For readers around the globe. :)

Monday, November 28, 2016

Teen Angst? Naaah...

A quasi-autobiography by Ned Vizzini.

BRILLIANT. 
Teen Angst? Naaah... started as an article in the New York Times when Ned was just a high schooler. 
Little did he know it would soon be published as his very first book.
This collection of short stories and essays follow Ned throughout his high school years and all the awkwardness brought on by being a teen. He talks about school, drugs, video games, girls, friends, fame, and so much more. 

It starts with Junior High and continues on to Post-High School.
What really makes this book enjoyable is that Ned was a teen that was actually experiencing these things in his everyday life. Things that we've all been through. It isn't a cheesy teen book, it's a feel good book for all the kids who didn't quite fit in. For all the kids who didn't know what to do with their free time. For all the kids who just wanted to be kids.

 But what hurt the most about this was reading Ned's words about adulthood. 
He fantasizes about being ID'd for alcohol when he's 30 years old because he looks so young.
He imagines how his mother would feel when he finally gives her grandkids.
He dreams of becoming an old man and living happily ever after.
Yet, at 32 years old he committed suicide in Brooklyn. 
Brooklyn, where his entire childhood took place.
It's hard to think that he had so much potential and so much to live for when he took his own life.
That was the hardest part, knowing he wouldn't get to see all that he hoped for. 

"Every day for the rest of my life I’ll remember my wonderful friend because he jumped, but his readers — including millions of them not yet born — will remember him because he soared." 
-Marty Beckerman

Rest in Peace
Ned Vizzini
December 19, 2013

Looking for other books by Ned Vizzini?
It's Kind of a Funny Story 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Carve the Mark

Okay, so I was lucky enough to receive an advanced readers copy of Carve the Mark which isn't set to come out until January 17, 2017!!

I don't really know how to review this book just yet. Part of me wants to scream and tell you "DON'T READ IT, IT'S SO SIMILAR TO DIVERGENT" but the other part of me is screaming "YOU NEED TO GET THIS". 

So, I'm torn.

Carve the Mark was told from 2 perspectives, Cyra and Akos. 
Cyra is considered to be one of the most powerful tools in her brother, Ryzec's toolbox. 
Akos was kidnapped and forced to serve Cyra by dulling the pain of her currentgift. 
Honestly, I loved the idea of the currentgifts. It created a whole new world for Veronica Roth to play in and I'm so happy she did.

The only way I know how to describe Carve the Mark is Divergent meets Hunger Games, meets The Giver, meets I Am Number Four, but it all takes place in space. There are so many different dimensions that I found from each of these series that Veronica Roth used to create planets Thuve and and Shotet. 

I guess what I'm trying to say is that is was original, in an unoriginal way. 
I know this entire review was mostly opinion, but I don't want to spoil it for you guys!  

Looking for the rest of the series?

Looking for other books by Veronica Roth?
Divergent Series:

