Sunday, April 30, 2017

Most Anticipated New Releases of May 2017

Well, May looks better than April did. Still, I'm bored with the selection of new releases. Everything sounds the same. Maybe people just suck at writing blurbs. I don't know. Maybe this is why I prefer small press and indies.

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Dreamfall by Amy Plum



Release Date: May 2, 2017
Touted as Nightmare on Elm Street meets Inception, this YA SciFi may be just what the doctor ordered. Teenagers with insomnia seeking treatment but end up trapped in their dream state - sounds awesome!

Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh



Release Date: May 2, 2017
Another fantasy, I know, but it could be good. I am after all a fan of Mulan and this has a similar feel to it since the main character dresses as a boy in an attempt to save herself. Like I said, slim pickings in the mainstream new releases these days.

The Black Witch by Laurie Forest


Release Date: May 2, 2017
Honestly, this one is another flyer. I don't know, it could be good or it could royally suck. A girl who doesn't have any powers in a world that revolves around powers. Meh, maybe it will be good. Hopefully?

One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus



Release Date: May 30, 2017
They had me at The Breakfast Club. Just saying, I'm a fan, always have been, always will be. Hopefully with the added murder mystery (apparently a la Pretty Little Liars), it will be a worthy and entertaining read.


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Celebrating National Tell a Story Day

It's National Tell a Story Day so I'm here to tell you a story. I wrote this one recently though the idea took root a while back with a writing prompt - "write a story in which a pack of baseball cards is pivotal." It's not a finished draft by any means and I will probably never touch it again, but, for your enjoyment (I hope!) here is the beginning and the rest is available on Wattpad.


It's in the Cards

Smith climbed out of the car, stretched his too-long limbs, and considered the Greco-Roman fa├žade of the funeral parlor. Taylor-Strauss, the only mortuary in town, marked the entrance to the only cemetery in town. Not by coincidence.

The town of Whitehall prided itself on efficiency above all else. When the town had been mapped out in the mid-1800s, the planners had used foresight beyond their time and subsequent generations held true to the strict guidelines laid out by Taylor, Strauss, Blevins, Hall, and White. There were few cornerstones in Whitehall that didn’t bear the name of one or more of the founding families.

Smith strode across the cobblestone path, past the animal-shaped topiaries, up to the smooth, marble steps, all of it too grand for his tastes. He, like his father, disapproved of such extravagance detracting from the clean lines of the building beyond. The mortuary had been Smith’s father’s greatest contribution to Whitehall, a sprawling, modern building with clean lines and walls of windows that would have allowed mourners to look out over the river to the east, foothills to the west, and the cemetery to the north. It would have been beautiful, a perfect juxtaposition to the building’s purpose. 

The citizens of Whitehall hadn’t seen it that way. They hadn’t understood. Another architect had been hired to fix what was perceived as wrong. The columns went up. The topiaries and gates and fountains and marble steps followed.

Jonathan Taylor, Sr. met Smith in the lobby, sweaty-browed and glassy-eyed from the booze he liked to sneak before handling such affairs. Smith knew about the booze because of his relationship with Taylor’s son. Jonathan Junior, or more commonly, just Junior, was the jelly to Smith’s peanut butter. The pair had been inseparable since the first day of preschool when Smith defended Junior against a far bigger boy over a box of crayons. Junior may have started out a runt, but he took after his father and ended up defending Smith more often than not. Smith wished Junior were standing with him now. He could use some of that strength.   

“Hey, Smith. How are you holding up, son?” Jonathan Senior engulfed Smith’s hand in both of his, thought better of it and then pulled him into a suffocating bear hug. “I’m so sorry about your dad.” Jonathan Senior choked the words out, his breath heavy with bourbon and emotions Smith was sick to death of.



Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Book Review: Stalking Jack the Ripper by Keri Maniscalco

Stalking Jack the Ripper is one of the best teen books I've ever read. That's saying something.



We picked this book up based on the blurb - I know, I know, a mistake we've made time and time again. This time the book lived up to the blurb.

"Seventeen-year-old Audrey Rose Wadsworth was born a lord's daughter, with a life of wealth and privilege stretched out before her. But between the social teas and silk dress fittings, she leads a forbidden secret life.

Against her stern father's wishes and society's expectations, Audrey often slips away to her uncle's laboratory to study the gruesome practice of forensic medicine. When her work on a string of savagely killed corpses drags Audrey into the investigation of a serial murderer, her search for answers brings her close to her own sheltered world."


