Tuesday, September 6, 2016

*Adele Voice* HELLO FROM THE COLLEGE SIIIIIIIIIIIIDE



So, I don't know if you guys know this or not, but... college is NUTS. All I've done in the past two weeks is get up, go to class, eat, do homework, eat again, and sleep. Repeat. Again, and again, and again. 

Not to mention, my very first grade of my college career is a lovely 4/10. 

Life is good.

But I'm slowly getting used to my classes, and having to go from one building to another and then back again all day, and I'm really hoping that I can get things settled down enough within the next week so that I can get back to blogging again, because WOW WHAT A SLACKER I'VE BEEN.

But for serious, the only reason I'm even able to write this post up is because I have a four day weekend for labor day. It has been intense.

Intense, but I've been enjoying it. I'm not one for making too many new friends, but I've got a handful of people that I spend my campus time with, so I'm not complaining, and my classes are actually highly interesting. 

To make bloggy things worse, I haven't read a single thing since Cursed Child. That's why you're not getting a review today. I'm trying, I promise-- I just need some time to adjust.

I can tell you, though, that the next review is going to be on UNDER THE LIGHTS, which is book two in Abbi Glines' Field Party series that I adore. I keep sitting here looking at it on my shelf and just sighing that I haven't been able to read even one word. I think I'm slowly slipping into madness. Like, my eye is going to start twitching, and then I'm going to go full-on mental simply from my lack of daily YA. 

HOWEVER. In terms of bookish news, I think you guys can be pretty proud of me when I say that I have actually gotten one of my campus buddies to check out THE MAZE RUNNER from the library. I think I may have to terminate the friendship if he doesn't like it. It's Thomas and Newt and Alby and Minho and Chuck, how can you NOT?

So, yeah. Don't forget about me, guys. I'm still here, and I promise I'll be back on regularly soon.

In the meantime, read something awesome for me! Let me live vicariously through you!

Happily,
Stephanie

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Tuesday Reviews: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child- Parts 1 and 2 (Harry Potter #8) by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne


Title: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child- Parts 1 and 2 (Harry Potter #8)
Author: J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
Release Date: July 31, 2016
Format Read: Hardback
Rating: Four Stars

Description from Goodreads: Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, and John Tiffany, a new play by Jack Thorne, HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD is the eighth story in the Harry Potter series and the first official Harry Potter story to be presented on stage. The play will receive its world premiere in London's West End on July 30, 2016.

It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn't much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children.

While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.

Many of you know that I, like so many others, cannot get enough of Harry Potter. What you may not know is that I actually haven't read the books. I read DEATHLY HALLOWS, because I didn't want to wait a year to find out what happened in part two of the movie, but other than that, I was already reading YA when the movies made the franchise big enough to get the books introduced to me. I had wanted to read them, but as I already knew much of the stories from the films, I felt like there was so much more as I could read-- stories that I'd never read before-- and I didn't want to take the time to read the Harry Potter books at that point in my life. 

Fast forward to now. Last year, I asked for the Harry Potter books for Christmas. I ended up with every single one of them, as well as FANTASTIC BEASTS, etc. It is now my plan to take a month out of the upcoming semester (probably November) and binge the series. You can expect my reviews for that month to be solely Harry Potter. #SorryNotSorry.

But I made the decision to read CURSED CHILD, even having not read the first seven books. I may have missed a few references or things like that, but I definitely think it was a great decision on my part. Reading the script was great for me, as my favorite parts of a book are the dialogue. My own manuscripts are always dialogue-led, and so the script form really worked for me.

One of the things I loved most about this book were the roles and appearances of the characters we've grown to love. Harry, Ron, Hermione, Draco, Professor McGonagall, and even Dumbledore show up in CURSED CHILD-- some more often than others, but they're there. There's also another cameo that gave me all sorts of feels, but I think I'll let you discover that one for yourself.

And then there are our new characters: Albus, Scorpius, and Rose. Scorpius was definitely my favorite of the three. I loved him in every single scene, and also loved getting to see so much of Draco as well. 

Plot wise, CURSE CHILD bothered me a bit. The plot revolves around a time turner, and I really just don't like stories that mess with time. It seems very obvious to me how things are going to turn out, I mean, the butterfly affect is real you guys. Changing things in the past will always change things in the future, even if it's only a small action. So that really messed with me. 

And then there's the characters. I always felt a bit like the adult characters, the Golden Trio and such, were so... odd. They felt really distant for me, and I couldn't figure out why until I watched JesseTheReader's review of the book, where he talked about how the characters felt off to him, and the only reason he could think of is that there's a 19 year gap in the story. Things have happened to our beloved characters that we weren't there to witness, and life certainly does change people. So I felt a bit better after watching that because at least someone else felt the same way as I did. And I actually agreed with every single thing Jesse said about THE CURSED CHILD. We had identical opinions on this one.


All in all, I give THE CURSED CHILD four stars. I liked it, and I'm super glad I decided to go ahead and read it, because now I'm doubly psyched to start the actual series. As soon as I have a slow month, I'm tackling it, and I cannot wait. If you've read the HP books, or you've even just seen the movies, you should definitely read CURSED CHILD. While it may not be exactly your thing, coming into it with an open mind and getting to experience the (quick) journey with ALbus and Scorpius is the best decision.

What houses are you guys in? #Ravenclaw

Happily,
Stephanie

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Thursday Thinks: A Post That's Been A Long Time Coming

Hello there, and Happy Thursday!

Today's post, as you read in the title, really has been a long time coming. I've just been so busy with blogging and going to events this year that I haven't had the time to sit down and write it out. But Now I do. So, here we go.

There's a book out, maybe you've heard of it, it's called BECAUSE YOU'LL NEVER MEET ME by Leah Thomas. 


Description from Goodreads: In a stunning literary debut, two boys on opposite ends of the world begin an unlikely friendship that will change their lives forever.

