A Rockstar Book Tour Release Day Blitz: Court of Secrets by Dyan Chick

I am pleased to share that Dyan Chick’s new book, Court of Secrets, is available now and I get to take part in sharing the news!

Thank you to Rockstar Book Tours for hosting this Release Day Blitz. Please be sure to visit their website here. There are frequent tours, including reviews, interviews, and more, to enjoy.

If Dyan Chick is a new-to-you author, be sure to check out all the details on Court of Secrets below AND the details of the giveaway that Dyan has been so gracious as to sponsor as part of the blitz. Giveaway details will be at the bottom of this post.

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Court of Secrets (Reverse Harem Fantasy) – Forbidden Queen #1 by Dyan Chick

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Published: 15 October 2018

Publisher: Illaria Publishing LLC

Category: Reverse Harem/Fantasy

Formats: Paperback, e-book

Pages: 216

Four Sexy Fae Princes. A Changeling Fae. A Secret that could end them all. 

When Cassia’s wedding is ruined by a monster attack, her whole life changes. Destined for the dull and uneventful life of a Baron’s wife, Cassia always dreamed of more. She never thought it would come in the form of three sexy fae princes.

When she accidentally uses magic, Cassia discovers that she’s not human. She’s a changeling, a fae hidden in the human world. She no longer belongs in the human realm, but she won’t survive on her own in Faerie.

Now, her only hope is the three sexy fae princes who saved her life on her wedding day. On the run from the monsters that attacked her, Cassia must help the princes hunt them down. Her life depends on them, and by the time this is over, they might need her as much as she needs them.

Court of Secrets is a full-length Reverse Harem Fantasy Novel

Book 1 of 4

 

About Dyan

 

Dyan

 

My story is probably similar to a lot of other writers out there. As a kid, I was creative, imaginative, and loved to write. I’d write scripts for plays and make my sisters act them out. I got excited about the writing prompts for standardized tests in elementary school. I started writing my first (unfinished) novel in 5th grade. Then started another one in middle school. For a long time, I was a closet writer. I didn’t tell anybody that I had a hard drive full of abandoned stories. After years of not finishing anything, I finally took the plunge and started taking writing, and myself as a writer, seriously. My first novel, Heir of Illaria, published January 23, 2017. Book 2 is right around the corner. It’s gone from closet hobby to full on addiction. Thankfully, I have a wonderfully supportive
husband who doesn’t look at me like I’m crazy when I talk about my characters
as if they’re real.

 

Sign up for Dyan’s Newsletter!

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Goodreads

 

Excerpt

 

I walked into the room and tried not to let the fact that Dane was going to be staying the night in the same room as me get to me. The door shut behind me and I could feel the presence of another person even though I wasn’t looking at him.

Even when I was a young child, I had slept in my own room. When I was very young, I remember Nani occasionally sleeping on the floor near my bed if I had nightmares. But when I woke in the morning, she was never there. So I knew she just stayed for a short time and then went to her own sleeping quarters.

It was strange to know that someone else was in there with me. I looked around the room and felt my chest tighten at the sight of the small bed that took up most of the space. It would be difficult to even find enough floor space to stretch out on for a normal person, not to mention someone as tall and broad as Dane. The bed might even be too short for him, but it was wide enough for two people. My cheeks heated when I realized the only logical sleeping arrangement would be for the two of us to share the bed.

I turned around to ask Dane what he thought and let out a squeak of surprise.

Dane froze halfway through removing one of the legs of his trousers.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“You don’t expect me to sleep in these filthy clothes, do you?” he asked.

I stared at him, my mouth hanging open, as I tried to think of something to say. He finished removing his trousers and when he dropped them to the floor, a cloud of dust rose from them.

I had to concede that he was right, our clothes were filthy. As much as I didn’t want to sleep in the dust from the road, I wasn’t sure I was ready to sleep naked next to Dane.

“Surely you’ve seen men without their clothes on,” Dane said as he lifted his tunic over his head.

