Giveaway: ‘The Haters’ by Jesse Andrews

If you’re a YA fan, you’re probably familiar with Jesse Andrews’ debut novel, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, a book which is far funnier than its title might initially suggest. I had a chance to check out Andrews’ second novel, The Haters (In stores now!), and I can assure you that he keeps the laughs coming. The Haters tells the story of a couple of friends attending jazz camp whose lives are turned upside-down by a mysterious girl who suggests ditching jazz camp for a cross-country tour for the group’s brand new band.

We all know road trip stories are perfect for summer, so listen up: you can enter below to win your very own copy of The Haters to put at the top of your summer to-read pile! You’ll also win a Spotify premium 3-month subscription gift card to make sure your own summer road trip tunes are on point!

One (1) winner receives:

  • a copy of The Haters and branded bumper sticker;
  • plus a Spotify premium 3-month subscription gift card.

Open to US addresses only.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jesse Andrews’s debut novel, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, a New York Times and USA Today bestseller, was published to critical acclaim and starred reviews. His adaptation of the book for the big screen won both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. Jesse is also a musician and screenwriter. He lives in Boston, Massachusetts. Visit Jesse at www.jesseandrews.com.

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Book Review: ‘The Rose and the Dagger’ by Renee Adieh

Book Review: 'The Rose and the Dagger' by Renee AdiehLast year, Renee Adieh’s The Wrath and the Dawn was the book that finally managed to pull me out of my annual late winter reading slump. It’s such an interesting mix of fantasy, romance, folklore and action – it feels different and interesting even if you’re already familiar with the inspiration, One Thousand and One Nights. I’ve been looking forward to the sequel, The Rose and the Dagger, which is available now.

Interestingly, One Thousand and One Nights is sort of trendy right now in fiction – between reading The Wrath and the Dawn and The Rose and the Dagger, I actually read a different YA novel inspired by it – A Thousand Nights. As a result, I’d kind of mixed up some of the things from The Wrath and the Dawn with things from A Thousand Nights, and it took me a while to remember exactly who some of the characters were and what role they played in the story. No biggie, though – you could actually jump into The Rose and the Dagger without having read the first book and have it make sense. But please don’t do that, because you’d be missing out!

Last time I tried to recap the story leading into a series book my paragraphs got out of hand quickly, so if you want a reminder, check out my review of The Wrath and the Dawn. The Rose and the Dagger starts a bit slowly. Sharzad and Khalid are separated, with Khalid attempting to clean up his kingdom after the magical disaster brought by Sharzad’s father, and Sharzad seeking solace in the desert. Sharzad is attempting to understand her magic, and in doing so realizes that she may be able to help Khalid break his curse with help from the right people. Complicating things are Sharzad’s father’s misguided attempts to use his own magical power to make up for the havoc he wreaked across the kingdom, as well as ongoing political upheaval threatening war at any moment.

For me, there was a clear separation in the overall tone of The Rose and the Dagger compared to The Wrath and the Dawn. The first book was a story of world-building, character and relationship evolution, and ongoing suspense as Sharzad simply tried to stay alive. The Wrath and the Dawn focuses on the political (and magical!) repercussions of all that – the results of what was set up in the first book. It felt a little less suspense & romance and a little more fantasy & strategy. That’s not to say the books aren’t cohesive, though. All of the beautiful world-building from the first book continues, and the characters readers grew to know and love (or hate, as the case may be) return true to form in The Rose and the Dagger.

I’m not quite sure how Adieh pulls it off, but she manages to make Sharzad dangerously close to a Mary Sue, yet Sharzad is still extremely likable due to the dimension Adieh is able to give her. Other characters (Sharzad’s power-hungry father, for example), aren’t always afforded the time for such depth, but I really only found this troubling in one regard – the mysterious GENIE, who is initially introduced in such a way that I expected to become very familiar with him, but on the last page of the story I felt like he had never really been explored effectively.

I love how Adieh is able to present an epic story without going overboard on page count…or amount of books. It allows the story to move along swiftly and makes it easier to keep up with the wide array of characters, clans, kingdoms, and the politics between them. I’m not terribly familiar with One Thousand and One Nights beyond things that have been adapted from it, so I can’t speak to how closely Adieh followed its stories for inspiration, but I can say there were at least a couple fairly major plot twists that were executed really nicely. Set up with subtlety, withheld for just the right amount of time to make you forget the setup and then…bam!

The one thing I struggled with in the first book was Sharzad’s father’s use of magic. The short chapters following Jahander just did not interest me, and having the climax of the first book so influenced by him was a disappointment for me. I was nervous about how that plot thread would carry over into The Rose and the Dagger. Fortunately, although there are chapters that focus on Jahander and his story is followed up on, I had absolutely no trouble with how it was executed. The chapters were more engaging and less frequent, and plot thread itself made much more sense to me in the context of this book.

A Day in the Life of a Romance Writer by Author Lauren Smith

A Day in the Life of a Romance Writer by Author Lauren SmithEver wonder what a normal day is like for an author? I know I do. Usually my imagination conjures up one of two scenarios: They hole up in a cozy office drinking coffee and writing maniacally without stopping for human interaction or sustenance…or they spend half the day writing extremely productively, then get to hang out by the pool or snuggle with a dog the rest of the day.

Romance writer Lauren Smith, author of The League of RoguesThe Surrender and Her British Stepbrother series, volunteered to give TDQ a peek at the reality of being an author. But Lauren’s not just any author – she splits her time between writing and working part time as an attorney! Keep reading to get a peek at what a normal day looks like for Lauren as she balances her careers.


