Review: S.T.A.G.S. by M.A. Bennett

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Published: 13 February 2018

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Category: Young Adult/Mystery/Thriller

One deadly weekend.

At St. Aidan the Great School, or S.T.A.G.S., new things–and new people–are to be avoided. Unfortunately, Greer MacDonald, token scholarship student, is very much a new person. She has just transferred to S.T.A.G.S., and finds herself ignored at best and mocked at worst by the school’s most admired circle of friends, the Medievals.

So imagine Greer’s surprise when this very group invites her to an exclusive weekend retreat at the private estate of the parents of their unofficial leader, Henry de Warlencourt. It’s billed as a weekend of “huntin’ shootin’ fishin’,” and rumor has it that the invitee who most impresses the group will be given the privilege of becoming a Medieval themselves.

As the weekend begins to take shape, however, it becomes apparent that beyond the luxurious trappings–the fancy clothes the maid lays out on Greer’s bed, the elaborate multicourse dinners held in the Great Hall–there are predators lurking, and they’re out for blood. . . .

Rating: 4 Stars

Caution: detailed scene of hunting & cleaning of the kill.

S.T.A.G.S. has a great set-up for a thriller/mystery book, or a film even. There were a lot of classic elements leaning the book toward it, such as the elite group of students, the lack of phone/Internet usage, and so on. The setting especially, from the remote St. Aidan the Great’s School to the manor house belonging to Henry’s family, was well crafted to make the story as a whole even creepier.

Written in first person, the story is told by Greer, a outcast of sorts looking in on the Medievals, a group of six super popular and rich boys and girls. The events of the book are told from a future the reader is working toward. The course of the story unfolds as Greer tells them to us, so while oddities abound and behaviors are analyzed, it’s all from her singular view, lending a slant to it that the reader must decide to believe or question.

Greer is that person who, in horror movies, is set-up as the intelligent character here to talk sense into the other future victims, but ends up being just as dumb as they are (check out the dark hallways, go in the basement after a mysterious noise, etc.). She thought a lot about the differences between herself and the rich Medieval kids and rather than strengthening her character, her observations came across as almost snobby, as if she were proud of sussing these people out.

M.A. Bennett used Greer’s personality and the first person perspective of the novel to make an interesting point regarding society. All manner of sin is covered up by a pretty face. Not just the face evident to have swayed Greer; even after she discovers what the Medievals are up to, the attention paid to her by Henry and the sumptuous glamour of his estate shake her off course, temporarily winning her over and endangering the plan she, Shafeen, and Nel came up with to lay bare the nasty history of this popular group. Their elitism, the thing that protected them for centuries, echoes the real world crimes that the rich and powerful are able to get away with.

As wicked as Henry and his predecessors were, he did espouse some ideas about the nature or technology and the loss of the past that resonated with me. Technology moves so quickly that traditions can be lost if they’re not respected and cared for. Progress can be a good thing, but embracing it fully and ignoring what brought civilization to the future can be dangerous. Some comments were made about the reliance on tech that people have in this age, from young people aspiring to nothing more than a YouTube career to the current state of American politics where a reality-t.v. star with no government experience is now at the head of the establishment.

I liked the times when Greer made film references relevant to her current situation. Her and her dad bonded over films and it was clear their watched list was quite long. There were also some discussions that cropped up between Greer and the others, such as the one about tech and the Medievals abstention from most of it. The discourse on what tech has given and what it has poisoned had good points as well as fanciful, almost deluded ones. The conversation could easily turn from the characters in the book to real world discussions.

The ending was not quite obvious, but it didn’t surprise me. The eerie feeling of having won in a horror movie, only to realize that time hasn’t healed anything at all. There are still remnants of the old order and whatever the heroes thought they’d accomplished, whatever they thought they’d done to win, was worthless because at the end of the tunnel was no light, only more darkness and evil. Greer might escape St. Aidan’s School, but at what cost? The future is grim and there’s no certainty for anyone except for the Order of the Stag.

