Things To Do When It’s Raining – Review

“Some things are better kept secret. And some things are not: life’s most difficult task is to know which is which.”

Things To Do When It’s Raining is a novel full of all the deep feelings. Prepare yourself for a novel full of tragedy and heartbreaking beauty. Marissa Stapley takes you into the reality of near misses, misunderstandings, and the weight of secrets.

Mae Summers is content with her life. She has an incredible fiancé, a secure job at the growing company he owns, and is well on her way to making her dreams come true. It’s a bit of a blow when she wakes up one morning to realize it was all built on lies.

After Peter disappears revealing the scam his company, and his life were, Mae is forced to return home. Life in Alexandria Bay, the sleepy tourist town she grew up in, is far different from life in New York City. While a change of pace might be good for Mae, she comes home to ghosts of her past.

Her grandfather isn’t living at home, her grandmother is acting strangely, and Gabe, her childhood love, has returned. As Mae sorts through her emotions and tries to make sense of her new life, the answers to these questions may demand more forgiveness than she can manage.

“She starts to run, forgetting the fear of the ice and focusing instead on her fear of the truth.”

I really liked how this novel was set up. In between each chapter, there’s an item from the list Mae’s mother, Virginia, posted on the wall of their family Inn, appropriately titled: Things To Do When It’s Raining. One of the more subtle tragic twists is this list, the focus on rain, and Mae’s parents. When you put that one together, it just hurts your heart!

We also get multiple perspectives, not just Mae. Gabe, Lilly and George, all have their own secrets and struggles to work through. Changing the narration to give a more personal look at each storyline made the novel feel more realistic. Mae couldn’t possibly uncover these secrets on her own, and the novel would have felt more murder mystery if she had. Instead, we get a very rich and complex set of tangled lives. Which is generally how secrets end up. Tangled and woven into our lives in ways we never really expect, or sometimes even understand.

“She had told him she loved him then, and she had cried, and he had known that there were too many things he was never going to be able to say to her.”

The one storyline I struggled with the most was Lilly. I didn’t really understand her motives for doing some of the things she did. I mean, logically I understand the information presented. But, there were a couple of things that felt so cruel, it was hard to feel like she justified doing them.

Beyond Lilly’s secrets and actions though, the core of the novel really is about how we perceive ourselves and how we let others determine that perception. Of all of the narrations, Gabe’s is the most heartbreaking. The secrets he keeps are more from the burdens others placed on him as a child. For Gabe, while he seeks the forgiveness of others, he really needs to forgive himself. That’s the hardest thing, and leads to such heartbreak for him. There are many times you want to reach through the book and hug him. And smack the adults around him.

“He loved her because he understood what it meant to be wounded, and to inflict wounds in return.”

Stapley takes us into some deep emotions, the type that take a minute to sort out. I’m still undecided on how I feel about Lilly for example. But she also gives us redemption and hope. We get a novel that shows us life at it’s messiest. At how good intentions can quickly turn poisonous, and how difficult it can be to untangle ourselves from the lies we tell ourselves and the lies others tell us.

We get to see people at their best and also at their worst. It makes it difficult to love or hate them in a black and white spectrum, and I really enjoy that in a cast of characters. You’ll want to react but will also hold yourself back, and possible change your mind. There are times you want to strangle them or scream at them, but then you’ll be exposed to their own flawed humanity and your heart will break for them. It is an accomplishment to take you through the spectrum of reactions to multiple characters.

“People change their minds about things. It just happens. You can’t stay sure about everything your whole life.”

People change. They make mistakes. They live in regret. Forgiveness is a journey that we all go through at some stage and to some degree. Whether we seek it from others, or search from it within ourselves. Stapley does a beautiful job writing a story full of mistakes, misconceptions, secrets, lies, and at the heart of it all is forgiveness and the power of love.

Things To Do When It’s Raining is a beautifully complex novel that would be perfect for a book club, or book discussion. There’s so many facets to explore. I think the conversation would be fascinating!

Thank you BookSparks for sending me a copy to read and review for #WRC2018!!!

The Ambrose Deception – Review + GIVEAWAY


Melissa is a nobody. Wilf is a slacker. Bondi is a show-off. At least that’s what their middle school teachers think. To everyone’s surprise, they are the three students chosen to compete for a ten thousand-dollar scholarship, solving clues that lead them to various locations around Chicago. At first the three contestants work independently, but it doesn’t take long before each begins to wonder whether the competition is a sham. It’s only by secretly joining forces and using their unique talents that the trio is able to uncover the truth behind the Ambrose Deception–a truth that involves a lot more than just a scholarship.

With a narrative style as varied and intriguing as the mystery itself, this adventure involving clever clues, plenty of perks, and abhorrent adults is pure wish fulfillment.

