Thursday, January 11, 2018

Thursday Thinks: The Divine Comedy

I'm not usually one to point out my own flaws (I'm awesome, and that's that), but many of you know that I don't do well with poetry. Give me the most-difficult-to-read novel that you can think of and I'll get it done, no sweat. Give me Julius Caesar, and I'm lost.

We never really studied poetry in school-- we read poems, sure, but never learned to properly read them and/or decipher the meaning when they don't say what they mean, and you have to rad between the lines.

Poets such as Edgar Allan Poe; Alfred, Lord Tennyson; Henry Wadsworth Longfellow; and my personal favorite, Robert Frost? Those I can handle! Shakespeare? Super old poetry? Not a chance.

That said, I have wanted to read Dante's INFERNO for years now, and never picked it up because I wanted to find it in a nice hardback. Well, I found a gorgeous copy of THE DIVINE COMEDY, and my parents got it for me for Christmas, so I've begun working on it.

I can positively say that it is going to take me for. Ever. To get this done. There's an average of ten pages per chapter thingy ( I DON'T KNOW POETRY OKAY), so I'm thinking of reading one chaptery thing a day. That would leave me finishing the trilogy in about three months.



So, I'm hoping that by the time I get a bit into INFERNO, it'll start to come easy and I can speed through it.

Such are my hopes and expectations. 

Have any of you read INFERNO? PURGATORIO? PARADISO? If so, I want to know!


Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Tuesday Reviews: Poe: Stories and Poems: A Graphic Novel Adaptation by Gareth Hinds

Title: Poe: Stories and Poems: A Graphic Novel Adaptation
Author: Gareth Hinds
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Release Date: August 1, 2017
Format Read: Paperback
Rating: Three Stars

Description from Goodreads: In a thrilling adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe's best-known works, acclaimed artist-adapter Gareth Hinds translates Poe's dark genius into graphic-novel format.

It is true that I am nervous. But why will you say that I am  mad?

In THE CASK OF AMONTILLADO, a man exacts revenge on a disloyal friend at carnival, luring him into catacombs below the city. In THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH, a prince shielding himself from plague hosts a doomed party inside his abbey stronghold. A prisoner of the Spanish Inquisition, faced with a swinging blade and swarming rate, can't see his tormentors in THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM, and in THE TELL-TALE HEART, a milky eye and a deafening heartbeat reveal the effects of conscience and creeping madness. 

Alongside these tales are visual interpretations of three poems, THE RAVEN, THE BELLS, and Poe's poignant elegy to lost love, ANNABEL LEE. The seven concise graphic narratives, keyed to thematic icons, amplify and honor the timeless legacy of a master of gothic horror.


I am not a fan of graphic novels. 

I've read my fair share of manga, I tried reading comics for a while (Captain America, wuuut), and I do own a few graphic novels that I've read, but I'm just not in love with them. 

See, there aren't enough words for me. In my opinion, we should leave the illustrations for children's books and those random black and white inserts in the classics and leave it at that. That said, graphic novels have blown UP in the last two years. Even my 11 year old cousin is reading graphics, but I've still yet to find one that piqued my interest.

That is, until I saw Poe.

I may not read a ton of classics, but I do have a strong appreciation for those authors, ESPECIALLY Edgar Allan Poe.

Most kids had THE RAVEN as required reading in middle school, if not high school. For us, it was seventh grade, and while 2/3 of my grade was memorizing THE RAVEN for a grade, the other 1/3 of us (who had the best English teacher e v e r) were reading and discussing the Tell-Tale Heart, which is my favorite of all of Poe's works. 

To this day, I've still never read THE RAVEN to the end.

But I noticed that TELL-TALE HEART was part of this graphic novel, so I picked it up.

Turns out, I love this graphic novel. The illustrations were AMAZING-- I was surprised at how realistic the pictures were, and how the expressions on their faces were so perfect, especially during scenes of horror.

My favorite part of this graphic novel, though, was the key. In the beginning of the novel, there are a set of symbols, and then on the title page for each work, you find some of them. It's basically a key for the thematic elements in each story, so for, like, stories with insanity, there will be a little straight jacket, and for stories with angels and/or demons, there's one angel wing and one demon wing. It was a fantastic element to add-- that little touch made for so much fun upon getting to the next story.