 

 

 

 

 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

All media (pictures, quotes, etc.) belong to the respective owners and are used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Enjoyed With My Valentine

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Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together. You can find the most current prompts here.

 


 

This week’s topic is Love Freebie: books with romance, OTPs, sexy times, etc. However, I’m not huge on romance in books and sexy times…well, no thank you to say the least.

Instead, I chose to list ten books I’ve enjoyed with my Valentine. We’ve been reading together for almost twelve years and read quite a lot, usually me pushing books at him and increasing his TBR to the point of bursting. *lol*

I hope some of these titles will be ones you want to share with your Valentine, romantic or not.

 

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Fushigi Yûgi: The Mysterious Play by Yu Watase

 

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Inkheart by Cornelia Funke

 

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Stardust: Being a Romance Within the Realms of Faerie by Neil Gaiman

 

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

 

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The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

 

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Eragon by Christopher Paolini

 

The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher

 

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Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

 

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Tsubasa: RESERVoir Chronicle by CLAMP

 

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The Game by Diana Wynn Jones

 


As you can see, we’re quite the fans of fantasy, epic or contemporary. 🙂 What are some books you’d share with your Valentine? Let me know in the comment section.

 

 

 

 

 

All media (pictures, quotes, etc.) belong to the respective owners and are used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

Rich In Variety Blog Tour: The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang

 

Rich in Variety Tours has once again put together a splendid blog tour, this time for Jen Wang’s The Prince and the Dressmaker. A skillfully illustrated graphic novel, it tells the story of Frances, an apprentice seamstress, and her meeting of and interactions with the crown prince, Sebastian. There’s a lot to learn for both of them, both in their ambitions and in their identities, so I hope that you all will come to like this book just as much as I did.

Peppered throughout my review are Valentine’s that embrace the story and utilize the beautiful illustrations you can expect in the novel itself. Please, enjoy!

 

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Published: 13 February 2018

Publisher: First Second

Category: Graphic Novel/Young Adult/LGBT+

Paris, at the dawn of the modern age:

Prince Sebastian is looking for a bride―or rather, his parents are looking for one for him. Sebastian is too busy hiding his secret life from everyone. At night he puts on daring dresses and takes Paris by storm as the fabulous Lady Crystallia―the hottest fashion icon in the world capital of fashion!

Sebastian’s secret weapon (and best friend) is the brilliant dressmaker Frances―one of only two people who know the truth: sometimes this boy wears dresses. But Frances dreams of greatness, and being someone’s secret weapon means being a secret. Forever. How long can Frances defer her dreams to protect a friend? Jen Wang weaves an exuberantly romantic tale of identity, young love, art, and family. A fairy tale for any age, The Prince and the Dressmaker will steal your heart.

Rating:  4 Stars

With a gorgeous art style, author/illustrator Jen Wang draws in the reader to a beautiful fairy tale of love and identity. Colors and her soft edged art style converge to make a book that was visually appealing and satisfactory in a narrative sense.

Prince Sebastian deals with many things in The Prince and the Dressmaker, primarily the expectations of his parents, the king and queen of Belgium, and what those duties mean for his personal identity. He finds himself comfortable and craving dresses, costuming himself in secret with old dresses of his mother’s until he meets Frances, a seamstress with dreams of her own. With her help, he’s able to become Lady Crystallia, a gorgeous fashion icon whose confidence soars in Frances’s creations.

The tug-of-war that exists within Sebastian, his identity versus parental/societal expectations, was very much at the forefront of the story. He explains to Frances that, at times, wearing dresses makes him feel not like Prince Sebastian, but more like a princess. That conversation leads me to believe that Sebastian is genderfluid. The feelings of sadness, joy, and satisfaction were felt painfully well as I read of his trying to figure out his identity, protecting so that he, and by extension those he loves, won’t be harmed, whether by ridicule or something else.

