Audiobook Review: Dodger

13516846Title: Dodger
Author: Terry Pratchett
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Release Date: September 2012
Length: 360 pages
Series?: Dodger #1
Genre: Historical Fiction, YA

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

A storm. Rain-lashed city streets. A flash of lightning. A scruffy lad sees a girl leap desperately from a horse-drawn carriage in a vain attempt to escape her captors. Can the lad stand by and let her be caught again? Of course not, because he’s…Dodger.

Seventeen-year-old Dodger may be a street urchin, but he gleans a living from London’s sewers, and he knows a jewel when he sees one. He’s not about to let anything happen to the unknown girl–not even if her fate impacts some of the most powerful people in England.

From Dodger’s encounter with the mad barber Sweeney Todd to his meetings with the great writer Charles Dickens and the calculating politician Benjamin Disraeli, history and fantasy intertwine in a breathtaking account of adventure and mystery.

Beloved and bestselling author Sir Terry Pratchett combines high comedy with deep wisdom in this tale of an unexpected coming-of-age and one remarkable boy’s rise in a complex and fascinating world.

 

my review

The Skinny

A late-night toshing of the sewers unexpectedly leads Dodger right into an encounter with some unsavory characters and simaltaneously rescuing a damsel in distress. This single act of scaring off assailants draws Dodger into a world that has ramications farther than he can fathom.

While he has changed the course of his own life, he also changes the life of the anonymous woman he rescued. A cast of do-gooders from the upper echelons of society, many of them true historical figures of the time, take charge of the situation to protect Dodger and this young woman named Simplicity. They use their wealth, connections, influence, and knowledge to keep Simplicity safe as danger encroaches again.

Along the way, Dodger continues to find himself – a typical eyesore of polite society – as the hero in a number of situations, including the resuce of Sweeeney Todd from his own demons. Thusly, he becomes the interest of Sir Robert Peel, head of police.

 

The Players

Dodger – a teen tosher of the London streets and sewers, given the title of “king of the toshers”

Simplicity – a mysterious and beautiful girl Dodger rescues in the streets, she has escaped from her abusive, royal husband

Solomon Cohen- Dodger’s housemate and unofficial (Jewish) guardian, an elderly craftsman, a Freemason

Onan – Solomon’s smelly dog, Dodger likes him

Charles Dickens- a journalist who understands the plight of the poor

Henry Mayhew – a friend of Dickens, he and his wife take care of Simplicity, he is interested in improving conditions for the poorer citizens of London

Angela Burdett-Coutts – an independent, wealthy woman destined to be single who uses her influence and excess to help those in need, she takes in Simplicity and protects her

Benjamin Disraeli – a young politician friend of Charlie’s, he helps play a role in the faking of Simplicity’s death

Sir Robert Peel – the head of London police, he is supportive of Simplicity’s wish to not be sent back to her husband

The Outlander – a wanted assassin with targets on Simplicity and Dodger, he looks different every time he commits a crime, always has the same woman at his side

Sweeney Todd – a current-day barber traumatised with PTSD from his Napoleonic War experiences who kills his customers, the reason Dodger becomes a national hero by disarming him

The Quote

“Well, dear Mrs. Mayhew, I can promise you that there will not be any hanky panky because I do not know what panky is, and I’ve never hand a hanky. Only a handkerchief.”

The Highs and Lows

  • Victorian era. I love reading historicals set in the Victorian era, but I always get the romanticized version on the opposite end of the spectrum. Or, at least a very rosy version of reality. I don’t think I’ve ever spent too much time truly looking through a different lens of the time. The socioeconomic statuses of the classes are highlighted heavily in this novel.
  • + Humor. The witty and cunning nature of Dodger, and the humor of others throughout, had me giggling more than once.
  • International Intrigue. Simplicity’s mysterious past brings about the true reason she was beaten in the streets, and why The Outlander is still after her and now Dodger as well. Dodger unwittingly walks into a problem thickened by international boundaries.
  • Simplicity. We never learn her real name! After her “death,” she is given a new name: Serendipity, and it fits perfectly.
  • – Instalove. While I can easily see why Dodger would fall in love with SimplicityI don’t much see how or why it was reciprocated. There wasn’t anything alluring about Dodger and it didn’t seem Simplicity felt any rangef emotions whatsoever. I understand gratitude and gratefulness for her resuce, but I didn’t see this as a love match with real love. It seemed too easy to tie the ends up for Dodger and the “knight” to get the girl.
  • + Historical Figures. Several have voiced their pleaseure or displeasure about having real historical figures of the time inserted in the novel. While I wasn’t aware that they all lived during the same time (you learn something new every day), I found it interesting and a touching nod of Pratchett to those he respected and revered by including them in one of his works, especially ones that espouse the sentiments of poverty that are the heart of the book.
  • + The Dedication. Pratchett dedicated the novel in honor of the real Mayhew, who worked to shed the light on the poorest of London in his own book London Labour and the London Poor.