It was so interesting to reread these stories with such detailed and intricate illustrations; even if they were condensed versions of the stories and not the entire thing (more words! more words!)

In conclusion, it was good, but graphic novels still aren't my thing. However, if you have friends or family members who love graphic novels but don't like reading, this is the perfect gift for them! It's a great way to expose them to some of the classics (there are more of these than just Poe, ex: Grimm Fairy Tales) without making them have to read the entire novel!


Thursday, January 4, 2018

Thursday Thinks: Happy New Year!

Congrats, guys! We made it to 2018! 

In our house, we have a New Year's Eve tradition. We grab some sparkling juice, play Rummy, and watch Dick Clark's New Year's Rocking Eve. We do this every year, and even though we'd been traveling (nine hour drive) that day, and were all nearly falling asleep, we held up our tradition.

Or at least, we tried to.

See, we'd been gone for Christmas, and this was our first day back, meaning we had no sparkling juice. Therefore, we made a trip to the local grocery store at like 10pm. It was cold-- I'm talking like -5-- which one should expect from a Chicago winter, but I was not ready for this and wanted to move to Florida immediately because this week is supposed to get down to -15.


So we go to the store, pick up stuff for dinner and made sure to get that sparkling juice. Our house is only a few miles from aforementioned store, so within ten minutes we were carrying things in, which is when one of the bags broke, and the sparkling juice fell in slow motion onto the sidewalk. You heard it hit the sidewalk with a hard thunk, and then all of a sudden this ShAtTeRiNg, and there went the sparkling juice.

The store had been ridiculously busy, and it's right next to a pizza shop which was also ridiculously busy, and it had taken us like half an hour to get there and back. Plus, we still had to shower those traveling germs away before we could get down to business, and did I mention how cold it was? 

Yeah, there was no way we were going back for more

We were now on crisis alert, because jUICE. HOW CAN WE TOAST THE NEW YEAR WITHOUT JUICE?

But we had to move on-- get things done before we started with our tradition. So I gave the dog a bath (she'd been traveling with us), took a quick shower, waited while the parents took their showers, and then dinner. We had fishsticks and I was like that gif of Pooh, so I turned on the tv while we ate and searched for Dick Clark on the channels, but 




Instead, Steve Harvey was doing a NYE special, so I thought maybe they'd replaced it. I put Steve on. It was NOT the same, there were like four songs total and I knew like two and it was more talky talky than singy singy and that was sTRIKE TWO for our NYE.

It wasn't too long before we finished eating, and that means it's card time. At this point, its like 11 or so, maybe a bit after, so I go grab a deck of cards.

See, I love playing cards. It's rare that I win at Rummy, but it's my faaaavorite, so I'm all excited and grab my new deck of cards, themed: Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2-- Baby Groot. THESE CARDS ARE ADORABLE. I'd flipped through them before to see what they looked like, and they were so cute.

 What I didn't pay attention to, however, was the numbers. 

I take first deal, get everything set, pick up my cards, and Dad points out that the numbers are so. hard. to. see. They're done in this weird script and the black isn't dark enough to stand out good against the blue and red and it's obviously going to be a struggle. Especially for my dad, who needs glasses, and my mom, who has contacts but did not have hers in at that particular moment.

But we play anyway, because it's like the only deck of cards in the house that we could locate within two minutes.

We play, watching Steve and having to bend over the table to read the cards, until like fifteen til Midnight, at which time mom gets up and goes into the kitchen. She returns with three mugs-- Tinkerbell for her, Grumpy for Dad, and Rey for me-- and they're filled with Kool-Aid. 

Thank God for Mom. It wasn't sparkling juice, but it was something, which was better than what I'd thought we were going to have.

So, we continued on with our tradition, toasting with our Kool-Aid at midnight and and finishing up our game of Rummy, which mom ended up winning. Texting everyone HAPPY NEW YEAR at 12:00 and being surprised at who answers and who doesn't (It always seems to be the opposite of who you'd think).

It wasn't quite what we were expecting, but it was still a great NYE. I went to bed around 2am on January 1, 2018 feeling pretty pleased with our evening.