Ollie and Moritz are best friends, but they can never meet. Ollie is allergic to electricity. Contact with it causes debilitating seizures. Moritz's weak heart is kept pumping by an electronic pacemaker. If they ever did meet, Ollie would seize. But Moritz would die without his pacemaker. Both hermits from society, the boys develop a fierce bond through letters that become a lifeline during dark times-- as Ollie loses his only friend, Liz, to the normalcy of high school and Moritz deals with a bully set on destroying him.

A story of impossible friendship an hope under strange circumstances, this debut is powerful, dark, and humorous in equal measure. These extraordinary voices bring readers into the hearts and minds of two special boys who, like many teens, are just waiting for their moment to shine.

I picked up a copy of BECAUSE YOU'LL NEVER MEET ME last summer a couple weeks after it's release. I can't remember how I'd heard about it, but I knew instantly that I wanted to read it. Not only was Ollie's allergy to electricity intriguing since I'd heard of EHS before, and not only because it was about two best friends who had never met, but Moritz, one of the story's two main characters, has a pacemaker.

A pacemaker.

To most people, this may not have been a big deal. In fact, to most of you, this is probably only an interesting idea, if anything.

But to me, Moritz having a pacemaker was everything.

It was everything, because there was finally a YA character like me.

I've had a heart condition for as long as I can remember, and the amount of tests I'd had done between the ages of 5 and 10, simply to determine what it was, exactly, that I had remain countless. However, seeing as no one could pinpoint what it was that was wrong with me other than having an odd heartbeat, I was released with no restrictions. Three years later, I go in for a sports physical (I was going to play volleyball. Make it to the Olympics for my mom, who had that opportunity taken from her by way of knee surgery.) and my doctor decides to send me to a specialist, just to make sure that they couldn't find anything before I made my way into the world of sports. 

The night before my appointment with the specialist, I passed out in the shower. One minute I was good, and the next I was waking up on the bathroom floor with my head swimming. I remember my dad going to get me a soda and a candy bar so that I could get some sugar into my system, and then once we were sure I was okay, we went to bed so that we could go to my appointment the next morning. 

The appointment went totally normal, nothing different than any other appointment I'd had, and we went back to the hotel (We were out of state). That night, we get a call from the doctor we'd seen that day, and he tells me I need to stop any and all physical activity. That I need to keep my heart rate under 80 beats per minute, because anything over that was dangerous, since he'd determined that I had a condition known as Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy. In other words, the muscle of my left ventricle was too thick, and caused my heartbeat to be irregular. It was also what caused my shortness of breath with nearly any bit of physical activity. 

Cardiomyopathy is responsible for many teenage deaths. The disease isn't detectable in most patients until they reach puberty, which is why most of the kids who have it may not know that they do. That's what makes Cardiomyopathy so dangerous-- if you don't know you have it, and you go along playing sports, you could easily die on the field. Which is exactly what happened to an Arkansas Razorback in 2011. So I stopped physical activity. I didn't play volleyball. My plan didn't exactly go like I thought it would, but instead of ball, I turned to my love of reading. All I had to do was go for checkups and monitor my condition to make sure it wasn't getting any worse.

Two years later, I come home from school, do my homework, order pizza, and settle down for the night. I was laying on my dad's side of the bed (He was out of town on business) waiting for my mom to get off the phone with her best friend, whose husband had just gone to the ER for high blood pressure, when I fell asleep.

The next thing I knew, I was waking up on the floor-- My butt on the carpet, and my back against the bed. My mom was kneeling in front of me, my phone held up to her ear, and I could see that she was panicked, but I didn't know why. She told me to pet my dog, who was barking and whining and trying to make her way to me, so I did, and I remember thinking that my hands felt so... light. After a few minutes, she helped me up and told me that we were going to go see the doctor, which should have made me wonder what was going on, but instead I just got up with her. She told me we were going to go get my slippers from my room, but first, I insisted that we get my book from where I'd left it on Dad's night stand. After grabbing the book, the title of which I wish I could remember, we crossed the apartment and headed towards my room. Between my parents' bed and the threshold to my room, I passed out two times. Again coming out of my closet (with my slippers on, this time). And again just outside my door. This time, we didn't get back up.

I laid on the floor while my mom spoke to who I had finally figured out was a 911 operator. They stayed on the phone with us while mom asked me if I needed anything (to which I answered that I needed my stuffed dog, Sally.) and tried to keep my mind off of what was happening. Which turned out to be pretty easy, because I had no clue, I was just going with it. As we waited, I began to complain because mom said that we may be at the hospital for a few days, and I was not about to be okay with that because we were in the middle of state-wide testing, and that was my favorite part of the school year (I know, I know. I'm weird.). Eventually, she assured me that she'd see if I could retake the test, and after twenty minutes the paramedics arrived.

They took me on a stretcher to the ambulance, where I remember seeing my neighbors standing outside their door with their heads bent in prayer. Upon getting situated int eh ambulance, lights flashing and all, I had my pulse taken. It was at twenty-three beats per minute, which is so, so low. They also pricked my finger, and I didn't feel it at all due to the low heart rate. 

We made our way to the hospital, where they ran test after test, and where they obviously had no idea what was wrong with me. They called my specialist, who referred them to a cardiac doc much closer than my out-of-state one, and said doctor told them to stop running tests immediately, because they were just making it worse. It turned out that they were going to fly me in a medical evacuation plane to see the recommended doctor, but by this point, it was 1am and storming so hard that the plane couldn't make it. So we had to wait until 6am came around.

I spent those five hours dozing on and off, and at one point my mom ended up having to go have a little chat with the doctors who were outside my door saying, "If we can just keep her alive until the med-evac gets here, it'll be out of our hands."

Funnily enough, my mom's best friend and her husband had gotten released from the ER, so they came over to say hello and keep us preoccupied for a while. Between them, and me finally getting some sleep, 6am came quickly, and I took that plane ride by myself, since there was room for either my mom or a set of equipment that could save my life if something happened in the air. Mom was forced to drive three hours to the hospital while I made it there in one.