The Take-Away

Many readers find it hard to read this novel separate from Pratchett’s Discworld novels, and I feel all his other writings are overshadowed by his famous 40-book series. While I never read a one of them, I enjoyed this one by Pratchett. It was different and englightening and still held the archetype of a knight in shining armor, rags-to-riches character and storyline.

Recommendation – Buy, Borrow or Skip? 

I recommend reading! Buy or borrow.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

1654Sir Terry Pratchett sold his first story when he was thirteen, which earned him enough money to buy a second-hand typewriter. His first novel, a humorous fantasy entitled The Carpet People, appeared in 1971 from the publisher Colin Smythe.

Terry worked for many years as a journalist and press officer, writing in his spare time and publishing a number of novels, including his first Discworld novel, The Color of Magic, in 1983. There are over 40 books in the Discworld series. The first of these, The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, won the Carnegie Medal.

Regarded as one of the most significant contemporary English-language satirists, Pratchett has won numerous literary awards, was named an Officer of the British Empire “for services to literature” in 1998, and has received honorary doctorates from University of Warwick in 1999, the University of Portsmouth in 2001, the University of Bath in 2003, the University of Bristol in 2004, Buckinghamshire New University in 2008, the University of Dublin in 2008, Bradford University in 2009, University of Winchester in 2009, and The Open University in 2013 for his contribution to Public Service.

In 2007, Pratchett disclosed that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. In February 2009, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II. He was awarded the World Fantasy Life Achievement Award in 2010. Sir Terry Pratchett passed away in March 2015.

Find the author: Website | Goodreads

Review: Rosco the Rascal Visits the Pumpkin Patch

Title: Rosco the Rascal Visits the Pumpkin Patch
Author: Shana Gorian
Publisher: KDP
Release Date: September 2014
Length: 130 pages
Series?: no
Genre: Children’s

ABOUT THE BOOK

31752229On a sunny autumn day brother and sister James and Mandy head to the pumpkin patch with their friendly dog, Rosco, to choose a pumpkin for Halloween. While riding a hay wagon, visiting a petting zoo, and joining the kids on a scavenger hunt, Rosco sometimes makes mischief. But when the kids find trouble deep inside the corn maze, will Rosco shape up and help out? Join the kids and their rascally dog for fun and adventure in Rosco The Rascal Visits The Pumpkin Patch.  Recommended for grades K-3 (ages 6-9). Includes 15+ black and white interior illustrations.

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

 

my review

The Skinny

James and Mandy McKendrick visit the pumpkin patch with their parents and their fairly new-to-the-family dog. Rosco is a German Shepard and is a good dog in general, but he can get distracted easily. The McKendricks are known for their awesome Halloween pumpkin carvings. Mr. McKendrick always selects an overly large pumpkin at the patch, and the kids enjoy the petting zoo and corn maze.

This year the duo have convinced their parents they can manage the maze on their own. There are just two stipulations: they must stay together using the same punch-card, and Rosco must go with them. The deal is sealed and the kids set out only to find trouble deep inside the corn maze.

The Players

Rosco – an 85 lb. German Shepard, recently adopted, enjoys being off the leash, always gets up to some mischief

Mandy – 7 year old sister to James, likes the chickens,

James – 10 year old brother to Mandy, likes the piglets, doesn’t enjoy arguing with Mandy

Luke – 4 year old cutie in the corn maze

The Quote

Their giant jack-o-lantern would be the jewel of the neighborhood, every year. Trick-or-treaters would marvel at the size of it. Dad always loved the compliments.

So this day was about more than just petting zoos and hay rides for the McKendrick family. It was about finding another outrageously large pumpkin in that patch. It was about art and tradition.

As the holiday approached, the whole block at home would be anxiously waiting to see what new creation Mr. McKendrick would come up with this year. And trick-or-treaters would come from far and wide to delight in the spectacle on Halloween night!

The Highs and Lows

  • + Family. I love that this children’s story focuses on the positive values of family. I don’t think there are enough examples of this in reading as children outgrow picture books. This is the kind of family you want to live on your street, be your neighbor, help you out if you’re in a bind and list them as an emergency contact for your child’s school.
  • + Values. When James and Mandy stumble upon Rosco and what he’s found in the maze, the siblings step up. They extend a hand, are kind and compassionate, and stand up for someone who has been wronged in the right way. Rosco also helped with that a bit. 🙂 This is a great teaching tool!
  • + Funny. While there wasn’t rip-roaring laughter, I giggled in outbursts over the antics of Rosco and some of the dialogue among the family. It is cute and clean and light-hearted.
  • Plot. The plot spanned the course of one day and all the adventures throughout it. For the most part, the activities of each character are reflected in each chapter. The POV is 3rd person omniscient, so it might throw off younger readers who have never seen this before.