I used to be a part time writer, full-time attorney. Let me just say…I don’t know how I survived four years of that. Intense is the best way to describe it. I used to write my novels in the most random and occasionally awkward of places. Think of me perched over a desk in a lounge of a courthouse bathroom basement, or instead, acrobatically using one arm to guard my notebook as I scribbled away in the middle of a long docket waiting for the judge to call my case. Lauren Smith, undercover author and attorney extraordinaire.

Well, those days behind me. I’m now a full time writer, part-time attorney. It’s a bit of a switch-up but, technically speaking (or maybe just in my heart), I have been a full-time writer all this time. When you love something and you think about it about 97% of the day – what’s more full time than that? Now I just have more hours to actively work on what I love. So what does a day in the life of romance writer look like? Follow me…

5am: I’m up and wide awake, downing my first Diet Dr. Pepper and walking the dogs. I am a total animal person. My pet crew includes a chinchilla (Churro), a betta fish (Neptune), a long-haired prissy cat (Tiki) and two dogs: a black schnauzer named (Fritz) and a wheaten terrier (Evangeline, or Evie for short).

6am: Laundry. You know those shirts don’t fold themselves….nor do those pesky socks pair up on their own. For every author, there is a special get-up they prefer to wear on a day-to-day basis while working. Much to my fashionista mother’s dismay, my writing uniform is jeans, a comfy tee and my lucky white Converse sneakers. It’s all about the comfort. If you’re thinking about what you wear, you forget to write. No Dior gowns for this girl.

7am: Hit the gym for a long run and meditate on the future of the characters in my current work in progress. Once I start running, my mind goes into a trance; you forget how much you don’t want to be, and lose yourself in the story as it unfolds in your head. Let’s face it, I love to play God. Today I’m picturing six Regency era rogues grouped in the woods just outside a Scottish castle, discussing how one goes about laying siege to a castle in order to rescue a damsel (who doesn’t in fact need rescuing). You can expect some giggles from me while I run and plan this out.

8am: Shower and eye my pajama pants wistfully. I should put on “real clothes” before ten in the morning.

10am to Noon: Work on day job assignments. It’s fun to dive into my legal work for part of the day. It helps me balance my creative side by using my logical side for a few hours. But after that work is over, I’m rip-roaring and ready to go back to the characters.

Lunch: But first, lunch and some fresh air – which means another dog walk.

1pm to 4pm: This is it. Magic time. I peer deep into my well of inspiration and drag my muse out from the bottom by her hair and force her to work with me. Picture me with a stack of verb books, Scottish Country Houses, Character Trait books, and music! Music is pivotal. I’ve got my noise cancellation headphones and my playlist loaded with Florence + The Machine, Hans Zimmer and Sia. I need just the right songs to help me imagine how those six rogues will go about seizing a castle to rescue one of their lady loves. Sometimes I have a rough day where the words don’t want to come and it feels like the characters are just standing there waiting for me to push them in a genius direction. On days like those, I have to take a step back, go on an extra walk with the dogs, listen to more music and allow the pieces to fall together themselves. As Terry Brooks, a fav author of mine, says: “Sometimes the magic works, sometimes it doesn’t.”

4pm to 5pm: Share steamy scenes with a friend and giggle over her reactions. Then dive into my research materials to make some notes on less steamy but historically interesting topics like where men would go boxing during the regency, what sort of coach a bachelor would drive when escorting a lady to the park and what roads a rogue might use to whisk a lady away to Scotland to marry her without her family’s consent.

5pm: Stare at the stove in my house and wish it could magically make something delicious for dinner. I’m a passable cook, but I really hate it. I usually end up calling my mom and asking her what I can whip up in half an hour with minimal effort. Tonight it’s a homemade meatloaf recipe from the Molly section of my American Girl cookbook. Yes, I’ve had this cookbook for twenty years, and every recipe is fabulous.

6pm to 9pm: Turn on some TV. It feels so good to indulge in someone else’s fantasy world. But my laptop is still out so I can work on some much needed edits or check in with my friends and my readers on social media.

9pm to 10pm: I’m settling down in my bed and perusing my ever growing to-be-read pile which includes the latest Karen Robard’s book, The Meaning of Night, and The Mummy by Anne Rice.

10pm: Time for some shut-eye. The best nights end with dreams about scenes that will unfold tomorrow in my notebook. Tonight I’m imagining a super sexy blond-haired baron and how he’ll win over a fiery Scottish business woman. Man, I love being a writer!

 


Lauren Smith is a romance author, living in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Her series include The League of Rogues from Samhain Publishing, and The Surrender and Her British Stepbrother series from Grand Central Publishing. She has also written for Heroes & Heartbreakers and Bustle. For more (including cute animal photos), follow Lauren on Twitter @LSmithAuthor or laurensmithbooks.com.

Book Review: ‘Map of Fates’ by Maggie Hall

Book Review: ‘Map of Fates’ by Maggie HallI’m a little late boarding the Conspiracy of Us train. The first book has been on my to-read list since before its release, but I finally got around to reading it once I received an ARC of book two in the series, Map of Fates. While I enjoyed The Conspiracy of Us, I was still pleasantly surprised at how much Map of Fates hooked me. If you haven’t read The Conspiracy of Us and don’t want it spoiled for you, you know the drill – back away slowly from this page!

There’s a pretty intricate plot in these books, but a brief summary of book one for those who need a memory jog: “Normal American Teenager” Avery West learns that she’s heir to an extremely powerful group of of families known as The Circle. Not only that, Avery happens to be “the girl with the purple eyes” that has long been prophesied as having a hugely important impact on the fate of The Circle, particularly when there is a union with Avery and “the One,” who we discovered in The Conspiracy of Us is Stellan, a “Keeper” (AKA “unusually young and attractive security”) for another family in The Circle and the one of Avery’s two Keeper accomplices that she’s not kinda-sorta in a relationship with. Awkward.