Basically, Audrey Rose is performing autopsies with her uncle to learn about the human body with hopes of studying medicine but ends up helping to track down Jack the Ripper. There is a light romance but it keeps true to the period and is very clean. After all, how can you really fall in love with any guy when there's a brilliant serial killer on the loose?

It's marketed as teen horror but Autumn and I didn't find anything over the top though some of the descriptions are a little graphic so if you have a good imagination and you're squeamish you may struggle with a few parts. The writing was clean and the story kept us both engaged. As far as teen lit goes, this one is tough to beat. I caution people to remember that this is a TEEN book and as such it's not going to compete with general fiction books that play by far different rules.

The Verdict on Stalking Jack the Ripper

Read it. Appreciate the story for what it is - just sit back and enjoy the ride.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Book Review: Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst

Of Fire and Stars is a sweet LGBT teen fantasy.


The story centers around a princess who is promised to a prince but ends up falling for his sister while they are all trying to sort out who is picking off royal family members. There's magic and deception, friendship and family secrets. 

I now understand why my daughter loved it so much - the romance is sweet and develops slowly but it's also not the main theme of the story. Autumn loved the wild, carefree Mare and appreciated the depiction of unconventional princesses. She warned me that it gets a little cheesy - it did - but also that it's fun and light - it was. 

A lot of the reviews we've seen seem to complain about the lack of world building and character development but that was not our experience at all. We loved how subtle the world building and character development were and honestly, I found very few awkward passages as opposed to the majority of what we've been reading. 

The Verdict on Of Fire and Stars

Honestly, I really enjoyed this book. It was cute and sweet and fairly well written. It's not meant to be an epic fantasy so I question the negative reviews that seemed to expect that. We got this book through Owlcrate (one of our new guilty pleasures!) and I'm glad because my kid loved it.

**This post contains affiliate links. Should you choose to purchase the book from Amazon you will not be charged extra but we may receive a small commission for the referral.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Book Review: Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies by Lindsay Ribar

Meh.



Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies fell a little flat and I've advised my daughter to skip it. Here's why:

1. Main Character proves that a cool name is not enough to make you cool. Aspen is an impulsive, self-centered, angsty kid who has this miraculous turnaround in the last fifty pages or so. Not believable or relatable.

2. Plot is crucial to every story. 75 pages into this book and I had no reason to care about what was happening. Sheer will to finish for this review is all that kept me going.

The Verdict on Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies

The writing was okay, nothing remarkable and there are more extraneous, unnecessary scenes than I could count on both hands. This might have done better as a short story. I'm sure this book has an audience, we just aren't it.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Book Review: Everland by Wendy Spinale

Everland is a very cute, very fun teen read.



As far as teen lit goes, this is not the best I've read but it was fun and the nod to Steampunk culture hit that sweet spot for me. I wish the editing had been a little tighter because there were some really awkward spots that jarred me from the story for a moment or two. Still, it's a sweet little read with mild romantic themes and decent characters.

Obviously based on the stories of Peter Pan and Neverland, there are plenty of nods to the original story including crocodiles, marbles, umbrellas, and teddy bears. Set against the backdrop of a London decimated by war and a virulent disease that threatens everyone within the city, Everland follows Gwen Darling (see what she did there?) and the Lost Boys as they fight against Hook whose story is told in alternating chapters. As a pleasant surprise, Hook is given more depth than you'd expect.

The Verdict on Everland

Very cute teen read. I would say it is clear for a YA read given how clean it is - no gruesome descriptions or battles, no romance beyond hand holding an a very chaste kiss (not telling who or when!). We're going to have to buy this series because my kiddo is going to love it.

** This post contains affiliate links, should you choose to purchase through this link you will not be charged extra but we will receive a small commission for the referral.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

It's National Haiku Poetry Day!

Who doesn't love a good haiku?


What is a haiku?

According to Poets.org, a haiku contains seventeen syllables written in a 5/7/5 count. That's right, it's basically a three-line poem so poetry's version of a short story. They're all about preserving a moment in time, a descriptive breath if you will.

Off the Cuff Haiku

I'm not much of a poet and writing short is not my favorite - I prefer the long game - but here goes:

Pulse bounces, flesh on fire
Sweat beads across the brow
Inhale, exhale, push.

How about you? Lay some on me, friends....

Friday, April 14, 2017

Book Review: Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

Crooked Kingdom is a solid follow-up to Six of Crows.




Kaz Brekker and his team are on the hunt for The Wraith (Inej) as Crooked Kingdom takes up where Six of Crows left off. Nina is recovering, Matthias broods, Jesper and Wylan continue dancing around their feelings for each other...and the plot thickens, of course.