The Take-Away

This was a cute and light read for fall. What I liked most was the family doing things together and nobody throwing a fit or not participating. This is a great book to read as a family and can even bridge some of those conversations about what you like to do and can do as a family.

Recommendation – Buy, Borrow or Skip? 

Buy!

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

8567620Shana Gorian is the author of the chapter series for kids, Rosco the Rascal. Titles include Rosco the Rascal In the Land of Snow, Rosco the Rascal Goes to Camp, and Rosco the Rascal Visits the Pumpkin Patch.

Originally from Western Pennsylvania, Shana has lived in Southern California for 20 years. She lives with her husband and two children, and the real Rosco, their German shepherd, Rugger.

Shana attended the University of Pittsburgh, earning her Bachelor of Arts in English Writing in 1994. She then attended San Diego City College, where she trained as a graphic designer. She went on to work as a website designer in San Diego for nearly a decade. But she always wanted to venture back to her love of the written word, and try her hand at fiction. Ten years into motherhood, she published her first children’s book. Shana is an avid lover of the great outdoors, and is always searching for more stories!

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Review: Lost in Yonkers

170539Title: Lost in Yonkers
Author: Neil Simon
Publisher: Samuel French, Inc.
Release Date: June 2010 (first published 1990)
Length: 114 pages
Series?: no
Genre: aDram, Humor

Find the book: Goodreads |Amazon

Neil Simon’s inimitable play about the trials and tribulations that test family ties – winner of the 1991 Pulitzer Prize for Drama

What happens to children in the absence of love? That is the question that lies at the heart of this funny and heartrending play by one of America’s most acclaimed and beloved playwrights. Debuting at the Richard Rodgers Theatre in 1990, Lost in Yonkers went on to win four Tony Awards, including Best Play, as well as the Pulitzer Prize, and tells the moving drama about the cruelties and painful memories that scar a family.

It is New York, 1942. After the death of their mother, two young brothers are sent to stay with their formidable grandmother for the longest ten months of their lives. Grandmother Kurnitz is a one-woman German front—a refugee and a widow who has steeled her heart against the world. Her coldness and intolerance have crippled her own children: the boys’ father has no self-esteem . . . their Aunt Gert has an embarrassing speech impediment . . . their Uncle Louie is a small-time gangster . . . and their Aunt Bella has the mentality of a child. But it is Bella’s hunger for affection and her refusal to be denied love that saves the boys—and that leads to an unforgettable, wrenching confrontation with her mother. Filled with laughter, tears, and insight, Lost in Yonkers is yet another heartwarming testament to Neil Simon’s talent.

REVIEW

The Skinny

Jay and Arty come to live with Grandma and Aunt Bella after their mother dies. Their father, Eddie, cannot serve in the military, so he is a traveling salesman throughout the south. He sells metals – steel, mostly – to benefit the military and contribute to the war. They learn interesting things about their Aunt Bella and Uncle Louie, both who have their own struggles, while trying to please their hard-nosed German grandmother.

The Players

Jay – called Yakob by Grandma

Arty – called Artur by Grandma

Eddie – Jay and Arty’s father, he is a traveling salesman selling metals for the military, known to be sickly

Grandma – a hard, cold German woman, escaped Berlin, owns a candy store

Aunt Bella – Jay and Arty’s aunt, she lives with Grandma and works in the candy store, has the mindset of a child

Uncle Louie – Jay and Arty’s uncle, he is rarely around and seems to take part in nefarious activities

Aunt Gert – Jay and Arty’s aunt, she has a speech impediment

The Highs and Lows

  • Jay and Arty. The two are wide-eyed coming to live with Grandma. They know virtually nothing about their relatives, since they’ve never really visited. They are a quiet, cute duo who are piecing together and learning the history of Grandma, Bella, Louie and Gert.
  • Grandma. She is a hard, cold, steeled woman who does not believe in showing any emotion. A display that could be interpreted as weakness disgusts her. She suffered in her escape from Berlin, and although she has buried her husband and even some of her own children at young ages, she does not cry. In this, she has pushed the rest of her children away. She keeps a tight reign on the candy store and knows when even a pretzel has gone missing. It is rumored that Grandma has thousands of dollars stashed away somewhere in the house.
  • Bella. She is a grown woman, in her mid-thirties, but has the mind of a child. She will be that way always, and she should be in the Home. Grandma has threatened her many times to go into the Home, but Bella knows she does not want to be alone. She uses this to her advantage. That is Grandma’s weakness. Bella is a strange mix of child and adult, having her own hopes and dreams. She believes she is going to marry Johnny, an usher at the movie theatre. They’re getting married because they’ve gone to four movies together. He is like Bella, but he cannot read. Bella wants to help him open up a restaurant but needs five thousand dollars to do so.
  • Louie. He’s a little gangster! Really, he is. Or, as Arty calls him, a henchman. He’s a real jokester. He carries a black bag, a gun, and has men in a black Studebaker following him. He comes into town spur of the moment and is very antsy. He hires Jay and Arty to keep a lookout for him, and to tell anyone that he’s not around. He teaches the boys what “moxie” is and the boys learn Louie was a rough kid. He ran away from home several times and got in with the wrong crowd to survive.

