Book Review: ‘The Cresswell Plot’ by Eliza Wass

CreswellPlot

I received my review copy of Eliza Wass’s The Cresswell Plot buried in a wooden box full of dirt. Needless to say, it piqued my attention. Everything about the book, from the unsettling cover to the eerie blurb makes you think you’re in for an extremely creepy read. And yeah, The Cresswell Plot is definitely creepy, although it may not be creepy enough to satiate readers hoping to be truly unsettled. Continue reading

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A Look At ‘Carve the Mark’ by Veronica Roth

Veronica Roth (Image Credit: Nelson Fitch) / CARVE THE MARK (Image Credit: HarperCollins)

Veronica Roth (Image Credit: Nelson Fitch) / CARVE THE MARK (Image Credit: HarperCollins)

Fans of the Divergent series and sci-fi alike, get ready! Veronica Roth’s new book, Carve The Mark, will hit shelves on January 17, 2017, and it sounds like another blockbuster.
Continue reading

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.

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!

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.

Book Review: ‘Someone Like You’ by Sarah Dessen

Recently The Daily Quirk was invited to participate in the #IHeartDessen summer campaign in support of the reigning queen of YA contemporary writing, Sarah Dessen. I jumped at the chance to review one of Dessen’s early novels, Someone Like You – because unlike most of her other books, I hadn’t read Someone Like You since I was in college and very close to the ages of the main characters. I was interested to see how the story had aged and how I felt about it now, at a much different place in my life.

Someone Like You tells the story of Halley, a teenager who is just beginning to experience tension with her parents. Halley has always been a good girl with very close relationship with her mother, but as the book begins she starts to experiment with pushing boundaries. Meanwhile, Halley’s best friend Scarlett finds out she is pregnant with the child of her now-dead summer boyfriend, Michael. Also in the picture is Macon, Michael’s best friend and the kind of bad boy who is more than willing to help Halley with her boundary-pushing.

I expected to find Someone Like You to be familiar and comforting, which it certainly was. Many of Dessen’s trademarks can be found – the fantastic friendship between Halley and Scarlett, for one. Slightly offbeat side characters (like Hallie’s mother’s LARPing boyfriend) and bittersweet teenage lessons learned are also present, although it’s apparent Dessen has grown significantly as a writer in the past 15 years. The bones are in Someone Like You, but Dessen has really learned to flesh out her characters and their relationships more fully and really pull readers into these coming-of-age stories.

When Someone Like You was originally released in 1998, the world was a very different place for teenagers. Personal computers and cell phones were just beginning to gain popularity. Social networks and texting weren’t around, and certainly weren’t an integral part of teenagers’ day-to-day lives. I was curious how time had treated Someone Like You, and I’m happy to report that the story held up extremely well. Sure, it’s a bit of a novelty reading about a contemporary teenage relationship restricted by landline telephones, but the story itself focuses so much on the characters that these things barely register and certainly aren’t problematic. It really shows how timeless both Dessen’s stories and writing are.

While I enjoyed re-reading Someone Like You, my own age and life experience made it harder for me to dig in to the story than the first time around. More than most Dessen books it is really targeted specifically to teenagers and feels a bit more after-school-special-let’s-learn-a-lesson than her usual fare. That’s not a bad thing in general – it’s great for teen readers who will be able to relate to Halley’’s rebellion and see her mistakes and how she learns from them. But reading it as an adult…I found it much harder to sympathize with Halley’’s choices. Dessen has since refined her style and is more than capable of writing flawed characters like Halley in a more universally-relatable way. When I read a more recent Sarah Dessen book (like the fantastic Saint Anything), I don’t feel like I relate more with the parents than the children.

Ultimately, though, Someone Like You is a story of friendship, and that’s one thing Dessen gets just right with Halley and Scarlett. I love that these girls support each other and look out for each other. When there is tension or fighting, it’s always because one girl is concerned about the other, and it’s resolved maturely. It’s such a fantastic portrayal of friendship between teenage girls, which can be handled so carelessly in contemporary YA. If you’ve never read Someone Like You or are like me and haven’t read it in years, it’s a quick, poignant summer read worth checking out for many reasons, but especially to get a peek at Halley & Scarlett’s friendship. And if you enjoy the book, I’ll also recommend How to Deal, a 2003 movie starring Mandy Moore and Allison Janney that is mostly based on Someone Like You, with a few elements from another early Dessen novel (That Summer) thrown in for good measure.

