Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Blog Tour and Book Sketch: Antipodes by Michele Bacon

By: Michele Bacon
Published By: Sky Pony Press
Release Date: April 3, 2018
Series: None
Pages: 288
Genre: Contemporary
Reading Level: Young Adult
Source: Publisher
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads Summary: When Erin Cerise steps off her plane in Christchurch, New Zealand, she is focused intently on her mission: do something unique that will erase the mess she made of her life on her 17th birthday. She’s already lost her swim team captainship, her boyfriend Ben, and her reputation. Her mother is certain studying abroad will regain Erin’s chances of a good future. Once Erin sees her uninspiring host family and city, though, she’s not so sure.

Before Christchurch, Erin wasn’t always intense and focused. Years ago, a mission sounded like a fun adventure, and the only ivy she cared about was the stuff growing around her grandparents’ back porch at their peaceful Upper Peninsula home. When had her priorities gone upside down?

Now Erin balks at NZ’s itchy school uniforms, cold houses, and her hosts’ utter inability to pronounce her name correctly. Christchurch does boast amazing rock climbing, gorgeous scenery, and at least one guy who could make her forget Ben if she lets him. With months ahead of her, Erin slowly begins to draw on the years behind her, one step back into her memories at a time. As she rebuilds her life from the other side of the world, she finds that when life turns your world upside down and you’re far from home, every way you move takes you closer to where you came from.

First Thought After Finishing: I want to go to New Zealand, stat!

I love books with foreign settings, and I’ve always been intrigued by the beauty and lifestyle of Australia and New Zealand. I was excited to dive into Antipodes and experience a different way of life vicariously through Erin’s study abroad experience. Needless to say, this book everything I didn't know I wanted and needed at the moment.

Erin has her future all planned out. Clinch a swimming championship, be a fabulous cellist, get into Columbia, become a doctor, have a great life. Under the watchful eye of her powerful mother, Erin has worked her entire life to reach this dream. But new swimming students and one drunken night derail Erin’s plans. To save her college applications, Erin’s parents send her to study abroad. The new plan is simple: find something to wow Ivy League colleges. Instead, Erin discovers that sometimes you have to travel around the world just to find yourself.

At the beginning of this book, I did not care for Erin very much, despite (unfortunately) seeing a great deal of my former self in her. Despite having the opportunity to fix her mistake, she was focused only on what had gone wrong in her life and her parents’ worldview, which translated into being rather snobby toward and judgemental of her host family and those around her. However, it doesn’t take long for Erin to start to realize how life is different in New Zealand—slower, more relaxed. This calm gradually rubs off on Erin, and she starts to reevaluate what is really important in life.

This is a true story of self-discovery and proof of why travel is so important. She meets new friends—Jade, Marama, and Hank—who help to show her how life can be different. Honestly, I loved all of the New Zealanders that Erin meets. Her kiwi friends are the kind of friends everyone wants—welcoming and supportive without expectations. Her host family, despite having to learn how to get along with her, is warm and loving, and her younger sister is adorable. I especially enjoyed Hank’s life philosophy and hope that I am able to keep the words in mind as I move forward.

"New Zealand was changing her--or revealing parts of her she didn't know existed."

Erin’s journey resonated a great deal with me on a personal level. The lush, rich descriptions of the New Zealand landscape almost do justice to what must be breathtaking views. I cheered as Erin started to find her own voice and found something that made her truly happy—it was almost enough to make me want to go rock climbing, until I remembered that I’d likely die in such an attempt. Still, anyone who has ever had to rediscover themselves, break away from expectations, or simply wants to be transported will find something to love about this book.

Most Memorable Aspect: The New Zealand setting. I’m in love with all of the scenery described!

~ ~ ~ ABOUT THE AUTHOR ~ ~ ~

I was born in Trumbull County, the only square county in Ohio, where books were my favorite means of escaping an unhappy childhood. Writing was my transparent attempt to create the things I craved: big happy families, international adventures and unconditional friendship. From a young age, I was drawn to people’s stories, and I still want to know how you met your best friend or fell in love with your partner.

In high school, I embraced my inner geek and wrote my first novel. In college, there were short stories and still more novels. I graduated from The Ohio State University with a B.A. in English, with concentrations in critical theory and creative writing.

Full-time work sapped my creative brain for several years, but my professional life was one of reinvention. In state government, business management consulting, and nonprofit fundraising, I adapted easily and absorbed the languages of different professions. My last paying job was as an independent fundraising consultant for nonprofit organizations. That was seven years ago.

Since then, I have been writing and traveling (and, let's be honest, chasing down small people who don't like to wear clothes). I've traveled to all 50 states and dozens of other countries, always collecting pieces of characters and ideas for stories. I recently spent a year on sabbatical in Christchurch, New Zealand, where I may have left my heart at Ilam School. Now that we've settled back in the States, I'm writing for adults and young adults, exploring the Pacific Northwest, and baking like a fiend. (You'd thinking baking would be the same everywhere, but it's not. Something is different about kiwi butter.)