Friday, November 18, 2016

Spotlight: The Homecoming

Here is an exclusive first look at Chapter One of The Homecoming by Stacie Ramey!
Standing on the high school's lacrosse field in the town I never thought I'd go back to, I wait for my turn to do suicides. The sun blazes, and I take a drink from my water bottle and try not to chew myself out for landing here instead of getting to stay in Chicago with Uncle Dave. What would Leah think if she saw me now?
"Strickland!" Coach calls. "Line up."
It's not my turn to run again, and the unfairness starts a flame in my stomach, but I line up anyway. No way I'm gonna let Coach see he's getting to me. Or let the team know how out of shape I really am.
"Get your legs up!" Coach Gibson screams, and I think he's talking to me, but I can't be sure, because six of us are racing, and I'm losing. Bad. Guess the last few years of smoking weed hasn't helped my stamina.
Matt, a guy from my neighborhood who I used to play lacrosse with and one of two people Mom fought like hell to keep me away from, yells from the sidelines, "Wheels, Strickland, wheels." But he laughs as he says it, and I know he's just giving me shit.
I knew they'd go hard on me. Payback for moving away. For not playing lacrosse since fifth grade. For hanging with the druggies instead of the jocks. I'm one of the new guys on the team. An honor not usually given to seniors. So I'm treated to Hell Week like the freshman and sophomores. I don't mind. That's just the way it is.
Coach Gibson points to me. "Just Strickland this time."
Bodies collapse around me, and I hear their sighs of relief as I crouch in the ready position, sweat pouring off my chest and arms and legs while I wait for Coach's whistle to launch me like a bullet from a gun. I run from the end line to goal line. Goal line to end line. End line to box line. Box line to half field.
"Push, push, push," Coach yells.
I do what he says, push my body. Pump my legs. It sucks, but I do it, because with each stride, I feel my body taking over and my mind being left far behind. Maybe this time, Dad was right. Lacrosse is just what I need.
"Again." Coach points to me. He clicks his stopwatch, and I race again. He shakes his head as he documents my time. Like I don't know how bad I suck. Like I don't get how much persuading Dad must have had to do to get me on the team. Thinking of Dad fires me up to tap into my beast. I bend over. Try not to puke. Take a drink of my water and hit the line to run again.
I don't actually mind this part. Whenever I run full out, push my body past its limit, those are the times I'm not thinking of Leah.
"Again." I run my route one more time, my body failing a little more with each step. When I'm sure I'm going to fall to the ground, I make myself think of Leah. How I was supposed to save her. How I didn't. And that's enough to propel me forward. At the end of the run, I bend over, spit on the ground.
The other seniors and juniors start their Indian drill. They jog by us freshies, run their rhythmic jogging and even breathing, reminding me that they are warriors, and I am not. Matt yells out, "Damn, Strickland." Then laughs as I lose this battle and puke on the ground.
Brandon, another guy from the old team, joins in the hilarity. "We got a puker!"
I look at each exercise as a brick in some mythical wall I have to build before I can earn my walking papers. That makes it easier to face. One step. One drill. One minute. One hour. One week. One month. More than one year since my girlfriend Leah died. (Killed herself, I remind myself, careful to make the memory hurt as much as possible.)
Probably thirty minutes left in practice. Nine weeks till my first report card. Nine months of probation, ten months till I can graduate and move on with my life to California. The farthest place from my family I can go without getting a passport. Where I can cash in on my one and only talent: growing and selling weed. Legally there.
Finally, Coach calls us in. The juniors and seniors have already been sent to the locker room ahead of us, so he's only addressing us wannabes. "You guys didn't totally disappoint me today, so tomorrow, you can bring your sticks."
Some of the guys pump their fists. I don't even have the energy to do that.
"Now hit the showers and head home."
I'm turning to leave when Coach calls me over. "Hey, John, I wanted to say I'm sorry about your brother. And your girl."
The dragon roars. Flames engulf me. People just can't let an accident like Ryan's go, even after all these years. But Leah? That's too much. They didn't even know her. I don't want to share her tragedy, her life, her memory with anyone.
"You've had some tough breaks for sure."
Dad and his stupid mouth.
Coach shifts his stance, crosses his arms- his clipboard with all my times now clutched to his chest. Numbers that for sure say I'm not good enough to be on any lacrosse team- definitely not the varsity team at East Coast High. "I don't want you to get discouraged. Coach Stallworth told me about you. Said you used to be a hell of an athlete. You can be again, I'm sure."
His state feels like he's trying to figure out what I'm made of. I want to tell him not to waste his time. I'm happy to tell him exactly who I am. I'm the kind of guy who doesn't mind taking whatever physical punishment he wants to dish out. But when it comes to my emotions? Coach is going to have to understand that that shit's off-limits. Emotions are for idiots. Feeling crap doesn't change what happened. Good weed works so much better. Hell, even bad weed beats feeling any day.
I gulp more water. Spit on the ground. Look him square in the eye. "Thanks, Coach. That all?"
I guess Coach picks up on my noncommunicative status, because his eyes go back to his clipboard. "See you tomorrow."
 I give him a nod and jog to the locker room so Coach'll see I've still got a little juice in me, even after everything.
***
Last one in the locker room also means last one out. I sit on the bench, lean over to close my locker as Matt and Brandon head for the parking lot.
"Later," Matt throws over his shoulder, the er reverberating as the door shut behind him.
Matt and I've got some history to get over. It was his big brother, Pete, who hit Ryan. Seven years later and that still hangs between us. Not that it was Pete's fault exactly. When it come to those things, fault hardly even matters. It's called an accident for a reason.
Besides, Pete hasn't exactly gotten off scot-free either. Some people might think becoming a high school dropout, working pizza delivery while feeding a major drug and drinking problem is not as bad as Ryan's deal, but I say that nobody has a right to judge. I stayed in touch with Pete even after I moved away. Nobody understands that, but it was like he was the only one who got the nuclear fallout of that accident.
I'm stuffing my sweaty clothes into my bag and zipping it up when I hear my cell chirp. I grab it, hoping it's one of Pete's connections I reached out to today. Someone who can help me with my little sobriety problem.
But it's not Pete's connection. It's Uncle Dave. Hey, just checking in. Hope you're settling in OK.
I text back. Yeah. Fine.
How was practice?
Somehow, that kills me. That he's still checking in on me. Uncle Dave. Not Dad or Mom. Him. This warm spot inside me lights a little every time he calls or texts.
He texts again. When someone you love dies, it changes you. Remember that.
He means Leah for me. My perfect big brother for Mom.
After Ryan's accident, Mom didn't change so much as reduce, like the sauce that Uncle Dave made for my filet the last night I was living with him. He explained how a little fire under you can intensify whatever's inside you. After the accident, Mom got more intense for sure. Driven. Focused only on Ryan. With me, I just got more angry. Just the way I am, I guess.
Uncle Dave always tries to turn simple moments into lessons. Not preachy ones, just different ways to look at life. His texts aren't meant to pry or annoy, but I can't help wishing he hadn't. I screwed up the best living arrangement of my life, the one Dad said I needed after I told him about Leah. But I killed the whole deal by hanging with a bunch of thugs and acting like a punk.
There's a mass of activity around me in the locker room that doesn't include me. Kids banging fists. Giving each other shit. Nodding when others ask if they've got a ride. Then it hits me: I'm completely ride-less.
The guys on the team have picked up on my not so subtle I want to be left alone signal. I know teammates are supposed to male bond or some shit like that, but that's not what I'm here for. I'm here to finish probation. Live according to Mom's rules. Then get out and go away. And never come back.
I text Uncle Dave. I'm exactly the same jerk I used to be.
He texts. Nice try.
As the door bangs shut for the last time, I realize my being a selfish ass and ignoring everyone means I'll have to walk home. Great work, Johnny. I almost laugh out loud at what an idiot I can be.
The phone chirps again. This time it's Dad. Picked up your Jeep from the compound. Cost me a fortune. Show me you've earned it and I;ll bring it to you.
Always pushing. Uncle Dave is so much cooler than Dad is that it's hard to believe they;re even brothers.
The door opens, and a janitor leans in. "You done?"
"Yeah. Sorry." I look around the locker room one more time. I am completely alone, even on a team of thirty kids. Classic me.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Spotlight: Unnatural Deeds