Oh and also, there’s this adversary group called The Order that kidnapped Avery’s mom and wants Avery’s help to find this very abstract, never clearly defined source of power that is apparently in Alexander the Great’s tomb or something. And Stellan being The One is a secret, so The Circle thinks The One could be any dude from one of its families, basically, so they’re all desperate for Avery to marry into their family. I mean…the story is fun but the details…don’t think too hard about them, mmmkay? Your head might start literally spinning. So much for a brief summary, eh?

Map of Fates catches up with Avery and her actual-sort-of-not-really-because-he-might-get-killed-for-it Keeper boyfriend Jack as they investigate clues left behind by their shared mentor in an attempt to trade info for Avery’s mom. This eventually leads to an agreement with Avery’s father, who starts parading Avery around to various countries with Circle families with eligible bachelor sons. Avery and Jack, along with some help from Stellan, use this as an opportunity to research potential clues in the countries they’re visiting. And so begins a whirlwind of visiting different countries, dressing up pretty to meet marriageable guys, and then sneaking out to comb museums and historical sites for clues.

There’s a decent amount of action and mystery in Map of Fates, and I appreciate the plot despite it being a bit…well, fanciful. But it’s executed well, so long as you aren’t expecting a straightforward thriller but are fine with some boy drama and pretty dresses being involved as well. I should probably address the dreaded love triangle. Yup, this series has one. But Hall handles it exceptionally well. She maintains the integrity of all three characters while shifting the story around them in a believable way, without straight manipulating you as a reader. It’s one of the best (or, as a love triangle skeptic might say, least-awful) love triangles I’ve ever read in YA, so there’s that.

Map of Fates takes the elements of Conspiracy of Us and amps them up a bit, and it becomes clear that Hall’s true talent lies more in the realm of contemporary YA than action and intrigue. Not that she can’t manage the action and intrigue, but the best parts of this story are the ones that focus on characters and relationships, not globetrotting action and high-power conspiracies. I dearly hope Hall has plans to write a straightforward contemporary at some point, because I have no doubt she’d excel at it.

This book is also a real page-turner, particularly once you hit the halfway point. There are twists and turns; some unexpected and some not so much, but all are engaging. Map of Fates also deftly avoids bridge book syndrome by seeing a major plot line through while setting up a new one for the final book in the series. Hall seems to have a knack for finding the balance in drawing out the things that need to be but not stretching out the things that don’t. (Perhaps Ms. Hall should be recruited to write for Pretty Little Liars; she could teach them a thing or two.) Hall is a frequent traveler, which I both love and hate – it’s great that her descriptions of Avery’s travels are authentic; that really shines through in her writing. I’m just bitter that I don’t have the kind of lifestyle where I can jet around the world constantly. 🙂

As much as I enjoyed The Conspiracy of Us, it wasn’t until finishing Map of Fates that I realized I am fully on board with this series and excited to see how it ends! If you need reprieve from the winter reading rut, I highly recommend this series to tide you over until spring’s exciting slate of new releases.

 

If you’re itching for more Map of Fates, be sure to check out the blog tour running through March 22nd – you can find the first top, as well as links to additional blog tour stops, at Fangirlish.

Re-read Rick Yancey’s ‘The Infinite Sea’ for a Chance to Win ‘5th Wave’ Swag!

Re-read Rick Yancey’s ‘The Infinite Sea’ for a Chance to Win ‘5th Wave’ Swag!It is now officially less than three months until the final book in Rick Yancey’s 5th Wave trilogy, The Last Star, hits shelves! What if I told you that you could refresh your memory on the story and pick up some amazing prizes by participating in the March read-along of book two, The Infinite Sea? I mean, if you’re like me you were going to re-read The Infinite Sea anyway, so why not enter to win some cool stuff in the process?

Click here to enter The Infinite Sea read-along sweepstakes for a chance to win signed copies of all three books in The 5th Wave series and phone call with author Rick Yancey.

The Last Star will be available on May 24th. What questions are you most looking forward to having answered?

 

Our 10 Most-Anticipated YA Books of the Spring & Summer

Our 10 Most-Anticipated YA Books of the Spring & SummerMaybe I’m alone in this, but it seems like every year, right around January – March, I hit a book rut. There isn’t much new coming out that grabs my attention, and I end up attempting to decide what older books on my to-read list I feel like tackling. It has a tendency to leave me feeling like I’m reading “leftovers;” the stuff I was never super excited about but just mildly interested in, and it’s usually kind of depressing.

But good news, fellow book-lovers! March is here and there are all sorts of exciting new releases coming out this spring and summer to look forward to. Here’s a list of some of my most anticipated spring & summer YA book releases. Click through the titles to read more about each book on Goodreads, and get a peek at the current release date since some of these may be subject to change.

The Winner’s Kiss (The Winner’s Curse #3) by Marie Rutkoski | March 29, 2016

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This book series has been steadily building toward its third and final installment, which readers can finally dig into at the end of the month! Early reviews have been promising, and I’m excited to see how all the strategy and manipulation finally plays out for Kestrel and Arin.

 

When We Collided by Emery Lord | April 5

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I always enjoy Emery Lord’s contemporary fiction, which tends to lean into comedic territory. When We Collided sounds like it might be a bit heavier than Lord’s past work, but I’m intrigued by the mysterious blurb and am excited to see Lord branch out a bit with her writing style.

 

The Raven King (The Raven Cycle #4) by Maggie Stiefvater | April 26

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Another series finale, this is perhaps my most-anticipated book of the spring. Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle series has not missed a beat since page one of the first book, and she has built such a lovely world full of unique characters and atmospheric writing. I can’t wait to see how this ends, and how on earth Stiefvater addresses the Gansey situation!