I stared at him, blinking in silence, taking in every inch of his bare chest. From the firm chest muscles to the rippling muscles of his abdomen and finally, pausing at the V shaped indent of his hips. Thankfully, he was still wearing some undergarments to cover the lower portion. Yet, I found myself curious to know what he looked like completely naked.

“I’ve never been with a man. Remember you met me on my wedding day. Nothing really happened after that,” I said.

“I forget,” he said with a knowing smile, “you humans don’t let yourself have very much fun.”

“You’re the ones who keep saying I’m not human. It’s very confusing when you keep lumping me in with them,” I said, feeling frustrated.

 

Giveaway

 

1 Winner will receive a $10 Amazon Gift Card (open INT)

 

All media (pictures, quotes, etc.) belong to the respective owners and are used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.
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Review: If They Come For Us: Poems by Fatima Asghar

Through poetry, author Fatimah Asghar communicates a story that blends history with autobiography. If They Comes For Us is, in part, a story identity and how that changes when faced with the strain of Partition; about family and how the meaning of the word can alter in the blink of an eye.

Filled with loss, heartbreak, diaspora, and so much emotion that can only be encapsulated by Fatimah’s own words, this book was an intense read.

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Amazon | Audible |  Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Goodreads | Indiebound

Published: 26 June 2018

Publisher: One World

Category: Poetry

Poet and co-creator of the Emmy-nominated web series “Brown Girls” captures the experience of being a Pakistani Muslim woman in contemporary America, while exploring identity, violence, and healing.

In this powerful and imaginative debut poetry collection, Fatimah Asghar nakedly captures the experiences of being a young Pakistani Muslim woman in America by braiding together personal and marginalized people’s histories. After being orphaned as a young girl, Asghar grapples with coming-of-age as a woman without the guidance of a mother, questions of sexuality and race, and navigating a world that put a target on her back. Asghar’s poems at once bear anguish, joy, vulnerability, and compassion, while exploring the many facets of violence: how it persists within us, how it is inherited across generations, and how it manifests in our relationships with friends and family, and in our own understanding of identity. Using experimental forms and a mix of lyrical and brash language, Asghar confronts her own understanding of identity and place and belonging.

Rating: 3.5 Stars

CW: genocide, rape, domestic abuse

Much of the work within this volume was strong and clearly conveyed. There were times when it was difficult to read, given the subject matter, but knowing what the author was writing about, I had a fair amount of expectation of this going in.

 

A life. Alive. I promise.

 

There were times that overwhelming feelings of sadness came over me reading the book, considering quotes like the one above. Something so ordinary, a life, to wish for and yes something a staggering amount of people, women especially, will be unable to make come true. The harsh realities If They Come For Us reminds the reader of, not just of the events in this book but of the continuing realities of the world, are hard hitting.

 

Every year we call them something new: British. Sikhs. Hindus. Indians. Americans. Terrorists.

 

It’s ceaseless, this terror that consumes her people. When one form falls, another rises to murder women and children, to leave corpses untended by ritual to guide them on past this mortal life. It’s horrifying as a reading experience, much less a way of life.

 

you’re kashmiri until they burn your home. take your orchards. stake a different flag.

 

Who are you when you’re forced from your home, when people come and tear it to pieces and claim it to be new lands? When identities are stolen and ground to dust beneath your feet as you’re forced to leave and move who knows where? When someone decides its time for you to be something else and new, arbitrary borders are drawn? Traditions taken and twisted until they’re no longer familiar.

Reading these experiences left a hollow, pit feeling alongside what understanding I had. Some of these poems were harder to comprehend not because of subject matter, I don’t think, but because the phraseology used didn’t really make sense to me. However, what I did like, most of the first half and a bit at the end made me believe that I’d recommend this.

The depths of Fatimah’s writing and experience, the history written about in this volume of poetry, speaks to a lot of sadness, horror, but there was also a tenderness beneath all that. There was found family beneath the loss of parents, uncles and aunties. There were the women that became Aunties and helped, becoming Family, whatever anyone else might say.