Be sure to check out #IHeartDessen on social media for more Sarah Dessen love!

Percy Pack Update: Magnus Chase Cover Reveal and Excerpt; Riordan E-Book News

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As part of our participation in the Percy Pack, The Daily Quirk is happy to share some exclusive news about Rick Riordan’s upcoming releases!

On July 14th, Riordan will be releasing a new e-book, The Demigods of Olympus: An Interactive Adventure, a fun new twist on a Choose Your Own adventure story. Here’s the official word on the book from Disney Books:

Your quest begins! Use your demigod skills in this interactive and customizable adventure story written by New York Times #1 best-selling author Rick Riordan. Combining four short stories, The Two-Headed Guidance Counselor, The Library of Deadly Weapons, My Demon Satyr Tea Party, and My Personal Zombie Apocalypse, your choices will have consequences in this first interactive demigod adventure.

Demigods of Olympus

Sounds pretty cool, right? And if that news isn’t exciting enough, we also have the scoop on the cover reveal and excerpt from Riordan’s newest novel, Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard. After you feast your eyes on the cover below, be sure to check out this Chapter 2 excerpt for a juicy preview of Magnus Chase.

Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard

And finally, if you’re here for your Percy fix, we have news on Percy Jackson’s Greek Heroes, the companion to Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods. Greek Heroes is currently available for pre-order, and will be released August 18th in celebration of Percy’s birthday! From Disney Books:

Who cut off Medusa’s head? Who was raised by a she-bear? Who tamed Pegasus? It takes a demigod to know, and Percy Jackson can fill you in on the all the daring deeds of Perseus, Atalanta, Bellerophon, and the rest of the major Greek heroes. Told in the funny, irreverent style readers have come to expect from Percy, ( I’ve had some bad experiences in my time, but the heroes I’m going to tell you about were the original old school hard luck cases. They boldly screwed up where no one had screwed up before. . .) and enhanced with vibrant artwork by Caldecott Honoree John Rocco, this story collection will become the new must-have classic for Rick Riordan’s legions of devoted fans–and for anyone who needs a hero. So get your flaming spear. Put on your lion skin cape. Polish your shield and make sure you’ve got arrows in your quiver. We’re going back about four thousand years to decapitate monsters, save some kingdoms, shoot a few gods in the butt, raid the Underworld, and steal loot from evil people. Then, for dessert, we’ll die painful tragic deaths. Ready? Sweet. Let’s do this.

Percy Jackson's Greek Heroes

Use the pre-order links below to make sure you get your hands on Percy Jackson’s Greek Heroes as soon as it’s available!

That’s it for now, Percy fans, but keep checking back with The Daily Quirk all summer for more exclusive news, feature and giveaways, and keep up with Rick Riordan online:

#ReadRiordan


As part of our participation in The Percy Pack, The Daily Quirk  is receiving books, merchandise and prizing courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

A Book of Spirits and Thieves by Morgan Rhodes

Book Review: ‘A Book of Spirits and Thieves’ by Morgan Rhodes

A Book of Spirits and Thieves by Morgan RhodesYou know how when you pick out a book to read, there are certain things that you gravitate toward and certain things that make you hesitate? Well, if you haven’t heard me say it before, fantasy makes me hesitate. There’s a very fine line for me in terms of fantasy I can enjoy vs. fantasy that is just too out there for me. Another potential red flag? Picking up a book that’s a spinoff of a series I haven’t read. So for my review of Morgan Rhodes’ A Book of Spirits and Thieves, I’m going to give you my perspective as someone who a) is a little scared of fantasy and 2) has zero experience with the Falling Kingdoms series that inspired this story. (the a & 2 thing was a mistake but I kinda like it so…)

The first thing you should know about A Book of Spirits and Thieves is that it doesn’t assume you have any previous knowledge of Falling Kingdoms. When the story begins, it feels like it’s own distinct plot with its own distinct characters, and the book itself is a lot of setup. You’re not picking up where something else left off or trying to make sense of a context that was spelled out in another book, but instead are getting rich world and character-building within this story. In other words, perfect for someone like me!