 

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Frances has an equally detailed story line. As it begins, she is a seamstress among many at a small shop until, following the wishes of the wearer of a gown rather than the one paying for it, she crafts a dress that attracts the notice of Sebastian. With him, she is able to create more elaborate and flashy gowns that she was unable to in her previous, more conservative employ. However, she still has much to learn as she establishes what her dream is and what she needs to do to make it happen. Whether that is continuing to help Sebastian and remain a secret herself, or working with the son of a department store creator to create a line for the masses, it’s up to her to decide where her path lies, made somewhat complicated by her growing feelings for Sebastian.

 

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There were several scenes that were particularly fun, a breath of ease among more serious panels. When Frances and Sebastian meet, their vacation together, the fashion show at the department store in particular.

In the end, through a series of sometimes cruel, sometimes sad, but ever after companionable and happy, both the prince and the dressmaker are able to grow more into their true selves. Finding that place, finding out who they can trust, made for a happily ever after.

 

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Blog Tour Schedule

February 12th

Harker – The Hermit Librarian

Rachel – Life of a Female Bibliophile

February 13th

Bhavya – Books N Calm

Naadhira – Legenbooksdary

February 14th

Lili – Utopia State of Mind

Ceillie – CandidCeillie

February 15th

Brooke – The Layaway Dragon

Imani – Introvert Problems

February 16th

Chloe – Blushing Bibliophile

Danielle – Poetry Books YA

 

 

 

I received a copy of this book as part of the Rich in Variety Blog Tour & from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

All media (pictures, quotes, etc.) belong to the respective owners and are used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

Review: DROPKICKromance by Cyrus Parker

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Published: 6 March 2018

Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing

Category: Poetry/Nonfiction

A collection of autobiographical poetry about healing and learning to love again from professional-wrestler-turned-poet, Cyrus Parker.

The first half of DROPKICKromance focuses on a toxic, long-distance relationship the author was involved in for several years, while the second half focuses on his current relationship with poet Amanda Lovelace. Ultimately, the collection tells about a profound journey of healing.

Rating: 5 Stars

From the first poem it was clear to see how much feeling there was in the words comprising some 178 pages of insight.

The first half of the book, about a toxic relationship that broke and was reassembled time and again, was heartbreaking because of the pain and how, even telling yourself you wouldn’t let the same thing happen to you, realizing the possibility it out there for the people we love to hurt us. Lies, betrayal, false hope, it’s all here.

There is also potential, personal growth, and finding your way to a better place. Confidence, self worth, those things exist too.

 

“i am mine before i am yours.”

 

Watching Cyrus through his poems was a journey from reliance on this past person through recovering and eventually finding a new and lasting love. The pieces that show his meeting Amanda (Lovelace, author/future wife), dealing with his ex trying to come back, and the forward movement he and Amanda share as a couple was visual, heart felt, and written so well that the words were more than that. They became tangible things I could imagine feeling myself. Some moments were more personal and hit me dead center. Being able to evoke those emotions in readers is a great skill of poets and Cyrus in particular.

As to the style of the poems, it is clear that he shares a style similar to that of Amanda. The structure and the format of the title in italics at the end rather than the beginning of the poem, will be familiar to readers of The Princess Saves Herself in This One. Each one flowed well and made consuming the book pleasant, even with the poems that were about difficult times.

Easily one of my favorite collections of the year, DROPKICKromance is a volume that everyone ought to try out, from fans of poetry to new comers unsure where to start.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

All media (pictures, quotes, etc.) belong to the respective owners and are used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

Rockstar Book Tours: Dear Dwayne, With Love by Eliza Gordon

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Title: DEAR DWAYNE, WITH LOVE

