temples of their false gods, the fields, the hills, our cave, any place I could think of, going as far as to risk my own life for weeks to find him. Just for the chance to see him and touch him again, I would’ve done anything. Me, who hated to be touched, ached for this boy the way a dying man aches for water in the desert.

Author Bio:
Clare Di Liscia grew up near the hills surrounding Dodger's Stadium. For University, Clare attended KU Leuven, in Belgium. She graduated with a Film Degree from Cal State Northridge, earning Dean's List recognition. Neliem won 1st place HM in SCBWI's Sue Alexander.


Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Review: Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate

About the Book

Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate
Published by Feiwel & Friends on September 22, 2015

GoodReads Description

In her first novel since winning the Newbery Medal, Katherine Applegate delivers an unforgettable and magical story about family, friendship, and resilience.

Jackson and his family have fallen on hard times. There's no more money for rent. And not much for food, either. His parents, his little sister, and their dog may have to live in their minivan. Again.

Crenshaw is a cat. He's large, he's outspoken, and he's imaginary. He has come back into Jackson's life to help him. But is an imaginary friend enough to save this family from losing everything?

Beloved author Katherine Applegate proves in unexpected ways that friends matter, whether real or imaginary.

My Thoughts

After reading The One and Only Ivan, I was absolutely drawn to this book.  I knew that I would love it because I love Applegate's work.  I was a little nervous, though, because I don't usually read Middle Grade books.  I was concerned that it would be a bit too "young" for me.  I am pleased to report that I was absolutely amazed by this one.  In fact, I am looking into getting a full set of this novel for my classroom.

Growing up, life wasn't always perfect.  There were deaths and illness in our family, much like in every other family.  However, my parents strongly believed that my brother, sister, and I were kids and should be able to act like it.  We knew when people were sick and we were glad to help out, but it was not something that constantly burdened us.  If there were any financial troubles, I still don't know about them.  We were kids. They were the adults.  We had our places and our jobs.  I bring all of this up to explain the absolute shock and dismay I felt when I realized that Jackson knows exactly what's going on with his family and that he felt responsible for his family.  Jackson's ability to care for them and to do what he intuitively knew they needed him to impressed me.  I really struggled with the fact that any kid should have to live like that.  I'm not completely naive.  I know that there are several kids who are in the same position as Jackson, but it was a massive wake up call to see what that role might be like.  I am not the only person who needs this jolt, however. There are many people in our nation who strongly believe that the only reason a person would be homeless is if they are lazy.  Applegate's writing calls attention to the truth of the matter.  That homeless people may simply be suffering as a result of bad circumstances.  That we are all able to lend a helping hand.

Applegate's ability to build unbelievably dynamic characters permeates this novel.  Jackson is a funny kid with a very old soul.  He needs friends and he needs to be honest with himself and those around him.  He is a kid that any of my students would be able to relate to.  He demonstrates what youth is like in today's world.  Applegate's creation of such a realistic character was a wonderful pairing for his imaginary friend-a giant cat.  Jackson and Crenshaw represent the worlds of realism and imagination respectively and demonstrate the need for both parts of life.  

I am absolutely in love with this novel. Even though it has been a few days since I finished it, I am still considering the many themes that Applegate brings to life. Although this is a Middle Grade novel, Applegate makes sure that there is something for everyone.

My Rating

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Review: Silence the Echo by Alea Carroll

About the Book

Silence the Echo by Alea Carroll
Published by North Node Press on December 30, 2018

GoodReads Description

Humankind has forgotten its obligation to live lightly upon our planet.

Civilization is about to disappear.

Twelve thousand years ago, the ice age ends precipitously. Cataclysm looms. Unless preserved for the few who shall inherit Earth, twenty millennia of history and invention will be forever lost.

Gifted young telepaths are recruited from the old clans to learn the ancient physics of time travel. Their mission: teach people of the future how to access a crystalline Hall of Records.

As seas rise, storms rage, and tremors persist, spirited Seerce and her clever ally, Aaron, find evidence of experimental energy production. Why do the best minds of science accept a catastrophic fate, when they ought to intervene in what disturbs Earth?

Quickly, these two rebels and Seerce’s forbidden lover find themselves under the scrutiny of a powerful master of esoteric arts. He has his own design upon Seerce’s destiny.