The Take-Away

I love this story. I read it in my high school drama class, and I had my sixth grader creative writing class read it this past year. It is a funny story. Everyone fears Grandma. Bella has grown-up dreams without a grown-up mentality. She sees the world in a different light, and it’s a beautiful and sad thing. Louie cracks me up. He’s just hilarious, and he scares the boys, keeps them on their toes.

Recommendation – Buy, Borrow or Skip? 

Buy it. If you don’t want to read the play, but the film version with Richard Dreyfuss. It stays pretty true to the script and brings to life the humor – and the embodiment of Grandma – to life.

 

About the Author

Marvin Neil Simon is an American playwright and screenwriter. He is one of the most reliable hitmakers in Broadway history, as well as one of the most performed playwrights in the world. Though primarily a comic writer, some of his plays, particularly the Eugene Trilogy and The Sunshine Boys, reflect on the twentieth century Jewish-American experience.

 

Review + Giveaway: Dragons Are Real

Tour Button

Dragons-cover-8x8-Medium (1)Title: Dragons Are Real
Author: Valerie Budayr
Publisher: Andy Press
Release Date: May 2016
Length: 32 pages
Genre: Children’s

Find the book: Goodreads |Amazon

What if I told you that all of the fairy tales, myths and legends that have been told about dragons over the years are WRONG? What if I told you that Dragons are indeed REAL and that they are different than you’ve ever imagined? Did you know that Dragons are the master of disguises? Did you know that they love sugar and sweets (at unacceptable levels) and will do anything for treats? Award winning author Valarie Budayr brings us this fairly true story based on her childhood friendship with a REAL live Dragon.

LOOK INSIDE THE BOOK! 

Dragons-Are-Real-p.14-15-SmallDragons-Are-Real-p.12-13-Small

REVIEW

This was an incredibly cute book! Whatever your perceptions of dragons are, YOU’RE WRONG!

I loved the REAL DRAGONS LOVE TO READ page, which is also above. They are extreme hoarders of books…Hmm, does that make me part dragon? 🙂

Real dragons don’t dance alone. 

I loved the illustrations and the use of color throughout the book. It was fantastic. The dragons were large and detailed, but they all presented the face of fun. They weren’t scary.

Recommendation – Buy, Borrow or Skip? 

This is a cute read for lower grades and younger children. It is funny and lighthearted. I definitely recommend buying this one just to keep around for years to come.

 

About the Author: Valarie Budayr

vbAward Winning and Best-selling author, Valarie Budayr inspires children and adults alike to experience their books through play, discovery, and adventure via engaging extension activities on her popular website,www.jumpintoabook.com. Valarie is co-founder of Multi-cultural Children’s Book Day , #ReadYourWorld, a celebration of diverse and cultural kid-lit shared with over 98 million people on January 27th. Her foundation puts hundreds of books into the hands of children in rural and intercity areas. www.multiculturalchildrensbookday.com Valarie’s other best-selling and award winning titles are: The Fox Diaries: The Year the Foxes Came to our Garden, The Ultimate Guide to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and A Year in the Secret Garden.

Twitter | Facebook (Audrey Press) | Facebook (Jump Into A Book) | Google+ | PinterestGoodreads|Website

About the Illustrator: Michael Welply

mw

Michael Welply was born in London in 1948. The family moved to Winnipeg, Canada, in 1950. He studied art in Winnipeg and then in Paris, but his idea of living from the sales of his paintings is somewhat compromised by the lack of buyers. He started his career as an illustrator in 1977 in London. In 1981 he returned to live in France with his American wife and their two children. Since then he has worked for publishers in both Europe and North America. To date he has illustrated over 80 books and more than 100 covers, in a wide range of subjects extending from detailed non-fiction to juvenile and adult fiction in the realms of fantasy, mythology, science fiction and fairy tales.

Blog Tour Giveaway

PicturePrize: One winner will receive a $100 Amazon gift card or $100 PayPal cash prize, winner’s choice

Giveaway ends:May 30, 11:59 pm, 2016

Open to: Internationally

Click here to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway!

Terms and Conditions: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. A winner will be randomly drawn through the Rafflecopter widget and will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. The winner will then have 72 hours to respond. If the winner does not respond within 72 hours, a new draw will take place for a new winner. Odds of winning will vary depending on the number of eligible entries received. This contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook. This giveaway is sponsored by the author, Valarie Budayr and is hosted and managed by Stacie from BeachBoundBooks. If you have any additional questions feel free to send an email to stacie@BeachBoundBooks.com.