Author: Eliza Gordon

Pub. Date: January 23, 2018

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing

Pages: 380

Formats: Paperback, eBook, audiobook

Find it: Amazon, Audible, B&N, TBD, Goodreads

Wannabe actress Dani Steele’s résumé resembles a cautionary tale on how not to be famous. She’s pushing thirty and stuck in a dead-end insurance job, and her relationship status is holding at uncommitted. With unbearably perfect sisters and a mother who won’t let her forget it, Dani has two go-tos for consolation: maple scones and a blog in which she pours her heart out to her celebrity idol. He’s the man her father never was, no boyfriend will ever be—and not so impossible a dream as one might think. When Dani learns that he’s planning a fund-raising event where the winning amateur athlete gets a walk-on in his new film, she decides to trade pastries and self-doubt for running shoes and a sexy British trainer with adorable knees.
But when Dani’s plot takes an unexpected twist, she realizes that her happy ending might have to be improvised—and that proving herself to her idol isn’t half as important as proving something to herself.

This is a work of fiction. While Dwayne Johnson aka The Rock is a real person, events relating to him in the book are a product of the author’s imagination. Mr. Johnson is not affiliated with this book, and has not endorsed it or participated in any manner in connection with this book.

Rating: 4 Stars

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is one of the few actors that, in my opinion, can make a bad or poorly thought film better than ever expected. Going off with that idea, I thought that the idea of a main character writing a blog to him and trying to get a role in his film would be a lot of fun.

Danielle, the main character and narrator of the book, was a relatable and humorous character. Her struggles with finding acting roles as she gets older, familial expectations, and co-workers/bosses made for laugh out loud moments and some thoughtful ones. There’s the question of what to do when your dream seems to be fading, rallying behind your ideals and defending them to those who profess to have your best interests at heart and yet their ideas are vastly different than yours.

I liked the portions of the books that had mock script pages illustrating conversations between Danielle and The Rock. While I could almost here him saying these lines, they were really more Danielle talking to herself and working things out as opposed to real conversations. She may have doubts at times, but these script pages showed her pushing through.

There was more than a little talk about Danielle’s weight, from the clerk at Dick’s Sporting Goods when she’s buying workout clothes to her boyfriend Trevor and his past and present comments that are belittling. A lot of it brought up emotions in Danielle that she suppressed and other times she let it go. These moments didn’t make up a lot of the novel, but there was enough that I was uncomfortable.

I’ll say this, the author certainly made a good villain in that I hated Trevor’s guts even before some of his more disgusting behavior. Every moment he was on the page, my stomach felt uneasy and I was glade to be rid of him when his scene was over. He was a jerk turned up to 11 at least. I wish that Danielle had been able to get rid of him sooner because she seemed to understand that he wasn’t a good person, certainly not for her to be in a relationship with, and yet she held herself back.

There were some times when I felt that the humor was a bit stale: jokes about the only curls Danielle knows are lifting a bearclaw to her mouth, that sort of thing. Lines like that felt tired and detracted from the book. I wasn’t particularly happy with the pacing, either, hence the lower rating. Things slogged for awhile in the middle, making for a frustrating reading experience. The ending was a happy one, but I could’ve done with getting to the point faster.

All in all, Dear Dwayne, With Love has a cute premise, a sometimes funny main character, exuberant & overbearing family members, and an attractive love interest that make a palatable book.

About Eliza Gordon

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Eliza Gordon has excellent taste in books, shoes, movies, and friends, and questionable sanity in the realm of love. Best leave that one alone.

In real life, she’s an editor, mom, wife, and bibliophile and proud parent of one very spoiled tuxedo cat. Eliza writes stories to help you believe in the Happily Ever After; Jennifer Sommersby, her other self, writes YA and is repped by Daniel Lazar at Writers House.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Eliza’s Newsletter| Tumblr | Pinterest | Goodreads

Giveaway Details: International

1 winner will receive a DEAR DWAYNE, WITH LOVE Prize Pack including a finished copy of the book and swag! INT., ends on February 13th at Midnight EST!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tour Schedule

Week One:

1/29/2018- Here’s to Happy EndingsGuest Post

1/30/2018- Lattes & PaperbacksReview

1/31/2018- The Desert BibliophileReview

2/1/2018- Confessions of a YA ReaderExcerpt

2/2/2018- Book BriefsReview

Week Two:

2/5/2018- Dani Reviews ThingsReview

2/6/2018- Margie’s Must ReadsExcerpt

2/7/2018- The Hermit LibrarianReview

2/8/2018- Hauntedbybooks13Review

2/9/2018- BookHoundsInterview

 

 

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Rockstar Book Tours

 

 

 

 

 

I received a copy of this book as part of Rockstar Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.

