Tuesday, April 25, 2017

BLOG TOUR: Blood Road by Amanda McCrina


Welcome, welcome to my stop on the blog tour for BLOOD ROAD (Blood Oath #1) by Amanda McCrina. Be sure to read through the whole post... there's a nice little giveaway towards the end 
*wink*



Title: BLOOD ROAD (Blood Oath #1)
Author: Amanda McCrina
Publisher: Month9Books
Release Date: April 25, 2017


Description from Goodreads: Nineteen-year-old Torien Risto has seen dissidents dealt with before. He knows the young local girl who just knifed him will hang for assaulting an Imperial officer, unless he can stop it.

Someone inside the provincial government is kidnapping Imperial citizens and selling them across the desert to the salt mines, silencing anyone who tries to intervene. The girl’s brother is one of those who has been taken. Rejected by the corrupt courts, she’s waging a personal war against the Empire.

Determined to save her life, Torien sets out in search of answers on the Salt Road, the ancient trade route running deep into the heart of a desert—territory claimed by the hostile Mayaso tribe.

Now, Torien is no longer sure where his own loyalty lies, or how far he will go to break the cycle of tyranny, political bullying, and social injustice in an empire that seals its borders in blood.



About the Author


Amanda McCrina has studied in Italy, taught English in Japan, and currently tutors Latin in Atlanta, Georgia. She received her BA in History from the University of West Georgia, and is now pursuing her MA. She writes stories that incorporate her love of history, languages, and world travel. She drinks far too much coffee and dreams of one day having a winning fantasy-hockey season. 




Excerpt from BLOOD ROAD

A cavalry troop was just coming in to the stable yard from the Road. It was an irregular troop, not a standard column—scouts, judging by their light harness. Torien stood and watched with Alluin while they dismounted. He had supposed them to be local auxiliaries, as scouts typically were, but when the dust had settled he picked out Vareno faces among them, and one face that might have been Cesino, though he could not tell for sure. One man’s eyes fell briefly on Torien’s, across the yard. His gaze was hollow. In his dirt-streaked face, Torien recognized the same look of resignation as had been in the woman’s face that night in the shanty in Modigne. The scout turned his head away without saluting.

When they rejoined Tarrega in the street, Torien said, “Auxiliaries?”

Tarrega said, “Signi.”

Torien’s steps slowed. He looked back over his shoulder to the stable yard.

Tarrega said, “You’ve never seen signi before?” As an afterthought, he added, “Sir?”

“They don’t post signi to Vione.”

“But to Cesin?”

Perhaps to the Outland, to the furthest reaches of the mountains where the rebellious Brycigi still thrashed against the Imperial yoke; Torien did not know. “Is the Road so dangerous, then—that you use signi as scouts?”

Unexpectedly, Tarrega flashed a cool knife-blade smile. His teeth were very white. “The Mayasi,” he said, “make it their peculiar habit to leave their prisoners stripped and staked out in the sand and dead of thirst or sun sickness or jackals, whichever comes first. Or they hold them alive, for interrogation, and from what I’ve seen of the few poor souls we’ve recovered—better to die in the sand. So the signi are useful twice over.”

Torien looked at him. “They aren’t citizens,” Tarrega said. “It doesn’t matter how they die. And they don’t know anything to give up under torture.”



Giveaway

1 winner will receive a 1 month subscription to Owl Crate, US Only.


a Rafflecopter giveaway




Tour Schedule

Week 1:
4/24/2017- Rockin' Book ReviewsReview
4/24/2017- Month9BooksExcerpt

4/25/2017- Two Chicks on BooksInterview
4/25/2017- Doodle's Book ReviewsExcerpt

4/26/2017- Don't Judge, ReadInterview
4/26/2017- Book-KeepingReview

4/27/2017- A Backwards StoryReview
4/27/2017- Hazel West's Character PurgatoryExcerpt

4/28/2017- LILbooKloversInterview
4/28/2017- Wishful EndingsReview

Week 2:
5/1/2017- Exploring the Inner UniverseReview
5/1/2017- So Few BooksInterview

5/2/2017- Book Review BeccaReview
5/2/2017- Bibliobibuli YAInterview

5/3/2017- Reading for the Stars and MoonReview
5/3/2017- I am not a bookworm!Review

5/4/2017- YA and WineGuest Post
5/4/2017- Mundie MomsReview

5/5/2017- Never Too Many To ReadReview


Be sure to check out the other stops on the tour, and don't forget it runs for two weeks! 

Thanks for stopping by, all!

Happily,
Stephanie


Thursday, March 30, 2017

Thursday Thinks: UCM Children's Literature Festival


A couple weeks ago was the University of Central Missouri's Children's Literature Festival. In a nutshell, it was a gathering of (mostly) middle grade authors who participated in a luncheon, panels, and autographing sessions.

Of course, as soon as I found out about this, I knew I had to go. I immediately made plans with a friend to go, but as the days drew nearer, said friend became unable to come. This meant that I had an extra ticket and absolutely no one to give it to. So when friends fail you, you go to family. Or, friendswhomayaswellhavebeenfamilysinceyouveconsideredeachothersiblingsforfiveyears. 

Anyway, I shoot a text to my brother. It went a little something like this:


And no more was said about it. So I'm just like, "Great, I'll just go by myself, how wonderful." (my parents were coming as well, but I had really been looking forward to taking one of my non-reader friends to the event with me. And it would have been even better if my bro would have said yes, because... okay, it's not that he HATES reading, it's just that he only enjoys certain books. For instance, WWII books, good mysteries, and Civil War stories. 

