Giveaway Day!

Book Giveaway! 

Shackled by Angela Carling

13629012After shy, quiet Lucy and her family move from their small hometown in Minnesota to Seattle, Washington, she is surprised when Ryan, the most popular boy at school, asks her out. Soon, she is swept up in a whirlwind romance and her naive and trusting nature allows her to fall head over heels in love with her too-good-to-be-true suitor. Suddenly, Lucy finds herself enraptured by the excitement of her new relationship, leaving her blinded to the warning signs of danger ahead. Can her fairy tale romance last, or will she find that her prince charming is more like a wolf in sheep’s clothing?

Find the book: Website | Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble 

Click the Rafflecopter link below to enter the giveway! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The giveaway opens at 12 AM on January 16 and closes at 12 AM on January 22.

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About the Author

I was born and raised in Palm Springs, California and after living in several different states ended up back in yet another desert in Arizona, where I reside with my husband, three kids and five cats.  We’ve now lived here for ten years and haven’t melted yet, although we have fried eggs on the sidewalk. We love to escape to our cabin in the mountains or to my favorite place, the beach. I have several obsessions, including my passion for all kinds of music and my inability to stop buying cheap jewelry. I am often caught singing in public bathrooms, just for the acoustics, or rollerblading through my neighborhood while singing loudly to whatever is playing on my iPod. I love to have lots of flowers in my garden and shiny things in my house.  My favorite holiday of all (going along with the shiny things theme) is Christmas. All in all, I consider myself the luckiest, most blessed person alive and am so happy to have this opportunity to write and also to share my writing with other people!

Find the author: Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Book Review: Becoming Bryn

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Becoming Bryn

Title: Becoming Bryn
Author: Angela Carling
Publisher: Acacia Publishing
Release Date: June 2013
Length: 310 pages
Series?: n/a
Genre: YA
Format: e-book
Source: author
Challenge: n/a

Find the book: Website | Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble 

Synopsis

For months, Jesse has been envious of her twin sister Bryn and even has a crush on Bryn’s gorgeous, popular boyfriend, Quinton. When Jesse awakens from a coma to learn that everyone thinks she IS Bryn, the option of actually taking over her sister’s life is beyond tempting, but there’s a downside. She’d have to give up Ethan, her best friend and the only person she trusts. Could she actually live as Bryn for the rest of her life? And if her family and friends found out, would they ever forgive her?

Review

If I had known today that I would take the first step toward the biggest mistake of my life, I would’ve stayed home. 

I knew before reading this book what it was about, but for some reason about a quarter of the way through I started resenting the book. I lost a sister – not my twin, but she was a twin – and this caused a decade of issues between my mother and me. It was hard for me to continue reading, reflecting on what my life had been like losing a sister, compared to how Bryn’s family is taking it in: in particular the references to Bryn being the favored (and perhaps more loved?) daughter.

Finally, my true feelings, the ones that I’d been denying for a good three months, gave way and I whispered, “I want to be loved like that.”

I  became peeved at the ease in which Jesse seemed to take over Bryn’s life. Besides having to learn how to wear popular clothing (that matched!), accessorize, and amp up the make-up skills, it seemed like a piece of cake….at first. And that’s when I got hooked. My attitude about this book and Jesse’s character – and Bryn’s for that matter – completely changed, and I think it is because Angela Carling did an interesting thing in this book.

My parents had always told me that life isn’t fair. Apparently neither was death. 

Many people believe in some form of an afterlife after people pass away, that loved ones have a place to go. Many people also believe in spirits/ghosts of some sort who hang around taking care of unfinished business. Carling incorporates both of these ideas into her novel, and creates a defined place for what this afterlife looks like. There are alternating chapters between Jesse and Bryn, in which Bryn explains the composition of the afterlife, and gets to view Jesse – and all those in her life – through an observation window. She is able to change the view in which she sees Jesse, and pan to other people at different locations. Bryn is not alone: she meets and elderly woman named Tu and a young girl named Summer, who are deadies like Bryn, that wait with Bryn and help her ease into the new transition of the afterlife. Tu and Summer teach Bryn things, help her realize things. And they wait with Bryn to see how Jesse’s new life will play out.

By taking over Bryn’s life, I was supposed to be improving people’s lives, not making them worse. 