My dad, who had been away on business at the time, was also driving to the hospital, but from the other direction. He made it there before my mom, and as the flight-for-life team wheeled me into the hospital, he was able to meet me so that I wasn't alone in an unfamiliar face. Mom arrived soon after, which is when he doctors came in to evaluate me and hear what had happened, and that's when I learned that my mom had had to perform CPR on my lifeless body, and I'd actually passed out once between being CPR-revived and waking up at the bottom of the bed. After hearing this and talking to my specialist, the doctors made the decision that I needed to have an emergency surgery the next morning to implant an ICD-- A pacemaker/defibrillator-- that will help keep my heart rate in a healthy range so that it doesn't drop too low or rise too high.

So that next morning, Good Friday, I had a pacemaker put in. When I woke up, I found out that I'd flatlined during the surgery, and the surgeon had had to use the defibrillator paddles to bring me back.

Since then, all has been well for me in the world of health. I have yearly procedures so that the doctors can measure the pressures in my heart and lungs to check the function of the organ and see how much (if any) it's deteriorating. The battery in my pacemaker will be replaced in November, because I've used mine up a little bit faster than the approximated seven years. But all is well.

All is well, but I've found myself getting angry with YA contemporary stories. So many of them are based on a teenager with a cancer diagnosis, and I've had family members who had cancer, so I totally and completely understand how it's such a major disease in the world, but I want to take this moment to shed light on something that most people don't know.

Heart disease is the number one killer in the world.

And while cancer is a very prevalent thing, and books should be written about it, because it's real, and people go through it, and it's a terrible thing... I'm here to tell you that heart disease is also real. People like me go through it, and it is a terrible, terrible thing for those who aren't as blessed as I am. For those who don't catch it in time. 

And there are so, so many teenagers out there whose hearts are failing. And who need devices like pacemakers to keep their heart pumping (I became 100% dependent on my pacemaker in 2014. My heart will no longer work on it's own.).

This is the reason I want to give a big thank you to Leah Thomas for giving me Moritz. Because it's amazing to finally have someone recognize that cardiac kids exist. We're out here, and we're always waiting for someone to acknowledge that we have problems that are just as important and just as scary as cancer kids.

So BECAUSE YOU'LL NEVER MEET ME was an amazing book to read. Moritz has a pacemaker, and he's not ashamed of it, he's proud of it. As someone who tries to help others see that their imperfections and surgical scars aren't things they should have to hide, it was wonderful to see him being secure in his condition.

And speaking of his condition, I want to give you a spoiler. If you don't want to see it, skip to the next paragraph! The spoiler is this: Moritz has the same exact condition as I have. And when I read the line in the book where he told Ollie, it reduced me to tears, because I finally found a book with a main character who not only has my condition, but who has a pacemaker as well.

BECAUSE YOU'LL NEVER MEET ME earns five stars from me, forever and always. Book two was just sent out as an ARC, and I'm crossing my fingers that I'll find a copy in my mailbox. I cannot wait to see the next step in the story of these two best friends, and I can't wait to get more time with my Moritz.

Happily,
Stephanie

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Tuesday (Series) Reviews: Percy Jackson and the Olympians

So there's this book series, you may have heard of it, I dunno. but it's called Percy Jackson and the Olympians?
Apparently it's some sort of big deal?
I don't really know why...

Oh.
Maybe because it's freaking aWESOME!

I thought it was high time I did a series review for this one, so look out below.

*cue the fangirling*



Titles:
The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians #1)
The Sea of Monsters (Percy Jackson and the Olympians #2)
The Titan's Curse (Percy Jackson and the Olympians #3)
The Battle of the Labyrinth (Percy Jackson and the Olympians #4)
The Last Olympian (Percy Jackson and the Olympians #5)

Publisher: Disney Hyperion Books

Release Dates:
The Lightning Thief- 3/1/06
The Sea of Monsters- 4/1/06
The Titan's Curse- 5/5/07
The Battle of the Labyrinth- 3/6/08
The Last Olympian- 5/5/09

Formats Read: Paperback, New Covers


Description from Goodreads for THE LIGHTNING THIEF: Percy Jackson is a good kid, but he can't seem to focus on his schoolwork or control his temper. And lately, being away at boarding school is only getting worse- Percy could have sworn his pre-algebra teacher turned into a monster and tried to kill him. When Percy's mom finds out, she knows it's time that he knew the truth about where he came from, and that he go to the one place he'll be safe. She sends Percy to Camp Half Blood, a summer camp for demigods (on Long Island), where he learns that the father he never knew is Poseidon, God of the Sea. Soon a mystery unfolds and together with his friends-- one a satyr and the other a demigod daughter of Athena-- Percy sets out on a quest across the United States to reach the gates of the Underworld (located in a recording studio in Hollywood) and prevent a catastrophic war between the gods.



Description from Goodreads for THE SEA OF MONSTERS: The heroic son of Poseidon makes an action-packed comeback in the second must-read installment of Ricks Riordan's amazing young readers series. Starring Percy Jackson, a "half blood" whose mother is human and whose father is the God of the Sea, Riordan's series combines cliffhanger adventure and Greek mythology lessons that results true page-turners that get better with each installment. In this episode, The Sea of Monsters, Percy sets out to retrieve the Golden Fleece before his summer camp is destroyed, surpassing the first book's drama and setting the stage for more thrills to come.



Description from Goodreads for THE TITAN'S CURSE:  It's not everyday you find yourself in combat with a half-lion, ha;lf-human.

But when you're the son of a Greek god, it happens. And now my friend Annabeth is missing, a goddess is in chains and only five half-blood heroes can join the quest to defeat the doomsday monster.

Oh, and guess what? The Oracle has predicted that none of us will survive...



Description from Goodreads for THE BATTLE OF THE LABYRINTH: Percy Jackson isn't expecting freshman orientation to be any fun. But when a mysterious mortal acquaintance appears on campus, followed by demon cheerleaders, things quickly move from bad to worse.