The story is told from three alternating third person perspectives. The first is Crys, a sarcastic teenager whose family owns a bookstore in Toronto. When the store receives a mysterious old book, Crys watches her sister Becca reduced to a catatonic state after handling the book, which leads her on a mission to figure out the story behind the book and how to cure her sister. The second is Farrell, whose wealthy and privileged family is deeply connected to the secret Hawkspear society. When Farrell is tapped to join the “inner circle” of the society, he finds himself on a mission to learn more about Crys. And finally there’s Maddox, a boy from another world with magical powers he doesn’t quite understand. When Beca’s spirit appears to Maddox, he becomes embroiled in a plot to save his kingdom from cruel leadership and a pledge to help Becca return home.

At first I thought I might struggle with the third person perspectives, but it actually works really well here. All of the three main characters are engaging narrators with distinct voices. I had a love/hate relationship with how Farrell was portrayed; largely because he seemed to become more and more of an unreliable narrator as the story progressed, which I actually love, but can be oh-so-frustrating when you’re invested in the story! There was also a bit of an instalove situation with Becca and Maddox, but it didn’t bother me too much because the story is so big it couldn’t logistically spend too much time on romance, and because both characters were pretty sweet and innocent and I could kind of see them realistically getting mooney-eyed over each other in this situation.

The fantasy aspect of the story is mainly in the magic, so I found it to be a really nice balance of contemporary mystery and fantasy – definitely not high fantasy, as I’ve seen the Falling Kingdoms series described. There was not one moment of A Book of Spirits and Thieves where I felt confused or out of the loop, even though the plot contains some pretty complex threads. Rhodes does a really nice job of teasing out a mystery and pulling things together in a way that makes sense, but also leaving plenty of conflict for future books.

So to summarize:

Do you need to have read Falling Kingdoms to appreciate this book? Nope, it’s a total non-issue.

Do you need to love fantasy to appreciate this book? No – fantasy is just one part of this story. I’d compare it to Renee Adieh’s The Wrath and the Dawn in terms of the level of fantasy-ness, so if you enjoyed that, you’ll have no problem with A Book of Spirits and Thieves.

And on the subject of future books, you can bet I’m definitely looking forward to finding out what happens next in this series. As to whether I’ll check out Falling Kingdoms remains to be seen, but I’m definitely on board for A Book of Spirits and Thieves.

 

Book Review: ‘Every Last Word’ by Tamara Ireland Stone

EveryLastWordAs readers, we all have certain things that draw us toward a book and certain things that we tend to avoid when choosing a book. I usually shy away from book that focus heavily on illness – probably the direct result of the popularity of books like Six Months to Live and anything by Lurlene McDaniel during my formative years. So when I had the opportunity to read Tamara Ireland Stone’s Every Last Word, I was a bit reticent about a story revolving around a main character with OCD. But I’d read Stone’s Time Between Us series and enjoyed it, so I decided to take a chance on Every Last Word.

I am so glad I did. The main character, Sam, does have OCD, but Stone does such an amazing job of portraying a real teenager functioning with mental illness. Sam’s in the popular clique at school, and she’s constantly trying to hide her issues from her friends, all the while terrified that she’s crazy. But Every Last Word is not the least bit melodramatic in how it approaches Sam’s illness. Instead, it portrays a very relatable girl who has a healthy relationship with her therapist and faces many small struggles in everyday life. Sam is not consumed by her OCD, it’s just a part of her that she’s learning to manage.

The story itself focuses on Sam’s growth as she begins to distance herself from her mean girls-esque group of friends in favor of the more diverse, accepting members of a secret poetry club at her high school. She meets a boy (of course) who helps her start to feel normal again, and she begins to make positive changes in her life that help her manage her OCD. Sam’s not without her challenges – in fact, one of the biggest was a surprisingly huge twist that I didn’t see coming – but she’s working in the right direction. I’m not a big poetry fan myself, but I really appreciated how poetry became an outlet for Sam and how poetry club was less about the poems and more about the friendship and acceptance that came with delivering them in a safe space.