 

The Rose and the Dagger (The Wrath and the Dawn #2) by Renee Adieh | April 26

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The Wrath and the Dawn was my annual winter book rut-breaker last year around this time, so of course I’m excited for the follow-up! Adieh set up such an interesting world that I’m excited to return to it. I’m a little worried about how magic is going to be handled in book 2 since it felt a little awkward in the first, but I’m optimistic that the magic plotline will smooth out now that the bones of the story have been set up.

 

The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson | May 3

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Morgan Matson is one of those authors who can really do no wrong as far as I’m concerned, so I can’t wait to read her next book! It doesn’t even really matter what it’s about – Matson handles teenage characters, relationships, and quirks so wonderfully that the plot details are just icing on the cake. Plus the cover is full of cute dogs! They know how to win me over.

 

 

Summer Days & Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories by Stephanie Perkins (and many more) | May 17

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I have mixed feelings about these short story compilation books. On the one hand, it’s a nice way to get a nice little story from a favorite author without having to wait for them to write an entire book. On the other, I usually find myself wishing for a book more along the lines of Let It Snow, which features three short-ish stories instead of a dozen extremely short stories. It just gives me more time to settle in. However, that won’t stop me from devouring this immediately – I’m especially looking forward to reading the short story by Ms. Perkins herself. Give us a new full length book soon, Stephanie!

 

The Last Star (The Fifth Wave #3) by Rick Yancey | May 24

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I promise this is the last final book from a series on this list! But c’mon…The Fifth Wave series is full of action and twists and tension and suspense and, well, ALIENS! What’s not to love? I’m intrigued to see how a world that was in such disarray at the end of book 2 finds resolution…or does it?

 

The Darkest Magic (Spirits & Thieves #2) by Morgan Rhodes | June 28

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Last year I read The Book of Spirits & Thieves with zero context of Falling Kingdoms, its companion series. The story still managed to hook me, and that’s with some of my biggest book red flags: a map and a list of characters in front, a heavy reliance on magic for plot momentum, and a relationship to a book series I’ve never read. I’ve since dabbled into Falling Kingdoms and have no doubt Rhodes will keep me hooked with this book!

 

P.S. I Like You by Kasie West | July 26

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Whether Kasie West is tackling sci-fi dystopia or contemporary romance, she does it with style. Her contemporary styles are usually light and adorable while still having depth and wit. P.S. I Like You sounds like it should fit right in, and with a mysterious secret admirer plot line, I fully expect to be hooked from the first sentence.

 

A Torch Against the Night (An Ember in the Ashes #2) by Sabaa Tahir | August 30

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An Ember in the Ashes was one of my favorite books of 2015 – and probably my #1 favorite non-contemporary book of the year. The alternate universe spin on the Roman empire, the alternating perspectives between two amazing and conflicted characters, the unflinching ability to put those characters in the worst of situations without ever making the reader completely hopeless…it just all works, and the ambiguous ending makes me oh-so-glad another book is happening!

 

My most-anticipated books are part of series I enjoy or from my favorite authors, so I’m sure I missed lots of great ones that I just don’t know about! Let us know in the comments what YA books you’re most looking forward to this spring and summer!

‘Gilmore Girls’ Revival: What We Most Want to See

(Image Credit: The CW)

(Image Credit: The CW)

As a longtime Gilmore Girls fan, I reacted to news of the upcoming Netflix revival of the show, in the form of four mini-movies, with a mix of disbelief (Really? After all this time?), relief (Finally Amy Sherman-Palladino can finish the series the way she intended!), and, of course, extreme excitement. Fans have been buzzing about every new casting announcement and analyzing what it might mean for the story.

Personally, I’ll be happy with literally anything. New Gilmore Girls is new Gilmore Girls, and I have all the faith in the world that ASP will come through with something worth watching. That said, of course there are certain things I hope are addressed with the revival, and other things that I just would really love to see.

 

Rory doesn’t end up with Dean or Logan

I don’t think there’s much chance of this, but it’s still on my list because if Rory did end up with Dean or Logan, it would be horribly depressing. Everyone has their opinions on Rory’s various boyfriends, but to me it doesn’t make sense that she’d find long term happiness with Dean, and I just really don’t like Logan. So yeah, I’m biased. I don’t really think she’ll end up with Jess, either, but if she did…I wouldn’t be mad about it. At all.

 

What happens when someone uses a cell phone at Luke’s Diner

I just really want to know if Luke is still enforcing the no cell phones rule. I assume he probably is, but HOW? It’s got to be much harder in 2016 than it was in 2006.

 

Kirk is still exploring new job opportunities

The Stars Hollow townies, and especially Kirk, are the special spices in the Gilmore Girls formula that make it so interesting and endearing. With news of Sean Gunn joining the revival cast, we know Kirk will make an appearance, but I hope that he’s the same ol’ Kirk. I want to see the version of Kirk that’s always got a new odd job and is both bizarre and beautifully clueless. I don’t think it would be right if Kirk was suddenly the picture of maturity and stability.

 

Luke and Lorelai get some resolution

When Gilmore Girls ended, the Luke/Lorelai situation was left (probably intentionally) very ambiguous. No thank you. Sort that situation out one way or the other, please! Either they get together and stay together or they are definitely, definitively apart for good. But hopefully if that’s the case they are still best frenemies.

 

Kwan and Steve get some screentime

I generally could not care less about kids, but for some reason I am just itching to know what Lane & Zach’s twins, Kwan and Steve, are up to these days! Are they musically-inclined like their parents? Or do either of them take after Mrs. Kim? Maybe one of each? There are just so many funny little directions this situation could take, and I would love to see it as a small story throughout the revival episodes.

 

The clothes are fantastic enough to inspire a tumblr

The Gilmore Girls always had slightly eclectic fashion sense, with Lorelai never shying away from a loud pattern or low cut, and Rory preferring mostly simple, classic clothes with an occasional quirk thrown in. I’m excited to see these ladies’ updated looks and I’m hoping for an odd but fashionable blend of items worthy of one of those tumblr pages that tells you where you can, for the low price of $1200, purchase a dress like Lorelai’s.