Review: Zach Delacruz ~ Me and My Big Mouth

24612691Title: Zach Delacruz: Me and My Big Mouth
Author: Jeff Anderson
Publisher: Sterling Children’s Books
Release Date: August 2015
Length: 176 pages
Series?: no
Genre: Middle Grades 

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

Zack Delacruz is unnoticed at his middle school—and that’s just the way he likes it. But a school assembly, a typhoon of spit, and an uncharacteristic moment of bravery are all it takes to change everything. Suddenly Zack is in charge of the class fundraiser. Worse, his partner is the school’s biggest bully! If they don’t sell all the chocolate bars, there will be no dance for the sixth grade.  Zack never wanted to be a hero, but with his classmates’ hopes on the line, can he save the day?

***** Review *****

The Skinny

Zach Delacruz is one pretty cool kid, although he doesn’t think so. In fact, he would rather melt into the floor vents than make himself known…except he screws up that concept with his big mouth trying to defend a fellow student from being bullied, and somehow winds up nominating himself as the head of the sixth grade fundraiser. See, sixth graders have never been able to attend the dance in the history of Davy Crockett Middle School, and if Zach and El Pollo Loco can get all the chocolate bars sold, they’re in! Zach soon discovers that he is leading this project on his own, and must use all his resources – and questionable classmates – to get it done.

The Players

  • Zach Delacruz
  • Marquis Malone
  • Janie Bustamante
  • El Pollo Loco
  • Cliché Jones
  • Sophia Segura
  • Steven Ramirez

The Quote

 “Zach?”

“Yeah?” I looked up at the spinning ceiling fan.

“Do you ever get nervous around girls?”

“I get nervous around everybody.”

The Highs and Lows

  • + Humor. Jeff Anderson knows how to write humor, and he knows how to write middle grades. Being in the profession where he works closely with teachers, he hits the nail on the head for middle school mentality.
  • + Friendship. Middle school is tough to be somebody, to be anybody. It’s hard to be an individual and stand out and yet blend in. Zach starts out with one main man, Marquis, and slowly his crew grows a little larger as he leads the sixth grade class fundraiser.
  • + Zach. Zach is a kind kid who does the right thing, even if it lands him in the hot water of the middle school sharks. He puts his neck on the line for Janie and winds up in charge of the sixth grade fundraiser. If it’s not successful, there will be heads to roll – mainly Zach’s.
  • – Janie. Janie has a problem that nearly derails the sixth grade fundraiser. She’s a sweet girl, but she wants Zach to fix the problem – her problem! However, Janie has some turnabout after Zach comes up with a plan and she starts pitching in.
  • + Marquis. He is an interesting mix for a middle school kid. He doesn’t like to stand out so much, but he is a bit of a show off. And he’s a numbers man. Math is his thing.
  • + Plot. The drive of the plot is making that dance happen, but there are a few subconflicts along the way.

The Take-Away

The car wash scene was the best, after the intervention scene. Those were my two favorites from the book, and I thought Zach owned that car wash!

Recommendation – Buy, Borrow or Skip? 

Buy it! Even if you are not a MG reader, there are so many great examples of craft going on in the book that it is a great resource and teaching tool.

 

 

***** About the Author *****

Jeff has been sharing writing strategies with teachers and students for over 25 years. Whether presenting at national conferences like NCTE, ASCD, or in classrooms or writing his books for teachers or middle grade readers, Jeff’s passion for writing and grammar inspires teachers and young writers to soar. When he’s not writing with his “revising” dogs at home near downtown San Antonio, Texas, he’s walking, talking, or doing staff development around the US (and sometimes New Zealand).

Find the author: Website| Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Review: Dog Goner

Title: Dog Goner
Author: Cynthia Port
Release Date: April 2013
Length: 248 pages
Series?: Kibble Talk #2
Genre: Middle Grades

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

Secrets will be revealed! Fondest wishes will be fulfilled! Permacrud will be . . . what the heck is permacrud, anyway? Find out in Dog Gone Dinky, the second book in the hilarious Kibble Talk series. Tawny and Jenny, along with their dogs Dinky and Gunner, have set themselves on a mission – or really, three missions. But there’s someone else with a fondest wish, and they’ll do anything to get it. Can Dinky save the day before he becomes a dog goner? Dog Gone Dinky is a fast moving and funny fiction story perfect for readers aged 7 to 12 or as a read-a-loud.

 

***** Review *****

The Skinny

Tawny is at it again! In the second installment, her parents are now hot on the adoption trail. Tawny’s friend Jenny has now been welcomed into the Kibble Talker fold and she is hot on the trail to discovering how to become one. Jenny wants to find a victim to experiment on, but Tawny is terrified that someone will use their powers for evil. In the meantime, Jenny is stuck doing portraits for Sandra and her dog Buster while her brother suddenly turns into an interrupting cow during each session. Renselear Higginbotham, a shop owner at the mall, tries everything possible to get Jenny to draw his portrait. He is slimy and creepy and weird and not very nice, and the girls cannot seem to escape him. There is definitely something he wants from them, and he will stop at nothing to get it. Tawny and Jenny are the key.