That is, until one of my friends texted to see if I'd seen the Imagine Dragons performance.

The one that had aired just before the ball drop

on Dick Clark's New Year's Rocking Eve

that had apparently aired for everyone



Happy New Year,

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Tuesday Reviews: Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

Title: Long Way Down
Author: Jason Reynolds
Publisher: Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books
Release Date: Ocotber 24, 2017
Format Read: Hardback
Rating: Four Stars

Description from Goodreads: A cannon. A strap.
A piece. A biscuit.
A burner. A heater.
A chopper. A gat.
A hammer.
A tool
for RULE 3.

Or, you can call it a gun. That's what fifteen-year-old Will has shoved in the back waistband of his jeans. See, his brother Shawn was just murdered. And Will knows the rules. No crying. No snitching. Revenge. That's where Will's now heading, with that gun shoved in the back waistband of his jeans, the gun that was his brother's gun. He gets on the elevator, seventh floor, stoked. He knows who he's after. Or does he? As the elevator stops on the sixth floor, on comes Buck. Buck, Will finds out, is who gave Shawn the gun before Will took the gun. Buck tells Will to check that the gun is even loaded. And that's when Will sees that one bullet is missing. And the only one who could have fired Shawn's gun was Shawn. Huh. Will didn't know that Shawn had ever actually USED his gun. Bigger huh. BUCK IS DEAD. But Buck's in the elevator? Just as Will's trying to think this through, the door to the next floor opens. A teenage girl gets on, waves away the smoke from Dead Buck's cigarette. Will doesn't know her, but she knew him. Knew. When they were eight. And stray bullets had cut through the playground, and Shawn had tried to cover her, but she was hit anyway, and so what she wants to know, on that fifth floor elevator stop, is, what if Will, Will with the gun shoved in the back waistband of his jeans, MISSES.

And so it goes, the whole long way down, as the elevator stops on each floor, and at each stop someone connected to his brother gets on to give Will a piece to a bigger story than the one he thinks he knows. A story that might never know an END... if WILL gets off that elevator.

I'll be honest-- I never thought I'd like this book, and I had my reasons:

1.) I knew nothing about it other than it was a BIG DEAL, and usually the books that become a BIG DEAL before I read them don't end up being a BIG DEAL to me.
2.) It's written in verse, and I hate poetry. If it's in verse, odds are it'll take a pretty strong push to get me to read it. (I'm stubborn, I know)
3.) I'm very white. I haven't had any experience with life in the ghetto, or the fear of territorial gangs, and so I worried that I wouldn't appreciate the book. 

However, I LOVE learning about people other than me. Religions, walks of life, races, because all we ever really know is our own lives, unless we look for more. I'm always looking-- I want to learn as much as I can about about our world, and that includes the people. 

So LONG WAY DOWN was on my tbr, it just wasn't high up.

And then, I just kept hearing more and more about it. Kirkus reviews, awards, nominations, raving tweets, and suddenly it was one of (if not THE) biggest book of 2017. So, naturally, I thought it would be a good First Review of 2018.

Like I'm sure most of you did, I sped through this book and ended up loving it. It was written in verse, but not the way I expected-- it wasn't rhyming poetry and ridiculous "ne'er" type stuff that really just sounds the same as when you say "never"-- it was a story being told in shorter lines, clipped sentences, and it was GrEaT for emphasis.

And most of you guys know, I LOVE emphasis.

Plus, all but like ten pages of this book takes place in a single elevator ride. The book begins with floor 7 and ends on the ground floor, and I have always loved the idea of a book that takes place over one day, let alone a single. elevator. ride.

As well as this, the story is evocative in a way that I didn't expect. The pages aren't riddled with details, but I could see everything so clearly, and it was surprising.

Something else is that this is like a 300 page book, but I read it in an hour. Partially because of the writing style, but also because I wanted to know more. I wanted to know who the people were as they got on the elevator. Who they were, how they related to Will, how they related to Shawn-- it was all necessary information that Reynolds expertly teased out of them, and I couldn't wait to find it out.


Not saying  W O R D about that.




This was my first Jason Reynolds book, and he executed LONG WAY DOWN perfectly. I have nothing but wonderful things to say about it, which was a pleasant surprise and definitely not what I was expecting. 