All media (pictures, quotes, etc.) belong to the respective owners and are used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

Review: Before I Let Go by Marieke Nijkamp

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Published: 2 January 2018

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Category: Young Adult/Mystery/Contemporary

Best friends Corey and Kyra were inseparable in their snow-covered town of Lost Creek, Alaska. When Corey moves away, she makes Kyra promise to stay strong during the long, dark winter, and wait for her return.

Just days before Corey is to return home to visit, Kyra dies. Corey is devastated―and confused. The entire Lost community speaks in hushed tones about the town’s lost daughter, saying her death was meant to be. And they push Corey away like she’s a stranger.

Corey knows something is wrong. With every hour, her suspicion grows. Lost is keeping secrets―chilling secrets. But piecing together the truth about what happened to her best friend may prove as difficult as lighting the sky in an Alaskan winter…

Rating:  2 Stars

Content warning: mental illness disregard by characters and conversations as such that could be harmful to some people.

From reading the description, I thought that I would be going into a story that was a bit of a spooky mystery. A small town keeping secrets is certainly a good setting for that. The story that I ended up reading was rather a let down. I’ll be mentioning the reasons why, some of which may be considered spoilers, so SPOILER ALERT NOW.

To begin, a couple of points:

1. First of all, it says in the synopsis that the town is keeping secrets, which is misleading as it really only had one secret. That secret being: Kyra could paint the future and they ended up revering her as some kind of prophet.

1a. Kyra’s gift actually made for an interesting plot point, but it’s never explained. There are paintings of events all over town, but was she actually some kind of prophet? Was it a coincidence? The main character, Corey, never finds out and we have no other way of knowing. Not getting an answer one way or the other bugged me.

2. I don’t think the author could decide what kind of book this was meant to be. Realistic mystery? Supernatural mystery? There were elements of both, but it was never conclusive what I was reading. Corey spends a good amount of time dealing with flowers appearing out of nowhere, whispers of potential ghosts (and even a possible ghostly manifestion before she even gets to town), a garden blooming out of season, but then she pushes them off as nothing more than a clue to what happened to Kyra. That thought doesn’t pan out, so I was left with a confused feeling about what was happening.

3. There were some passages of the book that talked about Corey and Kyra’s sexuality, with it being mentioned that Kyra, after researching, had come back with definitions and the two came to terms with their own identities (Corey [asexual], Kyra [pansexual).

3a. While I like having diverse characters, their identities felt shoved in as part of trying to make the book diverse rather than a diverse book growing organically.

3b. From the descriptions we get of Corey’s attitude toward Kyra and an experimental kiss, among other dialogue, I think there was some confusion in the writing about the difference between asexual and aromantic. They are two very different things and personally I think the writer mixed Corey up.

I had some issues with Corey as a character, not only in her actions and her attitude but also in her development. While the townspeople clearly had their own ideas about Kyra, who she was and what she was to them both before and after her miracles, Corey acted as though she was 100% correct in her assessments of Kyra. There were maybe a couple points she had that I agreed with, such as supporting Kyra in wanting treatment, but there were far more moments when Corey came across as one minded as the townspeople.

In the end, she doesn’t really learn anything as far as I could tell. She gets some vague answer in regards to Kyra’s death, but not a totally clear picture and she herself is much the same at the end as the beginning. I didn’t see any real growth as a person. She even admits, near the end, that her remembrance of Kyra is not who Kyra was in the end. It’s almost like she’s admitting there’s no real closure here, only the closure she made up for herself.