 

Richard gets a fitting tribute

I’m confident this will happen – ASP clearly loved Edward Hermann and was deeply affected by his death, so I know she will address it appropriately on the show. I’m just hopeful that they are able to find the right balance in tone so that the loss of Richard is important and given the time it deserves, but doesn’t dominate too much of the storyline.

 

The last four words are worth the hype

If you’re a fan of Gimore Girls, you’ve no doubt heard the legend of the last four words. For many years, even before the show originally ended, ASP had the idea in her head for what she wanted the last four words of the series to be. When Sherman-Palladino left the show before its final season, those four words became legend. Would we ever hear them? Well, now we’re going to, and now I just hope they can live up to the huge expectation that has been built up around them.
This list could go on forever, because in reality I could get excited about seeing just about anything related to Gilmore Girls. Just seeing all my favorite characters back together again on screen will be amazing regardless, but if the revival checks off the items on my list, even better!

Top 5 Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Flavors

(Image Credit: Stephanie Frey)

(Image Credit: Stephanie Frey)

As evidenced by my QIOTW post on the ice cream pint lock, I take my ice cream pretty seriously. No one knows ice cream better than Ben & Jerry, and you’d be hard pressed to find a greater variety of unique flavors than Ben & Jerry’s classic pints. I put together a list of my favorite Ben & Jerry’s flavors of past and present; I hope you appreciate how hungry I’m about to make myself.

 

Milk & Cookies

This is a classic, and it’s one I can pretty much always count on being in the freezer at any grocery store I visit. Rather than the usual cookies & cream, this mixture maintains a vanilla ice cream base and mixes chocolate sandwich cookie chunks with chocolate chip cookie chunks, giving Milk & Cookies a unique flavor and tons of texture. Ben & Jerry aren’t ones to skimp on the mix-ins, and this flavor is no exception.

 

Voluntiramisu

This flavor was a Target exclusive that was available for several years but, sadly, was retired in favor of new Target exclusives. Voluntiramisu featured a smooth espresso-flavored ice cream base with a cocoa ribbon and generous chunks of ladyfingers. It had just the right amount of espresso flavor without being overpowering, and felt indulgent without being one of Ben & Jerry’s over-the-top mixtures of rich mix-ins.

 

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Thanks to the seasonal pumpkin-flavored everything trend, this flavor is a bit easier to come by every fall. Pumpkin can be a tricky flavor to capture in ice cream, but Ben & Jerry totally nailed it, and the graham cracker ribbon puts it over the top. I dare you to try to take just one bite of this one.

 

Spectacular Speculoos

I’m a bit of a purist when it comes to Ben & Jerry’s, so I’m not a huge fan of the new core flavors. However, Spectacular Speculoos is the one that managed to win me over. Rather than mixing the goodies in with the ice cream, this flavor has a Speculoos cookie “core” surrounded by caramel vanilla ice cream. It’s amazingly decadent and I don’t recommend picking up a pint of this flavor unless you’re prepared to eat it in one sitting.

 

Cake My Day

This flavor is a new limited batch for 2016, and I was itching to get my hands on it so much I swiped the last two pints from the freezer at Target last weekend. Cake batter ice cream mixed with vanilla cake pieces and buttercream & raspberry swirl…it’s the perfect mix of rich but refreshing. Ben & Jerry haven’t done too much exploring in the realm of cake batter and cake pieces, but this flavor makes me wish for a cake-based flavor in their regular offerings!

 

Obviously best ice cream flavors can be a hotly-debated topic since everyone’s tastes are different, so I’m curious: what are your favorite Ben & Jerry’s flavors? Let us know in the comments!

Giveaway: ‘The Immortals’ by Jordanna Max Brodsky Goddess Prize Pack

Giveaway: ‘The Immortals’ by Jordanna Max Brodsky Goddess Prize PackEver wondered what it might be like if Greek Gods lived in the modern world, but they were no longer worshiped and limited in power? The Daily Quirk has partnered with Orbit Books to offer a giveaway of Jordanna Max Brodsky’s The Immortals, a book about exactly that – so if your answer to the question above was either “yes, of course!” or “no, but now I do!” then this is the giveaway for you!

(Image Credit: Orbit Books)

(Image Credit: Orbit Books)

Here’s more about The Immortals:

Manhattan has many secrets. Some are older than the city itself.

The city sleeps. Selene DiSilva walks her dog along the banks of the Hudson. She is alone—just the way she likes it. She doesn’t believe in friends, and she doesn’t speak to her family. Most of them are simply too dangerous.

In the predawn calm, Selene finds the body of a young woman washed ashore, gruesomely mutilated and wreathed in laurel. Her ancient rage returns. And so does the memory of a promise she made long ago—when her name was Artemis.

The Immortals will be available in stores February 16th, but you can check out an excerpt of the first chapter of The Immortals here, and enter the giveaway below to win the Goddess Prize Pack:

white book

One (1) winner receives:

  •         a copy of The Immortals
  •         and a branded “GODDESS” sweatshirt.

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Giveaway open to US addresses only. Prizing and samples provided by Orbit Books.

Visit http://www.olympusbound.com/ to learn more about The Immortals and author Jordanna Max Brodsky. You can also follow Jordanna on Twitter @jordannabrodsky or visit her official website.

Life Lessons from ‘I Was Here’ Author Gayle Forman

Life Lessons from ‘I Was Here’ Author Gayle FormanGayle Forman has a knack for writing prose not only beautiful, but impactful. Regardless of what she’s saying, it always packs an emotional punch. In honor of the paperback release of Forman’s I Was Here, we’re participating in a giveaway of Forman’s entire paperback collection –  and I’m going to share one of my favorite quotes from a Forman novel.