The Players

  • Tawny – a typical twelve-year-old with a secret
  • Dinky – Tawny’s Great Dawn who thinks he is a lap dog
  • Jenny – Tawny’s very outspoken best friend; she is also an excellent artist
  • Gunner – Tawny’s DIRTY dog whose only wish is to be clean
  • Fitz – a strange classmate of Tawny’s and Jenny’s that they sort of befriend
  • Zach – Jenny’s older brother who is always interrupting her portraits
  • Sandy – a beautiful girl Zach is in love with; her family owns a pet salon and school
  • Buster – Sandy’s old dog who is overly pampered
  • Renselear Higginbotham – a strange and creepy man who owns a cats and dogs figurines shop in the mall; he wants something from Tawny and Jenny

The Quote

 Dinky had pointed this out to me when I couldn’t understand why my parents thought I didn’t want a sibling. He said we humans don’t ask the important things right out. We ask things sideways instead and then look for clues.

The Highs and Lows

  • + Jenny. She is brutally honest and upfront, and I appreciated that in a character so young. She does not stand for anyone to bully her or treat her as inferior. There were many times Jenny spoke up when Tawny remained silent. She also does a lot of the talking when they get into “situations.”
  • + Dinky. He cracks me up. Although he seemed more tame in this installment, there were still plenty of times when Dinky’s sarcasm came right on out. He was definitely some comedic relief. He is also very wise and sees more about his loved ones than he lets on.
  • + Fitz. Fitz is a weird and strange kid that most people at school try to ignore. He is obsessed with the hobo lifestyle and living light. Then he switches gears with his bragging rights about being wealthy, rolling into school in a Hummer. His other vehicle is a yatch. Besides the whole hobo/rich thing, Fitz is a pretty quiet kid that flies under the radar.
  • Higginbottom. He was the perfect type of villain. He was slimy and creepy and nauseous. Of course I didn’t like him, but he played his role well. He was also very evil. At one point (and then onward) I would even say he was cruel. Utterly cruel.

The Take-Away

This is a crazy train! Kibble-eating kids, dialectical dogs, harping hobos, adoptions, creepy creepers, death wishes, and kidnapping. There is so much going on that it hits the high notes.

Recommendation – Buy, Borrow or Skip? 

Borrow it! It’s well worth the read and is entertaining and enjoyable.

Guest Post + Review + Giveaway: Level Up

Welcome to my tour stop for Level Up by Cathy Yardley. This is a romantic comedy and the tour runs January 4-22 with reviews, interviews, guest posts and excerpts. You can check out the tour schedule here. The book is available in ebook formats worldwide.

LevelUp-Cover-640x1024Title: Level Up
Author: Cathy Yardley
Publisher: xx
Release Date: January 2016
Length: 151 pages
Series?: no
Genre: Romantic Comedy

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

“Geeky introvert Tessa Rodriguez will do whatever it takes to get promoted to video game engineer– including create a fandom-based video game in just three weeks. The only problem is, she can’t do it alone. Now, she needs to strong-arm, cajole, and otherwise socialize with her video game coworkers, especially her roommate, Adam, who’s always been strictly business with her. The more they work together, though, the closer they get…

Adam London has always thought of his roomie Tessa as “one of the guys” until he agreed to help her with this crazy project. Now, he’s thinking of her all the time… and certainly as something more than just a roommate! But his last girlfriend broke up with him to follow her ambitions, and he knows that Tessa is obsessed with getting ahead in the video game world.Going from friends to something more is one hell of a challenge. Can Tessa and Adam level up their relationship to love?”

***** Guest Post *****

The 7 Stages of Fangirl Syndrome

According to the Urban Dictionary, a fangirl is: “a rabid breed of human female who is obsessed with either a fictional character of an actor… have been known to glomp, grope, and tackle when encountering said obsessions.”

Alas, this probably describes me.

I’m a fandom fan. While I would never “glomp, grope, and tackle” anyone (what is “glomp” anyway?) I definitely find myself obsessed with certain shows, movies, and books. What’s worse, fandoms are often a gateway drug: you might start out watching Supernatural, then transfer to Sherlock, only to find yourself suddenly watching Doctor Who and Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead.  There are fandoms for Marvel, Disney, and of course Star Wars.  It’s a sickness, but frankly, I don’t want the cure.

That said, if you’ve managed to avoid falling into a fandom, here’s a brief overview of what happens when fondness turns to mania – call them warning signs.

 

Stage 1:  B.F. (Before Fandom)

You live your life in a (relatively) normal manner.  You may socialize occasionally.  You go to work, school, interact with others.  Life isn’t terribly exciting, but it isn’t bad.