In this fourth installment of the blockbuster series, time is running out as a war between the Olympians and the evil Titan lord Kronos draws near. Even the safe haven of Camp Half-Blood grows more vulnerable by the minute as Kronos's army prepares to invade its once impenetrable borders. To stop the invasion, Percy and his demigod friends must set out on a quest through the Labyrinth-- a sprawling underground world with stunning surprises at every turn.



Description from Goodreads for THE LAST OLYMPIAN: All year the half-bloods have been preparing for battle against the Titans, knowing the odds of victory are grim. Kronos's army is stronger than ever, and with every god and half-blood he recruits, the evil Titan's power only grows. While the Olympians struggle to contain the rampaging monster Typhon, Kronis begins his advance on New York City, where Mount Olympus stands virtually unguarded. Now it's up to Percy Jackson and an army of young demigods to stop the Lord of Time.

In this momentous final book in the NEW YORK TIMES best-selling Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, the long-awaited prophecy surrounding Percy's sixteenth birthday unfolds. And as the battle for Western civilization rages on the streets of Manhattan, Percy faces a terrifying suspicion that he may be fighting against his own fate.


I'd actually been wanting to read the Percy Jackson books for a really long time, before picking them up a year and a half ago. There were two reasons I hadn't done it-- 1.) I only owned SEA OF MONSTERS, and 2.) I really loved the movies, and knew by the reactions from you demigods that if I read the books I would end up hating the movies. But one night, I picked up the boxset, and I dove into it and finished all five books in five days. 

Percy was one of my favorite series ever to binge. I can't imagine reading them as they released and having to deal with those cliffhangers. But holy crap, you guys. These books are fantastic in more ways than I can count. Not only is Percy hilarious, but he's such a genuine character that I couldn't help but love him from page one. 

Also, can we talk about how sassy he is? Like, you guys got it right when you nicknamed him Persassy. He's a sasspot and a half, and it's amazing.

Literally each book in the series was great. They just got better and better as they went on. That being said, I can safely say that BATTLE OF THE LABYRINTH was my favorite. I really enjoyed the setting of the Labyrinth and the added suspense and mystery it gave the series. 

It's kind of crazy to me that it took me so long to pick these books up. If I had known that I was going to love them so much, I probably would have done it a long time ago. Though I think I read them at the perfect time, because it gave me the opportunity to dive right into the sister series, The Heroes of Olympus.

I give PJO five stars, and recommend it to literally everyone. I've yet to meet a reader who didn't adore the series, and frankly, I'm not sure one exists. If they do, that's the kind of person I wouldn't get along with. How do you not like Percy and Annabeth and Grover and Tyson?

How many of you have read the Percy Jackson books? If you have, who is your godly parent? Daughter of Athena over here *waggles eyebrows*

Happily,
Stephanie

Thursday, July 28, 2016

I'm Back!



So it's kind of been while since my last post, and I know I didn't warn you about my sudden hiatus, but I am now back! It's been an absolutely crazy month-- I've finally moved back home from Chicago, and it's so incredibly nice to be back on the farm. As well as that, I had a minor surgery that I am almost fully recovered from, and I've managed to read absolutely nothing. It's killing me. Not a single book.

However, I've been cooking up some great bloggy plans. August is going to be such a great month over here at Doodle's Book Reviews, and I can't wait to share everything with you.You know what they say... All in due time.

So, keep checking back for new posts, because they're back to normal again. Next week has some pretty good stuff coming, if I do say so myself.

Happily,
Stephanie

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Tuesday Reviews-- The Book of Kringle: Legend of the North Pole by Derek Velez Partridge

It's Christmas in July!


Title: The Book of Kringle: Legend of the North
Author: Derek Velez Partridge
Publisher: Vista Clara Productions
Release Date: August 11, 2015
Format Read: Hardback
Rating: Four and a half

Description from Goodreads: In a magical land on top of the world, an epic struggle between light and darkness was waged between two brothers. King Kringle riled with a harsh hand over the elves of the North Pole, allowing no laughter, no play, and no Christmas celebration. There was only one, truly kindhearted soul who could make a difference and change the course of the world. Would the elves be able to find Santa and bring joy and laughter to the land. Manusol the Elf knows the answer, for it is written in the Book of Kringle.

I read this description and the first thing I'm thinking is that I have way too many questions running around in my head. Is the King one of the brothers? Is Santa? So I went into this picture book with pre-determined skepticism, and I find myself pleasantly surprised at what I found instead.

All of my questions were answered on page five, and the story itself was actually pretty cute. You get to learn what the North Pole really is (Hint: it's not really a pole!) and follow Manusol on his journey to save his friends and family from a future of King Kringle's rule. The pictures that accompany the story add to the experience, because they are so detailed and they are full-page, full-color illustrations.

THE BOOK OF KRINGLE is not the same Santa Claus origin story that we all know and love-- it's a retelling, one that shows you a brand-new perspective on the history of the North Pole, and those who live there. It's a s fresh story of good versus evil in relation to Santa and his realm of characters, narrated by an elf who stands up for what he believes in, and does what he can to set things right.

The story was 30 pages, and each one of them included gorgeous pictures on quality paper that would take a pretty hard rip to do damage. One of the things I loved most about this book was the cover, and how thick and sturdy it is. It has that special, old-leather-book feel to it, and I can set it on my shelf and I know it's going to last.

I give THE BOOK OF KRINGLE four and a half stars. It's a perfect bedtime story for any child during the Christmas season, and I recommend it to anyone who celebrates the holiday season! This is a picture book that will quickly become a favorite in your family.

Happily,
Stephanie

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

BEA Wrap-Up Part 3


Waking up on Friday after a successful Second Day of BEA was all at once energizing and devastating. Energizing because I was so ready to go and I knew the day's schedule like the back of my hand, and devastating because my feet were still so frigging sore. But I was actually very relaxed going into Day 3. I knew the layout of the showfloor, I was going to be working with the most relaxed schedule of the entire expo, and I was finally out of a dress and into a good pair of jeans. The day was destined to be great.

