28 March 2020

Audiobook Adventures: The Music of What Happens by Bill Konigsberg


Max: Chill. Sports. Video games. Gay and not a big deal, not to him, not to his mom, not to his buddies. And a secret: An encounter with an older kid that makes it hard to breathe, one that he doesn't want to think about, ever.

Jordan: The opposite of chill. Poetry. His "wives" and the Chandler Mall. Never been kissed and searching for Mr. Right, who probably won't like him anyway. And a secret: A spiraling out of control mother, and the knowledge that he's the only one who can keep the family from falling apart.

Throw in a rickety, 1980s-era food truck called Coq Au Vinny. Add in prickly pears, cloud eggs, and a murky idea of what's considered locally sourced and organic. Place it all in Mesa, Arizona, in June, where the temp regularly hits 114. And top it off with a touch of undeniable chemistry between utter opposites.

Over the course of one summer, two boys will have to face their biggest fears and decide what they're willing to risk -- to get the thing they want the most.

From Goodreads

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The romance was cute. I like how the attraction was gradually built. It really kept me cheering for them every chapter. The moment they finally got together was truly satisfying. I also appreciate how the author tackled the serious issues in the book like dealing with addiction, having a difficult home life, and what consent means. It never felt preachy at any point. I was right there with them, feeling their pain and hoping they overcome it. I loved it!

But then the bad parts often bothered me too. The protagonists have separate groups of friends. Max has his dude bros and Jordan has his wives. Both groups felt all too... straight. Now I don't mind straight characters. Heck, I'm a straight woman! But it was as if the author wanted polar opposites to to show the stark difference between gay and straight. 

Side note: although... if I'm being honest, it made me question how the LGBTQ is represented in books with straight leads.

Another thing I didn't particularly like was the narrator for Jordan. The actor's voice often sounded shaky though I don't know if this was deliberate. It made Jordan sound frail. He would also read Max's lines whenever they appeared in Jordan's chapters and boy did he sound like a caveman. It's bad enough that he constantly used the words dude bro, the voice acting just made it worse. Is that mean? Oh! And the volume levels weren't consistent. Jordan's was always loud while Max's was just right. Why didn't they catch this in production?

So yeah, I'm in the middle with this book. I wonder if I would've had a better time had I experienced this in book format and not audio. 

27 March 2020

Blog Guest: Author Brendan Noble

There’s something special about having the opportunity to create a world and the characters within it. The world of my debut series, The Prism Files, has allowed me to almost become an observer more than the storyteller, as I watch the characters within the world act and react to one another. Playing with the features of this world has made me a discovery writer, and I’m as surprised by many events within the books as the reader is, if not more. The first book in series, The Fractured Prism, allows the reader to see the first bits of the extensive alternate America and world that the series takes place in. 

The main character of the series is Ivan 181375, an outcast and slave to the socialist government of Northern Mississippi. He is a Red, the lowest level on the color-coded class system created by the government’s Prism Test, which every citizen must take on their 16th birthday. The test, while initially intended to create an equal chance for anyone to succeed, has turned into a loyalty check by the government, and anyone who shows an ounce of disloyalty is quickly moved down a color. For thirteen years, Ivan has fought under the codename “Coyote” as part of the Militia, a group of anti-Prism Orange and Red Tags trying end the government’s tyranny. Every day of his life is a struggle to survive in the ghettos of St. Paul while the elite Purples and Blues look down on him from their towers in Minneapolis.

Everything changes for Ivan when he saves the life of a princess caught in the wrong part of town. Quickly, Ivan finds himself at the center of battles for power within the divided royal ranks. His allegiances will be tested as he becomes caught between the world of the Reds and that of the royals. A Red in the palace is unheard of. A Red in love with a princess is unacceptable. 

Northern Mississippi has a complicated history, one that the book begins to explain. The Fractured Prism takes place in 2020, but America’s history is very different than our own. Instead of being a republic, the country became the Kingdom of America after the revolutionary war. Divisions and corruption were rampant, though, and ninety-nine years before the book’s story, the massive Third Civil War divided the country between socialists and monarchists. In the end, America split up, and Northern Mississippi was formed out of what had been Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa. The monarchists were strong in the region, but they surrendered to the socialists on the terms that they and their descendants would be exempt from the Prism. This fracture in the Prism, allowing the royals to be unfiltered, is the inspiration for the book’s name.

In the writing process for the start of this series, I wanted to make the world feel alive. Too often in books, it seems that everything in the world revolves around the main characters, even if they’re very young. Part of the elements you will see if you read the book is an ever changing struggle for power within the various factions within the country and beyond. Some of these struggles occur outside Ivan’s control or even knowledge, creating a dynamic world he must operate in. Every character has their own interests in mind, whether Ivan knows it or not, and the fascinating part about the world is that it’s so extensive that I can only put tiny pieces of it in the series, let alone just the first book. The Fractured Prism has dystopian strife, royal intrigue, forbidden love, and a fight for survival, but its world is far more than that, and to me, experiencing and sharing that world and the stories within it is the best thing about being an author.