But he knows how much I love the bookish world, and I really thought he'd go to the festival for me. If not for any other reason than to make me happy.

The morning of the festival, I got up, started running around getting ready, making sure I had all my things in the car, and I had just sat down to check snapchat when the door opened. My mom had gone to take my pups for a grandpa-doggy day while we were gone, as it was quite a drive to UCM and we'd be there all day, and I hit replay on a snap from my dad as I felt her standing beside me.

"Look at your husband." I said.

"Nope," A voice answered, "Not my husband."

Suffice it to say that I was totally freaking shocked to see my brother standing there. Apparently he and my mom had been conspiring behind my back, and he was going to go to the festival with us.

The drive took a few hours, but we finally got there, signed in, and hit the sales area. Throughout the day, my mom and brother swapped the camera back and forth to take pictures, so I have quite a few for you. I also used the Snapchat Story feature for, like, the first time ever, and chronicled our day, though I have been forbidden by my brother to put any pictures on the internets that include him.


From there, we moved to stand in line for the luncheon, and they ended up letting us in super early, so we didn't have to wait long.


video

As we walked into the room we'd be having lunch in, we found tables with author names on a centerpiece. All attendees got to choose their seats with an author, and the first one I looked for was S.A. Bodeen. She wrote books like THE COMPOUND and THE GARDENER, and I'd been trying to meet her for five years. 

Aaaaand of course her table ended up being one of the first to fill. For a moment, I stood reading table names before eventually landing on Angela Cervantes. I wasn't familiar with her works, but we took our seats at her table and actually had the most pleasant time just talking and asking her questions about her books. She gave us so much insight on the publishing industry, and even a good chunk of advice on getting agents and book deals. We ended up talking back and forth around the table for a good hour as we ate, until the guest speaker moved up to the front of the room.



I remembered hearing all kinds of good things about the Al Capone Does my Shirts boosk in middle school, but I never had that much of an interest in them. Let me just go ahead and say that after hearing Gennifer Choldenko speak, I will be reading that series. 

Her talk was about knowing what your story to tell is, and I took a video at one point because I loved what she said. It's pretty self-explanatory.

video

After the speaking, it was SIGNING TIME! I was pretty excited for some of these authors--even the ones I'd met before--so I couldn't wait to get started. 




First, I found R.W. Alley. In case the name isn't familiar to you, he's the illustrator of the beloved Paddington Bear books. He had the second longest line-- second only to Choldenko-- and the wait was worth it to meet such a sweet person that took the time to sketch in each person's books, no matter how many they had (I had like 6).


From there? Cheryl Harness. She wrote these wonderful books for National Geographic that were basically stories and collections of writings from important historical figures, such as George Washington Carter, Myles Standish, Narcissa Whitman, Daniel Boone, and my favorite president-- Teddy Roosevelt. 


Next. Oh my gosh. Next, I met Mary Downing Hahn. I don't know if you guys were like me and spent your middle school years patrolling the library for new finds, but we were required to choose form a set of books at one point. We would read it, do a project on it, and then discuss for a grade. One year, I chose TIME FOR ANDREW. It's a ghost story for ages 8-12, and I loved it. So, naturally, I found her section in the library (I still remember exactly where it is. Follow the right wall as you walk in until you see the windows of the computer lab. Halfway down that wall starts the Hahn section, and it lasts around two top shelves.) and started at one end and worked my way to the other. I read everything my library had of hers, and TIME FOR ANDREW remained my favorite. That's why I was so excited to finally get to meet the author, who was truly lovely and became one of the hilights of the day.



From there, I moved on to Roland Smith. I've had the pleasure of meeting Roland three times now-- twice when he came to my school for speaking events, and once at the CLF-- and he has yet to disappoint. I remember the first time we met, he signed my copy of SEA OTTER RESCUE. The second, PEAK (lovelovelove), and now, THE EDGE. It's always a pleasure chatting with Roland, and one of the things I love about it is that he doesn't just sign and send you on your way-- he actually takes the time to talk to you, and it's great.


From there, we moved on to Michael Spradlin, Roderick Towney, E.B. Lewis, and finally to the moment I'd been counting down to all day-- S.A. Bodeen.

You guys.

I've been trying to meet S.A. Bodeen for a grand total of five years now. Each time, something got in the way (Last year, a surgery). But after some email correspondence, I was finally going to get to say hello. Not only that, but I was going to get to interview* her.
That's right.

So as I found all my books to be signed, I headed for her area. I'd actually spotted her earlier, but I'd put on a pair of blinders so I could save her for last. Finally, I carried my bag down the hallway and got to meet one of my faves. Graciously, she signed the stack I had, which included allllll of her YA/MG books, and after getting everything signed, we made our way to the staircase (where it was slightly less noisy) and got down to business.

The very last thing I did before leaving was find the author I'd had lunch with, Angela Cervantes. I had a copy of her first book, and wanted to end the day just as I'd started it-- talking with Angela. We'd had a great time at lunch, and I can definitely say that I left CLF with one more author friend than I'd come with. That's one of the best things about going to an event like this where you have a luncheon-- the fact that you get quality one-on-one time with an author that you might never have met before, which is exactly what happened with Angela. I do read MG occasionally, but not often enough that I'd be super familiar with a current MG author. I'm glad I took that seat at Angela's table.


