Monday, March 9, 2015

My take on: The 100 Day 21

How often is a sequel better than the original? Very rarely happens in the movie world. For every Aliens, there's a Grease 2! In the book world, I haven't read a lot of sequels . . . or finished any series for that matter. But I am determined to finish The 100 series by Kass Morgan.

Before I begin, I'm going to assume you have read book 1 or watch the TV show. If you haven't, I will likely be spoiling things for you. So, if you don't want to read spoilers, go read the books or catch up on the TV show!

Book 1 felt a little uneven to me. A lot of the "world-building" and character setup took place in the first book. But that's all done in The 100: Day 21.

The action picks up right where the first book left off. Clarke, Wells, and Bellamy and the rest of the 100 are fighting for survival and for power on Earth. But someone is killing members of the 100. Who or what is doing this? Why? After Octavia goes missing, Bellamy certainly wants to know. Have these savage, violent Earthborns kidnapped Octavia? Or worse, have they killed her? He might get some answers. An alleged enemy, Sasha, has been captured. But she's not providing any answers. Can Clarke get them out of her? Maybe Wells has the magic touch? Life in space isn't much better for Glass, her boyfriend Luke, or her mother. Breathable air has become scarce. The Phoenicians have cut off the air supply for the Waldenites. Luke and Glass are separated. But for how long? A long-buried secret comes to light, and in an instant Luke and Glass' relationship might be over.

There is a lot more character depth in the second book. Clarke is hiding a big secret. It's been eating at her long before she landed on Earth. It's a secret that could tear Clarke's new-found friendship with Bellamy apart. Wells is almost like an outsider himself. As the son of the Chancellor responsible for putting them in prison, Wells has never been liked. It's only natural that he finds a friendship with Sasha. Bellamy's anger hasn't subsided in the least. In my opinion, he was a bit of a jerk in the first book. That hasn't changed in book 2. Occasionally, he shows his softer side with Clarke. I thought Wells and Clarke were meant to be, but that's out the window.

It's always hard for me to read something not based in reality, but I fully embraced this world the second time around. I wanted to know what happened to these characters. I wanted to know how life in space would go on or not go on. I felt like the writing in this book was tighter, more fast-paced, more engaging, and more emotional. This book like the last one ended on a cliffhanger. Fortunately, book 3 is already out! Once school is over, I will definitely be picking up a copy!

Rating: Superb

Note: I received a copy from FSB Associates in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Cover reveal: Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Summer is not here yet, but it's never to soon to build your summer reading list. Be sure to add Maybe in Another Life (on sale July 7,2015), the third book from Taylor Jenkins Reid.

ABOUT MAYBE IN ANOTHER LIFE:
At the age of twenty-nine, Hannah Martin still has no idea what she wants to do with her life. She has lived in six different cities and held countless meaningless jobs since graduating college, but on the heels of a disastrous breakup, she has finally returned to her hometown of Los Angeles. To celebrate her first night back, her best friend, Gabby, takes Hannah out to a bar—where she meets up with her high school boyfriend, Ethan.

It’s just past midnight when Gabby asks Hannah if she’s ready to go. Ethan quickly offers to give her a ride later if she wants to stay.
Hannah hesitates.
What happens if she leaves with Gabby?
What happens if she leaves with Ethan?

In concurrent storylines, Hannah lives out the effects of each decision. Quickly, these parallel universes develop into surprisingly different stories with far-reaching consequences for Hannah and the people around her, raising questions like: Is anything meant to be? How much in our life is determined by chance? And perhaps most compellingly: Is there such a thing as a soul mate?
Hannah believes there is. And, in both worlds, she believes she’s found him.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Taylor Jenkins Reid is an author and essayist from Acton, Massachusetts. She is the author of Forever, Interrupted and After I Do. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Alex, and her dog, Rabbit. You can follow her on Twitter @TJenkinsReid.

MAYBE IN ANOTHER LIFE by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Atria Books/Washington Square Press Paperback | 352 pages | ISBN:  9781476776880 | July 7, 2015 | $16.00

eBook: Atria Books/Washington Square Press | 352 pages | ISBN: 9781476776897 | July 7, 2015 | $11.99

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Tragic Age - Blog tour!