Thank you Rockstar Book Tours and Disney Hyperion Books for allowing me to be a part of this awesome tour and sending me a copy of this book. Be sure to click the photo above to check out Rockstar Book Tours website for all past and upcoming tours. They host some pretty amazing tours so check it out!

The Ambrose Deception is a fun middle grade book. Wilf, Bondi, and Melissa are all kids who are overlooked at their schools. When they are chosen to compete in a scholarship program, no one can quite believe it, including the kids! But things aren’t what they seem, and the clues they have to solve aren’t the only mystery they find themselves in the middle of.

There is a lot to love in this book. If you are a parent or teacher, this is a super fast read. I love how they mystery unfolds at a great pace, and the clues are for real landmarks around the Chicago area. I love that! Kids living in Chicago will have a ton of fun trying to solve the clues while reading. In fact, I think that would be such a fun interactive way to experience this book!

Beyond the treasure hunt, this book has fantastic themes about friendship, trust, and working together. I really liked how the clues for the hunt were repeated throughout the book, so that kids can easily follow along and remember what the kids in the book are looking for.

Sprinkled along with the hunt and each story line searching for the answers to their clues, are text message with parents, notes from the drivers, emails from teachers and much more. It helps tell the story and bring the worlds around each child to life in a fun way.

I think that parents will chuckle and kids will be delighted reading this book. It has awesome potential to be turned into a fun interactive experience. Even if you don’t live in Chicago, it would be easy to help them try and talk through how they would solve each clue, and even Googling the answers to see what you come up with! Books that are entertaining but can also be used to help kids learn is always a HUGE win for me! If you have kids, or work with kids, I recommend checking this book out. Especially if you live in or near Chicago!

The Ambrose Deception is available now! The links are below. Don’t forget to enter the giveaway for a chance to win a finished copy. And please go visit the other amazing blogs on this tour. They’ve put together some fabulous guest posts, author interviews, along with awesome reviews!





Author: Emily Ecton

Pub. Date: February 13, 2018

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Pages: 368

Formats: Hardcover, eBook

Find it: GoodreadsAmazonB&NiBooksTBD




Emily Ecton is a writer and producer for Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me!,
the NPR news quiz. She has also been a playwright, a chinchilla wrangler, an ice cream scooper and a costume character. She lives
in Chicago with her dog, Binky.

Website | Twitter | Goodreads



And now….. It’s time for a GIVEAWAY!!!!


Click the photo or HERE to enter!

3 winners will receive a finished copy of THE AMBROSE DECEPTION, US Only.

Ends on February 27th at Midnight EST!

Tour Schedule:

Be sure to check out the rest of the blogs on this awesome book tour! See the schedule below!!!

Week One:

2/12/2018- For the Love of KidLit– Interview

2/13/2018- Christen Krumm– Review

2/14/2018- Books, Vertigo and Tea– Excerpt

2/15/2018- BookHounds YA– Review

2/16/2018- YA Books Central– Interview

Week Two:

2/19/2018- As The Book Ends– Review

2/20/2018- Nerdophiles– Review

2/21/2018- Jena Brown Writes– Review

2/22/2018- Novel Novice– Guest Post

2/23/2018- Cindy’s Love of Books– Review

Artemis – Review

“It’s hard to run with a hundred kilograms of gear on — even in lunar gravity. But you’d be amazed how fast you can hustle when your life is on the line.”

Andy Weir is back with his unique and addicting blend of factual science fiction and smart ass humor. This time we’re not fighting for out life on Mars, but living in a city built on the Moon. Welcome to Artemis.

Meet Jasmine Bashara. Porter, smuggler, dreamer. All Jazz wants is to afford a living environment larger than her current coffin with a private bathroom. That isn’t asking too much is it?

When one of her ridiculously wealthy clients proposes a job full of insane risk, Jazz knows she should say no. But who says no to the chance of a lifetime? The chance to pay off crippling debt and start a new life? Probably the same people who came up with the saying: careful what you wish for.

This particular job will demand that Jazz use all her technical skills and intellect in order to pull it off. That much she can handle. Finding herself in the middle of a power play for absolute control of Artemis was a little more than she bargained for. Jazz has to use every single trick she can think of to stay alive and figure out a way to save not just herself, but the entire lunar city.

“Always keep your bargains. He worked within the law and I didn’t, but the principle was the same. People will trust a reliable criminal more readily than a shady businessman.”

I loved Jazz. Loved her! She is smart and feisty, but is also incredibly suspicious of everyone around her. I thought Weir did an excellent job peeling back the layers to her distrust through her emails with life long pen-pal Kelvin. We get to see a different side than the one she shows the world. And as someone who is generally distrustful of the world around me, I related to her quite a bit.

As we unfold the mystery that is Jazz, we get to know the characters in her life. I really liked each of them, and found them all believable. But out of all of them, Martin Svoboda was probably my favorite.

