Review + Giveaway: Citadel of the Sky


Welcome to my tour stop for Citadel of the Sky by Chrysoula Tzavelas! This is an adult epic fantasy (clean and appropriate for YA readers) and the tour runs June 1-12 with reviews only. As you can see, I am one of the first stops on the tour, so I hope you enjoy and check out the rest of what’s to follow on the tour schedule.

CitadelOfTheSkyBookImageTitle: Citadel of the Sky
Author: Chrysoula Tzavelas
Publisher: dreamfarmer press
Release Date: May 2015
Length: 162 pages
Series?: no
Genre: Fantasy

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon 

Her (not very) Serene Highness Princess Tiana tries her best not to think about the dark lords ravaging her country or how the magic in her bloodline makes her family go mad. The descendant of a legendary hero, she prefers bringing the myths of old to life on the theater stage, not on the battlefield.

Then a rash of suspicious deaths strikes the Regents—trusted advisors, friends, and guides to her troubled royal family—and the Noble’s Council tries to cover it all up. Tiana is determined to get to the bottom of the murders and the conspiracy, even if that means making a dangerous pact with a telepathic demon trapped in a magical sword. But he may just be the edge she needs to save the people she loves.Cursed sword in hand, Tiana and her friends prepare to face the encroaching darkness­—and the ultimate truth about her and her family.

***** Review *****

Great-Uncle Jant’s Regent died of old age, and Cousin Cathay’s Regent was thrown from his horse, and Uncle Yithiere’s Regent had a heart attack, but it was all just bad luck until the King’s Regent died. It took more than bad luck to tear somebody’s arm off. It took a fiend, or a team of horses, or somebody really spiteful.

Those are some pretty powerful words, and the opening paragraph of the book. Citadel of the Sky is an intriguing mix of royalty, politics, history, conspiracy and suspicion. It also has an immense fantasy aspect.

Despite having these wonderful elements, I struggled getting started. The author could have done a better job front-loading readers with the basics of Tiana’s world, the phantasmagory and the creatures. All of the characters were quickly thrown at readers, and for a while it was hard to make the connections between them. I discovered that there was a characters list and a family tree in the back of the book. It would have helped me tremendously if I’d seen it before I started reading.

However, don’t be fooled. The plot is strong and filled with imagination. Tzavelas definitely put creativity to the test, and the action builds and then hits a crescendo and becomes very fast-paced.

The characters are what make the story worthwhile. They are interesting, complex, and for a royal family in the midst of troubled times, resilient. The royal family (the Blood) are blessed with magic, but a magic that leads to madness. It is all very psychological and readers get to see this first-hand. The characters work together to protect the Blood and to discover the inconsistencies in which they all grew up knowing as truth.

There is a fairly wide cast of characters, and the POV shifts between Tiana and Kiar. Like the rest of the royal family members and attendants, they each have a role throughout the book. I feel that those who were prominently featured will have bigger roles in the following installments. I enjoyed the deviation from the female character trope of strength and perfection in order for them to be interesting. Each female character has her own set of flaws, and these anomalies are what makes each one her own person and not a hazy, glossed over character in the background.

Tiana is the main character of the novel, but she is by far not the main focus. She is a young woman who resents being seen and treated as fragile, and she tries to act normal. Her counterpart, Kiar, is a very introverted character. On the exterior she is poised and in control, of course by doing those introverted things such as avoiding others and emotions, but on the inside she is consumed with self-doubt.

Tiana’s father, King Shonathan, just kind of drifts along throughout life trying to avoid any painful memories. Another royal cousin, Shanasee, has the greatest magical power of any of the royals. Despite having the most intense and powerful magic, Shanasee refuses to use it due to the horrific results of her actions while trying to end the previous magical threat to their kingdom.

We have Regents, who are our keepers, and we need them, because we can’t control ourselves, because we are mad, lost, cursed. 

The Regents are another complexity within the book and royal clan. They are in a strange area of gray, where they are not royal, they are not court attendants or followers, and they are not commoners. Instead, the Regents substantiate the royals as friend and relative. They also fall along the lines of a caregiver in many ways. Those selected as Regents grew up alongside the royals and they serve to help the royals control their magic.