 

 

 

 

 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Quotes included are from an advanced reader copy and may not reflect the finalized copy.

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

 

 

 

 

Review: Tiger vs. Nightmare by Emily Tetri

Tiger vs Nightmare is a visually stunning story about a young tiger and her best friend, Monster, a creature who lives under her bed. A strong story about friendship combined with pleasing art makes for a book that will appeal to a wide audience.

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Published: 6 November 2018

Publisher: First Second

Category: Graphic Novels/Childrens Books

Tiger is a very lucky kid: she has a monster living under her bed. Every night, Tiger and Monster play games until it’s time for lights out. Of course, Monster would never try to scare Tiger—that’s not what best friends do.

But Monster needs to scare someone…it’s a monster, after all. So while Tiger sleeps, Monster scares all of her nightmares away. Thanks to her friend, Tiger has nothing but good dreams. But waiting in the darkness is a nightmare so big and mean that Monster can’t fight it alone. Only teamwork and a lot of bravery can chase this nightmare away.

In this charming graphic novel for young readers, cartoonist Emily Tetri proves that unlikely best friends can be an unbeatable team, even agianst the scariest monsters.

Rating: 5 Stars

The watercolor style of Tiger vs. Nightmare is the first thing that caught my eye regarding this book. The colors are bright and rich with a smudgy quality that makes them attractive to a younger audience and interesting for any older readers that might be joining them.

Story wise, this was a great one for friendship, imagination, bravery, and teamwork. Tiger’s parents encourage her friendship/imagination toward Monster, the monster under her bed, who chases away the nightmares, including asking if Monster has any special requests for dinner (Tiger shares!). Monster is very brave because no matter how big the nightmares are, they do their best to fulfill their Monster duties.

Teamwork comes in when Tiger and Monster must work together and come up with a plan for the biggest nightmare of all. What do you do when it’s too scary? These friends plan & work things out in inventive, child friendly ways. I’d see this as a good bedtime story in general, but maybe especially if someone is having trouble getting to sleep due to nightmares. Maybe they just need a Monster friend of their own. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

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: What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli & Adam Silvera

What If It’s Us is one of my most highly anticipated books of 2018. Becky Albertalli (Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, The Upside of Unrequited) and Adam Silvera (More Happy Than Not, They Both Die at the End) have written some of my favorite contemporary books in recent memory. When I heard that they were going to write a book together, I think I actually squealed in excitement.

Their styles, the sort of endings one can expect from each writer, are so different, I had no idea what to expect going into the story. How would their writing balance out with each other? Would I be crying at the end with tears of joy or sorrow?

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Published: 9 October 2019

Publisher: HarperTeen

Category: Young Adult/Contemporary/LGBT/Romance

Arthur is only in New York for the summer, but if Broadway has taught him anything, it’s that the universe can deliver a showstopping romance when you least expect it.

Ben thinks the universe needs to mind its business. If the universe had his back, he wouldn’t be on his way to the post office carrying a box of his ex-boyfriend’s things.

But when Arthur and Ben meet-cute at the post office, what exactly does the universe have in store for them?

Maybe nothing. After all, they get separated.

Maybe everything. After all, they get reunited.

But what if they can’t quite nail a first date . . . or a second first date . . . or a third?

What if Arthur tries too hard to make it work . . . and Ben doesn’t try hard enough?

What if life really isn’t like a Broadway play?

But what if it is?

Rating: 4 Stars

Rep: gay Jewish ADHD MC, gay Puerto Rican MC, near-poverty rep

CW: scene of homophobia, hospital/hospitalization

Spoiler alert, I did end up crying a little bit while reading this book. lol

Arthur was a refreshing perspective to read. He had an optimism that made his point of view fun to read, a relief from some of the more emotionally stressing books I had going at the time. While he might not have wanted to be an intern at his mom’s office, Arthur didn’t become petulant about it. He made friends with two paralegals, positively beamed when experiencing the city and friendship with them.