With my time at the festival over, I stopped by the University of Central Missouri's trophy case to take a picture with the UCM sign to commemorate my day there. 


All in all, Children's Literature Festival was a great experience. I attended one of the three days, and I'm positive that the other two were just as nice. If you're ever in the MO area around March, you should definitely look into the festival. You can clinky this linky to check out the fest's webpage, and keep tabs on next year's event.

Happily,
Stephanie


 *You'll have that interview coming within the next couple weeks... Cooking up some plans over here ;)

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Tuesday Reviews: The Edge of Everything by Jeff Giles


Title: The edge of Everything (#1)
Author: Jeff Giles
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's
Release Date: January 31, 2017
Format Read: ARC
Rating: Two Stars

Description from Goodreads: For the perfect love, what would you be willing to lose?

It's been a shattering year for seventeen-year-old Zoe, who's still reeling from her father's shockingly sudden death in a caving accident and her neighbors' mysterious disappearance from their own home. Then on a terrifying sub-zero, blizzardy night in Montana, she and her brother are brutally attacked in a cabin in the woods-- only to be rescued by a mysterious bounty hunter they call X.

X is no ordinary bounty hunter. He is from a hell called the Lowlands, sent to claim the soul of Zoe's evil attacker and others like him. X is forbidden from revealing himself to anyone other than his prey, but he casts aside the Lowlands' rules for Zoe. As they learn more about their colliding worlds, they begin to question the past, their fate, and their future. 

I've started to see this everywhere. It's been all over my insta feed (beautiful pictures, you bookstagrammers, you), and I had my copy of it, so  decided I'd see what all the hullabaloo was about.

To be frank, I still don't know.

I mean, the concept was FANTASTIC. I loved the idea of the Lowland bounty hunters, and I love (some of) the characters. Banger, Ripper, Regent, Dallas, JONAH. But the two main characters were kind of lost on me. I feel like I didn't have a good enough grasp of who they were, and though I read from cover to cover, I just didn't really like either of them.

Normally, insta-love doesn't bother me (Hello, Twihard central over here), but in EDGE OF EVERYTHING, it definitely did. I think it's because, with insta-love, sure they may like each other from the very beginning, but they generally aren't smooching and cuddling within like three days. Especially when they know nothing about each other. Especially when one of them just saw the other try to kill someone.

The plot was great, but I didn't enjoy the execution of it. Nothing happened that really made me root for the characters. In fact, the only reason I was even remotely okay with not DNFing this book is because of the secondary characters that made pop ups. Banger, Ripper, Regent, Dallas, JONAH. It was them that I liked, even if they only got a few pages total of spotlight.

And what's sad is that this story had some REAL potential. Like, the synopsis and the blurbs made me so hyped to read it, but I was disappointed at what I found. It's sad when you read a book and can't get invested in the main characters, can't cheer them on, can't enjoy it. And sadly, that's where I was at.

I also feel like the world building of the Lowlands needed a lot more whipped cream. I finished the book, and I still know very little about what it's like there, or how the rules work, or who runs the place, and I have so many questions about it. 

As for the ending? It didn't make me go OMG I DIDN'T LOVE THIS BOOK BUT I'LL READ BOOK 2 SO I CAN FIND OUT WHAT HAPPENS. It made me sigh because I was glad it was over.

I give THE EDGE OF EVERYTHING a single star review, and that star is for the secondary characters that shine like gold.

(Un)Happily,
Stephanie

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Thursday Thinks: Bloggers Matter


Sometimes you make really good author friends. Sometimes, those author friends write new books. And sometimes, those author friends ask you to beta their WIPs.

That's when you go


Immediately followed by



It's a special kind of thing, to be asked to look at someone's work and give feedback. Even more so when you have a great relationship with that person and you know that they are genuinely interested in what you think.

And I know I've made a post about this before, but I think sometimes bloggers fall into a rut and they stop wanting to do posts and reviews and interviews. Blogging is a lot of work. It truly is-- posting isn't a quick, five minute ordeal. It can take hours just to get one post right, and it's a real labor of love. 

Sometimes you get to where it feels like it's just too much. You get overwhelmed with schedules and finding time to read and time to blog, and you stop. 

I did, but I had the intention of coming back. A lot of people don't.

And I just wanted to tell you bloggers out there that what we do DOES matter.

Beta reading is only one of the perks of doing our job, but it's a fantastic thing, to be asked. Relationships with publishers. Bookish friends. Knowing your review helped sell a book.

Don't undervalue yourself. It's hard, but the rewards are always worth it.

Happily,
Stephanie

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Tuesday Reviews: Caraval by Stephanie Garber


Title: Caraval (Caraval #1)
Author: Stephanie Garber
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Release Date: January 31, 2017
Format Read: ARC
Rating: 4.5 Stars

Description from Goodreads: Whatever you've heard about Caraval, it doesn't compare to the reality. It's more than just a game or a performance. It's the closest you'll ever find to magic in this world...

Welcome, welcome to CARAVAL-- Stephanie Garber's sweeping tale of two sisters who escape their ruthless father when they enter the dangerous intrigue of a legendary game.

Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett's father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the far away, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.

But this year, Scarlett's long-dreamt of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval's mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season's Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever.

Lemme tell you something before we get started here.

I LOVE a good fantasy. Strangely enough, though everybody had their own fantasies, good ones are hard to come by. When you find them, though, they blow up. They're the next big thing. And as this started happening with CARAVAL, I grabbed it off the shelf. I'd wanted to read it for a long time, but I hadn't had a chance to get to a nice, longer book in a while. Now, I did.