Though I felt that some parts dragged a bit - to the point I skimmed some pages - there were a few brilliant scenes that made me laugh and one in particular that left me pissed. Isn't that what we're looking for, though? Books that make you feel something?

The Verdict on Crooked Kingdom

As I noted above, it's a solid follow up to Six of Crows and I would read anything about these characters because I thoroughly enjoy them. If you haven't tested the waters of Ketterdam yet, dive in and enjoy the ride!

**This post contains affiliate links. Should you purchase through these links you will not be charged extra but we receive a small commission for the referral.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Dear Teen Literature Authors by Autumn Broyles

As promised, today I'm posting a candid letter from my daughter Autumn, a precocious tween who is disappointed in the quality of teen books being inflicted on her and her peers.

Dear Authors of Teen Literature,
Today is National Support Teen Literature Day and I figured it would be the best time to address some of the problems in your writing, especially Teen Romances. This is an open, honest letter to those of you who THINK you write teen fiction. I'm taking this opportunity to point out the reasons why you're doing it all wrong.

Stereotyping

One of the biggest problems I find within teen literature is stereotyping. There are too many authors who choose to write stereotypes instead of relatable characters. For example, Stefan Bachmann's A Drop Of Night is one of the worst examples of this trend. I recently finished this one - barely. It was, in my opinion, a horrible book mainly because of the stereotypical female characters that could not have been more obnoxious. I could NOT stand either of them. Anouk, the main character seemed like a bad EMO spoof with more than a splash of narcissism. Lilly, the second female character, was nosy and overly cheerful.  This book is only ONE example but I could give many more. So please, STOP WRITING CHEAP STEREOTYPES!

Over the Top Romance

Another issue I have with teen literature is the excessive romance themes. I get that adults read these books too, but they are TEEN books and should not have detailed sex scenes. I've stopped reading books because of in-depth romance. For example, The Awesome by Eva Darrows sounded good. Monster hunting, AWESOME! However, a few chapters into the book and I hit a rather detailed sex scene that had no place in the book. I had my Mom read it and even she was shocked by the detail for a teen book. It's collecting dust on a shelf until I reach a point where I can stomach that. You had to add in that romance didn't you. 
Why are we giving teens books filled with hardcore romance themes? Aren't we worried about them trying to recreate some of the scenes in some of these books? Authors, are you possibly encouraging teens to do some of this stuff?  Just saying. Maybe take a note from romance themes done WELL - Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst, Everland by Wendy Spinale, and Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo.

Dragging Out the Story

The final issue I have with teen literature is the length of books, series, and trilogies. I've read too many books that  were longer than they needed to be - that's right, I'm looking at you, Michael Grant (Gone) and Suzanne Collins (Hunger Games). Maybe you guys should pay attention to some others who know how to keep their books the right length, *ahem* J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series. No matter what genre or age you write for you have to have respect the HP series.
To conclude I am begging you to write for your TRUE audience, not the adults who are reading teen books but the TEENS reading them. Talk to teens who read, ask them what they want to see and for all that is good in this world, stop catering to adults, they have enough of a selection to choose from without usurping ours.
Your Loving Reader,

AUTUMN BROYLES

(cause names should always be big. )

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Book Review: A Drop of Night by Stefan Bachmann

A Drop of Night falls victim to the "great concept poorly executed" curse.



I should have listened to my daughter on this one. Autumn's review can be found here if you are interested on her take as well. She's becoming quite the book critic and I should have trusted her.

The main character, Anouk, is one of the most annoying EMO-wannabe characters I've read in teen lit thus far. She's a disgrace to young women and, frankly, an insult. To pretend that "tough young women" act bitchy to hide some true pain is a sure way to piss off a truly tough young woman.

I'm trying not to be a jerk because this author is a kid, so I will let my daughter sound off since she is also a kid who found the main character annoying and, ultimately, offensive. While I can forgive his clearly backwards view of teen girls because of his inexperience, my daughter cannot. She asked me if this is what boys think of girls - either the bitchy, wounded tough girl or the too perky, too nice chubby girl (the secondary character Lily).

What do I say to that? What I said is, "Autumn, National Support Teen Literature Day is coming up, why don't you write an open letter to Teen Lit Authors about what you'd rather see and I will post it on my blog."

She is tickled pink. Look for Autumn's letter on April 13th.

In the meantime....

The Verdict on A Drop of Night

I wanted to like it. The premise is good and the story could have worked if the characters weren't so terrible.

Next up: Everland by Wendy Spinale

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Book Review: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Six of Crows is even better than I hoped.