“By the end of it I had a plan. And like all good plans, it required a crazy Ukranian guy.”

That crazy Ukranian is a delight to read! I loved every scene he was in. His nerdy exuberance and utter loyalty to Jazz constantly made me smile.

“Tell them about the plan!” Svoboda said. “I have all the visual aids ready!”

What’s not to love about a friend who not just supports your illegal and potentially immoral hijinks without question, but then prepares visual aids when it really matters?! He’s just so adorable.

Given how much science is actually in this book, I am impressed with how much went into the characters and world building. It’s very well balanced, and I never felt like the science went over my head or took away from the scene playing out on the page. That isn’t to say I could pass a science exam after reading it, but the level of detail is enough to make the entire thing feel real. And that’s something I really enjoy in my science fiction.

Weir has a way of injecting humor into all of his scenes, including the intense ones. This gives his books a distinct feel. Fun but interesting. It helps that he includes fun facts, a little addition that makes me laugh. Probably because I am very fond of fun facts.

“Fun fact: Oxidizing requires oxygen. Flint and steel won’t work in vacuum. All right. No need to panic.”

In all, I adored this book. Jazz felt like someone I would know and be friends with. She isn’t a girly girl. In fact, isn’t even overly feminine, which, as a woman who isn’t overly feminine, I appreciated. And no, I don’t think that’s because she was written by a man either. I found her to be exactly like many of my female friends and relished reading a female character that didn’t make me roll my eyes. Svoboda as the goofy sidekick made it even better. This pairing definitely melted my feminist heart.

I’ve officially decided that space capers full of sarcastic geniuses is the best thing ever. I need more of this exact combo! I was a fan of The Martian, and Artemis is exactly what I hoped it would be. Ever more the fan, I look forward to anything and everything Andy Weir wants to write!

January Wrap-Up

“You can find magic wherever you look. Sit back and relax, all you need is a book!”  ~Dr. Suess

January started off with a BANG!!! I ended December on a roll of fantastic books! And while I wish it could have been all five star reads all through the month, they can’t all be winners…

13/125 – Goodreads Challenge

0 – BookRiot #readharder Challenge

I managed to keep a steady pace of reading, finished 3 books in the #24in48 reading challenge weekend, 2 buddy reads and a book club read! I knocked two more books off of my Netgalley TBR, working my way to that elusive 90% rating. I will get there soon! And, best news of all, managed to get in some personal reading choices. This was important to me, as my reading was all reviews at the end of 2017, and I was starting to feel bogged down.

January summary:

The Hazelwood by Melissa Albert: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Netgalley review

The Power ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Buddy Read

Red Rising by Pierce Brown: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Reading Group/reread

Golden Son by Pierce Brown: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Reading Group/reread

Morning Star by Pierce Brown: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Reading Group/reread

Iron Gold by Pierce Brown: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Just for ME!!!

Match Made in Manhattan by Amanda Stauffer: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

BookSparks #WRC2018 Book

Strangers by Ursula Archer & Arno Strobel: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Black Heart Read Group Read

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Just for ME!!!

Evaporation of Sofi Snow by Mary Weber: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Street Team Read/ #24in48 reading challenge

City of Brass by SA Chakraborty: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Buddy Read/ #24in48 reading challenge

Otherworld by Jason Segel & Kirsten Miller: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

#24in48 reading challenge

Woman Last Seen In Her Thirties by Camille Pagan: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

NetGalley review

I reviewed every book, which met my blog goals, and while I didn’t quite manage to blog at least every other day, I was close. I’ll call that a win! Every review is linked, in case you missed any.

Being on Instagram and participating in buddy reads and reading groups has been a nice new addition to my reading this year. I really only started doing them towards the end of the year last year, and having people to chat with while reading or after, really makes the reading come alive! Especially when its a book like The City Of Brass or Iron Gold, which everyone NEEDS TO READ RIGHT NOW!!!!

I also went to Howler Fest in LA for the launch of Iron Gold, which was amazing and fantastic and I want to go to all the events now!

I’m also looking forward to doing more readathons, keeping my Goodreads goal and working on the Book Riot challenge. I managed to get back on track with writing and having blog goals is helping me stay on track here as well.

How was your January? Did you hit your goals? Tell me all about it! And Happy Reading friends!

The City of Brass – Review

“There’s no magic, no djinn, no spirits waiting to eat us up.”

Nahri doesn’t believe in magic. Even if proof exists in her ability to heal, both herself and others. It doesn’t matter. It’s just a part of her. Not a magical being there to grant wishes of her every whim. She’s just a con artist, hustling her way to something resembling a decent life in Cairo.

When one of her cons accidentally conjures Dara, a powerful djinn warrior, Nahri finds herself running from enemies she never knew existed, to a city she’s never heard of, to seek sanctuary from people she never believed in.