My Thoughts

I am struggling with my review of this book.  There were a number of things that I considered very well done and that I would have loved to see more of.  There were also a number of things that annoyed me and that I thought should never have been in this book at all.  Unfortunately, there was no middle point with this book.  There were things that I hated and things that I loved, nothing that I simply liked. Please keep in mind that these lists are in no particular order.

What I Liked...

  • Seerce is a very well-written character.  I love that Carroll really gives you the opportunity to find out who she is.  Seerce is a strong minded, caring individual who truly seeks the best for those around her.  She is also a little selfish and she tends to let her pride get the better of her. I was excited to encounter such a human character.
  • I thought that the premise of this novel was very well thought out.  It was obvious that Carroll had a great big world in her mind that she wanted to put down on paper.  I appreciated the time and effort that she took to build this world.
  • I liked that this book was so inclusive.  Carroll could have chosen to abstain from writing any LGBTQ+ characters, but instead she chose to include a lesbian couple.  I felt like this added even more diversity to an already beautiful world.

What I Didn't Like As Much...

  • Although I have read the entire book, I'm really not sure what it was about.  I mean, there was so much that had to do with Seerce's schooling and the Order. The bits about their mission were glazed over, though.  And then there were the parts with her relationships that seemed to come and go.  Even those, however, seemed to make up only a small amount of the novel.  I finished this book a few days ago and even now I'm not sure what I'm supposed to be focused on.  I think that Carroll's goal was to show that there is a variety of elements in each person's life and that not a single one of these should overpower the rest.  I just don't think that point was well enough developed to stand out for most readers.
  • I have a serious love/hate relationship with the ending of this novel.  I liked that every loose end was tied up.  Unfortunately, I felt like the loose ends were tied so rapidly that it was more thrown together than tied in a neat bow.  
  • Carroll definitely knows how to write with adjectives.  Her work is colorful and vivid.  Her writing style, however, tends to cover a lot of this beauty up.  I felt like she so badly wanted to write with a flair of Tolkien's style that she forgot to add her own flair.  This means that the book reads a bit slow in several places that should have been exciting.  


I liked the basic plot of this book.  I loved that Carroll created a romance novel for scifi/fantasy nerds.  I especially loved that she created her own world.  I just wish that it was a bit more developed.  I believe that this is Carroll's first book and I look forward to reading more from her in the future.  I am excited to see how her writing style develops.

My Rating

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Review: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

About the Book

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Published by Balzer + Bray on February 28, 2017

GoodReads Description

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

My Thoughts

Please allow me to be honest.  I had a very hard time reviewing this novel.  I am a white lady living in a very white part of Minnesota.  I teach a total of three African American students in all six of my classes.  Reading this novel was like opening a whole different part of the world.  I am really not sure about how much of this was exaggerated for the purpose of entertainment and how much is based on the way that things really are.  As a result of my lack of knowledge, I don't think I'm the right person to speak about this book from a political/racial point of view.  I do, however, know quite a bit about readability and literature in general.  Please allow me to write my review about the things I do know about.

Angie Thomas is a master of characterization.  If you have been reading my blog for any amount of time, you know that I find it impossible to get into a book when I don't care about the characters. Thomas' characters destroyed me.  I know that Khalil really didn't spend much time in this novel, but I cried when he died.  After all, he was just a kid! He was trying to take care of his friend. I can't imagine being Starr in this particular instance, watching my good friend get murdered right before my eyes.  I don't think that I would have the personal strength to come back from that.  This, however, is where Starr really shines. Not only does she choose to grow from a timid follower to a brave leader.  She stands up against her friends, her society, and even her own comfort.  I hope that every one of my students chooses to read this book so that they can learn from Starr's wonderful example of pure bravery and courage.

Throughout the entire novel, I fell deeper and deeper in love with Thomas' writing style.  She may be an adult herself, but she knows how to get into the mindset of a teenager with impressive accuracy.  Too often, adult writers strive to make teenagers seem whinier than they truly are.  Many (not all) adult writers forget that, like adults, kids have worries and fears and concerns about things that matter.  It isn't all just about their hair products or dating.  Thank you, Thomas, for bringing a fresh sense of reality to the Young Adult genre.  

I absolutely adore this book.  It is one that I put off reading because of my limited knowledge with the politics surrounding it.  After reading it, I will admit that it is truly eye-opening.  I am excited to read more from Angie Thomas.