Coming soon to a book store near you is
The Tragic Age
by Stephen Metcalfe. A debut coming-of-age novel!
Read on for an excerpt and for links to more bloggers on the tour!



It’s between morning classes when Deliza Baraza comes up to her locker, which for two, going on three years at good ol’ High School High has been next to mine. I can actually feel her approaching. It’s like there’s a seismic pheromone shift in the hallway. Anything male begins to flutter and jerk. Deliza’s father’s a Mexican-American financier. Her mother’s a former Telenuevo star. You won- der how they ever let Deliza out of the house. This morning she’s done up in a sheer white blouse with a Peter Pan collar, a tiny cardigan sweater vest, a little tie, and a pleated short skirt. Her smooth dancer’s legs are stuffed into white anklet socks and six-inch spike heels. Her dark hair is in pigtails and her makeup, which is always professionally perfect, is that of a toffee-colored geisha. “Hey, Billy,” she says. She has a deep, confident voice. Deliza only dates older guys. Rumor has it she charges them for the fun of it.

“Hey, D.” I try to sound casual, as if chatting with a dirty old man’s Japanese schoolgirl fetish is an everyday occurrence. Deliza throws some books into her locker, grabs another, and turns back to me. She leans in close. She whispers.

“Hey, Billy, you want to go out with me Friday night? I might even suck your dick.”
My balls jerk as if cupped by a handful of ice cubes. “You mind going on a skateboard?” I say.
“A skateboard,” she says. “It’s how I roll,” I say.

Deliza laughs. We both know there’s no way we’re ever going to hang together let alone engage in illicit sex acts. Even so, we’re pretty good locker buddies. And we’re not all that unalike. Deliza runs with the popular crowd, but the truth is, we both fly solo.

“You are one weird chavo, Billy.” Point of reference.

Chavo is this poor, homeless orphan in an old Mexican sitcom. The plot revolved around the idea that the other characters think it’s hysterical to insult him, beat the crap out of him, and generally torture him. Needless to say, the show was a huge hit.

Deliza leans in again. “It’s why I like you.” The tip of her tongue lightly touches the inside of my ear, the concha, which is Spanish slang for vagina. My pelotas, which is Spanish for balls, jerk again.

Deliza smiles like the total innocent she isn’t. She turns away. Farther down the hall some jocks give her some shit, hoping she’ll give them the time of day. She blows them a kiss, gives them a perfectly manicured, French- tipped middle finger, and moves on. 

Anything male wipes its brow and begins to breathe again. It’s not even the highlight of the day.


Though most of the students at High School High leave campus for lunch, some of them even going home and not returning, the school still provides meals for people. The food is pretty much inedible but the old school cafe- teria is pretty nice. It’s usually a quiet place to read. In fact, a lot of people skip lunch and just use it as a study hall.

But today, maybe because it’s still early in the year, it’s a scene. It’s noisy and almost crowded, people hanging out, each with their own tribe, jocks and queen bees at one ta- ble, the black athletes, nerds, aspiring rockers, emos punks, and surfers at others. Thankfully there’s an empty table over by the window. I’m reading some sci-fi novel about some little kid who defeats a race of alien ants and saves the known universe. It’s ridiculous but the only other book in my knapsack is Being and Time, by the philosopher Mar- tin Heidegger, which is also ridiculous but it’s the kind of ridiculous that takes a concentration and focus that is not especially conducive to cafeterias. So today it’s alien ants.

“Hey, Billy. Can I sit?”


It’s Ephraim and I don’t look up. Ephraim Landgraf is my neighbor, meaning we live down the street from one another, each of us behind locked gates and high walls. Ephraim is small and skinny and, without his glasses, half blind. He has straw-colored hair that doesn’t seem so much blond as lifeless. Ephraim’s the kind of kid who gets pushed around for no real reason. The kind of kid, you play hide-and-seek, you don’t look for him.

“It’s not my chair,” I say.

Ephraim sits and dives into the prepackaged, pre- servative-infested lunch he’s brought from home. It’s truly a magnificent collection of unhealthy, high-fat food groups. Ephraim is the kind of kid who would eat alien ants.