People. My ARC had 401 pages, and I read it in less than a day.
LESS. THAN. A. DAY.

I stayed up until like 2:30 for this bad boy, and I have no regerts (Intentional typo. If you haven't seen that Milky Way commercial, click below my sign-off).

So I start the book. I get about, eh, 60 pages in, and I've already decided that this book is weird. 

W E I R D.

Mom asked how it was so far, and I literally told her, "It's weird. But, in a good way?"

I had no idea what was in store for me.

I read a but more, and found myself on page 103, texting my brother to tell him I was completely in love with this character, Julian.

BUT HOLD UP. LEMME TELL YOU BOUT JULIAN.

He's horrible. Egotistical, arrogant, slick as oil.

So, naturally, I love him.

So once I decide I love this character, we start down the path of CARAVAL, learning how it works and trying to find Tella. 

Amongst this, I decide three things: Julian is a snake (luvs), Tella is selfish, and Scarlett is much like me.

As we're going along this journey, I can't help but marvel at how well Stephanie Garber had crafted this world. Everything was so intricate and perfect and delicate. The strings were tied in so many places that you could snip one in half and still have enough attached to hold the story together. The descriptions were specific, but there wasn't so many of them that I found myself wanting to skip paragraphs, which often happens for me in fantasies.

That could have been because I had other things tempting me to skip paragraphs. Snakes and such. But that's not the point.

And then I'm reading along and my world gets totally flipped. PLOT TWIST NUMBER ONE, AT YOUR SERVICE.

I start questioning everything I thought about everything I knew and I'm just sitting there with my mind spinning. Surely not. But... surely so.

And those are my favorite moments in a book (besides the nice snakes). When I think I know what's going on, but then suddenly, I don't. Suddenly, something I read made me question EVERYTHING. It's one of the most magical experiences a book can give you, and it was so incredibly fitting for CARVAL, because... well, go back up and read that description for me, will you?

You back? Good.

The entire point of the game of Caraval is that it's just that-- a game. No matter what happens in the game, it will always remain a game.

I mean. Unless, of course, it wasn't just a game.

You're not supposed to get swept up in Caraval. You aren't supposed to let it sweep you into madness. It was just a game.

Or was it?

THE WHOLE TIME I'M READING THIS BOOK, I'M STARTING TO QUESTION EVERYTHING. IS THIS REAL? IS THIS NOT REAL? IS ANYTHING REAL?

And the plot twists. You guys. I counted at least five that knocked me on my butt. I don't think I've ever been so ingrained in a book that I've had plot twists get me like this. They come out of the shadows and just shove you into somewhere you never expected to be. And then, they leave you to figure out what happened.

As I read, my mom kept looking up at me because I'd be laughing or shrieking at a twist, at my own shock of being deceived, and it had been ages since I'd felt stricken enough to react to it out loud.

And then we get to the ending, and I'm whirling. I'm trying to piece things together as I read, and I'm lost, and then suddenly, everything is cleared. 

The book ends. But in the back of my head, I remembered Caraval. It was just a game, it wasn't real.

Or was it?

I cannot say enough about this book. If you enjoy fantasy, you NEED to get your hands on this. I haven't found a story like this in a long time, and it deserves to be told and shared with as many people as it possibly can be. Four point five stars, and the five is only because of something I can't share with you without spoiling literally everything. But I loved it. And I bet you will, too.

Happily,
Stephanie




Thursday, March 2, 2017

Thursday Thinks: Rewriting Process


That's not Kermit you see up there. That's me. 

As most of you know, I've written a contemporary YA ms. It's been setting on my shelf for a while, because I knew it was missing something-- I just didn't know what. Something about it was just... off. It wasn't right.

About a month ago, I picked it up, looked through it, started thinking on what would make it better, and came up with nothing. So, I started to rewrite it, seeing if I liked the way it came out more this time, and I did. After the first couple pages, I figured out what one of the things bothering me about the other ms was, and I fixed it. After the first chapter, I realized another thing. And after the fourth, another thing. 

Guys, I'm on a roll over here. 25k has gone by quickly, and I spend every moment of my free time writing. It's gotten so bad that I've had to force myself to pick up a book or two so I can keep the blog going, because my head is just so stuck in, quite literally, my own little world.

It's my goal to finish it by the end of April. I'm not even halfway in, so we'll see what happens, but I think I can do it. 

Now, I'm going to sign off and get started. I keep thinking about my current chapter, and I'm getting distracted.

Happily,
Stephanie

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Tuesday Reviews: The Detour by S.A. Bodeen


Title: The Detour
Author: S.A. Bodeen
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Release Date: October 6, 2015
Format Read: Hardback
Rating: Four Stars

Description from Goodreads: Livvy Flynn is a seventeen-year-old bestselling author whose YA fiction has sold all over the world. People in the industry kiss up to her. She's rich, she's famous, and she's full of herself.

When she's invited to an A-list writers' conference, she decides to accept so she can work on her next book and enjoy the admiration-- and envy-- of the writer wannabes. Plus, she has a new, cute sports car, and it'll be fun to drive there by herself.

And then she hits the detour. Before she knows it, the car is wrecked, she's hurt, and she's trapped in a basement with  no idea where she is. A woman and her apparently manic daughter have kidnapped her. And they have no intention of letting her go. 