But once she reaches Daevabad, her life doesn’t become any safer. Court politics and centuries old tensions surround her at every turn. Nahri once dreamed of being a powerful healer. Of having wealth and luxury and fame. They do say, be careful what you wish for.

“The abilities that had once kept a roof over her head had become a curse, this connection with long-dead relatives she’d never known a plague on her life.”

The City Of Brass is one beautiful fantasy novel! Chakraborty brings the landscape of the Middle East to life with lush descriptions. You can smell the cedar chips burning in the rooms, and luxuriate in the sandalwood perfuming the air. Breathe in the jasmine and frankincense of the gardens, drink in the rose petals in the Grand Bazaar, while sipping sweet Hibiscus tea. Every texture, sound, scent and flavor is described simply yet effectively and it makes you yearn to surround yourself in the magic of scenery that Chakraborty weaves.

Along with the perspective of Nahri, we get Alizayd, a young idealistic Prince struggling to find his own way in the city. He wants to revolutionize what he sees as his father’s corrupt regime, but doing so isn’t as easy as he initially thinks. Choices he makes have devastating consequences.

Mystery surrounds Dara, but not just around him. The more Nahri learns, the more it seems like everyone has hidden agendas and secrets in the city of brass. Nahri wants to be left alone, but quickly learns that this isn’t an option. Whether she likes it or not, she is at the center of a war she doesn’t understand and can’t hope to control. Her friendship with both Dara and the young Prince only makes it more confusing and difficult for her.

“To keep walking a path between loyalty to your family and loyalty to what you know is right. One of these days, you’re going to have to make a choice.”

Both Ali and Nahri discover that not everything is what they thought, and that there are things happening around them that they can’t possibly begin to understand. They will have to re-examine everything they think they know and face choices more difficult than anything they’ve ever faced before.

The way Chakraborty presents the characters, it isn’t easy to pin a definitive good or bad on anyone. It is a complex society with a muddied history, and all sides make questionable choices both in the past and the present. Which makes the prospect of the next two books in the trilogy even  more exciting because I honestly have no idea which direction this story can go.

“She felt for him–truly. It was frustrating when someone upended your well-laid plans.”

I love when characters and plots reside firmly in the mucky grey area of moral ambiguity. Writing from the perspective of good versus evil is just too easy. I prefer a more complicated point of view, and starting with a con artist as one of the main characters places us dead center in murky.

Prince Ali is also fantastic writing and character development. He is righteous, but Chakraborty makes sure that he sees that even his beliefs aren’t black and white. That he must face hard truths in order to really stand behind his beliefs, and that his beliefs might end with just as much blood shed as he wants to stop. The similarities to current racial and religious conflicts are woven into his story line. Which gives the entire book a richer and more in depth texture.

Everything in this book is vivid and filled with beautiful writing. But the plot is well paced, with just enough world building and adventure to make you feel that you are well ensconced in the landscape with Nahri and Ali. And the mystery. Just when you think things are going to be resolved, new mysteries and intrigues are presented. The last few chapters of the book end in a maddening combination of satisfaction and immediately needing more. Have I mentioned that 2019 is WAY TOO LONG TO WAIT FOR THE NEXT BOOK?????

I absolutely loved the setting, and feel like I haven’t read enough fantasy in this area or with this particular mythology. I devoured this world, and fell in love with every single thing in this book. The City of Brass immediately became my new book obsession!

Anyone who loves good fantasy, with solid world building, breathtaking pacing, questionable characters and a whopping heap of adventure will fall in love with this book. Absolutely stunning book!

Ready Player One – Review

“Going outside is highly overrated.”

Virtual Reality has been the stuff of science fiction for a long time. Simulated worlds, offering everything that real life simply can’t. And as a society that is closer to achieving the immersion into these worlds than ever before, I think the idea of exploring these virtual worlds is more important than ever.


Not only do I find the idea behind virtual reality so fascinating, but honestly, I am slightly in love with anything that is fully dystopian ready. And virtual reality screams dystopia. An entire system that appears on the surface to be utopia, exploited or manipulated by one or the many to be turned into a nightmare. I think the question we need to be asking ourselves is why there isn’t MORE virtual reality dystopias in the world!

Ready Player One shows us a grim future. A world where resources have dwindled, forcing people to build gigantic towers of haphazard homes near cities for the hope of power, food and water. It’s a dismal world, where reality is unpleasant. The only thing most people look forward to, the only thing that makes life bearable, is the alternate world of the OASIS.

“For me, growing up as a human being on the plant Earth in the twenty-first century was a real kick in the teeth. Existentially speaking.”

The OASIS is an entire virtual world, or worlds, where people work, go to school, vacation, and live their best lives. People don’t choose to spend time in reality. They choose to spend their time in the OASIS.