Most importantly, Bryn learns she can send Jesse messages through Jesse’s dreams. This is what she does to send Jesse to her own journals, where she wrote all manner of things down every day – right down to the exact outfit she wore. Through these journals, Jesse could have learned the truth about Bryn’s life before it was too late – before more mistakes were made. But all of these things come to a head, and through Bryn’s journals, Jesse discovers her sister in a new light. Bryn is no longer an artificial, popular girl. She’s a girl who was proud of her sister, inspired by her sister, who took a job to donate money to a very worthy cause for something much-needed. In a lot of ways, Bryn wanted to trade lives with Jesse, which is how they ended up where they are after trading costumes at Halloween.

At least, if Jesse was going to steal my identity, she was finally starting to do it with some guts and that made me proud of her. 

Throughout the novel, Bryn experiences growth in her dead state, and Jesse also experiences growth. I don’t think this novel would be complete without Bryn’s commentary and visions from the afterlife, through the observation window. Initially, she is pissed that her sister is trying to take over her life, that once the injuries from the accident have healed, her sister is not speaking up about her true identity. But being a woman, she thinks she has the last word: Quinton isn’t the perfect boyfriend like Jesse thinks – let her find out the hard way! But Bryn has a change of heart, and in the end tries desperately to intervene and finish her business on earth through Jesse…or at least steer Jesse in the right direction. Bryn is definitely more than meets the eye.

As the novel was wrapping up, I saw a distinct turn of events that I knew were going to end badly, but Carling had some tricks up her sleeve, and she was able to pull off something flawless through Bryn’s journals. I thought I had it all figured out, and then a sweet twist got thrown in.

My one “aaaarrrrggghhh!” moment with this book was at the point when Jesse’s mom shares a personal story of how she actually ended up marrying their father – and the mistakes she made and the consequences she has lived with. She tells Jesse that you can change your life, but that doesn’t make the consequences disappear. Instead of heeding this advice and mirroring it in the romantic way it was intended, Jesse totally disregards it and does what she wants: pursue’s Bryn’s no-good, lying, cheating rich, gorgeous boyfriend Quinton. That was my only real beef. I feel that she didn’t try hard enough pursuing her other option, giving it enough time to come to fruition before jumping the gun and settling…on a bad choice.

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About the Author

I was born and raised in Palm Springs, California and after living in several different states ended up back in yet another desert in Arizona, where I reside with my husband, three kids and five cats.  We’ve now lived here for ten years and haven’t melted yet, although we have fried eggs on the sidewalk. We love to escape to our cabin in the mountains or to my favorite place, the beach. I have several obsessions, including my passion for all kinds of music and my inability to stop buying cheap jewelry. I am often caught singing in public bathrooms, just for the acoustics, or rollerblading through my neighborhood while singing loudly to whatever is playing on my iPod. I love to have lots of flowers in my garden and shiny things in my house.  My favorite holiday of all (going along with the shiny things theme) is Christmas. All in all, I consider myself the luckiest, most blessed person alive and am so happy to have this opportunity to write and also to share my writing with other people!

Find the author: Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Do you care about reading?

Well, do ya?

Then go vote for my school!

Right now, it’s questionable whether any language arts classes in my 5th-8th grade school will have any classroom computers to utilize. I’ve already heard it’s hard to get into the computer lab once people start booking it because they’re computer hogs. I want to be able to do one classroom reading blog with all of my students from all of my classes (2 Pre-AP ELA, 5 regular ELA and “Impact”) to be able to participate in a reading community using technology. Not only will it help with their writing and editing skills, it will also help teach them online etiquette AND motivate them to read. If they don’t read their books, they can’t participate in the blog.

Target is giving $5 million away to schools – you just have to go vote for it! Once a school gets 25 votes, they get $25. Every vote after that equals a dollar donated. You can vote weekly until September 21 or until all of the $5 million has been awarded.

All of my readers, please go vote for my school – and if you’re feeling particularly benevolent, go share the link with your friends. I appreciate all of the support!

Book Review: The Next Thing on My List

The Next Thing on My List by Jill Smolinski (Shaye Areheart Books, 2007)

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Genre: fiction,

I received a digital copy via Smashwords in return for an honest review.

After a car accident in which her passenger, Marissa, dies, June Parker finds herself in possession of a list Marissa has written: “20 Things to Do by My 25th Birthday.” The tasks range from inspiring (run a 5K) to daring (go braless) to near-impossible (change someone’s life). 

To assuage her guilt, June races to achieve each goal herself before the deadline, learning more about her own life than she ever bargained for. (Amazon)

I’d only met her the night she died. 