My Rating

Friday, April 5, 2019

Review: The Death Cure by James Dashner

About the Book

The Death Cure by James Dashner
Published on October 11, 2011 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers

GoodReads Description

It’s the end of the line.

WICKED has taken everything from Thomas: his life, his memories, and now his only friends—the Gladers. But it’s finally over. The trials are complete, after one final test.

Will anyone survive?

What WICKED doesn’t know is that Thomas remembers far more than they think. And it’s enough to prove that he can’t believe a word of what they say.

The truth will be terrifying.

Thomas beat the Maze. He survived the Scorch. He’ll risk anything to save his friends. But the truth might be what ends it all.

The time for lies is over.

My Thoughts

Well, my student is rather proud of me!  I told him that I would finish these books and I have.  I guess he still expects me to read the prequels too, so you can look forward to those reviews as well.

I liked the way that this installment started.  It was fast-paced and I cared about what happened to Thomas. I was excited to figure out what the cure would be and to finally understand why WICKED was good.  

As I read further, my opinion changed drastically.

What I Liked

  • I thought that the relationship between Minho and Thomas stayed strong.  I loved that this was the one thing I could count on throughout all of the books.  They definitely had each other's backs when the going got rough, which was most of the time.
  • I loved that Brenda went from being a relatively small character to an important one.  I am a sucker for character development and there was a little bit more with Brenda than with the others.  

What I Didn't Like

  • What in the world was Newt's note supposed to be?  I really don't understand the secrecy? Why didn't he just pull Thomas aside and tell him what his wishes were? That way, Thomas would have been able to fulfill his request sooner and Newt wouldn't have needed to suffer.  I felt like this was simply added drama that detracted from the rest of the novel.
  • This book did not answer any real questions.  This open ending left me still wondering why in the heck WICKED is good.  Why did the head of WICKED simply give up after so long? There was so much work put into this project and they simply gave up? This does not seem very believable.  
  • I hated that there was very little character development in this novel.  Growth is necessary in a world where you have to fight for your life.  You have to learn so much and endure too many things to remain the same person that you always were.  And yet these characters remain flat.

I'm truly hoping that many of my unanswered questions are answered in the prequels.  There is simply too much left wide open and too much that is underdeveloped in this series.

My Rating

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

An Interview with Sebastiano Lanza

Hi there!  Today, I'm excited to share my interview with Sebastiano Lanza after the publication of his novel That Which Must Happen.

That Which Must Happen is a literary novel about Benjamin, a child able to foresee and forestall events unfolding in his life and that of others. Yet he dreads to reshape them, for these events intertwine each and every existence in a delicate balance. However, when he senses his sole caretaker’s imminent death, he feels he must intervene.

In a fevered state, Benjamin was abandoned in the midst of a winter night, and is now sheltered by Ms Penter, a woman grieving over the loss of her own child. As he’s nurtured back to health, and his presence helps the woman to partially let go of her grief, Benjamin is devastated each and every time he glimpses her imminent demise.

Despite his attempts to alter the events leading to her death, Benjamin knows he won’t be able to save Ms Penter without damaging the delicate balance which entwines each and every life. The same balance he was born to preserve.

That Which Must Happen tackles the theme of fate.
Not to be understood as a series of immutable events leading to a predetermined destination, rather, as a series of interconnected events which can be influenced by our choices.

What is the most unethical practice in the publishing industry?

The saying goes, "Never judge a book by its cover." The publishing industry is based on, "Judge a book by its back cover." While, yes, there must be a criteria to decide which books get an in-depth look and which don't, I feel it's oversimplified. Still, I wouldn't say it's unethical. There's also a tendency to avoid risk altogether, hence stagnation in the long run.

Does writing energize or exhaust you?

Definitely energizes me. The writing in itself is the better part. To imagine all those tiny details, and to see what was on your mind on paper is one the best feelings ever. Especially when that one thing you thought would be great to write turns out to be even better than you could have ever imagined. There's something to it that makes you think, "I'm the greatest!"

What are common traps for aspiring writers?

Wanting to overdo it. Possibly, I'm guilty of it as well. Assess your level at first, and be realistic about it. Then work to improve it, and strive to be the best in what you do. Never be afraid to go down unbeaten paths.

                                                                      Does a big ego help or hurt writers?

Definitely! This is no walk in the park. As a writer, you'll hear just about anything about your novel. That same novel on which you spent countless hours obsessing over the best placement of an innocuous comma. A big ego helps, as long as it doesn't become overly so. You'll still need to be able to pick up the useful criticism to mould yourself into a better writer.