The Prism Files series is available now on Amazon.

About the Author



Brendan Noble is a Polish and German-American author who loves creating alternate histories and crafting the stories of people within those timelines. He is fascinated with history, economics, and politics in both reality and fiction.

Brendan is a recent graduate in Economics from Hillsdale College in Michigan. In 2019, he moved from his hometown of Canton, Michigan to Rockford, Illinois when he married his wife, Andrea. Brendan began his writing career in November of 2018 with a challenge from his wife to complete NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), where new authors attempt to write an at least 50,000 word book in a month. At first, he was hesitant to take the first step, but he quickly fell in love with writing, and by the end of November, the first book, The Fractured Prism, was born. In addition to writing, he is a data analyst and soccer referee.

Outside of writing, his top interests include watching both German and American soccer, analyzing political elections across the world, playing extremely nerdy strategy video games, exploring with his wife, and reading.

30 May 2019

Check Out This Excerpt from the North to Nara Blog Tour




North to Nara Synopsis:

Neve Hall has always admired the good works of the civil servants who brought prosperity back to the Nation. She especially respects the Sufferers—empaths who, with the help of technology, anonymously bear others’ troubles for them. But when her assigned empath is abruptly retired, she uncovers certain secrets. Like the identity of her new Sufferer, Micah Ward... and the fact that behind his kind smile is a life filled with loneliness and pain. 

The closer Neve grows to Micah, the more desperate she becomes to protect him from a cruel and gruesome fate. But in a world where only a few are allowed the luxury of love, saving Micah comes with a price: Neve must choose between her loyalty to the Nation or her heart—a decision that will take them both on a race for their freedom, and their lives.

Excerpt:

“It’s you,” he murmurs, studying my face. “I thought it was you—on the trolley, when you looked at me.”
A wave of panic begins to drown me. He must think I’m stalking him—that I’m strange, maybe even dangerous. I bite my lip and struggle for words. Then, I decide to claim innocence. It’s my only defense at this point.
“I don’t understand,” I say. “What do you mean?”
“You’re Neve.”
He says my name, and I can only gape in disbelief. It’s not just me knowing his identity after all—somehow, Micah Ward also knows mine. He grasps my arm, gently but firmly, and he pulls me aside, out of the view of passersby and into a quiet corner behind a founder’s statue. I follow him willingly, without question—I’d follow him just about anywhere, I find myself thinking.
“You know who I am, don’t you?” he asks. “And I recognize you from your pain. I saw you—just in an abstract—but I saw you when you transferred your sadness about what happened to Levi at the Center.”
I squirm uncomfortably. He knows everything. He knows how I feel about him—that I admire him and am attracted to him. I’ve heard before that abstract images sometimes transfer, along with the feelings, while Suffering. They’re said to be like reflections of our self-image, buried in our thoughts. But I never expected the scenes to be clear enough that my Sufferer might recognize me.
“Yes, it’s me—I’m one of your Sieves,” I admit. “You don’t have to worry about the anonymity laws, though—I’m on my way to tell Isla that I broke the rules and need to be reassigned again.”
But Micah’s eyes flash with sudden urgency and desperation. “No, please don’t tell Isla—not yet, at least.”
My eyebrows wrinkle. This isn’t the reaction I expected, one of the Nation’s most highly regarded servants asking me to break the law for him. “Why?”
“The director of the Center is already considering disciplinary action against me for how I helped the traitor at the Commons— and how I said he deserves a second chance. This will make it worse.”
I step back, startled. “Disciplinary action? For treating a man with decency when no one else would?” It’s surprising, maybe even illogical—Micah was only being true to his role as an empath.
Frowning, he nods. “It wouldn’t have been a problem if that man hadn’t been a traitor. He tried to kill people. Years ago, he was part of a plot to bomb the Governor’s Hall. They didn’t succeed, which is why he wasn’t formally expelled, I guess…I didn’t know that when I helped him and said the things I did.”
“Would it have changed anything, if you’d known?” I ask softly.
He hesitates. “No, probably not…” he admits. He avoids eye contact like he’s afraid the truth will disgust me, just as it did his director.
Except it’s not disgust that I feel, hearing this. It’s awe.

Buy Links:


About Amanda Marin:



When Amanda was a child, her father traveled frequently for business, always bringing her back a book as a present. Whether she was getting lost in the pages of a tale about far-away knights, girls with supernatural powers, or kindly giants, she was quickly hooked on stories.

Over the years, Amanda has followed her own yellow brick road of reading and writing, and although her adventures haven't involved sword fights or saving the planet from certain annihilation, they have involved jobs in scholarly publishing and marketing, a modest amount of travel, and a lifelong love of novels.