“You don’t live in the real world, Z. From what you’ve told me, I don’t think you ever have. You’re like me. You live inside this illusion.”

The world building alone in this virtual reality system is something I easily could have spent hours reading about. The level of detail and imagination that went into the systems, and these worlds was incredible. This is an example of writing that could have become bogged down with too much information, but Cline was smart in how he wove in the details of the world to be relevant to the plot. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by details, I was instead transported into a lush landscape that is mind-boggling in scope but sharp in focus.

Wade, our protagonist, is just trying to graduate his virtual high school and find his way in a world where jobs are scarce. His only plan is to find Halliday’s Easter egg, a hidden prize embedded deep within the OASIS world, coded by Halliday himself, and found only by solving a series of clues and puzzles. The person who finds this egg wins the entire fortune of Halliday, which means billions of dollars.

Here’s where the fun of this book begins. Rather than take us through a meandering bombardment of virtual worlds, Cline instead focuses the hunt in a specific way.

“The Hunt, as the contest came to be known, quickly wove its way into global culture. Like winning the lottery, finding Halliday’s Easter egg became a popular fantasy among adults and children alike.”

The creator, Jim Halliday, grew up in the 80’s. A time when he met his best friend and co-creator, Ogden Morrow, and they started a little company that grew into one of the largest corporations in the world. When Halliday died, an email with a video and a link to his website were sent to every player in OASIS. The only clue was an obscure riddle and a link to an Almanac. The Almanac itself was over a thousand pages long and went into Halliday’s thoughts on movies, music, video games and all things pop culture 80’s.

Suddenly, a decade once looked down on for it’s decadence and abundance, one that would have been forgotten, is thrust into back into relevance and popularity. Personally, I thought this twist was pure genius.

The 80’s was not the end all be all for science fiction, or video games, or even technology. So I get why some people may not see the connection between the future we are reading about and that particular decade. But, the 80’s was known for its greed, for its excess. To show it as an obsession in a time that knows only poverty and thin resources was subtle but brilliant.

Beyond that, the main competitor and threat to Wade after he stumbles on the answer to the first clue isn’t other gunters, the name he and fellow egg hunters are known as, but IOI, a giant corporation willing to throw any and all resources at finding the egg and owning OASIS. They want to take something that is very inexpensive and available to the masses, and turn it into a money making machine where only the privileged few can really thrive. Which fits in with 80’s greed. We may see that behavior in corporations now, but that mentality was born in the 80’s.

The writing is full of wonderful dry sarcasm, and there’s a subtle mocking tone to the absurdity of living life in a virtual world woven throughout the plot.

“It suddenly occurred to me just how absurd this scene was: a guy wearing a suit or armor, standing next to an undead king, both hunched over the controls of a classic arcade game.”

It also carries a really good analysis of what technology can do to a civilization. Or rather, the possibility of what can happen. The entire plot is carried primarily within a virtual world, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t see the wasteland the unvirtual one has become.

“It had become a self-imposed prison for humanity,” he wrote. “A pleasant place for the world to hide from its problems while human civilization slowly collapses, primarily due to neglect.”

I find that good dystopian shows us both the good and the bad of the world it presents. It may carry a message, or even a warning, but the information is merely presented for us to digest and interpret. We are given characters to embody the arguments and it is then up to us to form our opinions. Ready Player One does this spectacularly.

Ready Player One is fun science fiction. It takes us into a future that on the surface seems to be going backwards, but has the technology to move it forward. While it will appeal to video gamers by its sheer plot subject alone, I think even non-gamers will delight in falling into the virtual world Cline has created. I also cannot wait to see what magic Spielberg gives us on the big screen.



Today, my goodmen, today was GLORIOUS!!!!! In full nerd fashion, I embarked on a journey. A journey many months in the making, and surprisingly, not entirely about the event itself.



Let me back up. Of course, the event was the entire gorydamn point. I’ve been waiting for Iron Gold for what feels like an eternity. And honestly, I probably would have simply waited for the release like any other Introvert book nerd and watched all this amazingness from afar. Except, a good friend called me, and said, “Come with me?”


And I said YES!

So, a journey was planned. It involved matching shirts. I dyed my hair. I tried to get her to agree to matching tattoos. Spoiler: she said NO! However, she did agree to temporary tattoos as a compromise.


But let’s get to the juicy gossip.

The event was amazing. I know that adjective gets thrown around a lot. By me. But, it was. When you walked in, they had large prints of all the fan art from around the world, and in our packet was a voting ticket.

Here’s a few for your perusal……

Once you voted, you entered the theater itself.

We also received a packet at the door, with the voting ticket and shirt ticket (if you ordered ahead of time). Our badges were Color coded and assigned us to our Color. I got Obsidian. Apparently even in this fandom, the Fandom Gods want to make me the trained killer. Weird. At least I’m not the bloodydamn villain again.