Getting to BEA that morning proved to be a bit of an amusing feat. Ticket drops for the signings later that afternoon were at 8am, and I didn't have any that I wanted to go for. Stephanie @ OhanaReads, however, wanted that Marissa Meyer ticket and was ready to fight for it, so she got up and went to stand in the line for tickets at 5:30. 

Yes, you read that right.

5:30 in the morning.

I, however, chose to use those precious hours of the wee morning to get some well-needed rest. I slept as long as I could, and crossed over to the expo, meeting Stephanie in line for the showfloor, only to find out that after all of her efforts, she still didn't get her hands on a ticket. She was disappointed, and we were disappointed for her, because HEARTLESS was one of only two books that were must-grabs for her BEA experience.

But we persevered, and though Stephanie was a bit downcast, we made our way through Day 3.

My Friday schedule was super chill. The only thing I had on my list before noon were signings for THE EDGE OF EVERYTHING and CARAVAL, and I ended up not even getting to the booth in time to get a ticket for the second one. So I was just kind of milling around, checking out booths and catching random drops, when I get an all caps text from Stephanie saying that Jay was here and he had a few ARCs of NEVERNIGHT for people who came up to him and said "Never forget".

Now.

I think this is the appropriate time in the post to tell you that I am a HUGE FREAKING JAY KRISTOFF FAN. 

Like, there are no words.

ILLUMINAE just... it.. 


If you'd like, you can check out my review of it. 

My number one priority for the week was GEMINA. If I didn't leave with GEMINA, then there were going to be some major problems. 


So I get this text, and immediately I'm ready to throw my schedule in the trash and look for Jay. At that time, I'm in the beginning of a gap between drops/signings on my schedule, so I dedicated my time to looking for Jay. I figured, how hard could it be? HE'S A GIANT AUSSIE. I'm looking all over the showfloor, but I'm not finding him, so I send my mom to check out the other half of the floor while I head to the cafeteria on the top level of the center to look for him from a bird's eye view. Stephanie was already up there and we proceeded to spend the next hour looking for Mister Kristoff. at this point, we both had things we needed to get to, so we headed downstairs and ran around following the schedule, which included drops of THE SUN IS ALSO A STAR and ONE PARIS SUMMER, which I a-d-o-r-e-d.

The GEMINA drop that I mentioned before, it wasn't until three. But if you went to BEA, you know why I got there at 1 and went to scout out a line. If you haven't ever been to BEA, let me tell you this: Major Books/Authors Have Lines That Make You Wait for Hours and Hours. I was actually at a Penguin signing (David Arnold's KIDS OF APPETITE), which was at the same booth at the GEMINA signing would be, and after my mom went and picked up a copy of THREE DARK CROWNS (THE JEALOUSY FACTOR IS UNREAL) she went to find the GEMINA line, which was already of a good length, while I waited for KOA. My mom managed to let people in the line know that two more of us would be coming in like two seconds, and we were golden.

I want to take the time to mention that the KOA signing was not the first time I had met David Arnold. I met him last year at Anderson's Literature Conference and had the privelidge of sitting at his table for the first day. Such a pleasant person to have a conversation with, very friendly, and I always remembered the MOSQUITOLAND author as a nice person to engage with. Flash forward to BEA, when I stepped up into his line, and he looks and says "I've met you before." and I told him that he was right, that wed met at Lit Con, and this was easily one of the hilights of my BEA experience, simply because, as a small blogger, you don't get recognized that often, and it's such a great feeling to have someone remember who you are. I've had this happen with four authors, and each time it's just the most amazing thing.

Anyway, by the time I get done with the KOA line, the GEMINA line is already going crazy. I took my spot with Mom, and soon after that Stephanie joined us. Pretty quickly after that, Bayram @ NeverEndingBooks made his way over to the line and jumped in with us. We spent the next two hours chatting and running to drops, until Bayram and I were heading to a Disney drop when I nearly ran into this hulking monster of a man. I look up, and it was jAY FREAKING KRISTOFF.

My brain about exploded.

Not even kidding.

And at this point, Bayram and I are just starting ot get to know each other, so he doesn't know how big of a fan I am, but I just turned to him and was like "IT'S FREAKING JAY KRISTOFF." and he, ever so chill, goes "Oh yeah, Stephanie told me you were a big fan of his." 

AND I NEARLY EXPLODED BECAUSE JAY WAS RIGHT THERE AND SO MUCH EXCITEMENT.

But he was signing an ARC of NEVERNIGHT *Cue mental screaming* so I didn't want to bother him while this other girl was having her moment, so I went to the drop with Bayram and by the time we got back to where he was (Thirty seconds, tops) Jay was gone. So we're looking around, spinning and searching so hard, and finally I see him halfway across the showfloor. 

So I just... I kind of... I totally sprinted. I booked it over to him, and it was such a problem because one stride for him is like three for me and so I felt like I was in track by the time I got to him, but God is good because another girl stopped him just as I was closing in, and I didn't have to run anymore. So he looks over at me while he's talking to this girl, and I'm like "I think I have a password for you." And just as he put the marker to this girl's book, we get swarmed. I mean, these bloggers were like frigging bees. Nowhere in sight, and then all of a sudden THERE'S A HOARD OF THEM. *ironic laughing bc I'm a blogger* So he gives this girl her book, she stands back, and then pulls out what he admitted was his second-to-last ARC left in the bag, and asked me who he should sign it to. So I'm talking to him, full on shaking, and I ask for a picture, of course, and he obliges. So I go to give my phone to the girl who had just gotten her ARC, since she offered to take it, and then I have to sit there and struggle with the phone because my hands were shaking so badly I couldn't unlock it. 
 Eventually, though, I got it done and left Jay to his other fans while I went back to the line and screamed and shook as I marveled over the ARC and retold the story to my mom while Stephanie went to go see if he'd given away his last ARC.


 Sometimes around here, our friend Eli @ The Silver Words joins in, and the madness begins. The line. starts. moving. And we have GEMINA in our hands after two hours of waiting and I'm totally not crying over it and that was how we ended our showfloor time.