This book has gotten mixed reviews on Goodreads and Amazon. However, I find it quite interesting that reviewers on Amazon didn’t make the same statements (and lower ratings) than those on Goodreads. I think this is due in large part to Amazon being a consumer site for purchasing. Goodreads is straight-up people who enjoy books (and in my opinion, know more about what they’re talking about). I also heard they’ll be turning this into a movie…

This is an incredibly light read, great to take on a trip and a good read for summertime.

First – the promoted reviews of entities (not individuals) doesn’t do this book justice, at all.

June Parker, the main character, is a newbie to a Weight Watchers class – and as she’s leaving fellow classmate Marissa Jones – who just reached her weight goal of losing 100 pounds! – is waiting for the bus. June decides some of Marissa’s luck will rub off on her, and gives her a ride. But it ends in tragedy – Marissa is thrown from the vehicle. June attends the funeral, all bruised and in casts.

The only thing that brought me out of the hole was a soul brave enough to reach in and grab me. 

June is wracked with guilt – mostly, that she lived and Marissa died…and it all stems from a list. Marissa made a list of 20 things she wanted to do before her 25th birthday, and only one item was crossed off. She died before she could cross off “Wear sexy shoes,” June discovered once the items of the scene were returned to her. She gave all of Marissa’s belongings back to her family except for the list, which she doesn’t mention until she bumps into Marissa’s brother, Troy, six months later at her grave.

June admits to keeping the list, and in a panic, spins a heart-felt lie she is then compelled to keep:  complete the items on the list before Marissa’s 25th birthday. In less than six months.

People are living too much or too little, and I wondered if anyone out there is living the right amount.

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Try, try again!

And completing the list proves for June that she was really quite boring and didn’t have an aspirations or direction in her life. She was literally going through the motions, not speaking up at work when her boss steals her ideas to pass off as her own (until they fail!) and letting her co-workers torment and humiliate her. Hell if she’s telling them what she’s trying to do, when they’re accusing her of killing Marissa!

Through trying to complete items on the list, June…

  • establishes better relationships with her coworkers
  • enlists the help of her coworkers to accomplish work tasks and list tasks
  • finds the “perfect” guy – Marissa’s brother, Troy
  • sets out to change some lives – her brother’s and his wife’s, and her Little Sister Deedee
  • gets a backbone, takes charge of work tasks, and sells herself to the big boss Lou
  • finds a relationship with an unlikely person
  • realizes how much Marissa set out to do
  • realizes she had no motivation for anything in life
  • tries…and fails

Some of June’s plans go wrong, some are quite hair-brained, and some of the items are difficult. Who is Buddy Fitch? She enlists the help of her blind date, coworkers, Troy, family and Little Sister to complete the list. There is a lot of sarcasm and humor in doing it all.

I’d already done the finger-counting thing and realized the most sleep I could hope for was five hours.

As I said, this is a quick and light read. I enjoyed it for the sake of reading, but was left unsatisfied. June is only the completing the items on the list for sake of completing them because she LIED to the dead girl’s brother. Way to start off on a good foot. And the big boss, Lou Bigwood, is notoriously known for “finding” good-looking women (dubbed Charlie’s Angels) at conferences to manage his company… seriously, Bigwood? Big wood? Come on!Big-Brother-Big-Sister

Throughout the whole book June makes snarky comments about her parents and her brother, who was obviously the favorite…and yet, she writes a letter “expressing gratitude” to her brother to show how much he means to her. Since rules were set down that actions to complete the items on the list had to be genuine, this one doesn’t count. June failed on that one. She sets out on changing a life by signing up to be a Big Sister – who she parts ways with after a difficult last-minute decision and heartbreak for June’s own brother and his wife.

The thing that made me feel any kind of emotion was an incident between June and Troy. He made it quite clear how he felt about June’s efforts to “change a life” Plan A. And yet, she still crushing on him. NO! If a man can’t deal with a non-life-threatening decision, such as wanting a child on your own terms, kick him six streets down! Troy proves to still be somewhat of a friend, and at times it seems they will reconcile, but June discovers something quite unexpected.

The ending was cheap and bland – I expected much more. The one good thing I liked: June decides it’s time she make her own list.

I knew there was something that I needed even more: the truth. I’d been running from it for a long time, and now it was time to face it. 

Jill is the author of two other novels, Objects of My Affection and Flip-Flopped: A Novel, as well as several how-to origami books.

Readers: if you enjoy bucket lists, check out this excellent blog post. Maybe some of the items on your list will change, maybe some of them will be borrowed or added by others. You never know.

What’s on YOUR list? Check out mine in an up-coming post.

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