Next to the shirt display, they had a small bookshop set up with BookSoup, featuring books Pierce himself loves. Of course I bought one or two, but you’ll have to go watch my Instagram stories in the next few days to see those goodies!

There was a bar, serving PitVipers for those daring Helldivers, and Haemanthus (mocktail) for the dreamers of the group.

Finally, there was an airbrush artist there to make sure we all had the appropriate sigils for our Color.


And then the real fun began! Pierce came on stage, accompanied by his close friend and actor, Eric Christian Olsen. The interview was incredible to listen to on SO MANY LEVELS!

As a fan, it is always so fun to listen to an author talk about the world from their perspective. Who they see themselves in, who they had fun writing, who they hate. It’s fascinating to hear them describe the world that you, as a reader, are so immersed in. To hear the creator of that world dive into some of the rationale behind characters, plot twists, and world building is always good nerd fun!

Beyond the discussion of the world, Pierce himself is so kind and generous with his fans. He made sure to really reflect on his answers, and took his time thinking them through. His answers to questions ranged from funny, to snarky, or vague to very detailed, depending on the question. You can tell he enjoys interacting with his fans as much as we enjoy intreating with him. So much so, that he is involved in the Facebook group, Hic Sunt Leones: A Red Rising Fan Group, knows who the admins of the group are, and called up the MOST AMAZING COSPLAY EVER!!!!!



As a writer, I LOVED EVERY SINGLE MOMENT OF THIS! Not just the cosplay, although, talk about #writergoals! When he talked about his life as a writer, I was so grateful I went to this event. To hear that an author you look up to, for his incredible writing style and fantastic plotting, doesn’t outline, or take notes. That he also can face writer envy of writers he considers the greats. That he can be a harsh critic of himself or his writing.

I need to remember that novels don’t happen in a moment, they happen in a series of moments. They take time, and then they take a team of people to make them the wonderful pieces of magic we lose ourselves in. I simply have to be as true to myself and to my story as I can be. I tend to forget that.

He also talked about telling his editor that Golden Son had a moderately happy ending and getting a literal WTF text when he faced the horror of the ending that traumatized us all. Or how he had the most fun writing the Jackal, and holds an appreciation for villains. I am a big believer that villains could use a little more love!

If you doubt the sincerity of his appreciation of his fans and readers, just look at that dedication! FOR THE HOWLERS!!!!


Of course, the afternoon ended when we got called up (by Color) to take a photo with him. Again, he asked everyone’s name, shook their hand or hugged them, and truly made each person feel seen and heard. That is an incredible skill.


The part of the journey that wasn’t the event, was simply going. Meeting Trissina in person after talking for nearly a year was awesome, but also daunting! Hi, my name is Jena, and I’m an Internet Introvert. And, there’s something intimidating about meeting someone you’ve tried to aspire your own writing to. Not that I was worried about how he would be, more, it’s just scary to open myself up for judgement. I never said introverting logic made much sense.

Anyway, driving to LA and being away from all my puppies and my books was hard. Oh, and my husband, I miss him too. Meeting new people in an intense environment is also daunting for me. But, I am so glad I did it!

The journey is about meeting authors and listening to them talk. Taking in their advice, knowing that even the greats have bad first drafts, and realizing that the glory is in the attempt. Nothing is made from nothing, but something can be made from something.

Meeting Internet friends in real life is the business! It’s fantastic that there is an entire community of book people in this virtual world. But, to take those friendships and conversations and hug them, and talk to them? Words just don’t quite capture how incredible that feels.

In all, I’m glad that I didn’t have to go to Mordor or face the Eye of Sauron. Perhaps my journey wasn’t quite as epic as Frodo’s. But it was mine, and I feel like I’ve grown for it.

The book comes out in three days, January 16, but we got the book 3 days early for attending! Was it worth it? You’re gorydamn right it was, my goodmen!


Good night Howlers! Per Aspera Ad Astra!!!

2017: A Year In Review

Reading challenge: 139/75

So back when I first began this blog, one of the challenges I wanted to do was set a goal in Goodreads, and then NOT CHANGE IT! I set my goal of 75 books based on how I did in 2016, and I ended up reading 139.

It felt strange to me after I hit the 75 goal mark to keep adding to my challenge without changing the number, but I did. Maybe it seems strange, but keeping the goal the same was a reminder of how different this year was compared to the last, and continued to remind me that it isn’t about the number, but about focusing on the reading itself.

Favorite reads by month:

There were some amazing books in 2017. And some not so amazing. I also reviewed a majority of the books I read, and that experience was better than I expected. Reviewing books changed the way I read. Rather than simply zoning out into the book, I became a more active reader. I payed attention to the things I was enjoying and the things I wasn’t. It made me notice writing techniques in a different way, and I think it made me not just a better reader, but a better writer as well.