After a time she heard, **Do not banish me from your hand. It would not help you. You will hear my voice, no matter how far you go.**

Now the sword sounded desperate, and she felt the barest twinge of pity. But she said, “Cathay is drawn to swords, and when I’m lost in the phantasmagory, I’m unpredictable.” She considered, and added, “Besides, you just stole my body. I don’t want you near me.” 

The middle of the book is where I was hooked – particularly Tiana’s budding relationship with the magical sword, Jinriki, sent to protect and teach Tiana. It can read Tiana’s mind, her thoughts, and also respond in kind. They get off to a rocky start, but their banter is crafted well and quite a draw.

**…In any case, you are my bearer now, and pretty princesses are far more likely to encounter unwanted suitors, in many forms than thieves.**

“What about wanted suitors?” 

**Do you desire suitors?**

“Well, yes!”

**Ah. That could be awkward.**

The ending fell slightly flat for me. Personally, I don’t typically like cliffhangers, and the book closed on a major cliffhanger that just wasn’t satisfying. I wanted things to be a little bit more clearly defined, but this makes me confident that the second installment will start off with a bang.

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

As an Air Force kid, Chrysoula went to twelve schools in twelve years and spent a lot of time wondering what made people tick. Books, it turned out, helped with that question. These days she lives in the Pacific Northwest with her family, which includes many small and demanding creatures who fight over her attention. Her first book, urban fantasy MATCHBOX GIRLS, was published in 2012 by the small press Candlemark & Gleam, followed annually by two more books in the same SENYAZA Series, all of which explore the impact of the supernatural on those who are— or who want to be— ordinary. Her next book, CITADEL OF THE SKY, is the first of a new series about the descendants of a Chosen One and the legacy of power and mental illness they’ve inherited. It’s also about Dark Lords and kicking butt in nice dresses.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

***** Giveaway *****

The author will be giving away $10 Gift Card to online bookseller of choice (INT) to three winners of the below Rafflecopter.  The giveaway ends June 16th.

Click here to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway!

This event was organized by CBB Book Promotions.

Book Review: Confessions of a Bad Teacher


Confessions of a Bad Teacher: The Shocking Truth from the Front Lines of American Public Education by John Owens (Sourcebooks, 2013)

John Owens is an editor, journalist, and photographer. Formerly, he was the Senior Vice President and Editorial Director at Hachette Filipacchi Media, where he oversaw brands including Road & TrackPopular Photography, and Travel Holiday. He has made more than 100 national media appearances, including Good Morning AmericaCBS This Morning, CNN, FOX News, and NPR’s All Things Considered.

For additional information about this book, see this earlier postYou can find John on Facebook. 

We talk about bad teachers, but too often we mean all teachers. 

I chose this book from a plethora available from publishers on NetGalley. Mainly I scope out fiction, but I singled out this book because it’s about education, and that’s what I do. With the evolving state standardized testing and the commentary I’ve overheard over the years about the backlash of poor performance, I knew this was something I had to read and share for all my fellow teachers out there — especially the new ones like me. I think most Americans can agree that our education system is broken, but those who have the power to change it don’t understand it. There have been many bills passed in the last 15 years that flew with the banner of improving education, but all they did was cripple education – and take away much-needed resources.

The principal and assistant principal were quite clear that Latinate was a model of school reform, and I quickly realized we were there to enforce that idea. 

In John’s school, he…

  • was told to “get together and figure out how to bring [a student] up to speed in [their] “spare time“” by the principal
  • had “observation reports and other alleged evidence that any shortcomings in [his] students’s academics or behavior was solely” his fault
  • had to insure that all of his students received passing marks on each failing assignment for each grading period – absolutely no failing grades on anything
  • was constantly berated for lacking classroom management skills, when conflicting instruction about it was presented by the principal and the hired mentors
  • was expected to teach in the poorest area in the nation, where students didn’t receive any special needs assistance due to budget cuts
  • was blamed for all the happenings in his classroom, due to him being “a bad teacher”
  • reported to the police by the school principal for holding his students 10 minutes after school for deplorable behavior
  • was threatened at every turn to receive a U (Unsatisfactory rating) by the principal (which, for first-year teachers meant he wouldn’t be allowed to teach in NY ever again)

If we are not willing to pay, we will have to leave some children behind. 

really want to discuss this book, with teachers vetted and new, and share the content and commentary I experienced while reading this book. But we’d be here for days, maybe weeks. Once I’d reached the halfway point in this book I realized my highlighting and noting in my e-book had significantly increased, indications of all the vital pieces of this book I wanted to share in this post. Unfortunately there are just too many, so I’ve tried my best to showcase what I found most important about Confessions of a Bad Teacher.