When an idea strikes, I scrawl sweeping plot outlines, character idiosyncrasies, and ideas for scenes on the nearest blank spot of paper. My current manuscript was born of those torn slips of paper, used envelopes, lollipop wrappers, fuel receipts and--once--that little paper bit that keeps a nursing pad sticky until it's time to use it. My manuscripts are better than the quality of papers where they began. Promise.

Outside of writing, I am a tabletop game enthusiast, passionate skier, and lover of prime numbers. I also am a mentor at the Moving Words Writing Clinic, and a freelance copyeditor.

I live in Seattle with my husband and three growing children.

Find Her Online:
Website | Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram


Week One:
3/26/18 - Pretty Deadly Reviews - Interview
3/26/18 - Here's to Happy Endings - Review

3/27/18 - Katie's Bookaholic Rambling Reviews - Excerpt
3/27/18 - Lattes & Paperbacks - Review

3/28/18 - Wonderstruck - Review
3/28/18 - Portrait of a Book - Review

3/29/18 - Bookhounds YA - Interview
3/29/18 - Shelf Rider - Review

3/30/18 - The Reading Life - Excerpt
3/30/18 - RhythmicBooktrovert - Review

Week Two:
4/2/18 - YA Books Central - Interview
4/2/18 - Blushing Bibliophile - Review

4/3/18 - Lilly's Book World - Review
4/3/18 - MetalPhantasmReads - Review

4/4/18 - Caffeine and Composition - Review
4/4/18 - Two Points of Interest - Review

4/5/18 - The Infinity Words - Review
4/5/18 - Novel Novice - Guest Post

4/6/18 - Paulette's Papers - Excerpt
4/6/18 - Books Are Love - Review


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Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Blog Tour and Book Sketch: Cold Hard Truth by Anne Greenwood Brown

By: Anne Greenwood Brown
Published By: Albert Whitman Company
Release Date: April 3, 2018
Series: None
Pages: 371
Genre: Contemporary
Reading Level: Young Adult
Source: Publisher
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads Summary: Emmie O’Brien is a former good girl now on the fringe. She spent a crazy year involved with Nick, her mom’s drug dealer; after her arrest she was lucky to go back to her old life. But she’s haunted by the choices she made—first, to be with Nick, and then later, to testify against him. Max Shepherd is a senior varsity hockey player with serious anger issues. His grief over the death of his girlfriend causes him to see injustice wherever he looks. When they meet in community service, Max is drawn to Emmie’s calm energy, but Emmie knows better than to get too close to anyone. When friends of Nick show up seeking revenge, Emmie is forced to come to terms with her past, while Max has to control his protective instincts. They must trust one another, especially when Emmie’s situation takes a dangerous turn.

First Thought After Finishing - I hope there is a companion novel!

I wanted to read this book because it involved a hockey player and I’m a slight (read: huge) hockey fan. And, I admit it, I wanted to live vicariously through the girl dating a player. But this story was even more than just a romance—it was a story of learning to trust you and finding someone who completes you.

Emmie has been dealt a rough hand in life. After a year living with her meth-addict mother, doing anything she could to make sure her mother didn’t suffer from withdrawals, Emmie finds herself in trouble with the law and back living with her father. Only trouble didn’t stay away just because Emmie left. Enter Max, who has some baggage of his own. When they meet on their community service crew, the attraction is undeniable. But is that enough to overcome the truth they’re both trying to hide?

Emmie is a tough, no-nonsense girl who doesn’t want anyone to know that she’s not okay. She’s used to taking care of herself and her mother with a support network that was anything but supportive. As an adult reading this, my heart broke for a teenager who had to live like this. As much as Emmie wants to be free, she also can’t quite shake the guilt she feels from testifying against Nick (her mother’s dealer) and leaving her mom alone. It was hard for Emmie to trust again, but with every new interaction, I only wanted the best for her.

Then there is Max, struggling under guilt of his own and trying to learn how to control his anger. At first, Max was a great example of when a protective guy can go too far. Still, despite what Max had suffered, wanted to care about someone else. He recognized something special in Emmie and wanted to break through her walls, and isn’t that what every girl wants? Once again, he was someone I just wanted to hug.

Max (and later Emmie) has a great group of friends, and I loved watching them interact together. It was really fun to see behind-the-scenes glimpses of a hockey team. (I’d love to be a fly on the wall in my team’s locker room just to know what really happens.) The girls were also accepting of Emmie and Marissa, and that was refreshing to see.

Throughout the book, it wasn’t too difficult to guess at the truths both Emmie and Max were hiding, but I still wanted them to trust each other enough to actually share them. Honestly, I wanted to see so much more emotions from both of them. This book had the potential to be a complete tearjerker, but something kept me from fully giving in to that. The story was missing an element of depth and complexity that would have pushed this book to a new emotional level. Despite that, I sound myself turning pages quickly, as it was not hard to get drawn into the story. I would also love to see companion novels with this group of friends. More hockey books are always a good thing!