“I found Death Hunt 9,” Ephraim says. This, coming out of nowhere.

Death Hunt 9 is a video game so violent it hasn’t been released. The only way to get it is to illegally download a bootleg copy off the Net. Only the truly wounded would want this game and Ephraim’s been searching for it for weeks.

“Good for you, Ephraim, now go disappear into your bedroom, and let me read about alien ants, okay?”

“Nah,” says Ephraim. “I already beat it. It wasn’t hard at all . . . no way . . . yeah . . .” His voice trails off. He sounds disappointed.

Here’s the thing.

Ephraim surprised his parents. His siblings are all at least fifteen years older than he is and Ephraim’s mother was never supposed to get pregnant again. Hence his parents have decided Ephraim didn’t really happen and they ignore him. And because they do, Ephraim spends the ma- jority of his time living as an avatar in an online, computer- based community in Illinois. The avatar is nothing like him. Ephraim’s avatar has his own apartment, an impor- tant job, a social life. He, the avatar, even gets laid on oc- casion. Ephraim’s built an online fantasy world where he’s safe and happy and can control things. In real life, Ephraim stays home sick a lot.

“Hey! Hey, Willard!”

Ephraim and I both turn to see that a couple of tables away a big, handsome guy named John Montebello is standing, gesturing for someone to join him. On the moron scale of one to ten, John Montebello is a twenty. If Dad—Gordon—has decided he’s earned everything we have, John Montebello has long since decided he’s earned everything his father has.

“Hey, Willard, over here!”

Willard Twomey has come out of the kitchen, a tray in his hands. I’ve seen him in classes now, a couple of days running. He still hasn’t uttered a word, still hasn’t so much as looked at anyone. If he’s changed his clothes since his first day of school, you wouldn’t know it.

“Come on, dude!” says Montebello. “Sit with us!” Montebello’s at a table surrounded by his popular jock posse who, added up, push the moron scale into the high two hundreds. Normally they wouldn’t be here at all. All of a sudden I wonder if they’ve planned this.

“C’mon, we don’t bite! Much!


Again, I get the sense that Willard Twomey feels none of this is happening to him, and if it is, he couldn’t care less. Montebello nudges the kid right next to him out of his seat.

“Pull up a chair, dawg. You don’t want to eat by your- self, right?”

Fact.

“Dawg” is an example of what is called Ebonics. Eb- onics is the study of nonstandard African-American vernacular English, meaning speech often used by black people.

Sidebar.

The closest kids like John Montebello ever get to black people is listening to deafening rap music while parked at stoplights with the windows of the car rolled down.

Willard Twomey crosses to the table, sits down and begins to eat. Montebello looks around at his jock posse as if to say, Watch this.

“So, Willard. Monaghan got you up to speed yet? ’Cause, dude, you look like you still got the brakes on.” Har-har-har. The jocks all snark and slap palms with one another as if in the entire history of the world, this is the sharpest thing anyone has ever said.

Willard Twomey just eats his food.

“Willard, huh? That’s, uh—that’s kind of a retarded name, huh?”

Giggle-gaggle-gaw! Willard Twomey eats his food. “Y’know,  there  was  this  movie called  Willard.  All about this freaky guy who loved rats. I mean, like, he slept with rats, Willard. When he took a dump in the morning, he did it with a freakin’ rat on his lap. You do that? You take dumps with rats? Is that cheese you’re eatin’ or what, dawg?”
The jocks think that’s really hysterical. One of them gags and spurts milk out his nose.
Willard Twomey eats.