Corey left Kyra and abandoned her just as much as the town abandoned her as a person and took up with her as an idol. Before the opening of the novel, she moved away with her family and went to a more broad minded boarding school. Engulfed with the life she started to make there, she ignored Kyra’s letters because not writing back was easier than searching for the right words and by following the easier path, Corey lost Kyra. I’m not saying that the burden of caring for Kyra and her MI is on Corey, but she makes quite a lot of claims during the novel about caring for Kyra and being there for her when she really wasn’t.

A note on some of the pages in the book. They were set up like they were pages from the script. This very jarring as the scenes that were depicted didn’t seem to warrant being treated differently. Why these were included is beyond me and with all the other issues I had, I think the overall book would’ve been better served if they hadn’t been included in this manner.

The town was a ball of hurtful people that judged someone with a mental illness until it turned out she (Kyra) had an ability that could serve them. Suddenly she was everyone’s best friend. I spent a good portion of the second half of the book being angry at everyone. The town for treating Kyra the way they did (shunning her for her MI, then worshiping her). I’ll give that the author certainly wrote these close minded people well and knew how to inspire rage filled moments.

I wish there had been more time spent with Kyra. Even in the flashbacks to before she died were all through Corey’s point of view and tainted by her perception. There were some letters by Kyra included which were great, but beneath the deluge of Corey’s idea about right, they faded.

Reading the book, I can see that the skill of Marieke Nijkamp is there and I really think she could have other stories that I’d enjoy. The pacing and the unanswered questions and the annoying main character does not make me want to count Before I Let Go among those possibilities.

 

 

 

 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

All media (pictures, quotes, etc.) belong to the respective owners and are used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

Review: Society of Wishes by Elise Kova and Lynn Larsh

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Published: 29 January 2018

Publisher: Silver Wing Press

Category: Fantasy/New Adult/Urban Fantasy

First book in the Wish Quartet, a new-adult, urban fantasy series set in a near-future alternate reality

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR.

Josephina Espinosa makes her living as a hacker-for-hire in the Lone Star Republic, a remnant of the fractured U.S.A. That is, until the day she and her best friend are gunned down in a government raid.

With her dying breath, Jo uses magical lore passed down from her grandmother to summon a wish-granter. Her wish? To save her friend’s life. Except wishes have costs, and for Jo, the price is the erasure of her entire mortal existence.

Now, as the most recent addition to the mysterious Society of Wishes, Jo must form a new “life” alongside the seven other members, one of which being her savior himself. Living as an occupant of the Society’s lavish mansion should be quite the perk, but while it is furnished with everything its inhabitants could possibly need, it lacks one thing—freedom.

Her otherworldly identity crisis takes a backseat, however, when Jo learns that the friend she sacrificed everything for is headed down the same path to ruin. Jumping in head-first, Jo uses her newfound magical abilities to protect him, only to realize that the ripples of her actions have far-reaching consequences. When the Society’s aloof leader Snow decides to give her a taste of his own ancient magic, Jo discovers that there are threads woven into the tapestry of her new reality that reach far beyond the wishes she is now required to grant. Ones that, if tugged on, could mean the unraveling of the world itself.

Rating: 2.5 Stars

The start of Society of Wishes is pretty funny. Elise and Lynn have a knack for humorous lines, such as the opening one, and interactions, as between main character Jo and her friend Yuusuke.

It was hotter than Satan’s tit outside…

The transition from Jo’s ordinary life to her Society of Wishes life actually came across as abrupt for my taste. Her use of magic that turns out to be real, even as she claimed in her mind that she didn’t believe it would work, felt strange, like she would have had to at least had a more present if slight belief before even attempting this sort of thing.