Ben was the more relatable of the two for me. There were some aspects of his family life, particularly his concerns and some awkwardness about money, that at this stage in my life I felt really connected to.

When Ben and Arthur, after a truly strange meet cute that involved a marching band flash mob, start their dating adventure in the summer of 2018, there was a gamut of cringe and truly wonderful awkward scenes that encapsulate dating experiences.

While this book is a rom-com and has a lot of light moments, that didn’t prevent Becky and Adam from writing scenes including more serious topics. Arthur and Ben both have big THINGS that are their own individual sources of conflict within this book. There are some smaller conflicts, like Arthur being from Georgia and Ben’s ex still being sort-of in the picture, but these THINGS are more than that. For Ben it’s his family’s financial situation and issues he faces as a white passing Puerto Rican person. For Arthur, it’s his family’s stability/structure, the very real possibility of divorce.

Ben talks about the colorism issues he faces a couple of times, once at a college meetup in Central Park when talking to a black student:

 

Kent bites his lip as he nods. “At least no one follows you around grocery stores like you’re trying to steal something. And I bet no one is asking you if you got into Yale to meet some sort of diversity quota. That actually sucks.”I look away because wow, Kent didn’t swing but it still felt like I got punched. “I’m sorry, I . . .”It’s quiet between us. Having to tell people I’m Puerto Rican is not a problem compared to what Kent faces regularly.

 

And then again when Arthur says something careless as they’re on a date:

 

Between you being so white and not speaking Spanish I keep forgetting you’re even Puerto Rican. Your last name always reminds me though.”I freeze with the churro between my teeth. Arthur continues chomping away at his chocolate churro, completely unaware that he’s just nudged me really hard in one of my sore spots. It’s 2018. How are people—even good people—still saying shit like this?

 

Not only does this, again, point out one of the things that Ben has to contend with, but it showcases that some people that say this kind of thing can be good people and not realize that they’re saying careless, horrible shit.

 

“Not looking the part of Puerto Rican messed me up. I know I get some privilege points from looking white, but Puerto Ricans don’t come in one shade.”
“And not every Puerto Rican is going to run down the block for churros or speak Spanish. I know you didn’t mean anything bad, but I like you and I want to trust you like me too for being me. And that you’ll get to know me and not just think you know me because of society’s stupidity.”

There are also a lot of times when Ben reflects on his family’s financial status. It really hit home, when he was talking about things like how one meal out, a $30 burger, could be worth several days of groceries at home. That was just one of the moments that made Ben’s situation stand out in contrast to Arthur’s, something that seems like a throwaway moment at a restaurant that is actually a huge deal.

 

“I can’t eat a thirty-dollar burger. I literally don’t think I’m capable of doing that.”“Oh.”My stomach drops. “Okay.”He shakes his head. “My mom could buy dinner for us for three days with thirty dollars.”

 

That scene was a little awkward in the reading because it was told from Arthur’s perspective and we did not get Ben’s view of events, which is a reflection I think of one issue I had. Some of the events that we saw in the book, like this dinner date scene, were clouded through the view point of the person we saw and really needed the counterpoint of the other person in the interaction to make sense of the action, especially since the other person was an active character in the book and not some NPC.

SPOILER TALK

 

Arthur’s concern about his parents, his anxiety over their fighting and the possibility of divorce, doesn’t seem to be treated with as much seriousness as Ben’s issues. When the Seuss parents are eventually sat down and talk to their son, there’s talk about how they are “regular messed up” and not “headed for divorced” messed up, but the very fact that their son had been under that impression, that their relationship had had that kind of effect on him, should really be a clue that some kind of damage control needed to be done. It wasn’t good that he’d been under such a huge amount of stress and that they dismissed it so easily.