Amanda holds degrees in English from Salve Regina University and Boston College. Her favorite things include Starbucks lattes, lazy summer afternoons at the beach, and books with characters that make you go "awww." She lives in New Hampshire with her family and furbaby, Snickers the Poodle.

Connect with the author:


06 May 2019

Tangled Up In You Blog Tour Excerpt



TANGLED UP IN YOU
by Samantha Chase
Series: Shaughnessy Brothers
Release Date: April 30, 2019



About the Book

They'll change each other's fate...

One fateful night Bobby Hannigan sustains a gunshot wound that could end his career as a police officer. If that's taken from him, he doesn't know what he'll do. The only ray of hope is Teagan Shaughnessy—a kindhearted single mom who understands his struggles...

Teagan and her young son have just moved back to the Carolina coast to be near family. When she meets Bobby, the timing feels wrong, but everything else feels oh-so-right. Bobby and Teagan each had plans for their own futures. But they're finding that those plans are meaningless if they can't be together...


GET THE BOOK!
Goodreads | Amazon | Apple | Nook | Kobo

Excerpt

He was only five feet from the door when Teagan stepped in front of him. Bobby stopped short so he wouldn’t slam into her.

“Oh no. You are not doing this again.”

“Excuse me?”

With her arms crossed over her chest, she nodded. “This running away crap? I’m done with that.”

He still wasn’t sure he understood what she was getting at, and she must have figured that out.

“First time we met? You walked away after a plate almost slipped out of your hands.”

“Teagan…”

“Then you pretty much sprinted out of here last week after you hurt your shoulder.”

“I had ice cream first.”

She gave him a sour look. “And you didn’t come back like you said you would.” She stepped in close to him. “I prefer it when people honor their word.”

Now he was getting a little annoyed.

04 May 2019

Author Interview #27: Ana Tejano | #lovelocal #romanceclass



Today we have a very special guest on the blog. I've known Ana for a while now, having read her books and promoting them to anyone looking for Filipino romance books (or even if they're not looking. Tee hee.). So you can just imagine my excitement when she agreed to this interview. :)

Read on and learn more about Ana and her work! 

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Hi, Ana! Welcome to the blog! How are you?

Hi, Sab! I'm great, thanks! It's been a while since I did a blog interview, so I'm really happy to be here! :)

Tell us about yourself. Were you always a writer? What got your started?

I'm a writer based in Metro Manila, Philippines and I think this is the only time I'm able to really say that I am a writer not just as a side hobby but also in my day job! I work as a Communications Professional for an Australian payroll and HR company (so if you just happen to be looking for those kinds of software and services, then you can actually reach out to me, too :D), and most of my job there is all about writing and preparing content for marketing and internal projects. Then, as I mention, on the side, I write romance books. 

I guess in some ways I've always been a writer, but I really wouldn't have even thought of being one if not for Elizabeth Wakefield and that first time I read a Sweet Valley Kids book and found a character who wanted to be an author. I've been trying to write stories since then, from short stories about friends who fight about a slumber party to pretend Unicorn Club newsletters, Animorphs and Backstreet Boys fanfiction, eventually to longer pieces when I joined National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). It wasn't until 2013 when I joined the first batch of #romanceclass when I actually considered publishing what I wrote.

What inspires you to write? 

I am such a wordy person so I can't imagine myself not writing anything. Inspiration hits at the most random times, really, but maybe the most common thing that gets me to think of something is other people's stories. I love hearing how married couples got together, as well as some daily, unfortunate mishaps that would make for good plot devices. At the core of it all, a lot of it is just knowing that there's a story to tell - despite the millions of romance novels out there, there's always still something different that I can contribute because our stories are all unique and unrepeatable. 

Are any of your stories and characters based on real events and real people?

Yes, some of them. Haha! Like any other writer, most of the main characters were based on myself when I started writing. The characters eventually transformed when I wrote more with the intention of publishing and they started growing into their own kind of people. The love interests...some of them may be based on some real people but I will never tell who (lol)...except for Nico from Keep the Faith, who just kind of sprung out of nowehere and I'm still really looking for a real-life one, haha. ;) I do admit to naming some of my secondary characters after my friends - and when they get around to reading it, they're always in for a surprise.

Like I said in the previous question, I do take some real-life events into my fiction - not always the exact same scene but similar to it, especially for the ones that I've actually experienced. Best example is in It's a Match from You Could Be the One, I actually was dabbling in online dating at the time I wrote it. Nothing came out from there, but it made for a good story I think.

One thing I noticed and love about your book, Keep the Faith, is the influence of Catholicism. It doesn't entirely revolve around religion but it gives a fresh take on romance. What's it like writing from this perspective? What are the challenges in writing romance this way?