If you are a teacher or a parent of public school children, I urge you to read this book.

If you are a school paraprofessional/administrator (ahem, superintendents) or you sit on the school board, I urge you to read this book. It will shed more light on the workings of your teachers – and might be an eye opener to your high vantage perch.

If you pay public school taxes, volunteer in a school or other community events, take a look at this book. Perhaps you can find a place in the public school system that could utilize your skills as a community member and volunteer.

It seemed quite a lot when I first started (probably because I had to start and stop constantly), but it is well worth the read and provides insight into experiences and similar aspects that teachers all across the country are dealing with in their classrooms, with their principals, on their campus, and in their district. For parents, it will give a whole new meaning and definition to the job and duties of your child’s teacher, and the conflicting dilemmas they are often put in.

Owens doesn’t just spout off the shortcomings and cheating, from students all the way up the ladder to the principal; he provides evidence from various, related  well-publicized studies that have documented the particulars in classrooms and campuses across the country. Most of his students should have qualified and been tested for special education or other learning and behavioral disorders, such as dyslexia and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactive disorder). “But dealing with these students as the law required would have meant employing a school nurse and many more special-education teachers.” Our federal government has made it clear over the last 15 years or so that education is not an important concern for our country, with massive budget cuts every legislative session, usually with states following suit. Cutting corners is as old as time, but cutting out necessary positions for students with very strong needs, that is mandated by law they be given the option to receive, shows the absolute devaluation of our children and their education. And often, these are children of poverty. And they are the ones who experience the brunt and hardship of budget cuts.

So, instead of directly addressing the problems of these kids, the administration made the students’ problems the classroom teachers’ problems, pretending that they weren’t really special-education students at all. 

It’s a tough message to hear in today’s tight economy, but high needs schools are called that for a reason, and it’s time we started helping them,  not hurting. 

This book is filled with humor and sarcasm, with stories that I think almost anybody, regardless of your attachment to public education, can probably relate to with the evolution of the teenager over the course of the last few years. Indeed, one thing that struck me absolutely funny yet honestly true was a statement John received in the tonnage of paperwork for his New Teacher Orientation: We must never count on the copier working. So, so true. At least Latinate had the decency to warn him of that often occurring mishap.

Like Ms. P, America is demanding too much from its teachers without giving them the proper support to educate students effectively. 

John describes some things that were handed down during his New Teacher Orientation…and they are still handed down in teacher preparation courses, or in district policy. I experienced some of the same things during the course of my two-year teacher prep courses and field blocks (classroom field experience prior to student teaching). I was told in my middle school block (spring 2012) in a Central Texas consolidated school district that I “must support the social, emotional and academic needs of [my] students” just as Owens was instructed – but I had to go several steps further: I also had to support their physical and psychological needs – and all of this “support” must be documented in each lesson plan, and exactly how this support is provided. For example, if students would be out of their desks and moving around, I would have to include something to this effect in my lesson plan:

According to the NMSA, this lesson addresses student’s physical needs by allowing movement throughout the lesson. This alleviates the discomfort of students experiencing growth spurts and….

The kids, the teachers, and the administrators in the American public school system are awash in a sea of corruption. 

Also in the district that hosted me for my field blocks and student teaching, it was policy that students receive nothing below an 80 for all non-test grades, and nothing below a 70 on test grades. And the kids knew it too! When some found out they received a test grade between the 70-79 range, they immediately asked if they could retake the test for a higher grade – and they did this because the previous school year it was that way. Essentially, the administration gave unlimited number of attempts to have the highest grade possible on all assignments and tests, setting up students for an unrealistic outlook of the real world and life as they will experience it outside of the public education system. Students were sent to ZAP, an ineffective lunch program where students were responsible for getting their lunch and reporting to a designated classroom to complete their assignments, make-up work or corrections. A teacher volunteered her free period to act as a monitor and allow a space for students to complete their work. No administrator or other designated teacher on duty received a list of ZAP students and escorted them to ZAP. Only the student who cared about their work went to ZAP.