What is your writing Kryptonite?

My big ego says I don't have one thus far.

Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?

The day I'll stop trying to write original stories about concepts and ideas that have rarely been looked at in depth, I'll probably stop to write altogether. So far, writing has felt so good to me because it gave me the tools to put to paper ideas I've always been fascinated with. In short, it kept me entertained and interested. For me, that's crucial to try and produce the best writing I can.

Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?

As long as this hypothetical individual is a good observer, I don't see why not. He doesn't need to feel a situation strongly, he just needs to observe it in his imagination and describe it. He'd also be subtle about it. A slight facial expression is worth more than hundred and hundred of words. A situation described so accurately can make the reader feel an emotion, whilst the writer doesn't necessarily need to. Hypothetically.

Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

I'm definitely not the type to write a series. On the long run the chances are high for it to become watered down and to make little sense. I much prefer for every novel I write to stand on its own. It makes it more enjoyable for me and, I hope, for the reader. Still, I guess one could say that my works (future ones, I hope) are loosely connected by concepts and ideas.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

"You're doing good, kid. Maybe...don't try so hard. And that comma is fine right there, don't move it any longer!" - "Also, buckle up. It's going to be a long ride."

How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

Not that I lacked structure before, but now, having seen all the work that goes on before publishing, I'm even more organized. It keeps me from proof reading my work over and over again while producing even higher quality content. This was a problem for That Which Must Happen. As a side effect, the writing in itself goes a little slower, but that's ok.

How do you balance making demands on the reader with taking care of the reader?

I tend to demand a lot from the reader, I'm not going to lie. If someone would read That Which Must Happen quickly, chances are that someone wouldn't understand a great deal. He'd probably think, "Rubbish! This is a bunch of random events!" And that's not the case. It's not a light read. On the other hand, I reward readers by trying to write compelling, interesting stories. That's what I was aiming for all along.

As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?

My puppy, of course. Musetto. Well, he's not a puppy anymore, he's grown a bit. He had the patience to listen to my proof reading, and my reasoning for everything that happens in the novel. To be honest, he did look perplexed at times. It mustn't be easy for him.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

Currently I have a comic book that I would like to finish somewhere in the near future. Mostly it's an idea that never went on to be much else. But it has lots of potential. And the other novel I'm currently working on. It involves a priest in pilgrimage to Turkey and a village in Romania. Not so long ago I published a sample chapter on my Wattpad profile. 

What does literary success look like to you?

Like everything else in life, I tend to take one step at a time. Six years ago I was quite sure I wouldn't ever be able to write a full-length book. Two years ago I was quite certain I wouldn't get past page 1 of That Which Must Happen. Four months ago I wasn't quite sure I would ever publish That Which Must Happen. And today, here we are. The key is to keep your head down and put lots and lots of work in what you do. That way, chances are something above average is going to happen sooner or later. It's been an interesting journey so far, I reckon it'll keep being interesting for the foreseeable future.

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

The kind of research is dictated by the core matter of the novel. For That Which Must Happen there was a lot of thinking involved, I had to come up with a way for this "active fate" I had imagined to work. It wasn't easy, and I'm sure it's not going to be easy for readers to grasp as well. You really, really need to pay attention to the details, they tell a lot. I became fixated with subtlety whilst writing it. And it shows. For my other novel, which has more historical and folklore elements, I had to dig up quite a lot of material. I'd like it to be as accurate as possible. I read a lot of information before I put pen to paper, but I left the details for last, so they'd be fresh in my mind while writing.

How long were you a part-time writer before you became a full-time one?

I still am a part-time writer! I like the struggle, it keeps me focused.

How many hours a day do you write?

I write as many hours as I can. Even when I don't write, I think about scenes for my next novel and I try to think about how I will put them down. I think about how the plot will evolve and I make diagrams to see how it'll flow. As for a precise amount of hours, I'd say I average 5 or 6 a day.

What did you edit out of this book?

I edited A LOT out of That Which Must Happen. Whilst writing it I recognized that some scenes and concepts would have made it just too long and difficult to grasp. I was definitely biting more than I could chew. Also, the original story did look quite different from the end product, but overall, I like the finished product better. It's neater.

How do you select the names of your characters?