 

Stage 2:  Exposure

Here’s where the trouble begins. You might have a vague awareness of a show, book, or movie. Slowly, there’s an insidious seep into your consciousness. You seem to see references to the thing everywhere. You start to experience a mild FOMO – Fear Of Missing Out.  The final blow: one of your friends, who is already deep in her fangirl sickness, hammers at you relentlessly.  “You haven’t seen this?  Oh my God, you HAVE to see this.  Go watch it/read it/devour it NOW!”)  Finally, you give in.  Might as well see what all the fuss is about, right?

Famous last words.

 

Stage 3:  “Hey, this is pretty good…”

Like a blind date, where you’ve heard a lot about someone but you’ve never actually met, you have hopes that the thing lives up to the hype, even as you steel yourself for disappointment.  When it starts to prove itself, the overwhelming emotion is relief… followed quickly by curiosity.

It really isn’t bad, you think happily.

In fact, it’s good.

Pretty darned good.

 

Stage 4:  “OH. MY. GOD.”

This is more than pretty darned good. This is sensational.  Where has this been all your life?  What have you been doing when you could’ve been experiencing this?  Why didn’t you start watching/reading/enjoying sooner?

Now Is not the time for moderation.  This is full-scale binge time.  Four seasons in a week?  Sure!

Nine book series?  Looks like there’s a lot of pizza ordering in your future. Who has time to cook?

Sleep?  Sleep is for the weak!  You can sleep when you’re dead!

This fandom needs you!  Fire up the Serenity, grab some salt, load up John Watson and Daryl Dixon and let’s get going! Allons-y!

 

Stage 5:  Research! All! The Things!

You’re getting to the end of your binge.  Now, it’s not enough to read all of the books, or watch all of the episodes or movies.  You need to see if movies are being made of the books, or if comics are being made of the series, or whatever.  You Google interviews with the actors you now know by name who are portraying your favorite characters. You check out fan forums that are discussing the latest conspiracy theories for the sequel that is two years in the works.  You check out fan art, memes, and behind-the-scenes-footage. You check out videos from fan convention.  You scour the internet.

 

Stage 6:  Withdrawal

After a certain point, the material is simply petering out. The last book in the series comes out, or won’t be out for years (if ever.)  The movies have stopped. The show is on hiatus, or even (gasp!) cancelled.

You re-read the same interviews forty times, like a pauper licking at the crumbs on his plate.  You may even dip into fan fiction.  You mourn the end of an era.

 

Stage 7:  Contagion

There is only one way to recapture the magic.  You need to get a new person interested in your fandom… watch them fall down the rabbit hole, fall in love, and become just as obsessed with you.  (This is where your friend was when you were in Stage 2.)  It’s the next best thing to experiencing it again for the first time.

 

It’s too late for me. Save yourself…

If you aren’t part of a fandom, it might not be too late.  You can avoid the craziness, keep what’s left of your sanity, your free time, and your mental bandwidth.

But for the rest of you, the fans, the ones who have already succumbed and now go through the cycle…

Isn’t it great?

***** Review *****

The Skinny

Tessa is a woman working in a male-dominated field: gaming. She is simply an audio girl, but has the capability to be a video game engineer. She has worked extremely hard, and knows she deserves an upcoming slot on the team at her company. The only problem is the head engineer, who is known to run off potential candidates. Tess doesn’t stand a chance if she doesn’t become more personable.

Her roommate, Adam, is the project manager of the engineering team, and is strong-armed by Tessa to help her out. After a round of advice leads Tessa to crash and burn, Adam takes it upon himself to help her himself. While Tessa befriends a new temp girl at work – and her crew of girls – Tessa finds a cause that allows her to showcase her engineering talents and desperately help her new friends, but a short deadline requires Tessa to socialize at work and seek help from the engineering team.

Meanwhile, the entire engineering team has a bet going with work-obsessed Adam that he cannot find a new girlfriend before the next new hire fills the upcoming opening slot on the engineering team. The long hours he’s putting in with Tessa naturally draw them together, and he can’t help but compare her to his ex-(almost)-fiancé.

*There is adult content in the book, as well as this review. Proceed with caution.

The Players

Tessa – a mid-20s audio engineer; she is an introvert and painfully and awkwardly antisocial; roommates with Adam; she has her sights set on being a coding engineer

Ani – Tessa’s only friend; she lives far away so they Skype since she lives in Helsinki

Adam – the project manager for the engineering team; owns the house and rents a room to Tessa; propels her to socialize and meet people; still suffering from a bad breakup

 

The Girls

Stacy – the company’s temp secretary; introduces Tessa to the crew

Rachel – a university student working as an event planner at the Blue Moon Casino;

Hailey – a tall, rockabilly styled woman who deals blackjack at the Blue Moon Casino

Kyla – a mechanic with a striking resemblance to Marilyn Monroe; she has incredible art talent

Cressida – suffers from agoraphobia; hasn’t left the bookstore since they moved there years ago

*Rachel, Hailey and Cressida are sister who own the local bookstore. The bookstore is suffering and needing a boost in sales and promotions. They also live there, so their home is in jeopardy.