The same was the case with John Owens when he taught at Latinate: he could not give students less than a 65, to allow a 10 point range for students to bring up their grade to slightly above the fail line, which had been pushed back to 65 to reflect better passing rates. If he failed a student, he had to “insure that each failing mark for each marking period [was] reversed to a passing mark via makeup work.” In other words, doctor the grades; the grown-up form of cheating on a test. And it’s not just the teachers who must fudge the numbers, principals and administrators do as well, with several documented cases of school districts falsifying standardized test scores over the last several years. Obama’s Race to the Top, “which got underway in early 2010,” passes out rewards to states via federal funding – and the biggest way to do this is set up a measurable system where teachers are directly held accountable for their students’ standardized test scores. This has done nothing to help decrease the cheating epidemic in public education. Our educational system is “massaged, manipulated and invent[s] data [as] part of an even wider systematic failure in education evaluation.”

John discussed the two largest pieces of legislation that have effected education policy: George Bush’s No Child Left Behind and Barrack Obama’s Race to the Top. He explains exactly what NCLB was, how it was structured, and the aims of the act. It is quite a parallel to Obama’s Race to the Top, which he also discusses, but with one very distinct difference: NCLB measured school districts as a representative entity of its students based on their test scores, and Obama’s “Race” has given school districts and principals to fire teachers based solely on their students’ test scores. He talks about how policy makers and district officials are looking for a instantaneous miracles overnight, which we all know is impossible. Yet people keep trying to “fix” education and see immediate results. If not, you’re a bad teacher.

Perhaps the greatest miracle of all would be America recognizing that saving our educational system would be a long-term, big-budget project similar to the way we tend to look at things like wars

Like with John, classroom management was thrown around A LOT in my own teacher-training courses, most notably in my middle school field block. The topic of classroom management was grazed, but never discussed. Just that “it is all about your classroom management.” Your kids need to have routine and know your classroom management style. If you have classroom management, your kids won’t act up because they know what you expect. (I have three younger  brothers who not only push the envelope of my mother’s expectations, but tear it wide open, and have also done that in their classes, a most obvious observation that whoever says this is not truly in touch with the youth of today.) Like John, I’m still confused about classroom management. What exactly does it mean? How do you do it? Where’s the Teacher’s Instructional Manual to Classroom Management? Why isn’t there a rule book for this? Why does something Coach Jones uses in his classroom not work for Ms. Smith’s students?

The nuts and bolts of classroom management and instruction are essential to a teacher’s success, yet from what I could see, the people in teacher training and licensing haven’t’ gotten that message. 

No, indeed they haven’t. This is the number one issue for first-year teachers, because this is an area where teachers are left to their own devices…and often the reason those who had difficult first years leave the teaching field.

The Latinate Institute was “[F]ounded on the noble mission of helping kids who otherwise wouldn’t go to college,” and its primary responsibility was to “improve student achievement.”  Obviously you can see how that worked out, and how much we are failing our students. Owens left his first year teaching not quite half-way through the spring semester to go back into the publishing world because of the lack of support from his principal, and all of the corrupt and inane things he was required to do and ultimately blamed for. The principal and assistant principal were removed from Latinate at the beginning of the following school year by New York Department of Education officials. Owens also shares where his fellow teachers and some of his students ended up as the conclusion of this book. It is quite telling.

Owens gives 10 recommendations to start work on fixing our blatantly broken education system. But those recommendations, which are quite thought-out and excellent, are not going to go anywhere without a national conversation and push for a better education for the children of America.

