Audiobook Review + Giveaway: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by

Title: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
Author: Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Published: February 21st 2012 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary / LGBTQI
Audiobook: April 9th 2013 by Simon & Schuster Audio
Read By: Lin-Manuel Miranda

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Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.

This book, you guys. This book. It had me so worried at times. All the similar titles I’ve read this year have all ended up disappointing me in some way. Not so this one. No disappointment, but I was worried that it was going to break my heart. Talk about severely withholding gratification.

I don’t even think I have a proper review in me. I felt so many feels that now I don’t know what I am even feeling anymore. I want to laugh. I want to cry. THIS BOOK. LOVED IT. SO MUCH.


Right, let’s attempt coherency. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is about a 15 year old boy, Ari, who is having one hell of a time growing up. He feels broken and disjointed and has a hard time opening up to people. Then he meets this other boy, Dante, who is the complete opposite. Dante is demonstrative, passionate and not afraid of talking about his feelings. It kind of freaks Ari out, and in all honesty, other than a shared nationality, they have very little in common. But somehow they click and a sometimes rocky, sometimes steadfast friendship develops and together they discover that there is so much about growing up and being men that they still need to learn.

It is beautifully written. Ari may not be big on talking and sharing, but everything he feels is so raw and powerful that you can’t help but be drawn into his world. His incredibly angsty, angry world at times. I found it a very authentic teen boy voice, full of confusion and insecurity and hope. There were laugh out loud moments, and moments that made me all misty eyed. As much as I wanted everything to turn out all right, I didn’t want the story to ever end.

My favorite part about this story is that it was so universal. Ari and Dante are of Hispanic descent, and the story is set in the late 1980s, but they could be any boys from anywhere, and it could have taken place this very year. The questions and lessons they struggle with are just that big.

In fact, I loved this so much, I want to share it with someone else. Let me buy you a copy!


Contest Rules:

  • Open Internationally (as long as The Book Depository ships to you). Alternately, you can choose the ebook from Amazon.
  • Must be 13 to enter
  • Winners will be notified via email
  • A new winner will be chosen if a response is not received within 48 hours
  • Contest ends June 28th, 2013

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Narrator: Lin-Manuel Miranda

I really enjoyed Lin-Manuel Miranda’s portrayal of Ari. He speaks nice and clear and injects just enough emotion into the story that it had me captured (and enraptured) the entire time. There was only one downside for me, his Ari voice and Dante voice didn’t have much difference, and many parts of the story have them talking without any dialogue tags. Maybe it’s just my short attention span, but every now and then I lost track of who was speaking and was all ?? That said, it didn’t make me love the story any less and I fully intend to keep the audiobook on my iPod for those days I just want to feel something deeper.

Benjamin Alire Sáenz (born 16 August 1954) is an award-winning American poet, novelist and writer of children’s books.

He was born at Old Picacho, New Mexico, the fourth of seven children, and was raised on a small farm near Mesilla, New Mexico. He graduated from Las Cruces High School in 1972. That fall, he entered St. Thomas Seminary in Denver, Colorado where he received a B.A. degree in Humanities and Philosophy in 1977. He studied Theology at the University of Louvain in Leuven, Belgium from 1977 to 1981. He was a priest for a few years in El Paso, Texas before leaving the order.

In 1985, he returned to school, and studied English and Creative Writing at the University of Texas at El Paso where he earned an M.A. degree in Creative Writing. He then spent a year at the University of Iowa as a PhD student in American Literature. A year later, he was awarded a Wallace E. Stegner fellowship. While at Stanford University under the guidance of Denise Levertov, he completed his first book of poems, Calendar of Dust, which won an American Book Award in 1992. He entered the Ph.D. program at Stanford and continued his studies for two more years. Before completing his Ph.D., he moved back to the border and began teaching at the University of Texas at El Paso in the bilingual MFA program.