I bought THE DETOUR when it first came out in 2015, and I've had it on my shelves all this time. You guys know that I absolutely adore S.A. Bodeen's THE COMPOUND, and sequel THE FALLOUT, so I've collected each of Bodeen's novels throughout the years, and just never realized I hadn't read this one. SO, I did.

I started it a few hours ago, and now I'm writing this. 

I'll be honest-- I had my doubts. A YA book about a teen YA writer? It seemed like it would be a bit corny. But holy geez, you guys. THIS BOOK.

As much as I'd love to give this thing a full review, I'm not going to, because this was such a fresh and interesting story that I want all of you to pick it up. This story is so relevant to today's society, and my goodness, talk about a thriller. AND THE WHODUNNIT PLOT. 

The main character, Livvy is super transparent and it was great to see the world through her eyes, especially considering her status in the world was something I'm so involved and interested in. Along with that, you also got a nice look inside the publishing industry. Not super detailed, obviously, but enough to feel like you have a slightly better understanding.

There's something, also, about Bodeen's endings. Unless you've read her works, it's hard to explain, but she does this thing with her standalones that end on a cliffhanger, and I love it. But I also hate it at the same time because I need more information and I know it's not going to be given to me.

I give THE DETOUR a four star rating. There were a few things that I didn't like so much, but in all honesty that superb ending more than made up for it. I'm so pleased with this read, you guys! It was nice to read something that didn't feel at all familiar, even if I did have half of the plot figured out early on (but the other half??? Whoa.)

Anyway, it's a good thing I'll be meeting Mrs. Bodeen soon. I have a bone to pick with her over this book...

Happily,
Stephanie

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Thursday Thinks: The Outsiders House Renovation Fundraiser


It's easy for me to pick my favorite book. A lot of people say they can't-- that that's like asking them to choose between their children-- but I can. There are two books that have been outstandingly instrumental in my life. One of them is a highly unpopular YA standalone, and the other is THE OUTSIDERS by S.E. Hinton.

In case this one has slipped through the cracks of your read-dar, here's the description from Goodreads: According to Ponyboy, there are two kinds of people in the world: greasers and socs. A soc (short for "social") has money, can get away with just about anything, and has an attitude longer than a limousine. A greaser, on the other hand, always lives on the outside and needs to watch his back. Ponyboy is a greaser, and he's always been proud of it, even willing to rumble against a gang of socs for the sake of his fellow greasers-- until one terrible night when his friend Johnny kills a soc. The murder gets under Ponyboy's skin, causing his bifurcated world to crumble and teaching him that pain feels the same whether a soc or a greaser.

In middle school, seventh grade to be exact, I was in Third Hour English with my favorite teacher, and that's when she told us that we were going to read a book as a class. It was required for our grade, and we'd go through it chapter by chapter every day; popcorn style. We started, and I remember being hooked immediately by the writing style and the internal narrative of the main character, Ponyboy Curtis. 

After class, we were asked to hand in our books so that they could stay in the classroom, and I remember my teacher looking at me and making sure I knew that she did not want me reading the book out of class. That teacher knew me and my reading habits well, so her warning was not unnecessary. I stuck it out all week, and then that Friday we didn't finish our chapter in class, and were told to take the book home to finish the day's reading. We were a little less than halfway through the book at this point, so I took it  home... and totally blew threw the last half over the weekend. It was the first book to bring me to tears. The first book to bring about so much emotion in me that I cried over the words on the pages. And that Monday when I went back to school, my teacher just looked at me and said, "You finished it, didn't you?" 

Like I said, she knew me well.

The rest of the class still had to finish, so I reread the last half of the book with them, and after we finished, we watched the movie in class. I remember sitting on top of the desks in front of the screen with one of my closest friends, and just being completely entranced by the way the story was unfolding right before my eyes, and how it was so close to how things happened in the book (The Theatrical Version of The Outsiders is highly accurate, though it does leave out some key parts. One of them being when you find out WHY Pony is telling the story. I now know that there was a Director's Cut released, known as The Outsiders: The Complete Novel Edition. You can buy it here.).

Shortly after that, I bought my first pair of Converse. Shorter after that, I picked up a jean jacket. And from then on out, I've had my head in the world of greasers and soc's. Years have passed, and Converse are still the shoes you'll find me in the most (other than my cowboy boots, bc #FarmersGottaFarm). They're the only shoes I've worn so much that the rubber is falling off of the sides.

I'm always checking around for S.E. Hinton signings, and anytime someone mentions The Outsiders, you can bet that I'm jumping in on that conversation. That's why, when earlier this year, S.E. Hinton retweeted a link to a GoFundMe page mentioning the Curtis Brothers' House (Ponyboy's house from the movie) I had to click on it. What I found was the most amazing thing.

The house used for filming was in pretty bad shape. Dilapidated and falling down. Until Danny Boy O'Connor, band member of La Coka Nostra and House of Pain as well as founder of film/television/true crime-site scouting team Delta Bravo Urban Exploration, decided to do something about it. O'Connor purchased the house, and together with members of Delta Bravo, he's set forth to bring the house back to life. Their endgame is to revamp the house so that it looks as it does in the movie, and then turn the house into an Outsiders Museum, full of donated Greaser memorabilia. 

The reactions and responses they've gotten have been insane. From tweets from the actors, to volunteer work and donations in terms of landscaping, security systems, drywall, and most recently, a new HVAC system for the house. As well as physical labor for the house, there have also been physical donations, such as crew jackets, magazines featuring the cast from movie release year, international editions of the book, switchblades like the ones carried by the greasers, and even an original script.