 

END SPOILER TALK

 

There is a scene of homophobia on the subway that forces Arthur to confront his assumptions about acceptance. Being from the South, he assumed that while he might face that sort of antagonism in Georgia that New York would have it’s shit figured out. Being confronted by a father with his kid in tow on the subway, telling him to stop it with the PDA, Arthur realizes that this is far from the truth. It’s a terrifying moment for Arthur, even as Ben stands up to this man. It might be a hard moment to read for some people because the tension was certainly heightened.

There were a lot of pop culture references which I adored, from Broadway musicals (Dear Evan Hansen, Hamilton) to Harry Potter and, my favorite, the bookstore culture of Union Square in NYC. Having been to that are of NYC several times, it was extra special to me to be able to picture Arthur and Ben walking around those streets, seeing them walk into Books of Wonder and The Strand.

Ben and Arthur’s relationship, as well as having its cute moments, also has healthy moments that I liked. Not only does this book demonstrate that asking for consent before engaging in sexual activities is the right and good thing to do, but that doing so throughout the experience is as well. Arthur and Ben check in with each other as things progress during their encounters. The first intimate time, when Arthur begins to realize that he’s feeling out of his depth and Ben asks, he’s able to tell him how he’s feeling freaked out and Ben comforts him. This is a healthy response and depiction.

While I was reading, I had this idea of what I wanted to happen at the end, this picture in my head that, while fuzzy, was what I thought would be the Happy Ever After for Arthur and Ben. However, there came a point when I realized that, whatever happened, even if the story ended with Arthur and Ben never seeing each other again, I don’t know that I could be sad. Ben actually had a good grasp on making the most of whatever time they had, of making sure they didn’t regret their choices, regardless of whether they’re together for a few weeks or a few months or even longer. There was pressure, sure, but also this effervescent feeling of hope coming from both of them.

This book is about more than romantic relationships. Friendships: figuring them out, what to do when they break, if they can be fixed, all of these elements were explored, even the possibility that it’s time to let go. Whatever happens, giving things a chance, exploring that possibility under the right circumstances (healthy ones, not toxic), can be invaluable.

What If It’s Us‘s boils down to hope, to taking chances, to not throwing away your shot, whether it’s on the possibility of a romantic relationship or the repair of a friendship you thought might be damaged beyond repair. There could be weirdness, some discomfort, but if you don’t take that chance, all you’ll have is that big WHAT IF.

 

 

 

 

 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via in exchange for an honest review. Quotes included are from an advanced reader copy and may not reflect the finalized copy.

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

Halloween Creatures 2.0 Book Tag

I love Halloween season and finding a tag centered around it seems like perfect timing. Thanks to Lauren at Northern Plunder for her post and Anthony at Keep Reading Forward for his original post, I’ll be able to share my own answers today.

 

Rules:

  • Answer all prompts.
  • Answer honestly.
  • Tag 1-13 people.
  • Link back to this post.
  • Remember to credit the creator. (Anthony @ Keep Reading Forward)
  • Have fun!

 

Witch
A Magical Character or Book.

 

Dance Upon the Air by Nora Roberts. It was one of the first adult witch related books I remember reading a long time ago. It’s technically the first book in a series, but I’m not a big fan of the other books. The characterization in this one, the growth and discovery, makes re-reads of Dance a fun experience.

 

Werewolf
The Perfect Book to Read at Night.

 

Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause. Vivian is a loup-garoux, a young girl that can transform into a wolf at will. The change is something she relishes, but there’s tragedy in her story. Her pack is leaderless after her father was killed when humans attacked, fearful of what her family was, and now they’re seeking refuge with relatives. Trying to make sense of where she belongs, girl or wolf, that world or this, Blood and Chocolate was one of my favorite books growing up.

 

Frankenstein
A Book that Truly Shocked You.

More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera. This was my first ever Adam Silvera book. I received it in an OwlCrate box. This was before I knew what kind of books Adam wrote, what kind of heartbreak might be in store. Well, I know now. This ending, I never could have expected. It’s a terrific book, but be warned, I think you’ll need a handkerchief for this one.