His first novel, Carry Me Like Water was a saga that brought together the Victorian novel and the Latin American tradition of magic realism and received much critical attention.

In The Book of What Remains (Copper Canyon Press, 2010), his fifth book of poems, he writes to the core truth of life’s ever-shifting memories. Set along the Mexican border, the contrast between the desert’s austere beauty and the brutality of border politics mirrors humanity’s capacity for both generosity and cruelty.

In 2005, he curated a show of photographs by Julian Cardona.

He continues to teach in the Creative Writing Department at the University of Texas at El Paso.

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Review: The She-Hulk Diaries by Marta Acosta

The She-Hulk Diaries by Marta Acosta

Title: The She-Hulk Diaries
Author: Marta Acosta
Published: June 18th 2013 by Hyperion
Genre: Adult Superhero Chick Lit (is that a thing?)
Source: Netgalley

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CURRENT STATUS: No job, no boyfriend, no permanent place to live, no car, and most of my clothes are held together with staples and duct tape. Bank account almost wiped out. Many of my former associates have expressed a desire that I never darken their doorways again for legal and financial reasons.

She-Hulk got us got us kicked out of the Avengers Mansion. People keep posting videos online of her New Year’s Eve shenanigans: twirling, flaming telephone poles in Times Square, climbing the Empire State Building while dangling Anderson Cooper…

Saying there are two sides to Jennifer Walters’s personality is an understatement. When she hasn’t morphed into a 650-pound, crime-fighting, hard-partying superhero, she’s a single lawyer trying to get her act together. Hilarious and action-packed, The She-Hulk Diaries tells her story, as she juggles her intense legal career by day with battling villains and saving the world by night. Maybe bad guys will stop trying to destroy the planet so she can have a real social life and even meet a guy who isn’t trying to take over the universe.

This story assumes the reader has a passing knowledge of the Marvel comic ‘verse and name drops like crazy without wasting much time introducing those characters. I guess they expect all readers to already be a fan, or to have at least watched some of the superhero movies popping up in the last decade. Luckily for me, I do know my away around the superhumans, or this book would have been mighty confusing. It does also name drop with regards to celebrities and people in the fashion world, whom I know very little about, so much of that went right over my head.

When I started reading The She-Hulk Diaries, I had some trouble getting into it. It was a slow start for me. The more I got to know Jennifer, though, the more I liked her. She’s a fantastic character. She’s take no prisoners in the court room, but outside it she is oh so awkward and nerdy. She wants what all girls wants, a satisfying job, a nice place to live with secret entrances, and someone to curl up next to on the nights she’s not out saving the world. That’s not too much to ask. Add in a dash of super villains trying to destroy everything she loves. There’s something weird going on with the NY natives suddenly all turning nice. And if all that isn’t enough on her plate, Jen’s ex weekend hookup, Ellis Tesla, shows up. The man who never called her back, but went on to write a series of very revealing songs about their time together. He’s as hot as ever. And engaged.

The entrance of Ellis is where this story really took off for me. Jen’s reaction to him and the growing realization that all those songs were about her is great fun. Sure, the lyrics are smart and science themed, but oh boy, are they also embarrassing.

This book is ridiculously funny. Jen has a very self deprecating sense of humor that is easy to relate to. She also has a handful of great friends who make fantastic side characters. Not to mention a wide variety of interests: it’s not often you see the top Krav Maga student making her own foam weapons for an upcoming LARP. The She-Hulk Diaries is a hilarious, thrilling blend between nerdy, chic and ass kickery. It wraps up a little too neatly for my liking, but isn’t that always the way these superhero stories go?


Marta Acosta lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. She was a feral reader, roaming the stacks of the public library.

She received a degree in English Literature and Creative Writing from Stanford University and has written for the San Francisco Chronicle, the Contra Costa Times, and Spaces Magazine.

Marta lives with her husband, spawn, and their crazy dogs. An avid gardener, she likes independent films, funny novels, loud music and lively conversations.