“Yeah, ol’ Willard here looks like a guy who loves his rat food,” says Montebello. “Squeaky-squeak!”
“Squeaky-squeak,” intone all the other morons at the table, in different voices, a regular rat choir. “Squeaky- squeak.”
Wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, Willard Twomey rises. Montebello looks surprised, then annoyed. He’s definitely not used to people his own age ignoring him, especially when he’s being such a comedian.
“Hey, Willard, come again, when you can’t stay so long, okay? And say hi to your rats.”
Willard Twomey picks up his tray and swings it into John Montebello’s head, knocking him out of his chair. Plate, silverware, and uneaten food fly.
No one can believe it. John Montebello began lifting weights at age twelve just to get a head start on beating people up. As Montebello tries to rise, Willard Twomey hits him over the head with the tray again and again, forc- ing him back down to the floor until he curls into a fetal position and covers up.
“Fuck!” Montebello whimpers. “Fuck!” No one can believe it.
Willard Twomey throws the broken tray down at John Montebello. It bounces off his head and clatters away.
Believe it.
Willard Twomey turns. He stares contemptuously at the other jocks as if daring someone to do something. Anything. Not one of them moves, not even the guy with milk in his nose.
The dam breaks and the whole room begins hubbub- bing at once. Some of the surfers are laughing. The Asian kids are talking excitedly in Chinese. The black guys are all slapping palms. Girls are pretending to be horrified. Faculty members come rushing across the cafeteria from wherever it is they’ve been standing. One goes to Monte- bello. Two others grab Willard Twomey who is as docile as a baby as he’s led out.
I’ve never seen real violence before. I see why people find it effective.

“He’s awesome,” whispers Ephraim.

For more excerpts, check out these blogs:

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

My take on: The Tell-Tale Heart

What happens after an organ is transplanted into another person? Does that organ hold onto past memories or feelings? Does that organ have a soul? Who gets to keep that soul after a transplant?  Those are just some of the interesting questions posed by Jill Dawson in her new book The Tell-Tale Heart.

Years of drinking, sex, and poor lifestyle habits have caught up to 50-year-old Patrick. His days on Earth are numbered. But fate always has a way of intervening. An accident involving a teenage boy, gives Patrick a second chance at life. He receives the boy's heart, linking them not just physically but emotionally. After the transplant, Patrick begins to have strange dreams. Is this normal? Is this unusual? Who or What is the cause of all of this? Patrick's body has physically accepted his new heart. But Patrick's new heart has not accepted him or his lifestyle. Patrick has to change, to do that he has to learn about his donor.

By accident, Patrick learns that the heart of 16-year-old Drew Beamish saved his life. The author took a unique approach to tell the donor's story. Jill Dawson writes about Drew's ancestors and how they shaped his life.

The book alternates viewpoints between Patrick, Drew's ancestor Willie, and Drew. It was hard for me to get into. I wasn't always sure what was going on. There are no chapters, the book is broken into eight parts. It's a minor thing to point out, but if the pacing is off that is a big deal for me. The pacing was too slow for my tastes. I happen to like when a book has chapters instead of being broken into large sections. I know when I can stop or take a break. There is the anticipation of something new when a book has chapters. With this book, I wanted to get back to the present-day stories but it was hard to know when those sections were coming.

Overall, the writing wasn't my cup of tea but I did enjoy the premise. I could totally see myself reading another Jill Dawson book!

Rating: Give it a try

Note: I received a copy of the book from the publisher (Harper Perennial) as part of a blog tour with TLC Book Tours.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

A little help.....pretty please!


My final semester of grad school is underway. I'm already freaking out about presenting my final project. The fact that the presentation is more than two months away, hasn't calmed my nerves at all. I like my idea, a digital-only food magazine for teens, but all of the research and execution is daunting. Which is why I have come to you in book blog land for help!

Before I can think about finances, marketing, and design, I have to think about my audience. Who would want to buy my magazine? Is there a secondary market for my magazine? Very important questions.

If you're between the ages of 12-17, I have a survey for you! But, please get parental permission before taking it. If you're the parent of kids ages 12-17, I have a survey for you! If you're the part of younger kids, I still want you to take the survey. Both surveys are quick and easy, I promise! The info collected is purely for academic purposes. If you take the survey ....... there's a prize for you!



One lucky kid and one lucky parent will win a $25 Amazon gift card! If you're under the age of 18, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE get parental permission before taking part. Both surveys are open until next Monday (2/16/15).

****UPDATE**** SURVEY DEADLINE IS EXTENDED UNTIL Monday 2/23 at 10 PM
Here are the links for the surveys:

Teens: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/PB3LD97
Parents: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/P6MQPKG

I appreciate everyone who comes by my blog. I promise once school is over, I will be posting more often. Happy reading!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Please welcome Jonathan Odell !!