 

The Devil
A Dark, Evil Character.

Christopher from The Silver Kiss by Annette Curtis Klause. Annette really does know how to write books perfect for this season. Christopher is a sadistic vampire who is over three hundred years old, but looks like he’s six. That’s terrifying enough, but he’s had all that time to practice his cruelty and spends much of the book menacing his brother, Simon.

 

Grim Reaper
A Character that Should Never Have Died.

This is the post for doubles, isn’t it? lol Rufus and Mateo from They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera. Granted, we had fair warning, but it still WASN’T fair. ;_;

 

Zombie
A Book that Made You “Hungry” for More.

Vicious by V.E. Schwab. These books could go on forever and I’d never be sick of them. I’m nearly done with Vicious as I’m writing this post and luckily the sequel has just been published. I can only hope that V.E. will decided to writer another Villains book in five years.

 

Gargoyle
A Character that You Would Protect at All Cost.

Shukumar & Shoba from Interpreter of Maladies. My heart breaks every time I read this story, the first in the collection of short tales.

 

Vampire
A Book that Sucked the Life Out of You.

Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow. It took a lot out of me to read this, but I would do it again because it meant a lot to me, reading Charlie’s story.

 

Ghost
A Book that Still Haunts You.

Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson. The story itself was intense, but the conclusion was so wild, so far from what I was expecting that it still has me puzzling over it. There is still that ghost in my head of this book, of Mary B. Addison’s story.

 

Demon
A Book that Really Scared You.

I’m not sure I have a great answer for this. Books don’t tend to scare me, exactly. Shock, maybe, but not scare, exactly. I might say You by Caroline Kepnes. It features a character named Joe. The story is told from his perspective and while I thought he was a great character, he was definitely a bad guy. He did some terrible things, least of which was the lengths he went to in stalking Beck, the object of his obsession. Those lengths, how easy it was to do the things he did, were kind of frightening/scary when I think about it.

 

Skeleton
A Character You Have a Bone to Pick With.

Lira from To Kill a Kingdom. What. the. Heck. I picked this book up because it sounded like it was going to be epic. Lira started out so dark, the scourge of the seas who ripped the hearts out of princes’ chests. WHAT HAPPENED? I never understood the choices she made that lead her to the person she was in the end. I was sorely disappointed and I would love to have a talk.

 

Mummy
A Book You Would Preserve Throughout Time.

Children of Blood and Bones by Tomi Adeyemi. Not only is it physically beautiful, but the story is inspired, there’s a lot of reading to it, and the basis of the folklore, the magic, and the characters need to reach more people. Not just today, but in the future. Seeing this book well preserved on shelves in libraries throughout the world, public or private, would be a gem in the literary world.

 

Creepy Doll
A Cover too Scary to Look At.

The Girl From the Well by Rin Chupecho. It’s like a shot from a classic horror movie, this one. I so want to read it and I will, but maybe I’ll put a book cover on it or something first.

 

The Monster Mash
It’s Fun to Be with Friends on Halloween!
Tag Your Friends!

 

I’m tagging Tiana (The Book Raven), Literary Lion, and Rae (Thrifty Bibliophile).

 

 

 

 

 

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

Review: the Chaos inside Me by Elisabet Salas

Frequently reviewed as “raw”, Elisabet Salas’s debut poetry collection “the Chaos inside Me” truly lays bare some of our most intimate emotions. The pieces within and the collection as a whole do not rely on an overabundance of hyper-stylized words, instead focusing on getting to the reader with the sharp lines and curves of language, both literally and figuratively.

the Chaos inside Me has within it the power to make its readers feel seen. This is something achievable in standard books though it’s hard to find because there are so many other aspects in longer form storytelling, but poetry strips all of that extraneous detail away. Elisabet’s book offers the chance to really really feel like there are other people that have these thoughts.