She’s always happy to hear from readers, even the ones who point out typos.

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Review: Ink by Amanda Sun

Ink by Amanda Sun

Title: Ink
Series: Paper Gods #1
Author: Amanda Sun
Published: June 25th 2013 by Harlequin Teen
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal Romance
Source: Netgalley

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I looked down at the paper, still touching the tip of my shoe. I reached for it, flipping the page over to look.

Scrawls of ink outlined a drawing of a girl lying on a bench.

A sick feeling started to twist in my stomach, like motion sickness.

And then the girl in the drawing turned her head, and her inky eyes glared straight into mine.

On the heels of a family tragedy, the last thing Katie Greene wants to do is move halfway across the world. Stuck with her aunt in Shizuoka, Japan, Katie feels lost. Alone. She doesn’t know the language, she can barely hold a pair of chopsticks, and she can’t seem to get the hang of taking her shoes off whenever she enters a building.

Then there’s gorgeous but aloof Tomohiro, star of the school’s kendo team. How did he really get the scar on his arm? Katie isn’t prepared for the answer. But when she sees the things he draws start moving, there’s no denying the truth: Tomo has a connection to the ancient gods of Japan, and being near Katie is causing his abilities to spiral out of control. If the wrong people notice, they’ll both be targets.

Katie never wanted to move to Japan—now she may not make it out of the country alive.

This book hadn’t mad it onto my radar until I saw it being offered as a giveaway on one of the blogs I follow. It seemed kind of interesting, and as luck would have it, became available on Netgalley a week or two after. Seemed like a sign, if you ask me.

This book has been receiving a lot of mixed reviews, which I can completely understand. It is quite formulaic plot wise, and the characters do slot nicely into the usual paranormal YA suspects mold. A girl, Katie, has to give up everything she knows and move to a completely new place, where she meets a mysterious boy, Tomohiro, who warns her to stay away from him. She, of course, doesn’t.

To be honest, I can understand why she doesn’t leave him alone. He makes weird things happen. Katie would have to be a sucky protagonist not to follow him to see what he’s up to. I am all for amateur sleuthing. But you got to do it more inconspicuously. Think detective, not stalker.

I love that this is set in Japan. Reading is a lot like travelling to cool places for me, and I always get a thrill when said travels go somewhere not as often visited. I am willing to overlook how overly adept Katie is in fitting into her new home (despite her constantly pointing out how she doesn’t. Teenagers aren’t supposed to feel like they fit in, it’s part of their charm). It’s very clear that Amanda Sun has done her homework on this one, the setting felt incredibly real to me. I could practically smell the falling cherry blossoms (if I had any idea what those smell like). The way Katie observed the differences in culture felt very real as well, that is absolutely something a stranger in a strange land would constantly be aware of.

The story also introduces us to the myth of the Kami, which is not something I’ve personally ever heard of before. I always dig learning new mythology, and I spent some time after finishing the book reading up on it. So for that, I consider this book a success. It taught me something. Sure, it has its flaws and not everyone is going to love it, but I found it entertaining and time well spent.


I’m a YA author and proud Nerdfighter. I was born in Deep River, Canada, a very small town without traffic lights or buses, and where stranger safety is comprised of what to do if you see a bear—or skunk. I started reading fantasy novels at 4 and writing as soon as I could hold a pencil. Hopefully my work’s improved since then.

In university I took English, Linguistics, and Asian History, before settling into Archaeology, because I loved learning about the cultures and stories of ancient people. Of course, I didn’t actually become an archaeologist—I have an intense fear of spiders. I prefer unearthing fascinating stories in the safety of my living room.

The Paper Gods is inspired by my time living in Osaka and travelling throughout Japan. That and watching far too many J-Dramas. I currently live in Toronto with my husband and daughter. When I’m not writing, I’m devouring YA books, knitting nerdy things like Companion Cubes and Triforce mitts, and making elaborate cosplays for anime cons.