Forman’s Just One Day tells the story of Allyson, a girl who spends a life-changing day with a near-stranger, Willem, during a trip abroad. The follow-up book, Just One Year, tells Willem’s story as he attempts to track down Allyson, without even knowing her real name. Throughout the course of the book Willem struggles with the line between leaving everything up to fate and making his own fate. Just when Willem is starting to give up hope, he gets this much-needed reality check:

“Nothing happens without intention, Willem. Nothing. This theory of yours – life is ruled by accidents – isn’t that just one huge excuse for passivity?”

I love this quote because it doesn’t discount the fact that strange, unexpected things can happen that change the course of your life, but realistically points out the necessity of trying when there is something you want. It’s easy for teenagers to romanticize the idea of fate and things happening for a reason. It’s a nice notion, until you end up with the short end of the stick and think that’s just the way it is. But it’s really not – through Willem, Forman shows the importance of making an effort. Things may not always go your way, but sometimes they will, and you never know if you don’t try.

Keep reading for a giveaway, and let us know your favorite Gayle Forman quotes or life lessons in the comments!


Giveaway

And now for the giveaway! Whether you’re a longtime Gayle Forman fan looking to complete your collection, or you’re just getting started, this giveaway will give you everything you need to catch up on all things Gayle Forman.

Five winners will receive paperback copies of:

  • I Was Here
  • Just One Day / Just One Year / Just One Night (Box Set)
  • If I Stay / Where She Went (Box Set)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Open to US addresses only. Prizing courtesy of Penguin Young Readers. Giveaway closes 2/15/16.


To learn more about Gayle Forman, visit her official website or follow her on twitter @gayleforman.

Our 5 Most Anticipated Winter TV Premieres

(Image Credit: HBO)

(Image Credit: HBO)

The holidays are over and all the good parts about winter – time off school or work and a justification for eating cookies & drinking gingerbread lattes every day – are sadly behind you. All that stretches ahead are a few long months of winter, which could be pretty depressing if you’re not into cold days and short hours of sunlight. Fortunately, there is some consolation: this winter is a great time for TV! You may not feel like getting out much, but you don’t have to with so much TV to watch! Check out our top 5 picks for TV shows debuting new seasons this winter:

(Image Credit: The CW)

(Image Credit: The CW)

The 100 (1/21 @ 9pm EST on The CW)

This is not the first time we’ve waxed poetic about the virtues of The 100 here at TDQ. (Check out our Top 5 Reasons You Should Be Watching The 100.) If you haven’t seen the show before, binge seasons 1 and 2 on Netflix immediately so you can enjoy the season 3 premiere. Once you get through the first few episodes (which are admittedly a bit…teenager show-y) The 100 finds its footing and you will be HOOKED. The show is sort of a YA Battlestar Galactica, with layered characters grappling with difficult choices, and it’s never predictable. Don’t count it out just because it’s on The CW – it’s hardcore!

(Image Credit: TV Land)

(Image Credit: TV Land)

Younger (1/13 @ 10pm EST on TV Land)

This show is a bit off the radar since it airs on TV Land, but I recently caught the New Year’s marathon of season 1 and plowed through the entire season in a few days. Series creator Darren Star is known for Sex and the City, and there is definitely a similar vibe to this show, though it is certainly less scandalous. The show stars Sutton Foster as a 40-year-old trying to pass as a 26-year-old to get back in the workforce, and it’s both funny and poignant.

(Image Credit: ABC Family/Freeform)

(Image Credit: ABC Family/Freeform)

Pretty Little Liars (1/12 @ 8pm EST on ABC Family/Freeform)

I can’t, in good conscience, say that Pretty Little Liars is a good show, exactly…but it is an entertaining one. If nothing else it has ridiculous moments (like the dramatic chickpeas) to look forward to, and after years of investment in this story, I’m curious to see where the Liars are after the much talked about 5 year time jump. There’s basically a 100% chance I will never make sense of the plot of this show, but at this point the Liars feel like old friends – it’s still fun to visit with them every week, even if nothing makes sense!

(Image Credit: ABC)

(Image Credit: ABC)

Marvel’s Agent Carter (1/19 @ 9pm EST on ABC)

While Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has barely held my attention over the past two seasons, last year’s Agent Carter miniseries was everything S.H.I.E.L.D. wants to be but can never seem to manage: A strong, resourceful female protagonist who is actually likable, a great mix of action, suspense, and humor, and a story simple enough to follow but complex enough to keep things interesting. The general lack of superhuman abilities and the retro setting also give Agent Carter a unique place in the Marvel universe. I look forward to another adventure with Peggy Carter this year!

(Image Credit: HBO)

(Image Credit: HBO)

Girls (2/21 @ 10pm EST on HBO)

Hannah Horvath the sort of character you either love or love to hate, but you have to admit she’s always interesting, particularly when you throw in her equally polarizing group of friends. Girls is entertaining because it simultaneously empathizes with and pokes fun at the millennial culture it portrays. You can watch it and relate to it, or you can watch it and feel good about the fact that you can’t relate to it. It’s hard to say what season 5 has in store for Hannah and her crew, but I know I will be disappointed if Adam’s lines aren’t immediately turned into Kylo Ren memes.

As a bonus, if you’re in the market to check out a new show this winter, give SyFy’s The Magicians a try. Debuting 1/25 at 10pm EST, it’s based on the popular fantasy book series by Lev Grossman, and it has the potential to be amazing!

The days my be short and cold, but I promise you’re in for comfy, entertaining evenings on the couch with these winter premieres!

Book Review and Giveaway: ‘Frozen Tides’ by Morgan Rhodes

(Image Credit: Penguin)

(Image Credit: Penguin)

Head’s up – there’s a giveaway for Frozen Tides at the end of this review. I think I avoided spoilers completely in my review, but if you’re uber cautious about it, you may want to jump to the bottom of the page for the giveaway!

