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.


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.


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?


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?


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?


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!


Facebook Author Page:


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