The GoFundMe page for the Outsiders House has been up for ten months now, and in that time, 479 people have been generous enough to donate. So far, $32,140 has been raised towards the $75k goal, and the number grows on a (generally) day-to-day basis. Still, renovating a house takes a lot of cash. We're in the middle of doing so with an old farm house, so I understand the things they're struggling with-- it can be slow going if you don't have the money for it. 

That said, O'Connor and crew were in need of renovation funds, so they set up a fundraiser event. The event would take place in downtown Tulsa, with a silent auction for Outsiders-related items (Set photos signed by Ralph Macchio; a signed copy of Rob Lowe's LOVE LIFE;  multiple pieces of original artwork from local artists; a reprint of the script, signed by cast members such as Patrick Swayze, Matt Dillon, Emilio Estevez, C. Thomas Howell, Tom Cruise, Ralph Macchio, and Rob Lowe; and many more items, possibly the best of all being a copy of THE OUTSIDERS signed by S.E. Hinton herself. The fundraiser would feature local cover bands, have an area to purchase tshirts, and a full bar for those over 21. 

But wait, there's more.

As an addition, special appearances would be made by O'Connor, two of the 52 Pick-Up boys (memorable scene from the opening of the movie, when Matt Dillon plays 52 card pick-up with three boys and then chases them across a lot.), Darren Dalton (One of two main soc's from the movie), and C. Thomas Howell.

Mhm.

Yes. 

You read that right. 

C. Thomas Howell, AKA Ponyboy Curtis, would be attending the fundraiser.

Of course, as soon as I heard about this, my mind started turning. I'd known about the house renovation for some time before the fundraiser was announced, and one of my close friends and I had planned on going to Tulsa as a sort of Senior Day-Trip to see the house before it became fully renovated and turned into a huge tourist trap. Because I'm such an Outsiders fan, I also talked said friend into agreeing to go to the many different filming locations. It had been our plan to do this on July 22nd, because it's Ponyboy's birthday, and things were set in stone, but when I heard about the fundraiser, I called him up immediately and convinced him that changing the date was the best idea ever. So things changed. August 6th was the new date for our trip. I bought tickets for the fundraiser for us, as well as my parents who wanted to attend as well, and proceeded to count down the days until the event.

***Disclaimer: This trip happened August of 2016, but due to health issues and school, it's just now coming out into the world.***

As the days passed, I got my Outsiders tshirt ready, made up a list of the filming locations and their addresses (Thank you Delta Bravo, that map is a lifesaver), and stayed up-to-date with the Twitter and Facebook feed of the House. 

Soon, they released information that there would be a screening of The Outsiders on the 7th, followed by a Q&A with C. Thomas Howell and Darren Dalton. So again, I made a call to convince my friend that we should stay the night in Tulsa to attend the screening, which would be at one of the theaters featured in the movie. It took two days for us to find out whether he could get off two days in a row. In that time, the theater opened up two more auditoriums for the screening, and then sold out of all three just before I could grab tickets. We would be missing the show, but we'd get to meet them the night before, so even though we would have liked to go, we weren't complaining.

And then finally the time came. After what seemed like a year's worth of waiting, my 5am alarm went off and I stepped into my old converse, donned my Outsiders tee and jean vest, and hit the road. We met up with my friend (who will henceforth be known as Friend Grant, and is the aforementioned friend from my 7th grade English class), I hopped into his truck, and we started for Tulsa. We were driving for maybe a half hour when the clouds opened up and began pouring. It didn't take long for things to get crazy enough that it was pretty difficult to see through the windshield, so we pulled into a Cracker Barrel to have breakfast and sort of wait things out. By the time we finished, the rain had chilled out enough for us to continue, so we made our way towards Tulsa, making a few stops before I set the GPS to the first filming location on our agenda.

**Note**

Pictures below with the words "The Outsiders" typography are not mine. They are pictures taken by Delta Bravo, all credit goes to them. Pictures with my face in them, however, are mine. They are pictures taken by my mom, all credit goes to her.



"Take the 3:15 train to Windrixville. It's a... It's a freight. There's an abandoned church on top of Jay Mountain."


Aforementioned first site was the approximate location of the Windrixville Church stood. Believed to be in Black Dog Park, the church was torn down quite some time ago and the area is now under water. After a few minutes of looking around and trekking through poison ivy and comparing pictures to landscapes, we found two prospective locations where the church could have been. Of course, neither of these are certain, and the church could have been at either or none of these locations. These are the best two options we found, though.








From there, we made our way to Sperry, OK, where we found the Rexall Drugstore that is shortly featured in the movie. It's now closed down, but there are still signs and knickknacks in the windows from before it shut down.






"You kids ever play 52 Pick-Up?"



Directly behind the Rexall is the lot where the 52 Pick-Up scene took place. As we walked and took pictures, I couldn't keep from saying, "I don't like little kids, I just don't like 'em." Because Dally is one of my all-time favorite fictional characters.






"Your brother Soda, he works at a gasoline station, right? A DX?"



Just a few yards down the road from the Rexall was the DX station that Sodapop and Steve worked at. This was the first of the locations that we visited that really blew my mind. This was the first scene in the movie that Rob Lowe, Tom Cruise, Matt Dillon, C. Thomas Howell, and Ralph Macchio were together in. Not all of the greaser crew, but a good amount of them. The DX is now an empty, unused building. Standing where the gas pumps used to be, I heard Steve say, "Hey, Soda. Here come the Hobos."