If you want to help in some way, or want to find out exactly what’s going on in classrooms, Owens lists a few solid groups or individuals who have it figured out that you can partner up with to help, or just become more informed :

*Author’s Note: As a recent graduate, I’ve accepted my first teaching post in a Central Texas school district located in an area that has exploded over the last 10 years and is no longer considered rural as of this year. Based on things I experienced during my field blocks and student teaching, and the experiences John Owens had in his reform school described in this book, it’s a very real fear that I could be fired when my students’ test scores come in next summer. Indeed, both of the same grade-level, subject-level teachers I and my partner replaced were new teachers and are no longer with the district, and most of the teachers in my department from the 2012-2013 school year have left my campus and the district entirely. The fact that my district provides a first-year teacher mentoring program does nothing to ease my jitters of first-year teaching. If you are a veteran teacher, I would love to hear from you about your classroom management and all manner of other things! Email me at

Coming Soon: Confessions of a Bad Teacher

17016779Confessions of a Bad Teacher: The Shocking Truth from the Front Lines of American Public Education by John Owens (Sourcebooks, 2013)

John Owens is an editor, journalist, and photographer. Formerly, he was the Senior Vice President and Editorial Director at Hachette Filipacchi Media, where he oversaw brands including Road & TrackPopular Photography, and Travel Holiday. He has made more than 100 national media appearances, including Good Morning AmericaCBS This Morning, CNN, FOX News, and NPR’s All Things Considered.

New Book Claims the Problem with American Public Education Is Not “Bad Teachers”

Author Exposes the War on Education: School Reform Earns an F for Cheating Children, Demonizing Teachers, and Mistaking Data for Learning

“John Owens’s book is an eye-opener about what happens in real classrooms today. It shatters many of the myths about ‘school reform.’” Diane Ravitch, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education and bestselling author of The Death and Life of the Great American School System

Author John Owens left his lucrative publishing job in Manhattan to teach English at a public high school in New York City’s South Bronx, the nation’s poorest congressional district. He thought he could do some good. Faced with a flood of struggling students, Owens devised ingenious ways to engage every last one. But as his students began to thrive under his tutelage, Owens found himself increasingly mired in a broken educational system, driven by broken statistics, finances, and administrations undermining their own support system—the teachers.

“Everyone claimed that the kids were the top priority,” says Owens, “but the students were just cast members of a bizarre, heartbreaking drama that only looked like education.”

The situation has gotten to the point where the phrase “Bad Teacher” is almost interchangeable with “Teacher.” And Owens found himself labeled just that when the methods he saw inspiring his students didn’t meet the reform mandates. With firsthand accounts from teachers across the country and tips for improving public schools, Confessions of a Bad Teacher is an eye-opening call-to-action to embrace our best educators and create real reform for our children’s futures.

“Billionaires blame teachers for America’s educational problems and throw money at ‘fixing’ our public schools without understanding the dynamics of teaching,” says Owens. “Public education is a precious part of our democracy. Our families, our future, and our country are paying an unbelievable price as ‘reformers’ dismantle an education system that once was—and still should be—the envy of the world.”

As Owens points out in Confessions of a Bad Teacher, the real issues in American public education include:

  • Poverty, the leading cause of problems in schools, not the teachers trying to overcome issues beyond their control.
  • Test scores and other data used to evaluate student and teacher performance. Not only does a constant barrage of tests impede learning, but such a single-minded reliance also invites cheating.
  • Discipline, which is not taken seriously, and a system that forces teachers—and teachers alone—to handle even the most serious problems and most disruptive students.
  • Teacher evaluations, which vary widely from district to district, and focus on punishing educators rather than helping them improve.

Here is what one fellow NetGalley reviewer had to say about Confessions of a Bad Teacher:

This is my school, this is my experience, this is my career. And it’s all laid out far more succinctly and calmly that I could ever have done. This book is going into the school library if I have to pay for it with my own money. The teachers (and parents, if any of them pick it up) have got to see that what we are going through isn’t just us, it isn’t just an isolated situation. God bless John Owens, where ever he is.” –  Allison Dollar – School Librarian, Gallup, NM

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Book Review: Gabe’s Plan

Gabe’s Plan by Andrew Stock (Createspace, 2012)

Genre: fiction, suspense, criminal justice

cover art

A little bio about Andrew, per his Goodreads profile:

Andrew Stock is the co-screenwriter of The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard (Paramount, 2009). He has Ph.D. in Political Theory from the University of Colorado and a law degree from the University of Texas. He currently works as an attorney for a non-profit organization in North Platte, Nebraska, where he lives. Gabe’s Plan is his first novel.