I give this novel-in-verse four stars and suggest that everyone go read it so that you can have that major WOW feeling that I had when I finished the book. Seriously, I was amazed.

Have you guys read this one? Tell me what you thought/think!


Tuesday, December 19, 2017

The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry

Title: The Gift of the Magi and Other Short Stories
Author: O. Henry
Publisher: Scholastic Paperbacks
Release Date: October 1, 2003
Format Read: Paperback
Rating: Five Stars

Description from Goodreads: One dollar and eighty-seven cents is all the money Della has in the world to buy her beloved husband a Christmas present.. She has nothing to sell except her only treasure-- her long, beautiful brown hair. Set in New York at the turn of the twentieth century, this classic piece of American literature tells the story of a young couple and the sacrifices each must make to buy the other a gift.

The jacket print above and the information are from the Scholastic Paperbacks edition, which I read. However, said edition is a collection of O. Henry's short stories, and the description on it's Goodreads page is merely a short sentence teasing each story. The link to this edition is HERE. Because of this, I took the description for GIFT OF THE MAGI from a different edition of the book. The link to that one is HERE.

THE GIFT OF THE MAGI  is one of my favorite ever Christmas stories. Every year, I watch the movie or read the short--some years, I do both!-- and it never gets old. It's the perfect Christmas tale because it shows that giving is more important than getting. It shows love and humbleness and sacrifice in a way that most stories in today's world seem to leave out. It's only seven pages long in my book, but so worth the quick read. 

And normally I wouldn't have reviewed something so short, but I think that O. Henry's short story is super underrated! It's a wonderful just-before-bed story to give you the warm fuzzies before you fall asleep, and I'm so excited that I have my own copy of it this year in actual book form instead of textbook form!

If you haven't read the story, but you watch Hallmark Channel, you've probably seen the movie. Here's the poster for it:

Anyway, it's super great and I hope you guys can pick it up before next Christmas so that you can enjoy it just as much as I do!


Thursday, December 14, 2017

2017 Debut Author Bash: Caroline Leech

Welcome to my stop on the 2017 Debut Author Bash! I'm proud to share my post with you today, as I was able to work with Caroline Leech, whose debut novel is a WWII story based in Scotland in 1945. And you all know how I feel about WWII books. SO. Read on! Below you'll find goodies such as an interview and giveaway, plus all the information you could ask for on both the book and the author.

Have fun, and don't forget to check out the other posts on the Bash Tour!

The Book

Title: Wait for Me
Author: Caroline Leech
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: Jan 31, 2017
Format Read: Hardback
Rating: Four Stars

Description from Goodreads: The perfect blend of sweet romance and historical flavor, WAIT FOR ME, from debut author Caroline Leech, brings a fresh new voice to a much-loved genre.

It's 1945, and Lorna Anderson's life on her father's farm in Scotland consists of endless chores and rationing, knitting Red Cross scarves, and praying for an Allied victory. So when Paul Vogel, a German prisoner of war, is assigned as the new farmhand, Lorna is appalled. How can she possibly work alongside the enemy when her own brothers are risking their lives for their country?

But as Lorna reluctantly spends time with Paul, she feels herself changing. The more she learns about him-- from his time in the war to his life back in Germany-- the more she sees the boy behind the soldier. Soon Lorna is battling her own warring heart. Loving Paul could mean losing her family and the life she's always known. With tensions rising all around them, Lorna must decide how much she's willing to sacrifice before the end of the war determines their fate.

Buy Links

Author Bio

Caroline Leech is a Scottish writer not living in Texas. She writes YA historical fiction, and her first novel, WAIT FOR ME, won SCBWI's Joan Lowery Nixon Award in 2014, as well as the YA categories of both the RWA Emily and Lone Star contests, and was published by HarperTeen in early 2017. Her second novel-- IN ANOTHER TIME-- will be published in August 2018.

During Caroline's previous career in performing arts public relations in the UK, she edited a glossy photographic book, WELSH NATIONAL OPERA- THE FIRST SIXTY YEARS. 

Caroline lives in Houston with her husband and three teenage children. You can find her online at and @carolinesblurb. 