This discovery was surprising, as I didn’t expect writing reviews to change the way or read or the way I write. It was a pleasant discovery. And while reading books I don’t enjoy wasn’t exactly a pleasurable experience, I also found value in completing those books. Again, it made me focus more on why I wasn’t enjoying it. Which helped make me aware of things to avoid in my own writing.

So whether I loved a book, or felt blah about a book, each one was an experience worth having. Here’s a breakdown of my favorite read by month, and some notables. I couldn’t just choose one!!! I’ve also linked each title to my review, if you’re interested.

January – 9 books read

How to Build a Girl

Notables: Girl on a Train, Tony & Susan

February – 6 books read

How To Murder Your Life

Notables: Red Queen

March – 6 books

Female Of The Species

Notables: All The Ugly & Wonderful Things, Carve The Mark

April – 11 books

Strange The Dreamer

Notables: Me Before You, Simon vs The Homosapien Agenda

May – 15 books

Six Stories

Notables: Follow Me Back, The Last Neanderthal, 10 Things I can See From Here

June – 15 books


Notables: Block 46, Lost Boy, Women No 17, Crowns of Croswold

July – 14 books

The People We Hate At The Wedding

Notables: Spoonbenders, Arena, The Address

August – 13 books

The Reminders

Notables: Fitness Junkie, Emma in the Night, Afterlife

September – 16 books

Wonder Woman: Warbringer

Notables: The Salt Line, Good Me Bad Me, Mask of Shadows, Final Girls

October – 19 books

Hearts Invisible Furies

Notables: The Creswell Plot, Beneath the Trees, Blades Edge, Daughter 4254

November – 12 books read


Notables: Turtles All The Way Down, The Nine, Exquisite

December – 14 books read


Notables: Godsgrave, The Wife Between Us, Gunslinger Girl, The Wolves of Winter

The other reading challenge I signed up for was the Book Riot Read Harder challenge. This one I didn’t do so well at.

Of the 24 challenges, which range from “read a book about sports” to “read a book published by a micro press”, I completed 10 of those challenges. Which is disappointing, so I will be trying this one again in 2018.

It wasn’t listed in my goals, but I did sign up for a few other challenges throughout the year and several read-a-thons. They were a lot of fun and got me into different reading patterns.

2018 Goals

For 2018 I want to do several things with my reading.

First, I plan on doing another Goodreads challenge, which I will update once I’ve set it in stone.

Second, do another challenge like BookRiot’s, to add more diversity to my reading.

Third, read more of what is on my shelves, and only request what I really want to read. Mediocre books have taught me a lot, but they are also a chore to get through. I need less of that this year.

Fourth, review everything, even if it is a book just for me.

Of course, I will have other goals, namely in writing, and hope to get more writing posts into this space, but that will be another post in the New Year!

I hope everyone has a safe and happy New Year!!! Tomorrow the entire year opens up to us, blank with enormous possibility. Let’s cheer each other on and make it the best one yet!!!

I Like You Like This – Review I also

“Hannah always tried her best to hold it together. Tears only made it worse. Eventually she’d gotten used to the tormenting and pretended to be in on the joke.”

Hannah Zandana lives a bleak life. She faces unrelenting bullying at home and at school, and only wants to find a place where she belongs. This desire to fit in has her come up with a plan to buy drugs in order to impress the popular girls at her school. The only positive thing that comes out of this bad plan is gaining the attention of the drug dealer, Deacon.

There may be some minor spoilers in my review, for those who have not read yet. There are also several trigger warnings including drug abuse, verbal abuse, and bullying.

I wanted to like this book. I did. A book with dark themes relevant to teenagers is a book we actually need more of. Unfortunately, this book missed the mark for me.

To start with, the abuse from her parents was odd. They are verbally abusive; perhaps more, but that was really unclear. There is only one drug induced scene, where physical, maybe even sexual violence, is introduced. It was presented to feel like a repressed memory, but it was never brought up or explored again, so I’m not really sure.

They constantly belittle Hannah, berate her, ignore her and are generally extremely vicious towards her. Even though we get an attempt at an explanation of their behavior towards her, it felt very shallow and unrealistic. The level of abuse in relation to the feeble explantation was simply lacking.

“Hannah was a human pincushion for her parents’ criticism, and there was always ample room for just one more jab.”

As far as her attempts to impress the popular girls at school, choosing to buy drugs for a party seems like an odd choice. It’s never really explored that these popular girls would even be in the drug scene, just that everyone knew where to get ‘the good stuff’. The entire initial deal is awkward and weird, and the ensuing relationship between Hannah and Deacon continues down that path.

The characters and plot felt more like an array of scenes rather than a cohesive plot. Hannah is unsure of herself, has no self-confidence or self-esteem but she somehow manages to threaten and fight off the bullies of her school with no problems when it suits her. Other times she’s a quivering mess that can’t stand up for herself. That didn’t feel real to me.