Autumn and I have circled around this book at the bookstore for months and never purchased it because we're stingy and couldn't bring ourselves to buy one hardcover book when we could get two or three paperbacks on our list for the same price. Big mistake on our part and one that will be rectified in time for my daughter to read Six of Crows. We'll also be investing in the sequel. That's how much I loved this book.

The characters and world building are top notch as far as teen fiction goes. There are a smattering of gory scenes, mild romance themes (all G rated), and a lot of action. I would save this book for the maturer tween/teen and the adult crowds because of the gore and the allusions to darker deeds (slave trading, sex trades, etc) but there's nothing over the top or out of line as I've seen in other books that have attempted those subjects.

Basically, this book revolves around six teens with a variety of talents - some magical, some physical, and some purely intellectual - who are given an impossible task. Should they succeed, each of the six will find the redemption and freedom they crave. The plot thickens at every turn and the action is fantastic as the most improbable heist of their world unravels.

The Verdict on Six of Crows

In truth, Six of Crows should have been my follow up to Strange the Dreamer because they were both stunning examples of teen fiction. Well written with few cringe-worthy moments, Crows and Strange are a cut above the rest of the drudge out there. Forget Divergent, Hunger Games, and Twilight - read Six of Crows!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

National Beer Day!

I'm pretty sure it's no secret that I love beer. Not your run of the mill Bud or Miller, those are crap. I'm talking about the real deal, a craft brew that somebody has taken the time to formulate.



Of course, I'm partial to my Dad's brews - you can find more on his methods at Fisher's Follies. I don't know whether it's because he's my Dad or because he's honed his recipes for years, or maybe because he's now using his own, homegrown hops.

Can you tell I'm jonesin' for one of my Dad's home brews? I am. And tonight when I'm curled up on my couch with a lesser beer to celebrate #NationalBeerDay, I know that I'm REALLY going to be missing Dad's brews.
Drinking a Vanilla Porter at Breckenridge Brewery

No, I don't need a special day to drink beer, but it's nice to have a special day devoted to one of my favorite beverages in the world.


Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Book Review: This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

My daughter read This Savage Song first and thoroughly enjoyed it so I took a chance.



It's not that I was disappointed, far from it. The characters were interesting, the world unique, and the writing solid, but I just finished Strange the Dreamer where everything was amazing. I feel bad, maybe I didn't give Savage Song enough of a chance by choosing it as my follow up to Strange.

The story revolves around Kate (a teenager who grew up too fast and has Daddy issues that put all other Daddy issues to shame) and August (a monster with a conscience living among humans and not sure how or where to fit in). Their world is similar to ours - if all of a sudden all of the bad that we do to each other and our world manifested as monsters who turned on us. That's right. Monster's are real in this hell on Earth and the lines in the sand of been drawn - literally.

I liked it. I even finished it in a few hours. The author's style is what I would consider clean - no frills, no excess, no drawn out nonsense. I respect that. Of course, it's not Ms. Scwab's first rodeo, either. There are no rookie mistakes, no random expositions, and no "how in the hell did that character miraculously pluck that knowledge out of thin air" moments. Thankfully.

The Verdict

It's a worthy read for a rainy afternoon. I look forward to the sequel.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Book Review: Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

If you are a fan of epic fantasy you'll love Strange the Dreamer.



An Unseen City that essentially exists in legends and fairytales, an orphan boy (Lazlo Strange), a golden boy, and an impossible problem are at the core of Laini Taylor's newest novel.  In some ways, this teen fantasy strikes me as a PG version of A Crown for Cold Silver (The Crimson Empire) by Alex Marshall - not as gutsy or graphic by any means but epic in its own right. The transition and flow of the characters is reminiscent of those in Crown, one of my favorite reads in recent years, so Strange left me longing for the next installment.

Lazlo Strange is one of those characters you can't help but root for. Though I would argue that he brushes dangerously close to the realm of Mary Sue characters, Strange's backstory and awkwardness make it forgivable. Besides, the other characters are flawed enough to bridge the gap.

The writing is clean, smooth and refreshing, especially when compared to the crap teen books I've been reading with my daughter lately. She's almost twelve and knows enough to be frustrated with the garbage being peddled to her and her peers these days. Strange the Dreamer stands apart.

The Verdict

A refreshing, entertaining, and at times invigorating fantasy that thankfully does not center on idealized notions of romance but instead on a true quest and mystery.

**This post contains affiliate links. Should you choose to purchase through these links you will not be charged extra but I may receive a small commission for the referral. Thank you for supporting my blog!