It depends on how important the character in question is. I won't give much thought in naming a secondary character whose role is very limited. Obviously, that changes with main characters and supporting characters. You'll probably find out that the name Benjamin is quite important to understand Benjamin's role in That Which Must Happen. That and a few more hints I give out throughout the novel.

If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?

I'm a land surveyor, so yes, there's that. On the other hand, I could still give a thought about being a chef, or a football manager (I do plan to get a license in the future). Or a professional chess player. I tend to hold many interests, so it's rather difficult to say!

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

I like to imagine That Which Must Happen as a book-sized riddle. It has a defined story, defined characters, and everything else on the surface. But the deeper you dig, the more story and plots you'll find. Some will get it, others will not. I tried to create this interconnection between chapters which fits the underlying theme of the whole novel, fate. In the end, I think it's important to say that this is not my story, I merely wrote it, discovered it. The story came to me on its own, as if it had its own will.

Do you Google yourself?

Sometimes. For research purposes.

What one thing would you give up to become a better writer?

I'd give up absolutely nothing. To get to your destination without a journey is no fun at all. I enjoy seeing my writing getting better day after day; as they say, no pain no gain.

What is your favorite childhood book?

Fiabe Italiane - Raccolte e trascritte da Italo Calvino. I still have it. Definitely one of my favourites. It's a collection of Italian fables; the first one, the orc with feathers is the best probably. 

What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

What comes after writing. Editing. It’s terribly slow and headache-inducing. It’s also terribly useful, without it I probably wouldn’t be publishing That Which Must Happen by now. I’m not saying my first draft was a total mess, but close to it. A lot was edited out and in.

How long on average does it take you to write a book?

Anywhere between 6 months and one year. It also depends on day to day life. As is natural, sometimes something of unexpected will happen and the writing has to wait. Right now I'm looking at finishing my next novel inside the next year, but without obsessing over it. It has to happen naturally.

Do you believe in writer’s block? 

I guess it can happen if you don't know yourself well enough as a creative individual. Like everything else in life, it'll come a point when you just can't create anymore if you force it and overdo it. It'll all come to a stop, at least for a time. There needs to be that balance between rest and the creative process. It's very much alike to a self-sustaining cycle. Balance is key to everything.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Review-Dear Evan Hansen by Val Emmich et. al

About the Book

Dear Evan Hansen by Val Emmich et. al
Published on October 9, 2018 by Poppy

GoodReads Description

From the show's creators comes the groundbreaking novel inspired by the Broadway smash hit Dear Evan Hansen.

Dear Evan Hansen,

Today's going to be an amazing day and here's why...

When a letter that was never meant to be seen by anyone draws high school senior Evan Hansen into a family's grief over the loss of their son, he is given the chance of a lifetime: to belong. He just has to stick to a lie he never meant to tell, that the notoriously troubled Connor Murphy was his secret best friend.

Suddenly, Evan isn't invisible anymore--even to the girl of his dreams. And Connor Murphy's parents, with their beautiful home on the other side of town, have taken him in like he was their own, desperate to know more about their enigmatic son from his closest friend. As Evan gets pulled deeper into their swirl of anger, regret, and confusion, he knows that what he's doing can't be right, but if he's helping people, how wrong can it be?

No longer tangled in his once-incapacitating anxiety, this new Evan has a purpose. And a website. He's confident. He's a viral phenomenon. Every day is amazing. Until everything is in danger of unraveling and he comes face to face with his greatest obstacle: himself.

A simple lie leads to complicated truths in this big-hearted coming-of-age story of grief, authenticity and the struggle to belong in an age of instant connectivity and profound isolation.

My Thoughts

I'll be honest with you here.  I bought this book on a whim.  I happened to see that it was half off at Barnes and Noble and knew that a lot of people liked it.  This is DEFINITELY one of the best whims that I have ever taken a chance on.  I LOVED THIS BOOK.

Before buying this book, I had never even heard of the Dear Evan Hansen musical.  That seems to be what happens when you live in the absolute middle of nowhere.  I started blogging as a way to keep in touch with the bookish world, and here we are two years later with no clue.  But, I digress.

I strongly believe that every middle school and high school teacher needs to read this book.  It is a stark reminder of all of the things that can be going through our students' minds while we are expecting them to stay focused on whatever our content area is.  Our students have their own lives and their own issues out of school.  Too often, we neglect their present in our efforts to help them create a better future.  This book is living proof that we need to help them with both parts of their lives.