Call me crazy, but I jumped into Frozen Tides having not read any of the previous Falling Kingdoms books (despite my best intentions). I had read A Book of Spirits & Thieves, which has some crossover universe stuff, but the story and characters are basically totally different. I thought maybe it would be hard for me to get into Frozen Tides without context, but to my surprise, it wasn’t even a little hard! I realize if you’re reading this, you’re probably more familiar with the series than I am, so I’ll avoid recapping and get to the point and hopefully this will make some sense!

The book is told from several alternating perspectives who readers familiar with the series probably already know – Cleo, Jonas, Magnus, Amara, and Lucia.. I did consult with the list of characters at the beginning of the book a few times when I first started reading, just to help me keep track of how the characters were related to each other, but it didn’t take me long to pick up. Context for the characters’ backstories was readily available within the narrative without being distracting. And story-wise, Frozen Tides totally stands on its own. It’s possible that there may have been more of an emotional punch at certain points of the story if I had three books’ worth of investment in the characters involved, but I didn’t feel like my experience with Frozen Tides was lacking.

Another surprising thing for me was how I wasn’t particularly put off by the magical piece of this story. I’m not a big fan of fantasy books, particularly when they involve magic (or magical creatures), but as it was presented in this book, I actually enjoyed it. Maybe it’s more of a layman’s take on fantasy and that’s why I enjoyed it, or maybe it’s just Rhodes’ writing style, but it totally worked for me. The story feels epic, with elements of danger and adventure and romance and fantastic world-building, so there’s a little something for whatever tickles your fancy.

I don’t want to spoil things, of course, but throughout the course of Frozen Tides, some characters find themselves making unlikely alliances (and betrayals!) and others reassess their plights. It was interesting – and quite enjoyable – for me to try to sort out who is supposed to be good and who is supposed to be bad at this unique time in the character development when many of the characters fall into a gray area. I particularly enjoyed Cleo & Magnus’s storyline and complex relationship, but all the perspectives were unique and engaging, and ultimately tied together in an important way. I also loved how the Amara character continually challenged my perceptions. Is she really a villain when her intentions are based in something good?

Related: It’s great that Rhodes gives these characters reasons for their actions, although by the end of the book I was like, “C’mon guys, enough with the avenging,” as it appears book 5 will feature more of that. At a certain point the vengeance starts to feel very juvenile, although I think that’s part of Rhodes’ point.

Even with juggling a pretty hefty pile of character perspectives, Rhodes managed to make me feel a connection to each narrator, even without having any context to them from previous books. I also get the feeling that she really knows where she is going with this story and is building each book carefully to reach that ending.

When it was all said and done, rather than being frustrated or overwhelmed by jumping into the middle of a series, I found myself truly enjoying Frozen Tides and bumping up all the Falling Kingdoms books on my to-read list. I hope other readers who are a bit hesitant about fantasy will consider giving this series a chance; you may also be pleasantly surprised!


And now the giveaway! Whether you’ve been waiting with bated breath for Frozen Tides to come out or are new to the series and had your interest piqued by my review, this is a great chance to get your hands on a copy of the book – just enter below.

frozentidescover

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Giveaway open to US addresses only. Prizing courtesy of Penguin Publishing.

An Open Letter to Mandy Moore

(Image Credit: Mandy Moore Instagram @mandymooremm)

(Image Credit: Mandy Moore Instagram @mandymooremm)

Dear Mandy,

I first learned of your existence around 1999. I was a Backstreet Boys fanatic with dial-up internet. (I’m still a Backstreet Boys fanatic, but my internet is significantly faster.) While browsing various BSB fan sites, I came across a scandalous rumor: Some 14-year-old singer I’d never heard of named Mandy Moore was supposedly dating Nick Carter. As a dedicated BSB fan, I did my due diligence and googled you. (Realistically I probably used Yahoo or Lycos or something. The internet was a scary place in 1999.) That was when I found your official website, which I visited often enough that I can still picture it in my head today. That photo shoot of you with those light tubes was my jam. I wanted to be photographed in a halo of halogen too!

Sure, the Nick Carter rumors turned out to be just that, but in the process of trying to get some dirt, I learned a lot about you – a girl my age who was singing catchy pop songs and seemed like someone who could be my friend. And you had a mole like mine! This sort of thing is really important to tweens. I downloaded the 30 second .wav files of your early songs (like So Real and What You Want), and I bought the CD single for Candy at Sam Goody the day it came out. I was hooked. I know these days you fully admit you’re not exactly proud of some of your early music, but I think you should be. Yes, it’s mostly pure teenybopper pop, but as far as teenybopper pop goes, it’s good. It’s fun. It makes people smile – and that’s an accomplishment!

It wasn’t long before I decided to create a fansite dedicated to you. Armed with self-taught html skills and an Angelfire web address, I created Mandy’s Candy, an oh-so-cleverly-titled website dedicated to spreading the love for you and your music. I think you must have found Mandy’s Candy somehow, because you once emailed me from an AOL account informing me the image I was using of your signature was not, in fact, your real signature. (It seemed legit at the time so I’m not entertaining the possibility that the message came from a 40-year-old man pretending to be you.) I printed out your message and hung it on my wall. You’ve probably forgotten about this exchange but the email address bsb_mandymoore@hotmail.com might refresh your memory. Yup, that was me. I was dedicated.

Mandy’s Candy actually still exists. It’s not pretty, with a layout not intended for today’s web browsers and broken images from long dead file hosting sites littering the page. But there’s enough there to see the depth of my teenage love for you. (And a lot of really embarrassing insights into my 14-year-old brain, but that’s a story for another day.)