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Purchase Links:  Amazon  –  Goodreads

Published: 8 November 2018

Publisher: Self-published

Category: Poetry

Summary: the Chaos inside Me, is a journey of self discovery. It is a story about owning the emotions that live inside the heart and the head. It is the cathartic experience of pain and loss but also the bittersweet feelings of joy and the complexity of beauty. 


Elisabet expresses the unraveling of herself and the complexity of emotions that stemmed from heartache, her own mental health and the struggles of growing up and into a world with no precedence for a first generation child. This is the accumulation of three years of tears and long nights figuring out that chaos isn’t always a bad thing.

Rating:

Content Warnings: suicidal ideation, mentions of self harm (including bloody imagery), self deprecation, body dysphoria/weight, depression, abandonment, loneliness

Among the most poignant pieces was “mysteries & galaxies” because what is important to everyone, even as a subconscious thing? The need to know who we are. It might be simple to some, but for others, trying to figure out what our identity is can be a struggle on a daily basis. This particular poem early on encapsulates how identity can be as unfathomable as the distance between the stars.

“the voice of doubt” was a hard piece to read because it read very personally for someone with anxiety. As I was reading it, I felt a little sick to my stomach because it perfectly described what it was like to be inside my head, what it is that I fight against on a daily basis. It is so hard to describe that to people that are neurotypical because the words don’t always make sense, stumbling out of my mouth, but Elisabet wrote them, like they spilled out of my own head.

Elisabet makes good use of contrasting imagery in “Always looking” to highlight the inherent difficulty in finding one’s place. Typically harsh images clashing with typically soft, stereotypes of that nature, are one way, but there were also lines that pointed to other ways of finding solace, such as the clouds that allow sunlight to rest within. One doesn’t always need to be “on”; being within yourself is possible too and okay.

“Pain and beauty” was another poem that I liked because it tackled a problem that crops up a lot in this world, people seeing suffering as something beautiful. When the media portrays mental illness or self harm in movies or television shows, a lot of the time it gets shown as something beautiful, the character a idealized portrait that we as the audience are meant to love; or the self harm is somehow to be interpreted as a noble form of coping. Salas’s examination of this idealization of suffering, though brief, was strong and direct.

Chock full of words that reach out to readers and reveal the author’s experience simultaneously, the Chaos inside Me is a volume of poetry perfect for fans of Gretchen Gomez, Amanda Lovelace, and of good literary works with the ability to allow you to feel seen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I received a copy of this book from the author 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: Swing by Kwame Alexander with Mary Rand Hess

I’ve been reading a lot more novels in verse this year, the latest of which is Swing by Kwame Alexander with Mary Rand Hess. I first learned of this writing duo through their previous book, Solo, and was pleased when I got the chance to joined the #SwingLaunchTeam. It’s been a real treat getting to learn about the book, hearing what other members of the #swingbook launch team have thought about it, and now getting to share my personal reading experience with all of you.

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Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble  |  Book Depository  |  Goodreads  |  Indiebound

Published: 2 October 2018

Publisher: Blink

Category: Young Adult/Poetry/Realistic Fiction

Things usually do not go as planned for seventeen-year-old Noah. He and his best friend Walt (aka Swing) have been cut from the high school baseball team for the third year in a row, and it looks like Noah’s love interest since fifth grade, Sam, will never take it past the “best friend” zone. Noah would love to retire his bat and accept the status quo, but Walt has got big plans for them both, which include making the best baseball comeback ever, getting the girl, and finally finding cool.

To go from lovelorn to ladies’ men, Walt introduces Noah to a relationship guru—his Dairy Queen-employed cousin, Floyd—and the always informative Woohoo Woman Podcast. Noah is reluctant, but decides fate may be intervening when he discovers more than just his mom’s birthday gift at the Thrift Shop. Inside the vintage Keepall is a gold mine of love letters from the 1950s. Walt is sure these letters and the podcasts are just what Noah needs to communicate his true feelings to Sam. To Noah, the letters are more: an initiation to the curious rhythms of love and jazz, as well as a way for him and Walt to embrace their own kind of cool. While Walt is hitting balls out of the park and catching the eye of the baseball coach, Noah composes anonymous love letters to Sam in an attempt to write his way into her heart. But as things are looking up, way up, for Noah and Walt, the letters set off a chain of events that change everything Noah knows to be true about love, friendship, sacrifice, and fate.