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Review: Slashback by Rob Thurman

Slashback by Rob Thurman

Title: Slashback
Series: Cal Leandros #8
Author: Rob Thurman
Published: March 5th 2013 by Roc
Genre: Adult Urban Fantasy

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Books 1-7 Series Spotlight

I stopped and let them circle me, first because it was intriguing and, second, because, honestly, what could they do? Only knives, but all armed, and that made them even more interesting. Interesting. Fun.


Taking on bloodthirsty supernatural monsters is how Caliban and Niko Leandros make a living. But years ago—before they became a force to be reckoned with—the brothers were almost victims of a very human serial killer.


Unfortunately for them, that particular depraved killer was working as apprentice to a creature far more malevolent—the legendary Spring-heeled Jack. He’s just hit town. He hasn’t forgotten what the Leandros brothers did to his murderous protégé. He hasn’t forgotten what they owe him.

And now they are going to pay… and pay… and pay.…

There is a nearly unkillable monster in town, and it has a grudge to settle–it wants to kill and skin the Leandros brothers, not necessarily in that order. Basically just another day at the office.

This book started out a little slow for me. I had trouble getting into it at first. I’m not sure why exactly, but luckily that all ended when I hit the middle and things started going to OH SHIT-ville. Rob Thurman writes excellent action scenes, with a truly imaginative array of weapons and tactics. Kill it with fire? check. Blow stuff up? check. Swordfight? check. Friggin machine gun? oh hell yeah check. All without a wavering willingness to put her characters through hell. They get banged up but good. Again. That’s par for the course with Cal and Niko Leandros. They may not always get out with all their parts attached, but they are not going down without a fight.

The biggest think I liked about this book is getting to read the flashbacks in Niko’s POV. Niko has always been a fascinating character, and I really enjoyed seeing the way he interacted with the little shit that was 11 year old Cal, all attitude even back then. Everyone should have an older brother like Niko. Even if his insistence on clean living drives Cal mad. Brotherly love has been the driving theme through all of these books, and I, for one, never tire of reading it.

As always, this series can get very dark. It touches on how easy it is for any person to scratch away that thin layer of civility and turn into a monster. Or how what everyone thinks is a monster, can end up doing good.

Then of course there is Robin Goodfellow, the shamelessly horny puck. One of my all time favorite side characters. Always up for a fight or a drink. It amuses me to no end to see him in a monogamous relationship.

I have to say, the last couple of pages through me for a WTF. Rob Thurman breaks quite a lot of this series’ pre-established rules in this book. Very intentionally, of course, and with good explanation. It’s going to be interesting to see where she takes it in the next book.


Rob Thurman is currently writing three series for Penguin Putnam’s imprint ROC FANTASY, as well as a brand-new mainstream series for Simon & Schuster’s POCKET BOOKS.
Rob has also written for a Charlaine Harris & Toni L.P. Kelner Anthology, WOLFSBANE AND MISTLETOE. This year, Rob contributed a post-apocalyptic, “grim” faerie tale Western to the anthology, COURTS OF THE FEY.

Rob’s work is dark, non-stop action from beginning to end, rife with purely evil sarcasm as sharp as a switchblade – and probably nearly as illegal. If one shoved LORD OF THE RINGS,
THE SHINING, and PULP FICTION into a wood-chipper, the result would be what Rob aims to deliver in a novel or short story.

A member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA), ROB THURMAN lives in RURAL Indiana – land of endless fields, infinite cows and where dialup is still the only soul-crushing option.

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Review: Mortality by Kellie Sheridan

Mortality by Kellie Sheridan

Title: Mortality
Series: The Hitchhiker Strain #1
Author: Kellie Sheridan
Published: March 19th 2013 by Patchwork Press
Genre: Young Adult Dystopia / Zombie Survival
Source: Netgalley

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After surviving a deadly plague outbreak, sixteen-year-old Savannah thought she had lived through the very worst of human history. There was no way to know that the miracle vaccine would put everyone at risk for a fate worse than un-death.