Something I forgot to mention earlier is that Bayram was in line for the HEARTLESS ticket drop as well, and he didn't manage to get a ticket either. But something miraculous happened that afternoon. Not only did someone give him their ticket, but someone also gave Stephanie their ticket! after such a crazy wait, they ended up getting exactly what they wanted!

From there, we went up to the room and hung out for about an hour before heading over to a local sports bar for a BEA blogger meet-up, hosted by Octavia @ Read.Sleep.Repeat. and Whitley @ Reading With A Vengeance. This was such a fun way to end the evening, as getting us all together resorted in so much bookish fun and card swapping. It was a great way to get to connect with the other bloggers, swap stories, and get the low down on what BookCon was going to be like, since I'd heard nothing but horror stories.

Also, I'd just like to make it known that I took my heels off for this dinner. I wore flip flops instead. 

At the end of that day, we were ready to just go to sleep. The exhaustion was real, and after we got back to the hotel, that's exactly what we did. We went over the schedule for Saturday, and then completely... passed.. out.

Stay tuned for the tales from BookCon, coming at you next Wednesday.

Happily,
Stephanie

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Tuesday (Series) Review: The Selection (Books 4 & 5)



In November of last year, I binged the first three books in The Selection Series, and because I'd read them one right after the other and conquered them within a week, I did a Series Review. Now that the last book has come out, I think it's about time to post a second Series Review-- this time, for books four and five.

If you haven't read the first three books in the series (THE SELECTION, THE ELITE, THE ONE) then I need to stop you right here. Because as much as I'd like for you to read this post, it will completely spoil you for the series. And this is definitely one that I want you to read. 

So, just for now, disregard this post. 

Bookmark it, favorite it, make it a shortcut on your desktop so you'll have it once you DO read the books, but for right now, please go read something else. 


Are you gone yet?

Did you go?

You clicked my link, right?

Right?

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Okay, I think we're safe now.

If you're still here... HELLO YOU WONDERFUL SELECTIONER YOU!

I am now going to continue with my reviews. Please stick around.




Author: Kiera Cass

Titles:
THE HEIR (The Selection Series #4)
THE CROWN (The Selection Series #5)

Publisher: HarperTeen

Release Dates:
THE HEIR- 5/5/15
THE CROWN- 5/3/16

Formats Read: Hardbacks

Ratings:
THE HEIR- 3.75 stars
THE CROWN- 4.5 stars

Description from Goodreads for THE HEIR: Princess Eadlyn has grown up hearing endless stories about how her mother and father met. Twenty years ago, America Singer entered the Selection and won the heart of Prince Maxon-- and they lived happily ever after. Eadlyn has always found their fairy-tale story romantic, but she has no interest in trying to repeat it. If it were up to her, she'd put off marriage for as long as possible.

But a princess's life is never entirely her own, and Eadlyn can't escape her very own Selection- no matter how fervently she protests.

Eadlyn doesn't expect her story to end in romance. But as the competition begins, on entry may just capture Eadlyn's heart, showing her all the possibilities that lie in front of her... and proving that finding her own happily ever after isn't as impossible as she's always thought.




Description from Goodreads for THE CROWN: When Eadlyn became the first princess of Illea to hold her own Selection, she didn't think she would fall in love with any of her thirty-five suitors. She spent the first few weeks of the competition counting down the days until she could send them all home. But as events at the palace force Eadlyn even further into the spotlight, she realizes that she might not be content remaining alone.

Eadlyn still isn't sure she'll find the fairytale ending her parents did twenty years ago. But sometimes the heart has a way of surprising you... and soon Eadlyn must make a choice that feels more impossible-- and more important-- than she ever imagined.



Going into THE HEIR, I didn't realize that the book was going to be about America's daughter. As much as the idea intrigued me, I wanted more Maxmerica! MOOOORE. But, in a teensy way, I got it. Because of course, Eadlyn's story would not be complete without her parents. 

My first impression of Eadlyn... she's brutal. I know a lot of people disliked her, but I didn't feel that way. Yeah, she's harsh. Cold Cut-off, and distanced. But wouldn't you be that way too, if your entire world was constantly plastered on the media? If you always got what you wanted? If you'd been doing nothing but learning to run the country since you learned to read? Because that's exactly the situation Eady was in, and I felt for her. It would SUCK to live like that. Sure, she's a spoiled brat most of the time, but it's not like she can help it that she was brought up living in a palace where everyone waited on her, hand and foot.

In fact, I rather liked Eadlyn. I feel like I'd be just like her if I were in her situation. I sympathized with her so much throughout her books, and I was actually pretty shocked by how much hate she got. What, do people think that being a princess comes with zero responsibility? Wear pretty clothes, get your face on the tv, sit around eating bon bons all day? Come on, guys.

And then, to be forced into having a Selection when you'd specifically been told that there would never be another? I think Eadlyn has a right to be quite a bit frustrated with that. She's being forced to do something that she's always been 100% against, and with little to no warning. 

So then the Selection starts, and she has all of these great guys, and of course she starts sending them away ASAP. My immediate favorites were Kile (Because that best friend vibe), Hale (Something every day), Henri (Hi today!) and, though maybe he wasn't actually IN the Selection, I loved Eric. 

If it had been me, I'd have chosen Kile. WOODWORKS PLUS SCHREAVES? Y. E. S.

And I loved how each of them reacted to the people hating on Eadlyn (the parade). And I loved the fight in the kitche. And I really did enjoy the book. But I feel like it was too short. Two books in general felt short for a Selection. 

Until I got to book five.

And book five blew book four out of the freaking water.

**SPOILER ALERT**



ALL MY GUYS WERE ELITE!

ALL OF THEM!



**END SPOILER ALERT**

And I just want to say, I totally called the ending. Boy and everything. 

But I loved watching it play out, and I loved watching Eady's relationships with each of the boys develop and sweeten and become so tight.