Meeting the rest of the Society was interesting, considering they come from different time periods. Snow, the leader, reminded me of the hero of an anime, from his white hair to his attitude. Wayne, a New York type from the early 20th century, was such an aggravating character that I wanted to kick him in the shins whenever he talked, though I’ll admit he did grow on me.

Jo, while confronting the newness of her life as a member of the Society, was a lot braver than I would’ve been. Her background in hacking, avoiding detection, and generally being smarter than the average person helped her cope with the headquarters weirdness, avoiding Ranger officers (they couldn’t see her anyway but still!), and learning about her new life.

The (I hesitate to say romance) intimate moments in this book felt like they came a bit out of nowhere. Jo and her feelings toward Snow, her intimacy with Wayne…I could see her acknowledging attraction to one or more of the people she meets, but the sex scene in Paris, while admittedly well written, was abrupt and I didn’t care for it.

The action of the book felt like it took a lot longer to get started than I would’ve liked. The first 48% of the book was mostly Jo acclimating to living in the Society headquarters, almost every detail gone over such as whose room is where, what the mansion provides in the recreation rooms vs. the bedrooms, and so on. Things started picking up around the 50% point and got a bit better, but things still felt like they were crawling a bit.

After finishing the novel and considering the pacing and the lack of engagement I felt with the characters and the story, I realized that, as long as it was, not a lot really happened. The difficulties that arose felt less than climatic so there was no real “big bad” or “villain”, so to speak. That disappointed me.

I can see a lot of potential for development in the course of the series. Society of Wishes, to me, was obviously an introductory novel to the world and its rules as opposed to a novel that embraced the story and went onward, revealing things as the narrative unfolds.

I received a copy of this book from the authors in exchange for an honest review.

All media (pictures, quotes, etc.) belong to the respective owners and are used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

The Fantastic Flying Book Club Presents: An Interview With Gloria Chao, author of American Panda

Blog tour

American Panda was one of my favorite novels of late 2017. Not only is Mei an engaging character with real faults and real quality, but her growth throughout the novel made her a believable, interesting person that I enjoyed reading about. You can read all my thoughts on the novel here.

Gloria Chao’s debut is hitting the shelves in a matter of days as of this posting and to get everyone amped up, I’m working with The Fantastic Flying Book Tours to bring you an interview with the author herself!

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Amazon  –  Barnes & Noble  –  Goodreads

Published: 6 February 2018

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Category: Contemporary/Young Adult

An incisive, laugh-out-loud contemporary debut about a Taiwanese-American teen whose parents want her to be a doctor and marry a Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer despite her germophobia and crush on a Japanese classmate.

At seventeen, Mei should be in high school, but skipping fourth grade was part of her parents’ master plan. Now a freshman at MIT, she is on track to fulfill the rest of this predetermined future: become a doctor, marry a preapproved Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer, produce a litter of babies.

With everything her parents have sacrificed to make her cushy life a reality, Mei can’t bring herself to tell them the truth—that she (1) hates germs, (2) falls asleep in biology lectures, and (3) has a crush on her classmate Darren Takahashi, who is decidedly not Taiwanese.

But when Mei reconnects with her brother, Xing, who is estranged from the family for dating the wrong woman, Mei starts to wonder if all the secrets are truly worth it. Can she find a way to be herself, whoever that is, before her web of lies unravels?

From debut author Gloria Chao comes a hilarious, heartfelt tale of how unlike the panda, life isn’t always so black and white.

Interview With The Author

 

You and Mei seem to share a lot of traits, among them a certain skill at dancing. What song would you choose for the two of you to dance to in Dance Dance Revolution?

I love this question! Hands down, Mei and I would DDR to Matsuri JAPAN because it’s my favorite combination and because it’s a little ode to Darren. If we’re choosing a non-DDR song to dance to, I’d pick Wang Leehom’s Shi Ba Ban Wu Yi, which I listened to a lot while writing American Panda.

With many emotional moments throughout, what was the most difficult part of American Panda to write?