My favorite character, by far, was Connor.  I know that seems a little weird as he spends most of the book dead, but he is the one who has the easiest time staying true to himself.  Yes, he makes some bad choices.  Yes, he is another example of a student that fell through the cracks and was failed by the people around him.  However, he is also the way that Evan learns to own his truth.  He is the way that Evan's world is set right again.

Evan, although the main character, was my least favorite.  I believe that the authors did a fantastic job displaying his struggle with anxiety and depression, but I despised his willingness to let a lie live on.  Perhaps it is because of my own moral code, but a lie of that sheer size and magnitude is not one that I could ever live with.  I was just as relieved as he was when he set things back on the right course.

This was an absolutely beautifully written novel.  I am so in love with it.  It is one that I will most likely reread as each new school year begins.

My Rating

Friday, March 15, 2019

A Guest Post with Dan O'Brien

First of all, I want to thank you for hosting me today.

My name is Dan O’Brien and I’m probably best known for my Lauren Westlake books, especially the bestselling Bitten. I stopped by today to talk about the ongoing series, as well as a limited-time sale on the Lauren Westlake eBooks in preparation for the next release, Besieged.

Before I pitch you on the first five books for only 99c, I want to take a moment and answer a few questions so you can get to know me a little better, dear reader.

Does writing energize or exhaust you?

Writing has always been an important psychological outlet for me. I can’t imagine a life where I don’t write in some capacity. It certainly energizes me. And perhaps more importantly, it rescues me when I feel alone or if I’m having a poor mental health day. I think writing means different things to different people. For me, writing is a grounding principle in my life. If I need to work through something, I write about it. Sometimes that catharsis even becomes a part of a book.

How do you select the names of your characters?

It really depends on the genre. Unsurprisingly, many of my characters are based on aspects of people I have met during my life. Sometimes, I name them based on who they remind me of; other times, I keep trying names until I feel like the name reflects the character. For the Lauren Westlake series, the names came quite naturally. When I work on a science fiction or fantasy story, I will research traditional names from ancient societies or combine base terms with interesting prefixes and suffixes to create something unique.

If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?

I imagine I would have been a scientist in some capacity or taught math. I studied psychology in graduate school and even entertained getting my PhD and teaching at a university. However, I decided on a different path that took me away from that possibility. Teaching is such a brave profession. As well, I might have pursued a career in film. Once upon a time, I really wanted to be involved in the filmmaking process, but I didn’t go to film school. I could see myself on that path as well.

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

Always. Much like TV shows and movies hide things in plain sight for eagle-eyed viewers, I like to leave clues along the way that are much more than simple foreshadowing. Often, someone’s name will reference something that will happen later or is a part of a larger theme. I also like to leave references to some my favorite novels and films.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I always liked telling stories. When I was a child, I would create entire plays with people on Popsicle sticks and small stages built from scratch. I also used Legos and other toys to tell elaborate tales. The more I read, the more I wanted to be a storyteller. I published my first story in 2002 and never looked back.

How long does it take you to write a book?

That depends on the book itself. If I am in the middle of telling a larger story, I can sometimes finish a first draft in 6-8 weeks. I wrote a novel in 10 days once because I was so interested in the story that I didn’t want to do anything else. For the Lauren Westlake novellas, I finish a draft in a couple of weeks in order to get it to the editor.

What does being a successful author look like to you?

As many people as possible reading what I write. Being well known might be interesting, but I would prefer that readers enjoy what I write and want to read more.

Now that you know a little more about me, I’d like to talk about the Lauren Westlake series. This weekend, Bitten and its sequels will be only 99c as a promotion for the release of Besieged. Here are the synopses and links for those eBooks that are on sale.

Bitten: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B005METJLU

A predator stalks a cold northern Minnesotan town. There is talk of wolves walking on two legs and attacking people in the deep woods. Lauren Westlake, resourceful and determined F.B.I Agent, has found a connection between the strange murders in the north and a case file almost a hundred years old. Traveling to the cold north, she begins an investigation that spirals deep into the darkness of mythology and nightmares. Filled with creatures of the night and an ancient romance, the revelation of who hunts beneath the moon is more grisly than anyone could have imagined.