I loved every single thing about this book, down to the details. Which is why I'm not going to spend much time on it, because all you need to know is that it was beautiful and I loved everything and you definitely need to read it.

And I'm going to tell you that out of all of the chapters in these two books, the last three were my favorite.

And out of all the scenes in the last two books, (This is not spoilery, I made sure.) my favorite was the last major scene in the book with Kile. I was bawling like a baby and it was a glorious scene and I think I died a little bit inside but I loved it more than words can say.

So, yeah. I absolutely adored these last two Eady books. This series is an extraordinary thing, and I hope you got to experience it as I did.

Happily,
Stephanie

Thursday, June 30, 2016

2016 Debut Authors Bash- Featuring Meghan Rogers


Welcome to one of the final stops on the 2016 Debut Authors Bash, hosted by Nichole at YA Reads. This is a tour to celebrate and spotlight the authors that have burst into the publishing world this year, as well as encourage you to give one of their books a shot. Believe me, we've got some pretty great ones on the tour this year (especially my stop, but I'm a bit biased ;) )

Be sure to scroll down! We have a book review, author bios, a Q&A with Meghan Rogers, and a tour-wide giveaway!

SO.

Without further ado, let me introduce you to the author of one of my favorite 2016 releases so far... Meghan Rogers!


Author Bio


Meghan Rogers has been telling stories since she could talk and writing creatively since she was first introduced to the concept in third grade. She spent her high school years completing her first novel and has been actively writing ever since. After college, Meghan went to work with high school writers while earning her MFA in Creative Writing from Rosemont College. She is currently living in the Philadelphia area and working on the next Raven Files novel.




Book Review


Title: Crossing the Line (The Raven Files #1)
Author: Meghan Rogers
Publisher: Philomel Books
Release Date: April 12, 2016
Format Read: ARC
Rating: Five stars

Description from Goodreads: If Jason Bourne were a teenaged girl...

Jocelyn Steely was kidnapped as a child and raised in North Korea as a spy. When her agency sends her to the U.S. to infiltrate the very group her parents once worked for, Jocelyn jumps at the chance to turn double agent and finish off her kidnappers once and for all. She convinces the head of the American spy agency to trust her, but it's not quite as simple as that: Jocelyn has to fight the withdrawal symptoms from the drug that the North Koreans used to keep her in line, and her new fellow spies refuse to trust their former adversary. Worst of all, there might be some new information to uncover about her parents-- if she even wants to find out.

This action-packed spy thriller is part GALLAGHER GIRLS, part ALEX RIDER, and part BOURNE IDENTITY.

I received an ARC of CROSSING THE LINE back in April, and I read it as soon as I got it, because I wanted to have it reviewed on release date, as is my policy. But then I found the sign-up sheets for this tour, and I post-poned my review so that I could add it in with the Bash. I chose to do this because CROSSING THE LINE was a five star read for me.

First off.

I've read a lot of thrillers. I've read a lot of spy books. I've read a lot of assassin books. Take the best of each of those, add a fresh, creative plot, killer characters (Literally), and wrap it up with a page-turning bow, and you get the first book in The Raven Files. 

I was hooked from, like, page two. Meghan had me in her clutches from the prologue, and that's something that happens very rarely. In fact, when it does happen, it generally means that the book is going to suck. Because, and I've mentioned this before, if I start out liking it, I'll probably be feeling polar opposite by the end of the book. But with CROSSING THE LINE, I was into it from start to finish. So into it that I did the unthinkable. The thing that I never, ever do. The thing that only happens once or twice a year:

I read it again the day after I finished it.

And this time, I read it aloud to my mom, who also thought it was crazy good.

Reading it to her, I would break into fits of laughter so long that it would leave me in tears, because this book is also extremely hilarious. Not in a joke-y way, but in a way of character personalities and responses. Mostly from one named Scorpion, because I just could not handle him. He sent me laughing every few pages with his constant anger and arrogance. And then Jocelyn, with her fierce take-no-crap attitude. And Sam, with his carefree, everything's a game smirk.

Pulling the drug, Gerex, into the story made everything ten times better. Not only was the situation surrounding Jocelyn and her past making everything tense, as well as the feelings towards her from her peers, but you also had the drug plucking away at the already-too-tight strings, and it kept me constantly on the edge of my seat, just waiting to see which string would break first.

What may have been my favorite thing about this book (other than the characters that I loved to bits and pieces) is that there were none of your typical YA cliches. I have a specific one in mind, but I can't share it with you, because I want you to be just as shocked as I was when it didn't happen. Though, there are multiple times that I expected something cliche to happen and it didn't, so maybe your biggest one will be different than my biggest one.

CROSSING THE LINE definitely earned and worked for it's five stars. This is a book I'd highly recommend to anyone who likes thrillers, mysteries, spy books, annnnnd anyone who likes Black Widow, AKA Natasha Romanoff. After all, Natasha *is* where Meghan got the inspiration for Jocelyn... 



Q&A With Meghan Rogers

I was lucky enough to get to interrogate Meghan about the first book in her Raven Files series. This is definitely a NON-spoilery interview, so don't worry about reading anything that you shouldn't!

The interview is as follows.


Q1.) I know that your inspiration for CROSSING THE LINE came from Natasha Romanoff. How much of Black Widow's character influenced your creation of Jocelyn?

A1.) Very little intentionally, though inadvertently, it seems more of her snuck in than I planned. When I first saw THE AVENGERS, I didn't have any real backstory for the characters, including Black Widow. And after I saw it, I didn't want to do too much research. The beginnings of the idea for CROSSING THE LINE came to me halfway through the movie, and I purposefully didn't want to be too influenced by Black Widow's story. I wanted Jocelyn's backstory to as much as much of my own as possible. To this day I still haven't looked into it, so all I know is what I've seen in the movies. The part of her character that intentionally influenced Jocelyn was her general history-- that she had worked for an enemy and done horrible things for them before joining "the good guys," and that she would be switching sides. The rest of Jocelyn's character I created around those concepts.