Jonathan Odell is stopping by to answer a few questions about his book
Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League

Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League is publishing on February 4th, 2015—Rosa Parks’ birthday and sixty years since the Montgomery Bus Boycott. How is Rosa Parks, despite not appearing as a character in your book, central to your story?
Rosa Parks’ symbolic presence courses throughout the narrative. When, late in the novel, word gets out about what she was up to in Alabama, her example inspires a group of women in Delphi, Mississippi—where my novel is set—to take radical action. Like poor, working black women across the country, this group of women strongly identified with Mrs. Parks.

Your novel is about many things—friendship, marriage, family, feminism, grieving the loss of children, redemption. Can you tell us a little bit about the inspiration behind the story?

A catalyst was reading Pat Conroy’s poignant novel, A Prince of Tides. My God, I thought. If he can write about crazy Southern families, why can’t I? I’ve got one.

I had two primary questions I wanted to answer. The first was, How did my family get to be the way they are? My mom and dad, both refugees from poor, backwoods farming families, much like Hazel and Floyd in the novel, somehow pulled themselves into a comfortable upper middle-class lifestyle. But like immigrants fleeing horrors of another world, they talked very little about their childhood. The second question was, What are the mechanics of making an entire race of people disappear into the background, as whites did to blacks in Mississippi during Jim Crow? The first question brought me into a new relationship with my parents. The second question took me deep into the world of racial prejudice, one I had been born into but taught not to see.
 
The two main characters, Hazel and Vida, are young mothers, one white and one black. Are they based on real people from your life?

A lot of the book is drawn from my early life experience, much to my family’s horror. Actually, the book began as an attempt to get even with everyone who had ever done me wrong—teachers, schoolyard bullies, my preacher, and, of course, my parents. Vida and Hazel began as absolute villains in my first draft. They represented people in my life I wanted to settle a score with. Vida represented Velner, a black lady my parents hired to take care of me and my brothers when my mother took a job. I hated Velner and Velner hated me.

Hazel is definitely my mother. When I began the book, I was going through therapy and beginning to understand my family’s dysfunction. I was in my “angry truth-telling stage,” so I “fictionalized” every wrong my mother had ever perpetrated upon me in the first draft. In essence it was a poorly disguised hit piece. I even named the little boy Johnny so my mother would not miss the point.

When I finally let go of my agenda of trying to justify my resentment, I fell in love with both women. Now, even today, when I see my mother, she is so much bigger and grander than the box I had put her in. By letting go of the need to explain her, I discovered her. Writing the book served as an avenue for reconciliation with my family.

Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League is a revised version of your debut novel, The View from Delphi, published ten years ago. Why did you decide to revise the novel?
The View from Delphi was released in 2004 by Macadam/Cage, a highly respected but small West Coast publisher (most well-known for publishing The Time Traveler’s Wife), to positive reviews but limited distribution. The publisher was falling on hard times; indeed, they later went bankrupt and folded. After the success of my second novel, The Healing (Nan A. Talese/Doubleday), Maiden Lane Press was convinced that my debut deserved to reach a larger audience, in a revised edition. I enthusiastically agreed to the project. Do overs may be common in kids’ games, but they are extremely rare in the world of publishing.

What are the differences between the two works?

The new title and cover better reflect the promise of the book, i.e., a 1950’s small-town Southern setting, an intimate feeling of family and friendship, a twining of black and white storylines, and an irreverent strain of humor.

Miss Haze
l is a hundred pages leaner than Delphi and has been restructured so that the narrative flows more logically. There is less backstory and “side” story. The goal of this version was to tighten, intensify, and deepen the relationship between Hazel and Vida. I believe the result is a much richer read.

There have been comparisons of your book to The Help, yet Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League is quite different in many regards—not to mention that your book was originally published years before The Help. How do you feel about the comparison?