Now, two very different kinds of infected walk the Earth, intent on nothing but feeding and destroying what little remains of civilization. When the inoculated are bitten, infection means watching on in silent horror as self-control disappears and the idea of feasting on loved ones becomes increasingly hard to ignore.

Starving and forced to live inside of the abandoned high school, all Savannah wants is the chance to fight back. When a strange boy arrives with a plan to set everything right, she gets her chance. Meeting Cole changes everything. Mere survival will never be enough.

This story is told in two POVs, Savannah who has lost her entire family to the zombie outbreak and now just wants to prove herself as a capable member of their community of survivors. When she and three friends are allowed to do a supply run, she sees it as her opportunity to finally show how much more use she could be… to disastrous consequences. Now they have to fight through zombie infested streets to catch up to their group, one of her friends have been kidnapped, and there’s a mysterious boy urging her to abandon everyone she knows and go off with him instead.

The other POV is Zarah, whose story starts at the moment of outbreak. Rescued by a boy from class, the two of them escape the city until the worst of it is contained. They are reunited with what remains of their families, but are separated from each other. They keep in touch, though, and when the second outbreak hits, they set off together in search of a better life. In search of the vaccine that may just be the worst medical catastrophe of all time.

The weird thing is the that for most of the book the two stories play off at different times in this whole outbreak scenario. They are also told in different tenses. This threw me out of the story more than once, and at the beginning I dreaded every time we switched to Zarah. But, as the story continued and picked up momentum, I stopped noticing and actually found Zarah’s story to be the more interesting one. I liked seeing the world from the other side of the fence.

A lot of emphasis are placed on the girls themselves, we get to know them pretty well, where as the menfolk take a bit of a backseat. Don’t get me wrong, the boys are still the driving force behind most of what the girls do, but they don’t overpower the female characters personality wise.

I found this story very entertaining overall. Like Cole’s mother I too speculate on various survival strategies whenever I read a zombie book. The pace is fast and there is lots of action. Dude, I cared about whether zombies lived or died! That was pretty neat.

I should also say, I really love the cover.


I have been in love with stories in all of their forms for as long as I can remember. Admittedly, sometimes that means falling into places like Stars Hollow and Sunnydale, but books have always been my true love. In early 2011 I began writing a book blog in order to share my favorite reads with book lovers. From there, the bookish community encouraged me to stop sitting on my own stories and share them instead. Since then I’ve been madly devouring everything I can about digital publishing.

For the past two years I have been mainly obsessed with young adult books, but my favorite stories still come from the adult fantasy genre. As far as I’m concerned, Briggs, Bishop, Vincent and Vaughn are all must reads.

I spent part of my twenties living in Galway, Ireland and swooning after various lilting accents but am now back home in Ontario, Canada. My family includes two Glen of Imaal Terriers and a Green Cheek Conure

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Month in Review: May 2013

I just realized I forgot to do one of these for April. I’d been fiddling with the new design at the time, and had sort of tunnel vision. Anyway, this is what’s been going on this month:

Reviews Posted:

Memes / Events Participated In:

Giveaways Held:

Challenge Status:

  • 2013 Ebook Challenge: 26/50
  • 2013 Young Adult Audiobook Challenge: 2/24
  • 2013 TBR Pile Reading Challenge: 10/20

Other Interesting Life Occurrences / Milestones:

  • Since April I’ve been with my current employer a full 10 years. A month later, they finally realized this (after much hint dropping) and acknowledged the event with a certificate and a pretty little check (also a pretty big laminated check, which was totally cool). Still waffling about whether to save the money for a deposit on a new car, or if I want to go the fun route and get a tablet with loads of e-books to fill it. Decisions, decisions. Anyone wanna help me out on what to do?
  • The new blog design went live this month. Being the dumbass I am, I didn’t think to take a screen shot of what it looked like before, but I think it’s cleaner and easier to navigate now. Still blue.
  • 31st May was Tekkie Tax day, where (for a small donation to a charity) we could wear our jeans and sneakers to work. My company bought each of us the deluxe pack, which included bright green shoe laces, shoelace tags and five donation stickers. I had fun wearing mine. Many of my coworkers were lame and did not wear theirs. I was not surprised. These are the packs that were handed out, and my shoes with the laces in:

Coming in June: 


Review: Twilight Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko

Twilight Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko

Title: Twilight Watch
Series: Watch #3
Author: Sergei Lukyanenko
Translator: Andrew Bromfield
Published: June 13th 2007 by Miramax Books
Genre: Adult Urban Fantasy

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Night Watch and Day Watch, the first two books in this remarkable series, established Sergei Lukyanenko as a breathtakingly bold talent. Part fantasy, part vampire story, and part detective potboiler, this is the most successful science fiction series of all time in Russia and a true international sensation. In America, Fox Searchlight released the film adaptation of Night Watch to rapturous reviews, and adaptations of the next two books are in production.The world of Lukyanenko is as elaborate and imaginative as Tolkien or the best Asimov: Living among us are the “Others,” an ancient race of humans with supernatural powers who swear allegiance to either the Dark or the Light. A thousand-year treaty has maintained the balance of power, and the two sides coexist in an uneasy truce.

In Dusk Watch, the Others face their greatest threat yet. A renegade Other, his identity as yet unknown, has absconded with a fabled spell-book of untold power and appears bent on attacking the entire earth. Now forces of the Light and the Dark — the Night Watch and the Day Watch — must cooperate to stop him. Anton, the hero from Night Watch, is back, but when the culprit turns out to be none other than his partner, the race against time becomes more urgent than ever. In a world where reality and magic commingle, and where different degrees of existence are layered one atop the other, nothing is ever quite what it seems.

I really love stories set in a different culture, it gives this fresh perspective and different take on the same mythologies.

For our hero, Anton Gorodetsky, life has been going well. He’s managed to marry the girl of his dreams, and they have an adorable toddler. He’s a 2nd Level Magician, a computer expert, well versed in history and philosophy and has come to understand that despite how much he wants to, he can’t save the entire world.

Unfortunately, he can’t even enjoy his much deserved vacation with a glass of vodka and some peace and quiet. You see, Anton works for the Night Watch, the organisation of Light Others who keep watch over their Dark brethren and make sure they don’t get up to too much trouble. Only now trouble has arisen and Anton needs to cut his vacation short and go undercover to stop the secret of the Others from being revealed to the entire world.

The more Anton learns, the more it seems like everyone is lying to him. He’s no stranger to being manipulated and pushed, but what he’s about to discover might just turn everything he’s ever known on its head.

What I liked most about this story, and the series as a whole, is how intricately plotted it all is. Leader of the Night Watch, Gesar, is one of the best schemers in literary history, and every single case they work is somehow tied up into a bigger picture. The books are all split in three parts, with each part a separate case and, as I said, each case slotting into the others to provide an overall story arc. In the first book, Night Watch, we learned a lot about the Light Ones. In the second book, Day Watch, we got a sneak peak into the world of the Dark Ones. In this book, through Anton’s disillusionment, we finally realize how very little separates the two sides.

I liked Anton, he is a truly good guy who just wants to help. To the point where he would let a drunk mechanic strip his car so the guy can feel accomplished and like he earned his next bottle.

While the themes of morality are heavily broached in this book, lets not forget that it’s also a lot of fun. Where else but in Russia can you fight off a vampire with a glass of vodka?


Sergei Lukyanenko (as his name appears on books and films in U.S. markets) is a science-fiction and fantasy author, writing in Russian, and is arguably the most popular contemporary Russian sci-fi writer. His works often feature intense action-packed plots, interwoven with the moral dilemma of keeping one’s humanity while being strong.