In Swing, bestselling authors Kwame Alexander and Mary Rand Hess (Solo) present a free-verse poetic story that will speak to anyone who’s struggled to find their voice, and take a swing at life.

Rating: 4 Stars

CW: (highlight to reveal content warnings) PTSD (scenes with a character exhibiting symptoms thereof)

The friendship trio showcased in Swing is classic. Noah, Walt, and Sam’s friendship was so strong in middle school, then came to face the challenges of high school and the changes that test the ties that bound them together. New things rise up and make you question what’s important now, who is going to remain in your life, whether the old is going to stand the test of time or if it’s going to give way for something different. It can be sad but it can also be normal. Noah observing all this in verse, telling us what’s happening to his friends, brings up memories of the past for readers while we’re living in his present, waiting to see what it turns into.

I WILL make the varsity baseball team senior year. Bet on that. I’ll practice harder than before. Work out harder. Get ripped. Give the whole of my heart and soul to the glove and the ball.

Walt, a.k.a. Swing, was such an enthusiastic character. He was always talking to Noah, the main voice of the novel, the “I”, about his philosophy of life called cool. Walt’s dreams extend beyond cool, though. He loves a lot more and his passion show through in how he lives every day to the fullest, how he espouses what he calls Hug Life. Baseball, for example: it’s about so much more than loving the game, the players. It’s the intricacies, being in the moment, feeling it inside. He doesn’t see not being on the team right now as a letdown. Baseball doesn’t ever let him down. It’s his future, one way or the other.

Abandoning the traditional major and minor key relationships of tonality, Miles based the entire album on modality. It was a remarkable, landmark album that shaped the future of modern music. It was improvisation, but each of the performers was given a set of scales that defined the parameters of their improvisation.

There was a lot about music and the depths of emotion that it could stir, particularly when a character named Divya appears as a love interest for Walt/Swing. Noah makes this real soulful connection to music that feels beautiful, almost like a camera panning an especially well lit scene in a film with the perfect soundtrack.

The scene, the beginning of something for Divya and Walt as quoted above, was one of my favorite scenes. It’s easy to picture them in this crowded thrift shop where Divya worked, Noah in the background observing their story just starting, and different records being played.

Noah has his own love story to work on throughout the book: whether to act on a crush, whether to confess, whether to EMBRACE LIFE in the words of his best friend. It’s a confusing time and it’s something that could be relatable, even if it’s not specifically about a crush. Noah’s nerves were for sure something that could be applied to a few different situations, especially for readers that are his peers.

Looks pretty safe to me. This is a nice neighborhood. Yeah, pretty safe for YOU, but I’m a black kid walking up and down the street with a baseball glove. At three am. In the middle of nowhere. You do that math, Noah.

Among the changes of teenage friendships and trying to figure out a crush, there’s also an interaction between Walt & Noah when Walt calls Noah for a ride home. It’s summed up in this quote and shows how different their world views are, how some things don’t even register to Noah while Walt has them in at the forefront every moment.

It wasn’t always easy to understand who was talking while reading this book because in verse as opposed to narrative, there were no tags, no names coming out at the end of the sentences. The voices really have to stand out on their own so the reader can identify the different characters. Sometimes Walt/Swing and Noah blended a little too much and made the text confusing.

Swing had a lot of imagery that went from words and translated to visual and auditory imaginings, something I appreciated because it made the book even more of an experience. Kwame Alexander with Mary Rand Hess have created another book that in verse is something that can be consumed either with speed, easily, but also slowly, to be savored while picking up all the nuances with each verse.

 

 

 

 

 

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

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