I cannot say enough about how respectfully Stone handled the topic of OCD. She states in her acknowledgements that she has a family member living with OCD and was inspired to write Every Last Word as a result. She not only has personal experience with someone living with OCD, she also put a ton of research into how it manifests and how it is treated. And I loved seeing a trusting relationship between Sam and her therapist. So often therapists are portrayed in fiction as either the enemy or the only thing that’s holding someone together, so it was really refreshing to see something different and (hopefully) more realistic.

Also noteworthy is Stone’s portrayal of Sam’s longtime friendship with the popular clique; girls who were true friends at some point but have evolved into something different. It borders on mean girls behavior sometimes, but Stone never quite takes it there completely. Instead she lets these girls live in a grey area where they aren’t 100% terrible – they still care about Sam and appreciate her friendship. The book acknowledges the intricacies of teen friendships instead of drawing a clear line between the “good” friends and the “bad” friends.

Every Last Word is a sweet, poignant story about a girl coming to terms with her mental illness and learning how to find happiness despite it. But it is also a fantastic tool to help readers with no personal experience understand and empathize with people who live with functional mental illness on a much deeper level, and I think that’s important. Stone doesn’t make this an “issue book,” but instead leaves readers with an amazing story that will stick with you whether you realize it or not.

If you think Every Last Word sounds like a perfect summer read – you’d be right! Enter to win a copy of your own courtesy of Disney Hyperion with the Celebrate Your Unique Selves prize pack. One winner will receive:

  • Two copies of Every Last Word for you and a friend
  • A $50 Visa gift card to enjoy a day out celebrating your friendship

Enter to Win!

Giveaway open to US addresses only. Prizing and samples provided by Disney Hyperion.

 

‘Every Last Word’ Blog Tour: Author Tamara Ireland Stone on High School – Friends vs. Tribes

Tamara Ireland Stone

Tamara Ireland Stone

As part of the blog tour celebrating the release of Tamara Ireland Stone’s Every Last WordThe Daily Quirk is thrilled to feature a guest post from Tamara, reflecting on her own high school experience.

Keep reading for Stone’s insights on the difference between high school friends and high school tribes, and be sure to check out our review of Every Last Word (spoiler alert: it’s amazing!) and enter the giveaway below to win a copy for yourself and your best friend!

Friends vs. Tribes: A Look Back at High School

by Tamara Ireland Stone

It’s easier to see some things from a good long distance.

If you asked me about my friends when I was back in high school, I would have told you they were funny, smart, outspoken, and genuinely wonderful people. Decades later, I can say with certainty that those things were true. But now, I can also admit that I never quite felt like I belonged with them.

We moved a lot when I was young, and I didn’t attend the same school two years in a row until high school. Once I got there, I desperately wanted to be liked, to find a niche, and to feel like I fit in.

The girls I met welcomed me right away, but I was also keenly aware of the fact that they’d known each other all their lives. They had stories and secrets and inside jokes, and when we were together as a group, that history often felt front and center. I often felt awkward. And I spent far too much time wondering what they were thinking of me, worrying that they didn’t thing I belonged, which probably made it even more awkward.

In my sophomore year, I took a journalism class, and found a way to channel my love of writing into the award-winning newspaper, The Oak Leaf. One journalism class turned into two, and then into three. I was elected editor-in-chief my senior year, and by then, it’s safe to say I was spending more than three hours a day in the newspaper staff office.

ELW01There were a bunch of us—reporters, editors, typesetters, layout staff, illustrators, columnists, headline writers—and we each had our place on the masthead. But I was interested in all of it. I wanted to learn about every aspect of the newspaper’s production.

I remember spending many lunch hours and late nights in the newspaper office. That room never seemed to be empty, and there was always good music on the stereo. Even if we weren’t talking, we were side-by-side, head-bobbing to the beat while doing our respective jobs. It was comfortable.

In Every Last Word, Samantha is introduced to a secret poetry club hidden beneath the school theater. The Oak Leaf office was in plain sight, but it’s the closest thing I’ve ever had to Poet’s Corner.