Here is an exclusive first look at Chapter One of Unnatural Deeds by Cyn Balog!!

Foul whisp'rings are abroad. Unnatural deeds
Do breed unnatural troubles. Infected minds
To their deaf pillows will discharge their secrets.
Shakespeare's Macbeth, Act V, Scene 1
Duchess- Police are investigating an apparent homicide after a body was found in a wooded area early Tuesday morning. Authorities have not yet released the name of the victim of the person(s) they are questioning in connection with the investigation.
-Central Maine Express Times

Is this thing on?
Ha-ha, I'm a laugh a minute.
Anyway, Andrew. It's me. Vic. I wanted to say I'm sorry. Sorr for... Well, where do I begin? I--
cough, cough, cough.
Sorry. I'm losing my voice. Something bitter is stuck in my throat, and the air is so cold it's hard to breathe. This place reeks of decaying leaves, of the musty, damp rot of dead things returning to the earth.
There's something soft and wet under my head. I hope it's not brain matter. I can't raise my arms to check because of the way I'm twisted here. I think my leg is broken. Or maybe my back? Damned if I can twitch a muscle without pain screaming its way up my spine.
Somehow I managed to pry my phone out of my jacket pocket and prop it on my chest, but you know how spotty service is around Duchess. All charged up with zero bars- not that I'd be calling anyone but you. I wish I could see the background photo of you and me. It'd keep me company. You know the one. It's the picture of us at the Renaissance Faire when we were fourteen. We're both grinning like mad and you have your arm around me, claiming me as your own. It's probably the only time you were ever comfortable with yourself. With us. I miss that.
Anyway, you know how glass half-empty I am, Andrew. I wanted to record a note for you on my phone. You know, in case I don't get out of here. 
Of course I'll get out of here. I wouldn't be lucky enough to die here. But maybe this'll be easier than telling you in person.
Cough, cough.
 Where should I start?
It's so quiet. You must have left me, Andrew. But you'll come back. You always come back. You were scared, maybe, when you saw what you'd done. And now I'm all alone here.
I don't really know where "here" is. I think it's a drainage ditch on the side of Route 11. The last thing I remember is rushing down the road near the Kissing Woods, feeling powerful. Immortal. Like everything I wanted could be mine. For an instant, I felt like he could be mine.
But that's not possible now.
I know what people have said behind my back in hushed whispers. They call me delusional. But I'm not. I know what is real and what isn't.
No, wait.The last thing I remember is you with that fierce look in your eyes. You sure surprised me. Who knew that my boyfriend, quiet, unassuming Andrew Quinn, that that in him?
I thought I knew you inside and out, but... I was wrong.
I guess I should explain.After all, I have no other pressing engagements. And you're overdue an explanation, aren't you? The tall pines can be my witnesses. They can pass judgement as they see fit.
I'm not sure when it all began, but Lady M said it best. Hell is goddamn murky.
Whoops. Blasphemy. Yet another sin to add to my act-of-contrition list.
Looking back, you knew when I started to change, didn't you, Andrew? You know everything about me. It was that very first day of school, the day my life began to unravel.
So here are the gory details. It won't be enough, but I'll try. You can;t know it all until you've smelled that intoxication cinnamon-and-clove scent, read those texts that elevated even the blandest words to poetry, and seen those heart-stoppingly blue eyes.
His eyes. Even now, I can see them with perfect clarity. I've seen them in my dreams, in the sky when the sun hits the clouds just right, and in my morning breakfast cereal. It all goes back to him. Every single thought always winds right back to him. Always. Always. Always.
It's no use. I want him out of my head. I wish I could scrape him out of my memory. I don't want to live with him etched in the deepest part of me. I don't want to die thinking of him.
But I know I will.