Drained: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00RJI8DVO

A frightening new case. A mysterious journal. The beginning of the end. Lauren Westlake has left behind the horrors of northern Minnesota to investigate a strange package with a cryptic return address. Crossing the country to the city by the bay, Lauren discovers that Locke was only the beginning. Crossing paths with a stoic SFPD detective and a surprise from her past, she must figure out what hunts the foggy streets of San Francisco in this new novella. Is it vampires? Is it something more?

Frighten: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07KJD12BS

Lauren’s time in San Francisco hasn’t gone as planned. After reconnecting with her brother Billy and discovering that vampires are at the heart of the murders in the foggy city, Lauren is faced with a terrible decision that will affect her career. Can she find a way to bring the killers to justice? Will she be able to find the Stranger in time to stop the nightmares in San Francisco?

Burned: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07KJ9V3SJ

Lauren’s pursuit of the Stranger has led to Las Vegas. A series of supernatural murders leads the team to believe that warlocks are behind the deaths. The return of an old ally and a new threat complicates Lauren’s investigation. Can she stop what’s coming in time to avert the apocalypse?

Awaken: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07LH7GFVP

Lauren’s world is turned upside down when she is introduced to the Order and Elder Andras. The Stranger’s plan to wake Awanyu begins to take form, threatening not only Las Vegas, but all of reality. Can Lauren put together the puzzle pieces in time to stop the Stranger and save Winona?

I hope that you will take advantage of the opportunity and catch up on the Lauren Westlake series. You can connect with me on Twitter and Facebook, as well as visit my website. Happy reading!

Twitter: https://twitter.com/AuthorDanOBrien

Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/authordanobrien

Website: https://authordanobrien.com/

Friday, March 8, 2019

Review: The Scorch Trials by James Dashner

About the Book

The Scorch Trials by James Dashner
Published by Delacorte Press on October 12, 2010

GoodReads Description

Solving the Maze was supposed to be the end. 

Thomas was sure that escape from the Maze would mean freedom for him and the Gladers. But WICKED isn’t done yet. Phase Two has just begun. The Scorch.

There are no rules. There is no help. You either make it or you die.

The Gladers have two weeks to cross through the Scorch—the most burned-out section of the world. And WICKED has made sure to adjust the variables and stack the odds against them.

Friendships will be tested. Loyalties will be broken. All bets are off.

There are others now. Their survival depends on the Gladers’ destruction—and they’re determined to survive.

My Thoughts

When I started this book, I was incredibly bored. This is one of the most accidentally slow beginnings that I have ever read!  I know that there was a lot of action going on that I was supposed to care about, but I just didn't.  Because on of my students chose this series for me to read (I made him read The Hunger Games), I knew I had to do it.  I most definitely did not want to.

Luckily, however, the book started to pick up some speed. When Aris was introduced and we were given a little more information about the second phase, I wanted to know what was going on.  If that hadn't have happened, this would have been the world's longest book.  Oy.

However excited I was to be getting more information, the story did not pick up.  I was very frustrated that this book continued to be mostly predictable.  There were a few places that truly surprised me, but they were infrequent and did not really seem to connect to the story as a whole.

I will continue to read this series at the request of my student, but I truly hope that it picks up a bit.  Although this book was not impressive, The Maze Runner was decent.  I hope that Dashner picks it back up with the next book.

My Rating

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Whispers of Shadow & Flame Cover Reveal

Welcome to the Cover Reveal!

Today we have the cover reveal tour for book 2 in L. Penelope’s Earthsinger Chronicles, Whispers of Shadow & Flame. 

The first book in the series, Song of Blood & Stone was named one of TIME Magazine’s top 10 fantasy books of 2018. Check out the cover reveal and giveaway below!

Title: Whispers of Shadow & Flame (Earthsinger Chronicles, Book 2)
Author: L. Penelope
Published by: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: October 1, 2019
Genre: Fantasy

Book Description

The cursed will face the gods. They have nothing to lose. 

"A master class in fantasy world-building.” - TIME Magazine on Song of Blood & Stone

The Mantle that separates the kingdoms of Elsira and Lagrimar is about to fall. And life will drastically change for both kingdoms.

Born with a deadly magic she cannot control, Kyara is forced to become an assassin. Known as the Poison Flame in the kingdom of Lagrimar, she is notorious and lethal, but secretly seeks freedom from both her untamed power and the blood spell that commands her. She is tasked with capturing the legendary rebel called the Shadowfox, but everything changes when she learns her target’s true identity.