In the many years since, my love for you has persisted. I don’t know exactly what it is about you that I love so much. Yes, you’re talented – both as a musician and an actress. You are filled with Christ’s love. And you seem smart and down-to-earth, like your years of varying levels of celebrity haven’t really changed your personality. You can pull off literally any hair color. I like that you’re a homebody with no interest in getting attention. I like that you’re independent and promote positive female friendships. I like that you’re a little bit of a hippie but still appreciate a little glamour. I like that you just keep doing your thing. You’re just real. So, so real.

Love always,

bsb_mandymoore@hotmail.com

 

What’s the Big Deal About…Fabletics

There are monthly subscription services for basically everything these days, so it was only a matter of time before athletic gear got tossed into the mix. You may have heard about Fabletics, a monthly subscription service for fashionable workout apparel, but you may have some questions or hesitations about committing to signing up. I’m going to give you the rundown of everything Fabletics to help you determine if the service is right for you.

What it is: Fabletics features an online shop with a variety of workout gear including tops, leggings, sports bras, shorts, jackets, and even accessories. You can purchase individual products on their own, or you can choose to purchase a full “outfit,” which is a pre-selected combination of 2-4 Fabletics items carefully chosen to work together perfectly.

When you sign up, you take a short quiz that helps Fabletics determine which outfits are best suited to your needs, but you’re welcome to purchase any outfits, not just your top picks.

(Image Credit: Fabletics)

(Image Credit: Fabletics)

How it works: You can purchase items or outfits as a guest at their full price, or you can register as a VIP member, which gives you a discount on all Fabletics merchandise.

The catch? Once you register as a VIP, Fabletics will send you a message at the beginning of each month linking you to their new monthly outfits. You can choose to purchase an outfit, or, if nothing strikes your fancy, you can skip the month – but you only have until the 5th of the month to select the “skip” option, or your credit card will get charged $49.95 and you will be given an equivalent credit on your account to use at any time.

You can cancel your VIP membership at any time, but unlike other subscription services (like Birchbox), you need to call and speak to customer service; you can’t just cancel over the web.

As a VIP, you earn rewards points for each dollar you spend and for each product review you post. Your reward points can be redeemed for specific items in the Fabletics shop – there are a variety of reward item options at varying point levels.

(Image Credit: Fabletics)

(Image Credit: Fabletics)

Quality and Price: Fabletics gear is high quality and sturdy. It’s not quite Lululemon, but it’s definitely a step up from what you’ll find at Target. The prices are in line with that – you won’t be spending $100 on a pair of yoga pants, but you are looking at around $40-$60 for a pair of pants at the non-membership price. VIPs are looking at about $30 for the same pair.

Outfits run around $50-90 for VIPs depending on the amount and type of pieces included, but outfit prices increase significantly if you’re not a VIP – for example, an outfit that costs a VIP $79.95 is $139.90 for a non-member.

(Image Credit: Fabletics)

(Image Credit: Fabletics)

What are the outfits like?: Pretty much all outfits include a top and a bottom of some kind, whether it’s shorts and a tank or compression crops and a sweatshirt. Some outfits offer a third piece, like a sports bra or a jacket, and occasionally you’ll find 4 piece outfits with headbands or other accessories included.

Outfits are added monthly with new pieces and updated patterns. There are some standby items (like the salar capri) that is consistently available, but the colors and prints offered change based on the month. Other pieces are specific to a particular month or season and are unavailable after they sell out.

The patterns and designs are usually really cute and fashionable, but you do have to be mindful of fashion vs. function. Most fabletics pieces are intended for both, but they do offer “athleisure” pieces that might not hold up to intense activity. You’ll find that some months the new outfits are full of adorable and fun new ideas, while others are a little less exciting – but it balances out when you skip a few months but then have a month where you want all the outfits.

(Image Credit: Fabletics)

(Image Credit: Fabletics)

What I Like: The quality for the VIP price is quite high for Fabletics, and I’ve yet to receive a piece that’s a total dud. The website features a really useful (and active!) section of user reviews and fit surveys to help you determine what items will work for you and what size to select. The only bummer about it is that you won’t find any reviews on brand new pieces, so you have to take a chance. That said, Fabletics does have a very simple return process if you do happen to get something that totally doesn’t work for you.

The concept of pre-determined outfits is great if you want a little help putting together a look, but you also have the freedom to mix and match colors and patterns within the outfit you pick, so you don’t have to order an outfit exactly as is if you are more interested in the individual pieces than the overall look.

I really like how often Fabletics mixes up their colors, patterns and styles, and their pieces often have unique details that make them feel special. I like the freedom of being able to get the VIP deals a few times a year but not having a commitment to buy every month.  I don’t have any problem remembering to skip months (Fabletics sends an email on the 1st of the month, which serves as a great reminder), so I’ve never run into trouble with having my card charged when I wasn’t expecting it.

(Image Credit: Fabletics)

(Image Credit: Fabletics)

What I Don’t: The reward system is just okay. It used to be that once you reached a certain amount of points, you could trade them in for a full Fabletics outfit of your choice. Now that points are traded for single items, it does feel like you get less for your points, and you don’t have as many options to pick from. I also find that the items available for rewards are often sold out in most colors/sizes, further limiting your options.

I hate hate HATE that you have to call to cancel, and I’ve heard that customer service can be a huge pain about canceling. I’ve also heard from people who had no trouble canceling, though, so it might just depend on who you talk to.

(Image Credit: Fabletics)

(Image Credit: Fabletics)

Bottom Line: Fabletics is a great service if you like variety in your workout gear and value the combination of style and functionality. However, if you’re not planning on taking the VIP route, the price might outweigh the novelty. And if you do  take the VIP route, make sure you’re comfortable with the responsibility of checking in at the beginning of each month in case you want to skip.