Lukyanenko is a prolific writer, releasing usually 1-2 books per year, as well as a number of a critical articles and short stories. Recently his works have been adapted into film productions, for which he wrote the screenplays. He lives in Moscow with his wife Sonia and two sons, Artemiy and Danil, keeps mice as pets and enjoys cooking.


Armchair BEA Day 3: Giveaway (INT)

Design credit: Nina of Nina Reads

Day 3: Free Stuff

Up for grabs is a $15 Amazon Gift Card, or book(s) of your choice (worth $15) from Book Depository.

Contest Rules:

  • Open Internationally (as long as The Book Depository ships to you) or you can use Amazon Gift Cards
  • Must be 13 to enter
  • Winners will be notified via email
  • A new winner will be chosen if a response is not received within 48 hours
  • Contest ends June 6th, 2013

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And when you are done filling out the Rafflecopter,
head on over to ABEA FOR MORE GIVEAWAYS!

Armchair BEA Day 2: Blogger Development and Genre Fiction

Design credit: Nina of Nina Reads

Day 2: Blogger Development and Genre Fiction

Blogger Development

Admittedly, I have not done as much developing as I should have, but at the same time I’ve done a lot more than I ever thought I would. Does that make sense? I may (or may not, I forget) have mentioned in my Intro Post that I am kind of a hermit type. People smarter than me call it social anxiety disorder. I don’t deal well with social situations and I am no good at reaching out to people, or maintaining that bond once I have it. So this blog is kind of an experiment in how far out of my comfort zone I can push myself. Those first couple of times I posted? I freaked the hell out, man. Total basket case hours before and after the posts went live. Seems so silly now.

I’ve not partnered with other blogs exactly, but I do often take part in giveaway blog hops. I LOVE giving away free stuff, and try to find at least 1 reason to do so every month. I am open to the idea of partnering up, though, so maybe as I keep crawling out of my hermit shell I will meet someone awesome and we’ll make sweet blogging content together. *waggles eyebrows*

I also participate in a couple of challenges, though I tend to bite off more than I can chew. Every now and then I’ll even participate in a meme, but only if the topic really grabs my attention.

The main thing I try to maintain is my sense of fun. I don’t want blogging to become a full time job. I don’t want it to feel like a chore. This is where I come to get away from everything and relax while my e-reader’s battery recharges.

Things I have learned from blogging:

Being A Better Writer. A like to think that blogging has turned me into a better writer. My reviews will never be epic, but I’ve gotten comfortable with how I do things and hopefully it shows. Being part of the blogging community and reading so many other reviews has also sharpened my eye when it comes to other writing projects. My internal editor now speaks in the voice of a thousand bloggers. Of course, then the little demon on my shoulder starts screaming like a banshee and drives all other sound out so the good advice evaporates.

Being A (not so awesome) Graphic Designer. Yeah, okay, I am not going to be winning any rewards or going pro any time soon, but seeing the amazing layouts other bloggers have gave me the push I needed to start learning how to use Adobe Illustrator. I’ve only completed a single vector to date (see the header), but I am still proud of myself for trying something new. It was a lot of fun.

Consistency Through blogging I learned the joys of having, and sticking to, a schedule. I’ve successfully managed to post 3 reviews a week for the last couple of months now, and I am liking the structure of it. This hasn’t yet carried over to the read of my life, I am still hopelessly procrastinatey in that. Baby steps.

Genre Fiction

I am all about genre fiction. My favorite genre of all time is urban fantasy. If you want to get even more specific than that, male narrated urban fantasy. I grew up listening to my dad’s music, and reading my dad’s books so that really shaped my interests. He calls me the son he never had, but at least he knows better than to try and make me put worms on a fishhook. The point being, I have kind of a guy’s taste in literature in that I am easily wowed by things exploding, and generally underwhelmed by romance subplots. I’ve found that if the main character is a dude, the book tends to go light with the fluffy love stuff.