Darvyn ol-Tahlyro may be the most powerful Earthsinger in generations, but guilt over those he couldn’t save tortures him daily. He isn’t sure he can trust the mysterious young woman who claims to need his help, but when he discovers Kyara can unlock the secrets of his past, he can’t stay away.

Kyara and Darvyn grapple with betrayal, old promises, and older prophecies—all while trying to stop a war. And when a new threat emerges, they must beat the odds to save both kingdoms.

Pre-order the paperback today!

Amazon | BN | BAM | Indiebound

Catch up on the Series

Song of Blood & Stone, Earthsinger Chronicles Book 1 – Special Edition Paperback releases July 16, 2019. (Ebook & hardcover available now).

Breath of Dust & Dawn, Earthsinger Chronicles Book 1.5 – Available now!

Cover Reveal Giveaway

L. Penelope is giving away a signed, hardcover copy of Song of Blood & Stone. International welcome!

Enter the giveaway

About the Author

L. Penelope is an award-winning fantasy romance author. Equally left and right-brained, she studied filmmaking and computer science in college and sometimes dreams in HTML. She lives in Maryland with her husband and furry dependents. Sign up for new release information, exclusives, and giveaways on her website.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Youtube | Instagram | Bookbub | Amazon 

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Review: Blanca & Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore

About the Book

Blanca & Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore
Published on October 9, 2018 by Feiwel Friends

GoodReads Description

The biggest lie of all is the story you think you already know.

The del Cisne girls have never just been sisters; they’re also rivals, Blanca as obedient and graceful as Roja is vicious and manipulative. They know that, because of a generations-old spell, their family is bound to a bevy of swans deep in the woods. They know that, one day, the swans will pull them into a dangerous game that will leave one of them a girl, and trap the other in the body of a swan.

But when two local boys become drawn into the game, the swans’ spell intertwines with the strange and unpredictable magic lacing the woods, and all four of their fates depend on facing truths that could either save or destroy them. Blanca & Roja is the captivating story of sisters, friendship, love, hatred, and the price we pay to protect our hearts.

My Thoughts

It is very likely that Blanca & Roja will be the book that is the hardest for me to review this year.  There was so much that I learned from it and so much that I liked about it.  Unfortunately, the things that I didn't like were things that I abhorred.  This may be a book that I have to go back to and read later in life, after some serious consideration and growth on my end. 

What I Liked

  1. I adored the relationship between the two sisters.  It can be very difficult for an author to authentically write about sisters without adding jealousy over boys or making the girls sound so unrealistically catty.  McLemore did it right.  Is there drama over boys?  Yes.  But that drama is portrayed in a believable manner, not just for the sake of adding it to the story because that's what books about sisters "need."  My sister and I would do just about anything for each other and it was wonderful to see Blanca and Roja sharing that same kind of bond.
  2. Page intrigued me.  Although I am a teacher, nonbinary individuals are not commonly seen in our building.  I had absolutely no experience with them before this novel.  I will not act like Page helped me to completely understand them and know everything about them, that would be foolish and arrogant.  I will admit, however, that Page has brought the subject to light in my world.  I enjoyed having my eyes opened to a new way of life.
  3. McLemore knows her way around atmospheric writing.  She truly brings all of the aspects of this world to life with a writing style that definitely sets her apart from many other authors.  I was entranced by the way that the world around Blanca and Roja changed as they went through different parts of their story.

What I Didn't Like As Much

  1. McLemore tried to hard to do too much with this book.  There were at least four different fairy tales that she mushed into one novel.  Alone, that would have been fantastic.  But then she added drama in the Holt family and a very confusing relationship between Page and Barclay and I was lost.  I was simply overloaded with information.  I wish that she had just spent her time focusing on the girls and writing about Barclay taking down his family in a later novel.  That way, there would have been some resolution of the Holt story as well as the girls' story.
  2. I spent so much of this novel being confused.  I thought that it was set in a much earlier time period for most of the book, and then there were debit cards and jeans and gas pumps?!  Even after finishing this piece, I have no idea when it took place.  It would have helped if McLemore had clearly stated the year or if she had given more clues as to when it was taking place.
  3. While I appreciated that Blanca's relationship had some resolution, I hated that Roja's relationship had none.  Roja's relationship was the one that caused the most drama.  It was the one that I cared about the most!  And, there was nothing.  Loose ends must be wrapped up and woven in.  

My Rating