I'm a cradle Catholic and I've been a part of a Catholic lay community almost all my life, so faith and religion always played a huge part in my decisions. This is why I sought for books with characters whose faith played a big role in their lives, too, and while I did find some, most of them were non-Catholic Christians and not Filipino. I didn't really intended to go out and write this way when I wrote Fall Like Rain, but it just came out in Keep the Faith, and from the feedback I've received, I realized that I wasn't the only one who was looking for that particular kind of representation in the Filipino Catholic women. And it felt right to write this, and there's thing we have in #romanceclass where we address the gaps as we see them. I think this is my gap. 

Filling the gap is the main challenge, because like I said, there's not a lot of material around so it almost feels like I'm groping in the dark. And also, let's admit it - romance and Catholicism doesn't seem like it really goes well together, what with the rigid "rules" of the religion. There's not a lot of time to explain it, but when you get to dig deeper into the Catholic faith, romance is actually very central in its entire story. Maybe it just needs more people to tell that.   

A side story in this - when I was about to graduate from college, I was feeling a little overwhelmed at the decisions that were about to come my way - what will I do after graduation, my job, should I go and become a fulltime missionary, etc. I was about to leave for Davao for a CFC Youth for Christ (the Catholic community I belonged to back then), and during the send-off event, there was a worship and one line from HIllsong's To the Ends of the Earth jumped out at me: "And I would give the world to tell Your story." It's a pretty unremarkable line but it left an impression on me and I knew that I was going to write. It wasn't until a few years ago, while writing my fourth book, that I saw the planner where I wrote that line and I remembered it, and I knew that I was on the right path.

Do you have anything in the works that will take a similar direction?

My next book, Win Meah Over, takes that direction - maybe even more so than Keep the Faith, and that's probably why it took me ages to finish it. But yeah, this next book's love interest has a pretty complicated past, and a group of friends who are part of a fictional Catholic lay community who will eventually be main characters in their own books later on. (You can see a preview of this group in the third story in You Could Be the One). 

Lastly, would you pitch your book boyfriends to us? We're dying to get to know them!

Heee. Okay, so Mark (Fall Like Rain) is the artsy, loyal friend who's secretly in love with you but doesn't really know how to say it yet but he will do everything to make you happy, and you can count on him to save you from anything - be it a southwest monsoon flood, or a zombie apocalypse.

Nico (Keep the Faith) may look rough outside but is a complete softy inside, and he will charm you with that smile and the way he works. He provides a steady, reliable presence while you figure out things on your own - no matter how long it takes.

Gabriel (It's a Match / You Could Be the One) is that hot guy you've always had a crush on but has always seemed unattainable, until you become business partners, and you find out that he's also a dork inside. Oh, and he's definitely going to invite you to go for a walk with his dog, Thor, for one of your "business meetings".

Ian (Fake It Till We Make It / You Could Be the One) will always be there for you when you need him, even if it means pretending for months on end that you're together just to stop people from asking you questions...but is he still pretending? 

And finally, Joseph is your friend's attractive friend who is a softy around dogs but is just a little snarky around people - especially you! He's going to annoy you with all his questions but when you try to avoid him, you realize that you actually miss how his questions reveal a little bit more about yourself, too. 

Super thank you for dropping by the blog and sharing your passion, Ana! So excited to dive into your next book. :)

Speaking of!

Here's the synopsis for Ana's next book, Win Meah Over, coming out in the first half of 2019:



WIN MEAH OVER by Ana Tejano 

It's been three years since Meah Constantino hooked up with Joseph Rodriguez in Boracay and it's one night she'd rather forget. No one could ever know what happened between them - after all, she's everyone's shrink, the stable friend, the person who fixes everone's problems. How could anyone trust her if they find out how much she had messed up?

When Joseph shows up in her life again and joins her latest project at work, Meah is determined not to let their shared past affect her. It's just four weeks, and there's many reasons to avoid him: he's arrogant, he asks too many questions, and he seems to enjoy getting under her skin. Joseph is bad news and Meah has no time for that...so why can't she seem to stay away from him?

About Ana



Ana Tejano has been in love with words and writing ever since she met Elizabeth Wakefield when she was in Grade 3. She’s been blogging for years and has contributed several non-fiction pieces in print and online publications using her other name, which isn’t really a secret identity. When she’s not writing romance, she works as a marketing communications manager for a payroll and HR company, extending the marketing things she learns at work back to her author life. She’s an active member of CFC Singles for Christ, lives in Metro Manila with several dogs and cats, and is always trying to catch up on sleep. And she loves peanut butter.

Connect with Ana
Twitter/Facebook/Instagram - @itstimeana
Website: anatejano.com

Buy Ana's books
Ebook/Print International (Amazon): bit.ly/itstimeana
PH Print editions: bit.ly/anatejanobooks