Some of my favorite players in this genre:

  • The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher. Which UF list would be complete without this?
  • The Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne. Funniest books ever.
  • Cal Leandros by Rob Thurman. Dark and a little emo, but fun. Also, written by a lady. I approve.
  • Elemental by Brigid Kemmerer. So good I am willing to overlook the romance parts.

I am also a big fan of LGBTQI books, especially in the YA department. In these I am okay with romance and fluff, go figure. In fact, I think I would like to see more fluff. I would also like to see more of it an urban fantasy setting so I can enjoy my two favorite things together. Not gonna make a favorites list of these, the ones I’ve read this year haven’t exactly blown me away and I am coming up blank. Feel free to rec me something good! :D

Review: Altered by Jennifer Rush

Altered by Jennifer Rush

Title: Altered
Series: Altered #1
Author: Jennifer Rush
Published: January 1st 2013 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction Thriller

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Everything about Anna’s life is a secret. Her father works for the Branch at the helm of its latest project: monitoring and administering treatments to the four genetically altered boys in the lab below their farmhouse. There’s Nick, Cas, Trev . . . and Sam, who’s stolen Anna’s heart. When the Branch decides it’s time to take the boys, Sam stages an escape, killing the agents sent to retrieve them.

Anna is torn between following Sam or staying behind in the safety of her everyday life. But her father pushes her to flee, making Sam promise to keep her away from the Branch, at all costs. There’s just one problem. Sam and the boys don’t remember anything before living in the lab—not even their true identities.

Now on the run, Anna soon discovers that she and Sam are connected in more ways than either of them expected. And if they’re both going to survive, they must piece together the clues of their past before the Branch catches up to them and steals it all away.

Anna has 4 guys in cages in her father’s basement, their minds wiped while they undergo mysterious tests and treatments. They have been there for the last five years, long enough for her to bond with them, do consider one her best friend, and one someone she would like to explore quiet villages in Italy with.

That is, until the boys escape and take her with them. There’s no time for exploration while on the run from people who may be in league with the government. A lot of face paced action follows. Car chases, gun fights, nameless government flunkies being killed.

The boy of Anna’s dreams, who she really knows very little about, and who admitted to playing her to gain her trust and co-operation, has a mysterious tattoo. One that might contain clues to his identity. So starts a grand mystery complete with codes to decipher.

The group has a wide range of personalities, which makes it really fun to read about these boys. You have the comic relief easy going guy, the sensitive best friend, the mean grouch and of course, our love interest, Mr. Mysterious and Brooding. All of them genetically modified. They are all stronger than normal, wickedly good with guns, and can feel when the other are in trouble. It’s a little generically super soldier. I would have liked to see more diverse abilities. Trev is mentioned as having a photographic memory, and Sam has a sort of domination over the others that makes him the natural leader and means everyone else just tags along while he follows the clues he left for himself.

Overall, it’s a pretty entertaining story. I would have liked to learn more about the boys, but seeing as how they don’t know much themselves, that can be excused.

I really liked that despite Anna being surrounded by so many guys, there wasn’t the normal love triangle feel. The romance elements are also not in your face, while still giving those who are into that sort of thing, a couple to root for.


Jennifer Rush lives in a little town on the shoreline of Lake Michigan with her husband and two children. She grew up wanting to be an Egyptologist, but realized she hated the desert and declared herself a writer instead. She won her first writing award in the fourth grade (a Mickey Mouse pencil was the prize) and has been crafting stories ever since. In her free time, she likes to read, Photoshop, and consume large amounts of caffeine.

Her debut YA, ALTERED, will release January 2, 2013 from Little, Brown.

Her debut middle-grade, BOT WARS, will release March 21, 2013 from Dial Books for Young Readers. It’s written under the pen name J. V. Kade.

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