I loved that room. Looking back, that was where I felt like I belonged, felt like I fit in, felt at home, always. The people there were writers and I was a writer and we understood each other in a way I can’t quite explain.

ELW02We read each other’s articles, offered constructive criticism, brainstormed ideas, and applauded each other’s successes. We loved words. We loved being writers and we made each other better ones.

I had wonderful friends outside those four walls, but looking back, my journalism team was more than that. They were my tribe.

It’s hard to articulate, but there’s something profound about being around people who love something with the same intensity you do. When I attended my first writing retreat five years ago, I felt it again, possibly for the first time since I left The Oak Leaf office.

ELW03As part of my marketing career, I’d been presenting to high-level executives for fifteen years, but sitting around a table and reading my own manuscript to nine total strangers felt overwhelmingly scary (if I’d known I was going to have to read aloud I never would have signed up for that retreat!). But I did it. And my fellow writers gave me praise and feedback, and man… it was so good to be in a room with word-nerds again! I felt such an incredible sense of support and belonging.

Those strangers quickly became my tribe.

It took me a while to learn how to surround myself with people who get me. It’s easier to stay put, even if you’re in a place of discomfort. And it’s tempting to try to morph into someone you think people want you to be, but if you’re with your true tribe, you’ll never feel like you have to.


A huge thank you to Tamara Ireland Stone for her thoughtful guest post. Learn more about Tamara and her books by following her on Twitter or checking out her blog.

If you’re interested in checking out Stone’s Every Last Word (a perfect summer read), enter to win a copy of your own courtesy of Disney Hyperion with the Celebrate Your Unique Selves prize pack. One winner will receive:

  • Two copies of Every Last Word for you and a friend
  • A $50 Visa gift card to enjoy a day out celebrating your friendship

Enter to Win!

Giveaway open to US addresses only. Prizing and samples provided by Disney Hyperion.


Be sure to check out all the stops on the Every Last Word blog tour:

June 15: AliceMarvels.com – Introducing the tour and Every Last Word

June 16: ForeverYoungAdult.com – An Inspiring Mind: On Writing a Positive Character with OCD

June 17: Fangirlish.com – Words, Walls and Wonderment: Welcome to Poet’s Corner

June 18: TheDailyQuirk.com – Friends vs. Tribes: A Look Back at High School

June 19: Hypable.com – Exclusive Excerpt: Every Last Word Chapter 2

June 20: GoneWithTheWords.com – The Final Every Last Word Playlist: “In The Deep”

 

TDQ Joins the Percy Pack: ‘Percy Jackson’ Summer Deal and Giveaway

PercyPackBANNER

To celebrate the 10th anniversary of Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series, The Daily Quirk will be participating in an awesome blog event: The Percy Pack! As a participant in the Percy Pack, The Daily Quirk will be bringing you several Percy-themed posts, news tidbits, and giveaways over the next six months.

To kick things off, we want to let you all in on a hot summer deal. The first book in the series, Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, will be available for e-book just $0.99 during the week of June 15th-22nd. The e-book will also feature a chapter of Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, Book One: The Sword of Summers, Riordan’s upcoming new release. If you prefer your books in solid form, Barnes & Noble is offering a beautiful 10th anniversary collector’s edition of The Lightning Thief.

These are fantastic opportunities for new fans to see what Percy Jackson is all about, but also gives Riordan fanatics something new to hold them over until October! (Pssssst….you can also catch a sneak peak of Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard and download a special 10th anniversary Percy Pack Activity kit at RickRiordan.com.)

In addition to this fantastic deal, The Daily Quirk is also hosting a giveaway. One lucky winner will receive the complete Percy Jackson and the Olympians box set, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion. The giveaway is open to US addresses only. Enter to win below.

PercyBoxSet

Enter to Win!

As part of our participation in The Percy Pack, The Daily Quirk  is receiving books, merchandise and prizing courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

 

 

Margaret Fortune

An Interview with ‘Nova’ author Margaret Fortune

Margaret FortuneTo celebrate the release of her new YA sci-fi thriller, Nova (available 6/2/15), author Margaret Fortune was kind enough to answer a few questions for The Daily Quirk! Be sure to check out our review of Nova and keep on reading to learn more about Margaret and her writing.