It was set in 1984, which is very specific and I was hoping it was for a specific reason. The only reason I could gather was to introduce how crack changed drug addiction in some areas, but that was such a brief mention, I may be grasping at straws for that connection. Product specific nods, or other pop culture references were added in, but for the most part they were clunky and unnecessary.

I also really didn’t like Deacon. He’s supposed to be rich and charming, but damaged. A very cliche ‘more than just a bad boy’ character. He never really showed the kinder side underneath, and after one near rape scene, I was pretty done with his misunderstood excuses.

“She searched his face. His constrained grin didn’t match his words or the shot of sadness in his eyes.”

There are some problems with the romance portion of the book. Hannah doesn’t necessarily find herself other own, but rather changes her identity as a result of her relationship. The fact that the relationship is unhealthy, and at times, even toxic doesn’t send the message I would want in a YA book. I always struggle with books where the theme is we need someone else to become whole. Love is important, but it isn’t the key ingredient in self-worth or the journey to finding out who we are.

This book felt like a really good draft, and I felt like it had a lot of potential. There are some very serious topics introduced, but the opportunity to explore them is largely untapped. While bullying, abuse and drug use are all brought up, the majority of the story focuses on the weird romance between Hannah and Deacon instead. The deeper examination is lacking and it leaves the book feeling superficial rather than hard hitting.

As I said, I think that YA books that tackle the issues presented in this book are really important. They can help kids going through similar struggles and traumas feel understood, seen and maybe even help them work through them. But when these issues aren’t explored as fully as they should be, it can do more of a disservice to those teens who need it most.

Thank you BookSparks and She Writes Press for sending me a copy to read and review.

Exquisite – Review

“I was suspicious of love and what it did to people – those dark depths of anguish and horror; the thought of it all made me shudder.”

Bo Luxton has the life everyone wants. A successful writing career, loyal husband and two adorable daughters. She is the very picture of happiness and contentment. All she wants is to share her happiness with others. To help guide fresh new talent into the literary world, giving back to the world that has given her so much.

Alice Dark is young and lost. Full of hidden but unused talent, she writes an entry to a writing retreat, expecting it to end in nothing but disappointment like every endeavor before. To her surprise, she is selected and given the chance at everything she’s ever wanted.

From the moment Bo read Alice’s words, she knew this was the young talent she had been looking for. And from the moment Alice spoke with Bo, she knew this was a woman whose wisdom could guide her. Mentor and mentee. Two paths destined to cross and become entwined. So how does it all go wrong?

This book is breathtaking in it’s intensity! Every page has you swept into the story, the suspense building with a subtlety that is, well, exquisite. You know something is off, but it’s difficult to put your finger on it. For the life of me, I could not tell which direction Stovell was taking me. I only knew it was going to be a dark and twisted path.

“There’s only one direction this can go, and that is straight to hell.”

We are given the story of Alice and Bo in parts. The first is a story, a woman in prison, but where and when is yet to be determined. Is she a narrator, a story from one of the writers, or a third party yet to be presented? And then we get chapters from both Bo and Alice’s perspectives. These are alternating until after the retreat, where we get only Alice and then only Bo. And then back to alternating as we get closer to the truth.

Each side is presented, with their own slant told. And Stovell is masterful in her writing, never giving us enough clues to get a grasp on what’s actually taking place. Page after page has us feeling as if we are trapped in a cage of quicksand and fog. Nothing is steady, nothing is sure, except that someone is lying.

“The thing about being hurt badly is that the only person who can make you feel better is the person who hurt you, and so you keep going back and they keep making you better, but then they hurt you again, and so it goes on.”

Exquisite kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time. I never knew who to trust, who was the victim and who was the assailant. Even when Stovell unveiled the details, the truth was so sinister, it hits you in the gut, hard and unexpected. Again, the word exquisite fits so perfectly, because that level of story telling is exquisite. You know something is coming, and yet it still manages to hit you by surprise. The title perfect in so many ways.

I am a huge fan of psychological plots, especially where the characters are so deeply complex it’s difficult to fault them for their flaws, and Stovell does not disappoint. But there’s also a deeper villain uncovered, and the cold, sinister motivations are chilling and pathological. We are introduced to someone unrelenting and unapologetic in their behavior, and that persona is truly terrifying. To be lulled into complacency, into sympathizing with someone this evil in nature gets under your skin. Stovell has given us a villain that really does make you stay awake at night because this is the type of villain that is real.

If you are a fan of psychological suspense or thrillers, you need to get your hands on this book. It is masterful in it’s suspense, brilliant in it’s psychology, and breathtaking in it’s twists. In all, this book is exquisite.

Thank you Orenda Books for sending me a copy to read and review!