Then comes the part I didn't plan. One thing I like to so is give each of my characters a Myers-Briggs personality test. So after I created her character enough to have a good feel for her, I took the test answering the questions as she would answer them. Jocelyn is an ISTP, and as I was doing more research on her personality type, I learned that Black Widow is an ISTP too. This was totally unplanned-- I mean, I wouldn't even know how to manipulate the test to get that result even if I wanted to. I have no idea who determined Black Widow to be this type, but if it's accurate I think it's pretty fitting.



Q2.)If THE RAVEN FILES were turned into a virtual reality, who would you want to spar with? Be partnered with? 

A2.) This is such a fun question! I think I'd want to spar with Nikki because my real-life sparring existence is non-existent, and I think she'd be patient enough to teach me a little bit. And I'd want to be partnered with Travis because I totally trust him to have my back.



Q3.) GEREX. Where did the idea for the drug come from?

A3.) The Gerex was primarily born out of necessity. I knew from the start I didn't want Jocelyn to spend half the book earning the trust of both the IDA director and the reader. I wanted you to be on her side from the very beginning. I also needed a way to explain how KATO had such a hold on her for all these years. That's how I came to the idea of a drug. But then I knew it couldn't be a drug that already existed. After all, if Jocelyn could get the drug after she left KATO, then it still wouldn't explain why she didn't try to leave sooner. That's when I realized I'd have to create the drug myself. I think it added a really interesting and complex layer to Jocelyn's character that I hadn't originally thought of.



Q4.) If you could choose one of your characters to pull out of the book and bring to life for a day, who would you choose, and what would you want to do with them?

A4.) I would definitely choose Jocelyn and I would want her to teach me how to beat a security system, break into a building, and steal something. I (probably;) wouldn't actually want to steal something with her, but I think it'd be cool to know HOW to do those thing.



Q5.) If you were to pin Scorpion (I can't seem to think of him as "Travis". It's always Scorpion.) and Jocelyn together in a fight to the death, how do you think it would turn out?

A5.) You are not the only one who can't think of him as Travis! I tend to refer to him as Travis though, because to me he's been Travis a lot longer than he's been Scorpion (but more on code names later. ;) Anyway, this is a hard question mostly because there are so many factors! But if we're talking before Jocelyn joined the IDA, Jocelyn would definitely win. If you've read the first chapter of the book, you'll know that she definitely had her chance Jocelyn's strength is her speed and agility. She's also a lot more reckless than he is, so she'll take more risks than he will. Ultimately, Jocelyn doesn't like killing but she'll do what she has to in order to survive. Id she found herself in a situation where it was her or Travis, she'd pick herself and I don't see Travis being able to get to her first.



Q6.) Were you a pantser or a planner when it came to writing CROSSING THE LINE?

A6.) I am a totally hardcore planner for everything that I write. I've learned that I have a hard time thinking about the story and writing the story at the same time, so first I think and then I write. I have, like, three phases for brainstorming. First, is the idea phase, where I just free write about what the plot and characters could be. Then comes the plotting stage where I map out the key plot points and track the pace of the story. Then I'll create a fairly detailed chapter-by-chapter outline that's color coded by storyline to keep it all straight. And even with all of this, there's a really good chance that I'll get in there and the story will start to head in a different direction and that I'll have to re-plan. But even when I have to stop and re-plan. I get a draft down a lot faster this way than when I try to think and write at the same time. Once I have a draft written I'll repeat the process as needed.



Q7.) Which chapter (or scene) was your favorite to write? Least favorite?

A7.) I don't think I really have one favorite scene or chapter, but my favorite moments were any time Jocelyn was pushed to trust someone before she was really ready to. When I started writing this, I focused Jocelyn's character development around her learning to trust, so I loved backing her into a corner and forcing her to grow. And I'm not too sure I have a least favorite either! Generally speaking if a scene isn't fun for me to write, it probably isn't that much fun to read either, so the ones that weren't that fun to work on probably got cut a long time ago. Sorry this was such a lame answer!



Q8.) How did you come up with each of the characters' code names?

A8.) I actually have a hard time with code names! I don't know why, but they take me a lot longer to figure out than they should. For about three drafts I had typed **CODE NAME** every time Travis's code name came up (which is why he's always been more Travis to me than Scorpion.) Travis got his code name when I started asking for help. I was working and volunteering in a high school when I was working on this book and it was a student who helped me come up with Scorpion.

Jocelyn's code name has a little but more meaning behind it-- or at least it does now. Originally her code name was White Rose, and there wasn't too much meaning behind that. We had to change it for publishing and historical reasons, and my editor had suggested making it a bird that had some kind of meaning behind it, which I liked. Since Jocelyn was smart and couldn't be controlled by KATO, I went looking for a bird that has the same qualities to use as a code name. So I talked to my sister who is an animal behaviorist and was interning at the Philadelphia Zoo at the time. She said the Raven at the Zoo was very difficult to control-- he would only cooperate for one of his kepers-- and super smart, which made Raven the perfect fit!



Q9.) We know that The Raven Files is a series... will book two be from Jocelyn's point of view as well? Or multiple POVs?

A9.) Book two is in Jocelyn's point of view. I'm a never say never type of person, so I don't want to say this series will never be told from another point of view, but as of now, I consider this series to be Jocelyn's story, so she gets to be the one to tell it.



Q10.) What is your number one tip for writers?

A10.) My number one tip for writers is to work on figuring out a process that makes you both happy and productive. The internet is full of writing advice-- try as much of it as you can. Try things that sound just a little bit crazy. Some of it you may hate, but you might surprise yourself by the approaches you love. What works for one writer may not work for you, and someone else's little used crazy idea might be magic. There's a quote from Dorothy Parker, "I hate writing, I love having written." I used to feel like that. Bus since I played around with different techniques and created a process that really works for me, I can honestly say I love writing. I don't know if this will get you published any quicker, if that's your goal, but I think it makes the long journey a lot more fun if you can say you truly love the process.



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