The Daily Quirk: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you became a writer?

Margaret Fortune: My first story was written in first grade. According to my mom, my older sister came home from school with the assignment to write a story, to which I said, “I could write a story if I wanted to!” So I did.

While I did write some as a child, I didn’t seriously start writing until I graduated from college. I needed something to do while looking for a job. After a few short stories, I decided to take a go at a novel, and found to my surprise that I liked writing novels more than short stories. So even after I found a job, I continued to write. Eventually, I realized I wanted to try and get my books published. It took about a decade of hard work, as well as many, many failures along the way, but in the end I’m proud to call myself an author.

 

TDQ: Nova has such a unique and engaging concept. How did you come up with the idea for the plot? Did your original vision change at all once you started writing?

MF: Oftentimes, my stories start with a setting, and this is true of Nova. This story started with a random thought along the lines of, “I want to write a story that takes place on a space station!” As I was brainstorming ideas for the novel, the line “My name is Lia, and I’m a genetically engineered human bomb,” popped into my head. I knew at once I’d struck gold.

The story began evolving the moment I started setting it to paper. When I write a novel, I’ll generally start with a very basic plot and character. I’ll have the beginning, the ending, and a general idea of how to get from here to there, but not much else. As a result, there’s a lot of room for the story to grow and change during the writing process. Most of the main plot elements and twists in Nova developed during the writing process, rather than being pre-planned.

 

TDQ: What was the most challenging part about writing Nova?

MF: Because I know the general plot of the story but not all the events, when I write I’m basically trying to get from one catalyst or inciting event to the next. There were days when I went to start the next chapter and found myself staring at the blank page going, “I have no idea what’s supposed to be in this chapter.” Those were probably the most challenging days.

 

TDQ: Science fiction hasn’t always been particularly popular in Young Adult, but that seems to be changing over the past few years. Can you talk a little bit about why you chose YA sci-fi for your first novel and your love of sci-fi in general?

MF: My love of sci-fi started as a child, growing up on episodes of Star Trek TNG, Seaquest DSV and Earth 2. While there wasn’t a lot of children’s sci-fi to be found in my local library, what there was I devoured. It was children’s sci-fi from the 70’s, 80’s, and early 90’s, by authors such as H.M. Hoover, Louise Lawrence, and Monica Hughes, that sparked my love of sci-fi literature.

Nova was born of love for the genre, as well as strategy. At the time I wrote Nova, YA sci-fi was just starting to emerge in the market. Between Nova’s high concept and the direction of the market, I felt the book would have a really good shot at catching the eye of an agent and/or publisher. While Nova is my first book that readers will see, it certainly wasn’t my first completed novel or my first attempt to sell a novel. As much as we writers want to believe that good writing will always win the day, the truth is: Genre matters. Concept matters. It’s not just about writing a great book you love, but also writing a great book you love that will be salable. Lucky for me, I love sci-fi! Nova allowed me to successfully combine both my love of the genre and the current market trend to a successful end.

 

TDQ: What’s the last fantastic need-to-tell-all-your-friends-about-it book you read?

MF: I really enjoyed Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One. It was just so much fun to read, I had to share it with others!
TDQ: Nova the first book in a series (which is a very good thing considering the craziness at the end!) – can you tell us anything about the next book in the series, or any other upcoming projects?

MF: Nova is the first of a five-book series, so expect four more books to be coming in the not-too-distant future. Each book features a different setting and MC, so readers can look forward to seeing much more of their favorite secondary characters like Michael, Teal, and Shar. While each book has its own standalone plot, each is a piece in a much larger story that will finally be put together in the fifth book. I hope readers that enjoy Nova will come back and join me for book two, which stars Michael as he takes on a very unique—and dangerous—role in the ongoing war!

Thanks so much to Margaret for her thoughtful responses. You can learn more about Margaret by following her on Twitter or checking out her blog.