"You know the rules. No jazz before a rumble."



After the DX, we traveled to Owasso, OK to find the Burger Stand. It's now a Kum & Go, but the football stadium in the background is still there. This was perhaps the most entertaining place to take pictures, as there were still people going in and out of the convenience store, and the looks they gave us as they read our signs and stared were hilarious. 






"He's just a kid!"



From Owasso, we headed for Crutchfield Park. On the way there, we passed Lowell Elementary, which served as a production office throughout the filming of the movie, and through we got turned around (I'm so bad with maps, guys. So bad.) we did find the park. Here, I was in a more solemn mood. This is the location of Bob's death in the movie, but it's also the location of Dally's death. I mentioned earlier that he's one of my favorite fictional characters, so being at the place where they filmed his death scene was a bit heavy for me. Friend Grant is all smiles, but not me.






"I killed him."


At the same park, just on the other side, is the location of the scene where Johnny kills Bob the soc. The fountain was gone, but you could still see the place where it had stood. Unfortunately, it was hard to make out on camera, so we took our picture by the park sign.






"It ain't a rumble without me!"


Not too far away from the park (Literally just down the street) was the site of the rumble with the soc's. The lot that this was filmed in is now someone's yard, so we didn't go into it. But we definitely did stand on the sidewalk to get a picture. Just a few yard down was Johnny's house, but someone was living there so I didn't want to disturb them. I was happy with the rumble lot. 








On the next street over, we found St. Louis. There, on the corner, sat the Curtis Brothers' House. We parked along the road, and walked across the street, stopping to take pictures with the brand new, less-than-12-hours-old street signs that now read The Outsiders Way and Curtis Brothers Lane. The night before, O'Connor and C. Thomas Howell, along with S.E. Hinton herself attended the unveiling of the signs, with a large group of fans that turned out. I didn't even know this was happening, or you can be sure that I'd have been there, but it was so amazing to walk up and see the signs. What was crazy is that we later learned that one of the neighbors actually stole the signs in the middle of the night, and O'Connor's crew had to go and retrieve them the morning of the 6th.





So we take our pictures, and turn to admire the house. It was then that we met Zachary Matthews, one of the guys that Danny bought the house with. He gave us some Delta Bravo stickers and said hello, before we were distracted by a man who had pulled up alongside the house. His name was Jim Thompson, and he had been talking to one of the men accompanying Matthews. We found out that he had actually been an extra in the movie. He'd been the one driving the car in the flashback scene showing the Curtis Parents' death, and he spoke of how it took so many adjustments of the vehicle and it's position before Francis Ford Coppola gave him the okay. Apparently, everyone who helped out with the movie was given tickets to the premiere, and Thompson went to the theater with his wife to see the movie and spot himself, and it turned out that the scene only lasted for about as long as it takes to blink. Thompson said they laughed, and his wife told him that he'd better keep his day job.




After listening to Thompson's story, Matthews turned to us and asked if we'd like to see the inside of the house.

I just.

Of course, I jumped on the opportunity, and walked up the steps to the front porch.

Stepping over that threshold was like something out of a dream.


Here I was, standing inside the house that so many of the scenes of the movie were filmed in, and it was amazing. I looked at the layout of the house and watched as countless clips played in my mind, and had them brought to life when Matthews instructed me to stand in a certain spot in the living room, and then proceeded to hand me a photo. Holding the photo in front of me, I could line up the windows in the picture with the windows of the house, and be transported into the film. I saw Sodapop in front of me, hanging out in the chair, and then Matthews walked to the kitchen, where he showed me another photo and we marveled at how the wood pattern on the threshold's trim matched the pattern in the photo taken during one of the movie scenes. I traced it with my finger. Standing there, Matthews showed me where the stove would have been in the house, and I channeled my inner Ponyboy as I re-inacted the scene where Tom Cruise as Steve, and Emilio Estevez as Two-Bit pounce on Pony in the kitchen as he's cooking breakfast, and the eggs go flying to the other side of the room. Next, Matthews took me to the bedroom, showed me where Ponyboy's desk had been placed. The place where C. Thomas Howell as Ponyboy wrote the words, "When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house, I had two things on my mind: Paul Newman and a ride home." Slowly, I made my way back to the living room, knowing that our tour had come to an end. On the way, I passed the bathroom where Rob Lowe infamously stepped out of the shower as Sodapop and nearly flashed his goods on camera, and then proceeded to listen to Mr. Thompson retell his story about being in the movie (no matter how few seconds he appeared, it was still a fantastic account to hear!).



After taking one last 360 in the living room, we left the house. I'd been on the verge of tears when I walked in (Never in my wildest dreams did I expect to be allowed inside the house) and as I walked out, I had the biggest smile on my face. Zachary had given us the go-ahead to take all the photos we wanted on the porch (No photos allowed inside) so we spent the next ten minutes or so getting our snapshots in so we'd always be able to remember the special time we spent there.






"Then pity the backseat!"


From the Curtis Brothers' House, we headed for lunch. After that, Friend Grant had an errand to run, so he split from us and we planned to meet up at the fundraiser in just a short couple of hours. By the time lunch had finished, we had just about an hour before things would be getting started with the event, so we made our way to the Admiral Twin Drive-In. Closed at the time, we managed to get a good many photos of the place, including one of my favorites just a few yards down the road from the entrance, at the place where the soc's followed Ponyboy, Johnny, Two-Bit, and the girls from the Drive-In. One of my absolute favorite lines from both the book and the movie happened in this scene-- it's when Randy (one of the soc's, played by Darren Dalton who would be at the fundraiser) calls the greasers bums, and says that they have four more (soc's) in the backseat. That's when Two-Bit says, "Then pity the backseat". It's always been one of my favorite parts, and I was so happy to have gotten a picture at that location.