The most difficult part to write at first was the mother’s side of the story and why she had such high expectations for Mei. Part of the reason this was difficult was because I didn’t know the whys behind my own mother’s actions, but writing this book made me ask her questions. It was difficult facing tough parts of my life head on, but I am so happy I did. The mother-daughter relationship in this book was the hardest to write but also the most rewarding.

While you were studying at MIT, did you ever think you’d become a writer or did that come later?

I never considered being a writer until after dental school. I wish I had found my passion earlier so I could have taken advantage of creative writing classes in college, but I try to tell myself that my windy path made me into the writer I am today (but that could be the cognitive dissonance speaking).

Mei faces a lot of pressure in this book. Did you face similar pressures growing up? How did they factor into your school and career choices?

I faced similar pressures, though my experiences have been fictionalized, meaning I altered certain parts to fit the book and characters. I was raised to be very left-brained, with math and science being the focus. My parents never explicitly said I had to be a doctor, but it’s no coincidence that my oldest brother is a doctor and I went to dental school.

Is there one character in the book that you loved writing more than any other?

I love this question too! Mei’s mother is my favorite character to write. She’s so full of life and bossy that she practically writes herself!

Are there any books you might recommend to people who loved American Panda?

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han, When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon, The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon, Nice Try, Jane Sinner by Lianne Oelke, The Victoria In My Head by Janelle Milanes.

 


 

Thank you so much, Gloria, for answering my questions and for writing Mei’s story for the world at large to enjoy. 🙂

Here’s hoping many more people will come to enjoy the culture, the intensity, and the interesting storytelling that is encompassed in this book. Also be sure to check out the giveaway below for (1) copy of American Panda (US only).

 

Giveaway

 

Rafflecopter giveaway

 

about the author (NEW)

Gloria Chao is an MIT grad turned dentist turned writer. AMERICAN PANDA is her debut novel, coming out February 6, 2018 from Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster.
Gloria currently lives in Chicago with her ever-supportive husband, for whom she became a nine-hole golfer (sometimes seven). She is always up for cooperative board games, Dance Dance Revolution, or soup dumplings. She was also once a black belt in kung-fu and a competitive dancer, but that side of her was drilled and suctioned out.
Visit her tea-and-book-filled world at gloriachao.wordpress.com and find her on Twitter @gloriacchao.

tour schedule (NEW)

January 31st

February 1st

February 2nd

Vicarious Bookworm– Review & Favorite Quotes

February 3rd

February 4th

Here’s to Happy Endings– Review & Favorite Quotes
A Bookish Abode– Review

February 5th

Vicky Who Reads– Interview & Review

February 6th

I received a copy of this book as part of The Fantastic Flying Book Club tours for an honest review.
All pictures, quotes, and videos belong to their respective owners. I use them here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

February 2018 New Release Giveaway Hop

feb182

Welcome to the February 2018 New Release Giveaway Hop, hosted by Shannon at It Starts at Midnight.

There are a lot of beautiful, fantastic stories coming out in February. So many that I’d like to build upon my New Release Giveaway Hop from last August and do it again!

The prize: one February 2018 new release title up to $20 USD value.

Open to: Internationally, as long as Book Depository ships to your country.

 

Rafflecopter Giveaway

 

Terms/Conditions

Choice of ONE book that releases in February of 2018 with a cost of less than $20 US dollars. Winner must be 18+ or be 13+ with parental permission. Odds of winning depend on number of eligible entries received. International residents may enter as long as TBD ships to your country. Book Depository and the authors of potential titles are in no way affiliated with this giveaway.

Winner will be notified via email, and has 48 hours to respond to email or prize will be forfeit. Only one entry per household. Giveaway-only social media accounts will NOT be accepted. All entries will be verified. Winner will be posted upon verification and acceptance. Contest ends on March 1st, 2018 at 11:59pm EDT.

 

 

 

 

 

All pictures, quotes, and videos belong to their respective owners. I use them here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.