*Let me preempt by saying I entered the Goodreads book give-away for Andrew’s book. He contacted me via Goodreads and offered to send me a free copy of the book if I’d be willing to write a review, which is no problem for me. I was pleasantly surprised and quite excited that an author sought me out since I’ve just embarked on this book blogging journey. However, Andrew’s kindness has no affect on the content or opinions of this review. Enjoy!

When I first saw the cover art, I was expecting a quant, heartwarming story of some fool man scheming up a romantic plan to win back his heartbroken woman…until I read the book synopsis. Holy Hera! I knew it would be a good read, with repressed lovers, mental health issues and vengeance at the core. I did feel the synopsis said a little too much, but I had a feeling Stock has some unsuspected twists up his sleeve.

Reading the first chapter, I wasn’t expecting quite the content it contained. Fair warning: this is most definitely NOT a “teen” (young adult) book. Expect derogatory, homophobic and sexual commentary like “pulling down panties and spreading”, “new swinging dick,” “fuck his drunk brains out” and blowing a wad. I feel like this is my somewhat douche-y brother talking. So if you are surprised or shocked by that type of language, you can take it in style or take offense – but I encourage you to keep reading.

“…on this painted sky morning, Gabe was certain the American people would wake up ready to send Bush back to Texas, where everything is bigger, including the size of the dipshit in its politics.”

Although the book starts off with Gabe casting his presidential election vote at his elementary school and knowing from the synopsis that he is the DA, I didn’t think there would be much of a political influence. I have to ask myself, Is this a little of the author’s barbing opinion coming out? I wasn’t sure, but I am a Texan born and bred, after all. In all seriousness, I often don’t agree with politics or politicians – no matter the party or the person. I believe in doing what is right, and what makes sense. And I have a sense of humor, and that’s how I read this part. So I’d advise taking this book with a little grain of salt if politics are not your cup of tea. Mmmm, salty tea…not so delish. Let’s make it sugar?

In all seriousness, after the flagrant political and douche bag comments, I was ready to chuck the book, but I pressed on. And then I was ready to give a very critical review of the political nature underlying the book. But…it grew on me. If you are ready to toss this book like I was, keep reading. You are indeed in for a treat.

The Main Players:

  • Gabe, an intelligent Iraqi war veteran with a limp (and the story spread all across his small hometown of Pine Springs, Colorado) is no newcomer to politics. Although he is the District Attorney, his father was the mayor of Pine Springs, and his brother is now the sheriff. Gabe has moved back into his childhood home with Mom after his father’s recent death. Unlike his sheriff brother, Gabe is pro-Kerry and hates Bush – who cost him his leg – with a passion. He often wishes his thoughts weren’t so trivial and normal, but more of Einstein quality.
  • Chad, arrogant, spoiled, 5-time big screen (and womanizing) movie star fresh to Pine Springs for some “R and R” at a whopping $15mil estate he bought (why not rent?) has his eye on local  Kaila, who just happens to be carrying the torch for someone else. Quite a challenge, Chaddie. Gabe sure has set Chad off in a fit – all because of Kaila. Let me say this: Chad is an egotistical jackass of a bully. I mean, the man greets his agent, “Hey fag.”
  • Kaila, 23-year-old movie-loving rasta barista, doesn’t want any of Chad because she’s on a mission: finally win over her childhood crush, Gabe, who dropped unmentioned (probably drug-related) charges against her – and she has a plan to get him.
  • Fred, Gabe’s sheriff brother, is pro-Bush and so naive. He’s not a good people-reader. Poor guy. But he is gung-hoe about his job – and seizes opportunities, albeit a little illegally.

Despite his womanizing ways, Chad is a “devout Republican and a big-time believer in the institution of monogamous heterosexual marriage.” He has no care for how his overt sexcapades can end up hurting his Hollywood image (or is that his image?) let alone a ton of women, but he cares for the sanctity of marriage. Seriously? What a contradiction! Chad’s “moral grounding” doesn’t hold much water.

My oldest brother, then 18, graduating basic training. Ft. Benning, GA | Oct. 2011.