Most Memorable Aspect: Emmie’s Story and the fun of the hockey teammates.

~ ~ ~ ABOUT THE AUTHOR ~ ~ ~

Anne Greenwood Brown lives in Minnesota with her patient husband and three hilarious children. She is the author of the following Young Adult novels:
COLD HARD TRUTH (contemporary/romance);
GIRL LAST SEEN (contemporary/suspense); and the paranormal mermaid trilogy: LIES BENEATH, DEEP BETRAYAL, PROMISE BOUND. She also writes adult romance under the name A.S. Green.

Find Her Online:
Website | Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram


Week One:
3/26/18 - Angelic Book Reviews - Excerpt
3/27/18 - Portrait of a Book - Review
3/28/18 - Bookhounds YA - Interview
3/29/18 - The Desert Bibliophile - Interview
3/30/18 - Here's to Happy Endings - Review

Week Two:
4/2/18 - Wonderstruck - Review
4/3/18 - Adventures Thru Wonderland - Review
4/4/18 - Falling for YA - Review
4/5/18 - Literary Meanderings - Interview
4/6/18 - Eli to the Nth - Review


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Thursday, March 1, 2018

Book Sketch: Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

By: S. Jae-Jones
Published By: Thomas Dunne Books
Release Date: February 7, 2017
Series: Wintersong
Pages: 436
Genre: Fantasy
Reading Level: Young Adult
Source: Bought
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads Summary: All her life, nineteen-year-old Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, mysterious Goblin King. He is the Lord of Mischief, the Ruler Underground, and the muse around which her music is composed. Yet, as Liesl helps shoulder the burden of running her family’s inn, her dreams of composition and childish fancies about the Goblin King must be set aside in favor of more practical concerns.

But when her sister Käthe is taken by the goblins, Liesl journeys to their realm to rescue her sister and return her to the world above. The Goblin King agrees to let Käthe go—for a price. The life of a maiden must be given to the land, in accordance with the old laws. A life for a life, he says. Without sacrifice, nothing good can grow. Without death, there can be no rebirth. In exchange for her sister’s freedom, Liesl offers her hand in marriage to the Goblin King. He accepts.

Down in the Underground, Liesl discovers that the Goblin King still inspires her—musically, physically, emotionally. Yet even as her talent blossoms, Liesl’s life is slowly fading away, the price she paid for becoming the Goblin King’s bride. As the two of them grow closer, they must learn just what it is they are each willing to sacrifice: her life, her music, or the end of the world.

First Thought After Finishing: Honestly, I still don’t know how I feel! 

From the first time I heard about it, Wintersong seemed like the perfect book. With its historical German setting, the Erlkonig lore, and all of the references to music, I knew that this book would make an impression, and it’s definitely been on my mind since I read the last page.

Liesl has grown up hearing her grandmother’s stories of the Goblin King. As a child, she fancied him her friend, but then she was forced to grow up and help her family stay together. A musician and dreamer at heart, Liesl has had to sacrifice much of her identity in the face of her sister Kathe’s beauty and her brother Josef’s musical talent. But when legends of the Goblin King resurface as more reality than dream, Liesl finds herself trying to navigate Der Erlkonig’s underground world to save her sister...but she may just lose her heart in the process.

"'Life,' he said softly, 'is more than flesh. Your body is a candle, your soul the flame. The longer I burn the candle...'

He did not finish.

'A candle unused is nothing but wax and wick,' I said. 'I would rather light the flame, knowing it will go out, than sit forever in darkness.'"

From the beginning of the story, I felt an immediate kinship with Liesl. She was a musician at heart who had to shoulder responsibilities other though music, though she never forgot the pull of the song. Liesl’s identity is wrapped up in her family, and throughout this book, she is rediscovering who she is as an individual. Enter the Goblin King, who fuels Liesl’s musical dreams. S. Jae-Jones’s reimagining of Der Erlkonig’s character honored the original story while creating something beautifully unique. From the descriptions of the Underground to its inhabitant creatures, the world was thoroughly infused with magic. Beyond this, I loved reading the shy, at times unsettling, but always tender romance that blossomed between the two. Liesl may have agreed to become the Goblin Queen, but their relationship still had a slow burn that made the story that much more intense. Like Liesl, I wanted to discover all of Der Erlkonig’s secrets and to see what happened when they both became the best version of themselves.

I’ve been thinking for some time about how to adequately describe the one sticking point I had with this book. Several times LIesl credited her intimacy with the Goblin King with helping her to become authentic and free, and that struck a dissonant chord. I wish she would have chosen that path because she wanted to share herself rather than find herself.

Regardless of the reason, the emotional journey of Liesl and Der Erlkonig was nothing short of magical. I cannot wait to read the second installment of this story and discover the future for them both.

Most Memorable Aspect: The musical references and lush writing style.

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