I believe I may be the only person in American who has not read The Help nor seen the movie. I hear both are quite entertaining and have stimulated a lot of needed conversation about race. But because I began writing (and reading fiction!) late in life, I mostly spend my time searching for books that inform what I am presently writing. When I finished writing the final draft of Delphi in 2001—having done research for it since 1988—I felt I was pretty much done with that era and topic and I moved on to the subject of healing during slavery times. Now I’m learning about Southern Pentecostal preachers, snake handlers, and gay life at the turn of the century Mississippi.

But what I gather the two books have in common is that both take place in the Mississippi, maids are involved, and each is written by a white author. So beyond than, I can’t personally comment.

Why does race appear so prominently in all your work?

It’s what I want most to understand. Frankly, I think the advice “write what you know” isn’t very helpful. What I know is boring—because I already know it. It doesn’t challenge me to get out of my habitual way of seeing the world. But the things I don’t know, and have the opportunity to discover, are what get me out of bed in the morning. For me to keep my enthusiasm and creative energy focused for the five or so years that it takes to write a novel, I find it essential to be writing about what I am drawn to know, what fascinates me, what consumes me, what expands me.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

My take on: Want You Dead

A single gal meets a single man. Instant attraction. Declarations of love. Both start having dreams of the future. Everything should be great .... but not for Red. Her dream man, Bryce, turned into a nightmare. Now, long after they've broken up Red begins to wonder if he will ever let her go. It seems highly unlikely in Peter James' latest thriller Want You Dead.

The action starts right away. Dr. Karl Murphy, a widower with two children, is finally getting back into the dating scene. He is finally starting to love and trust again. So is his girlfriend, Red. After enduring a verbally, emotionally, and physically abusive relationship with Bryce, Red wants to open her heart again. But her fear of Bryce has never gone away. From a distance, Bryce has managed to maintain a close watch over Red. He has taken stalking to a new level. Listening devices and cameras are just a small part of his arsenal. As a former magician, Bryce has become a master at showing up and disappearing from the least likely spots, including Red's "secure" apartment.

Bryce has no intention of letting Red and Karl live happily ever after. In his mind, Red belongs to him and no one else. He is obsessed with Red. Everything would have been just fine if she didn't listen to her awful parents. Her meddling mother had a private detective investigate Bryce. Her meddling mother found out that Bryce lied about his squeaky clean past. Red didn't really need her mother's help, the signs had been there all along. There was always something not quite right about Bryce. But now, he will make everyone pay for ruining their relationship, including Karl, Red's family, and Red herself! I don't think I'm spoiling anything by saying that Karl is murdered by Bryce. It happens very early in the book. The rest of the book is devoted to Bryce's evil deeds and the efforts of Detective Superintendent Roy Grace and his staff's attempts to stop him.

This is the 10th book in the Roy Grace series, but I don't think that matters. It can be read as a standalone. Detective Grace has his own storyline, but it didn't hold as much interest for me. He's about to get married again, several years after his first wife has been declared dead. Is she alive or isn't she? That could have been intriguing, but I have a feeling that's a storyline that was started in earlier books and won't be resolved for a while. As a character, Grace is definitively intuitive and caring. He was the first to suspect that there was more to Karl's death than meets the eye. He knows there is a larger story. He is willing to disrupt his own life to catch a killer.

The chapters are very short, which I like. As a plot device, there is less anticipation with short chapters. You know the payoff is coming soon. Although my Goodreads account might say otherwise, when I was actively reading I was speed-reading. Bryce is an extremely arrogant, annoying, creepy, disgusting, and all the other bad words one can think of. He's clearly a bad guy, and readers are supposed to have no sympathy for him. You just want the police to wise up and catch him. I was torn between liking and hating Red. Her sense of powerlessness comes through. Life might never be normal if the police don't catch Bryce. Who couldn't sympathize with that? I could, but in the last few chapters Red started to lose me. I don't want to give too much away but.... She had the opportunity to make a very smart decision but instead she makes a very dumb one. She has the opportunity to be fully protected by the police. Instead she opts for the "safety" of her apartment. She doesn't know it's not safe, but Red's actions go against what the average person would do. If you want to know what I'm talking about, read the book!

Rating: Give it a try

Note: I received a copy of the book from Wunderkind PR in exchange for an honest review.
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