Stock has set up a good foil here: Chad and Gabe are opposites. Gabe is an intelligent war veteran-turned-attorney. He is respectable (both in part from his war tour and his current DA job) and due to his position, beyond moral reproach. Chad on the other hand, is a glutton bully with ravishing sexual habits. He’s the kind of douche who will hog the sidewalk and make a gimp war veteran step off the path and into a puddle. This strikes a special cord in me, as the men in my family have all given up of their bodies and abilities to serve our country in almost every branch. Needless to say, I don’t see much growth for Chad. And Gabe’s the kind of guy who will say his peace, yet again be shoehorned because he’ll be late for his DA appointments. But one too many times and… just keep on smirking asshole.

Chad is most definitely threatened by Gabe – he uses multisyllabic words! With Chad and Gabe’s feud over Kaila, Chad may have more monetary influence, but Gabe has more power and the upper hand. I’m not sure that he loves, let alone likes Kaila overmuch, but he’s placing her in the hot seat to pursue his vengeance of Chad the Bully. I’m sure I’ve seen that episode of Cold Case Files; cop frames ex-lover’s paramour and takes him down – and despite my propriety for right and justice…in that sick and twisted way that is human nature, I get it. I really do. It’s relatable – no matter the situation. Someone consistently abuses their powers (whether supposed like Chad’s, or real like Gabe’s) at the expense of others, and karma’s a bitch of a payback.

Unfortunately, unbeknownst to him, Gabe is caught in a love triangle…or square without one side – and it may just blow his case, which he claims is the “biggest criminal case of the 21st century,” and not just because his assistant wants to be “on Gabe faster than a coyote on a sack of cheeseburgers” to “fuck his drunk brains out.” Now, that made me laugh! But that quickly changed – and just as I predicted, Stock delivers a quite shocking twist, and then another when Gabe creates an imaginary friend, who just might ruin everything…

Archangel Gabriel, c. 13th century, Anonymous

Despite what the book synopsis says, I was surprised because it’s not so much Gabe pushing for this revenge as it is Kaila…and although Gabe is dealing with some, er, personal issues, he has visits from his hero, past president Abe Lincoln, and a very unlikely series of conversations ensue. I couldn’t help but notice Gabe’s hero of choice, Abe, is juxtaposed next to Gabe’s name after a particularly pivotal point in the book…and makes me think Gabe means Guilty Abe. I also found it interesting that Stock used the name Gabriel for the main character. We all know Gabriel served as a messenger between God and humans in Biblical times. Is this another manifestation of Gabe’s ego?

The time setting of the book is finally revealed in Chapter 9, when Gabe starts recording information about the trial for his next book at his book agent’s request. Although it’s not made clear how much time has passed, it doesn’t seem more than a short few months. His first entry is dated September 2005 after the preliminary hearing, yet at the beginning of the book Bush had just been re-elected, which would have been November 2004. The timing isn’t fully revealed, but it does take a while to get a case to trial.

I think Stock’s personal sense of humor can be found through Gabe’s writing: he juxtaposes Gabe’s free-writing of a college English class and bad grammar with an incredibly long and somewhat comical run-on sentence, like the awkward boy-next-door type. As an English minor, I can see irony, humor and reality of it.

And the humor continues…

And just as it is always darkest before the dawn, it is always quietest in a courtroom before a witness answers a question about where his penis had been. 

Actually, he probably loved his kids more than Gabe, but they were four and six-years-old and didn’t seem like real people yet – more like talking pets. 

Fight Club Pic 018
Norton and Pitt in Fight Club

As I read further into the last few chapters through the thick and heavy, I had an epiphany. Gabe and his imaginary friend remind me starkly of Edward Norton’s role as The Narrator and Brad Pitt’s role as Tyler Durden in Fight Club. I did an extensive writing project on this movie for my freshman English class, so I’m very familiar with the movie. If you’re not, I encourage you to watch it – a few times – after you’ve read Gabe’s Plan to see the connection. I don’t want to give it away and ruin the movie, or the book, for readers, but the closing photo is a hint.

There’s no neat way to wrap up this novel at the time immediately after the trial, so it surprised me that there was an epilogue. After Fred revealed some of his knowledge to brother Gabe earlier in the book, I was sure the closing arguments of the trial would be the ending of the book – clear cut, yet ambiguous.  (I know, what a paradox.) The epilogue is set right at Obama’s win over McCain in 2008, and Gabe has indeed become a great man. However, you’ll be surprised who he meets…and the outcome of a murder.