I had the chance to sit down and ask Caroline a few questions, and I thought I'd share them (and her answers!) with you....

Q1.) When/where were you when the idea for WAIT FOR ME popped into your head?

                    A1.) A chance comment by a friend of mine originally exploded Lorna and Paul's story in my mind. She mentioned that her father had grown up on a farm in South Wales during World War Two and that they had been sent a German prisoner-of-war to work as a farmhand. The German had given her father a gift which he had made by hand, and it was something her father still treasured. I'd had no idea that prisoners were let out of the POW camps to work, so I immediately went off to do more research about it. Unlike Allied prisoners, who were generally determined to escape and return to Britain to carry on fighting-- I grew up reading about such escape stories in books like COLDITZ and THE GREAT ESCAPE-- many of the German prisoners captured were so relieved that they were not part of a war they had been conscripted into and did not believe in, they were happy to work out the rest of the war in the British countryside. Many of them spent their evenings making gifts for their British hosts, especially wooden toys for the children, and many lifelong friendships resulted between the Germans and for the British people they worked alongside. Having discovered all of this, it wasn't too long before my brain swam with the vision of a young and handsome German soldier being dropped off in a farmyard where there was a pretty farmer's daughter... and well, you know the rest!

Q2.) Where did your inspiration for the book come from?

                   A2.) I have always loved reading books set during World War Two, fiction and non-fiction. Both my parents were involved in the war-- my mother was evacuated as a child from London on the day that war broke out, and my father followed his four older brothers into the Army in 1944 as soon as he turned 18. My grandmother had to watch her five sons go off to war, and sadly, only four of them came back. With so many family members to tell me stories as I grew up, about air raids and rationing, basic training and dawn patrols, it felt very natural for me to set a story of my own in that period of my country's history.

Q3.) Did you have a particular character you enjoyed writing about the most? The least?

                   A3.) Of course, I love Lorna and Paul, but Nelly was a joy to write. Being a Londoner, she has a brash self-confidence that Lorna could never hope to have, and there are wonderful moments when it's clear that this city girl has been thrown into a countryside setting she's not quite ready for. That's the perfect fuel for some comic relief. Nelly is endlessly funny and enthusiastic, and a bit raunchy too, and even though she makes some really poor life-choices, she remains loyal and sweet to the end. Definitely the big sister that Lorna never had. As for my least favorite character? I loved Lorna's best friend, Iris, but I got very frustrated with her at times. I'm sure you can understand why.

Q4.) I have to know your favorite scene-- Mine was Lorna and Sandy's walk!

                   A4.) How interesting! That was a fun scene to write for sure, as I tried to capture that natural teasing banter between siblings, even as they were talking about serious issues. But I think my favorite scenes to write, and now to read out loud at events, are definitely the afternoon where Lorna and Paul dance in the barn (As I was writing it, I was blushing just as much as Lorna!) and the fight she has with her oldest brother, John Jo. Family arguments are wonderful to write, because siblings can usually let all their fury loose on one another, while knowing deep down that they still love each other. Lorna certainly pays for what she shouts at John Jo, but still, it was a great release of so many pent-up emotions for her.

Q5.) I LOVE how Paul isn't the typical YA love interest. While he shares some of those qualities, he's not perfect and flawless on the outside. Did you know early on that he would have this specific appearance?

                  A5.) I'll admit that Paul started out as straightforwardly handsome as any other YA love interest, even if he had been damaged emotionally by his dreadful experiences in the war. And for a long while, he stayed like that. But the idea that he might be physically injured too came to me one evening as I was working again on the first page of the book, trying to pack the opening lines with more punch. Although the first line ultimately changed by the time we went to print, for all sorts of reasons, it suddenly came to me that night as, "Lorna Anderson was ankle-deep in cow-shit and milk when she first saw the boy with the steel grey eyes and only half a face." I had no idea where that last phrase came from, but immediately I could see Paul's dreadful burns in my mind. It also dramatically changed Paul's story for the rest of the book, and meant that Lorna's immediate shock at having an enemy soldier standing in front of her in her own farmyard was doubled. Of course, by the end of the book, she barely sees his injuries anymore. He's just Paul.