 

The Geeks 

Abraham – head of the engineering team, worshiped for his coding skills, is very hard to get along with

Rodney – relatively nice guy

Fezza – probably Adam’s best friend

José – hits on everybody

 

The Quotes

“Dude! It’s New Year’s!” José said, nudging Adam from his place on Fezza’s pea-soup green sofa. “We’ve got ten monitors and a large screen set up for an epic twenty-four hour straight marathon, and you’re sitting here dinking away on your laptop?”

Adam didn’t even bother to look up from hsi screen. “Tod you. Got a project,” he said.

“Well then, why didn’t you stay at home?” José whined.

“Talk to Fezza.” Adam took a quick swig of Mountain Dew. “He’s the one who kidnapped me.”

“‘Kidnapped’ is such an ugly word,” Fezza interjected, clicking the keys of his game controller madly. “I prefer ‘forcibly invited.”

 

“If the shoe fits,” she ground out, “lace up that bitch and wear it!”

 

“I was just starting to get the hang of it. But you guys can’t keep trying to make me a healer, damn it. That’s sexist.”

“We’re making you a healer because you’re less likely to try killing your teamates, you dork,” Fezza said. “Every time you’re a barbarian, you kill me.”

She smiled, motioning him to come closer. “That’s because you’re an asshole,” she shared in a conspiratorial stage whisper.

The guys hooted.

Highs and Lows

  • + Tessa’s Drive. Tessa is a young woman driven to succeed. She doesn’t want to go back home with her tail between her legs. She talks at one point of being very different than her siblings and her mother, and she is setting out to accomplish her dreams. She knows she is basically blackballed in her career field. It is a man’s field, and she is trying to elevate herself in it. It’s not an easy task when it is clearly evident that she’s working with many who are sexist. Regardless, she’s going to prove herself…or go down trying.
  • – Adam. At times, Adam is great. At other times, Adam’s a jerk. He is the one who gets Tessa into the mess she winds up in, and basically throws her in the Lion’s Den. Then, he helps her. Toward the latter half of the book, there are several occasions where he has a blow-up moment and storms off. I didn’t like that. I understood it, sort of, but I didn’t like it.
  • + The Girls. Lordy, they are a group! They are so interesting and ecclectic, each in their own right and collectively, and from Tessa’s descriptions, they are gorgeous! I can only imagine what Hailey and Kyla look like. At the same time, there was a certain amount of depth to them, but also not a lot, which is understandable given this is the first installment in the series. However, Cressida *never* makes an appearance in the book at all. I was hoping she would toward the end.
  • – The Geeks. The guys Adam works with are a bunch of pigs, José especially. They are very sexist, as Tessa points out. I really didn’t like them for the vast majority of the book. I still don’t like Abraham. He’s just a dick.
  • + Tessa’s Scene @ The Restaurant. Woman’s got balls! She delivers and  blasts this slimeball so eloquently. It was the first time I realized there was more to Tessa than fluff and insecurity. It’s like there is an entire other side of her that doesn’t quite make it’s way all the way out. It also made me wonder if there were a more closely aligned reason for her ballsy speech.
  • – The Bookstore. Tessa is working herself into the ground trying to get this project for the bookstore up and going to enter into a contest. It’s a long shot, but it should definitely be a contender for the prize. It seems she hits a roadblock at every turn, which sets the tone for the project. I felt Tessa was fighting a losing game and I didn’t like that feeling at all, not after all she did for the sisters and all her efforts showing The Geeks what she can do.
  • + The Code-Off.  Yeah, there’s a code-off. And it’s AWESOME!

The Take-Away

What was there not to like about this book? There are The Girls and The Geeks, their two leaders, an crazy ex, a code-off, some lucrative job offers, and an almost lawsuit amidst this insane attraction. It’s like, just get together already! Everyone in The Girls and The Geeks would be all for it. Just do it already! That part was so angsty, and you know, the whole project part.

Recommendation – Buy, Borrow or Skip? 

BUY! This is a buy you won’t regret.

 

***** About the Author *****

Cathy Yardley needs to get out more. When not writing, she is probably cruising the Internet, sleeping or watching D-list movies and adding to her unnatural mental store of character-actor trivia. She is a closet fangirl forSupernatural, Sherlock, Doctor Who, and too many others to name. Her family is considering performing an intervention for her addiction to pop culture. Want to read more of her writing? Sign up for her notification list, and get a free novella, Hooked, from the Fandom Hearts series!

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

 

 

***** Giveaway *****

$25 Amazon GC (INT). Ends 1/27/16.

Prizing is provided by the author, hosts are not responsible. Must be 13 or older to enter and have parental permission if under 18. Void where prohibited by law. No purchase necessary to win.
This event was organized by CBB Book Promotions.