After hitting up the Admiral, we made our way to downtown Tulsa. By this point, I'm getting jumpy, and waiting in line outside the club in the middle of August wasn't feeling too great, but what made up for it was the people around me. As people added to the line, and the car show across the street grew in size, I began seeing Converse. Jean jackets. Leather jackets. Outsiders themed tshirts. Knowing that everyone standing behind me, and in front of me, were fans of the book, movie, or both, was a pretty incredible feeling.




We stood in that line for at least an hour. Not too long into the wait, Friend Grant met back up with us, and we all endured the heat together. The music coming from the car show was loud, the sound of people talking and laughing filled the air, and I took out my copy of THE OUTSIDERS and dove in. In that moment, I was glad that my friends were used to me reading when they were over. Later, as I went through the pictures, I found that Mom had caught me.



Just as I decided to take off that jean vest, the door opened. It took probably fifteen minutes for us to get inside (they had to give everyone wristbands and check ID; Friend Grant and I were gifted big UNDERAGE Xs on our hands). Inside, there was a cover band playing, as well as a that list of items I mentioned that were up for auction, so we grabbed a table and perused the many things that would be bought over the course of the night. It wasn't long before I found the signed copy of THE OUTSIDERS. So far, no one had taken up the starting bid of $100, and the gears in my mind started turning. I'd brought a stack of bills with me just in case, as I wasn't planning on leaving without that book in my hands, and went back to our table to think.



Drinks in hand, I told my parents about the items and we began discussing the book. I didn't want anyone getting it but me, and I'd had bad luck with silent auctions before, so I was planning on making a big bid to start off, hoping that no one would push it higher. I went back to the book and wrote down my max bid of $300, knowing that if someone took it father, I'd immediately be out of the picture.

It was a risk I was willing to take.

We hung out for a while, headed to the "gift shop" and purchased tshirts and pins, and went through more soda than we probably should have, and then they changed bands. That's when things started to get sticky. As you guys know, I have a pacemaker. Due to that, there are things I need to watch-- things that affect me that wouldn't necessarily bother a normal person. One of those is bass, whether it's in the car or coming from the stage, and it was definitely strong at the venue. We sat there, and only got through part of a song before I felt my pulse speed up. My chest constricted, it became hard to breathe, and I couldn't sit still. I made it through three songs before I knew I had to leave.

I had two major concerns at this point.

Number One: The auction. There was pretty much only one rule: You had to be there at the end of the night to accept the item and exchange the money. If you weren't, you didn't get it and it went to the person who had bid before you. Thank God for parents who have more common sense than I do, because while I cleaned up and gathered our belongings, Mom went to talk to someone overseeing the auction. She came back a few minutes later with news that she had explained the situation and they had allowed her to write her phone number next to my bid. If no one outbid me, they'd call and I could transfer the money to them electronically. They were more concerned with my health than with the details of the auction-- a rarity in today's society.

Number Two, and quite possibly the most important: The meet and greet. If I left, I would lose my chance of meeting C. Thomas Howell and Darren Dalton-- the entire reason we'd moved the trip date in the first place. I didn't want to sacrifice that... meeting Ponyboy in the flesh? These were the actors that made up my favorite movie. These were the actors that I could quote nearly all of their lines from all of their scenes, and the opportunity was going to slip through my hands.

But, like any medical patient knows, sometimes you have to give up the things you want in order to stay safe.

We left the venue and I could instantly breathe better without the bass, but I was a mixture of angry and distraught as we walked to the car and went to grab dinner (Taco Bell > Taco Bueno ANY day). My parents felt bad, even though it wasn't even close to their fault that we had to leave, but it was my hope that they'd have another event sometime soon, and just maybe the actors would come back.

The four hour drive that ended the day ended on a pretty great note. As I played DJ in the front seat (and nearly caused a car crash when I played Let It Go and rook Friend Grant's attention away from the road), my mood started to lift, and when we stopped for gas, Mom and Dad revealed to me some amazing news-- The book was mine. No one out bid me, and I was the proud new owner of a signed copy of THE OUTSIDERS.


Only a few days later, a yellow bubble envelope came in the mail, and I was about to burst with excitement. As I ripped it open, I was in shock at what came out. Not only did I have the book in my hands, but I also had a stack of Delta Bravo stickers, pins from the fundraiser that I hadn't bought when we were there, Outsiders movie stickers, a VIP lanyard from the event, and a playing card signed by two of the three 52 Pick Up boys.

Yet again, another person associated with the Outsiders House who was kind, thoughtful, and who is much appreciated. Big thanks to Donnie Rich for that package-- it was incredible to receive.

So now, it's 2017. As I've been typing this, I received the news that S.E. Hinton is having a book signing and movie screening on the 25th of March, and that there is going to be a new fundraiser event on May 6-- A 50th Anniversary Celebration, at which C. Thomas Howell, Ralph Macchio, and Darren Dalton will be attending.

The hope is alive, my friends. I already know by the dates that I won't be able to go to either of these events, but the hope is alive. I'll watch social media, and when the next event pops up, I'll be there. Until then... Stay Gold, O' Connor and team. Stay Gold.

Happily,
Stephanie

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