Q6.) One of my favorite things about this book is that there isn't really one big pivotal MOMENT when everything blows up. There are minor explosions all throughout the chapters, which makes the story so much more realistic. Was the original way you planned the novel, or was there one big MOMENT in the first drafts?

                A6.) WAIT FOR ME is very much a story set in a real place at a real point in history, but it's populated with fictional characters. It's not a war story full of battles and bombing raids, but even so, I hope it shows the enormous effects that being at war has on a family and on a small rural community, even one far from the front lines. Therefore, it felt natural to write a series of "minor explosions," as you nicely put it, because that's how life is for most people, whether we live in wartime or not.

Q7.) Was there a particular scene or chapter that was difficult for you to write, for one reason or another?

              A7.) There were scenes in this story when I felt very emotional, particularly the later scenes, but I don't think there was any that I really struggled to draft. I did however have a very hard time when it came to revising the book once it had been bought  by my editor at HarperTeen. I know I write long-- she bought it as a fat manuscript of 108,000 words and asked me to cut it down to 80,000 for publication. While I knew she was right, and that it needed some serious tightening, I still struggled. Cutting the first 20,000 words was relatively straightforward. But those last few thousand words? That felt like I was cutting my own heart out!

Q8.) Would you rather have John Jo, Sandy, or Paul as your older brother?

             A8.) Oh, good question! I have a sister, four years older than me (could you tell that I was channeling some of our real teenage arguments in Lorna's fight with John Jo?), so I'm not sure what having an older brother would be like. But of course, I know that either Sandy or Paul would be perfect big brothers. They're both so protective and loving, without being suffocating. But John Jo? To be honest, I'd rather have him as a boyfriend! Perhaps not the John Jo as he is in this story, when he's having to deal with his own emotional wartime damage, but certainly the John Jo from before the war. Loud and sociable, fun and hard-working, and of course, broad-shouldered and darkly handsome-- definitely my kind of guy!

Q9.) What does your writing process look like?

            A9.) In terms of story development, I'm definitely a plotter. I spend a lot of time creating an outline of the whole book, chapter by chapter, before I ever start writing. The thought of sitting down to write the first page without any clue of where the story is headed gives me a panic attack. That's not to say that the story never changes as I write it, but having a rough map of the path that I'm following makes it a lot easier to stay focused. And in terms of where and when I write... well, most of the time, I write in a Barnes & Noble coffee shop when my kids are at school, or in my local Starbucks, starting at 6am on Saturday and Sunday mornings. I find writing at home very difficult because no matter what deadline I am facing, there are too many distractions. You have no idea how vital the laundry can suddenly become when you are struggling on a tricky chapter!

Q10.) What would be your #1 piece of advice to aspiring authors?

         A10.) Read, read, read! And also, when you are writing a first draft, turn off your inner editor. You really have to get your first draft on paper (or screen) without any editorial judgement at all, from yourself of anyone else. We all write dreadful first drafts-- every author will tell you that-- and it's only once you get to the end of the draft that you can start on the real work of making it all beautiful. After all, you can't perfect and polish words that haven't been written yet.


Caroline and I have partnered up to give you guys the chance to win a YA WWII package!  Don't forget to enter, or you'll miss out on some goodies!


Thursday, November 16, 2017

Thursday Thinks: #TBTBSanta

It's that time of year again, folks.... #TBTBSanta Time!

For those of you that may not be familiar with the hashtag, Jamie over at Broke and Bookish sets up a lovely bookish secret Santa every year. After you fill out an application, Jamie will get back to you with your Santa, sending along their application so that you know a little bit about them and what they like. 

From there, you SHOP. 

This year, I chose the 2+ Books and Goodies category, which means that I get to go all out for my match. I've got a list made, items ordered that I can't get locally, and I am so ready to get these things in so that I can see everything together!

Like most YA lovers, my person is  Disnerd, so I'm having a blast finding the cutest little things to throw in her box.

AND WRAPPING PAPER. I found the best wrapping paper ever for someone who loves both reading and Disney.... BELLE. READING. 

Anyway, follow me on twitter to watch as progress is made on my #TBTBSanta gift(s). I'll be be back with an update when this is all over and I have a package of my own!