 

 

Nova by Margaret Fortune

Book Review: ‘Nova’ by Margaret Fortune

Nova by Margaret Fortune

Nova by Margaret Fortune

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – science fiction is an underrepresented genre in YA, and I can’t quite figure out why. There are plenty of sci-fi books out there, but I love how in the context of YA it becomes a unique, creative vehicle for a character-driven or coming-of-age story. But it seems like lately there is a little bit of a shift toward more sci-fi-oriented YA, and Margaret Fortune’s Nova is a fantastic example of why that is a very good thing.

Let me tell you what this book is about in a few sentences:

A teenage girl is actually a genetically engineered human bomb – it is her entire purpose in life. She is sent to a rival space station to destroy it, but right before she’s set to explode, she glitches. Her clock stops, and now she has no idea if, when, or how she might go off.

Try to tell me you’re not sold! It’s such a cool concept. There are so many layers to this story – obviously the bomb situation is a big deal, but our girl Lia’s unexpected extra time alive opens up the door for so many other things. At the beginning of the story, Lia is dead set on “going nova.” She’s looking forward to it, in fact. It is her one purpose in life and she is ready to fulfill it. But Lia doesn’t know who she is. She can’t remember anything before her trip to the space station, but she is knows that she has memories of a girl named Lia. Whether these are legitimate memories or memories implanted in her to successfully get her past the military psychics, we’re not really sure, but over time Lia starts to unravel all sorts of craziness related to her origin.

And then there’s Michael, the boy who actually knew the real Lia back on his home planet and immediately takes Lia under his wing. Initially Lia wants to avoid him; she has no interest in human contact or relationships because she just wants to explode, gosh darn it. But the persistence and kindness shown by Michael and his family start to win Lia over. Suddenly she has people she cares about on the space station, and the idea of blowing them up is a struggle, to say the least.

Finally, there’s Lia’s mission itself. Why was she sent to blow up this space station? In the midst of an intergalactic war, which side is she on? And let me tell you, as this piece of the story unravels, things start to get super creepy.

I loved the originality of this story and the huge character arc Lia goes through between the first and last pages of the book. I loved the world-building and the details Fortune included to give clues to readers as the book progresses. I received an ARC so the final version might be a bit different, but I do think Nova could have benefitted from a little editing. It has the potential to be a constant page-turner, but as it is there are some slow spots for sure. The nice thing about the slow spots is that they still function to help give you details about the space station and the world it’s in, but I’m not sure all of it was necessary.

Otherwise, my only real gripe with this book was the ending. It wasn’t a bad ending….it was a really appropriate ending, actually. The only issue I had was that it didn’t feel like an adequate conclusion for all the setup in the book, but it also didn’t really feel like a hook into a series, which I guess it is supposed to be. If you’re setting up a series, I need a little more feeling of high stakes – which there totally are, I just didn’t feel that with how the end was written. But it’s okay, really, because Nova was such a unique and memorable read that I have no doubt I’ll jump at the sequel.

Book Review: ‘Nearly Found’ by Elle Cosimano

Nearly Found by Elle Cosimano

Nearly Found by Elle Cosimano

I love a good mystery, and I don’t think I’m alone in that – just ask fans of Veronica Mars, Columbo or Sherlock. And based off the popularity of the million and seven versions of CSI currently on the air, people are more than a little intrigued at the prospect of solving a case using forensic science. Elle Cosimano’s Nearly Found, the follow-up to last year’s Nearly Gone, combines these elements in an intricate mystery supplemented by some crime lab investigative tricks.

If you read Nearly Gone, you’re familiar with logic-minded Nearly Boswell, who was entrenched in a personal investigation into the vicious murders of several classmates. While there is a little bit of crossover, Nearly Found generally functions as a standalone with its own new mystery. The characters cross over, but the plot focuses on how Nearly uses her internship at a crime lab to figure out who is leaving her coded threats and why, and what that has to do with her own father’s disappearance several years before.

If you’re like me and you didn’t read Nearly Gone, I have good news and bad news. Good news: Nearly Found is surprisingly easy to pick up, even given the intricacies of the first book. You get all the relevant information laid out pretty quickly in the first chapter, and it’s not even an info dump! Then everything else you need to know gets sprinkled gradually into the narrative as the book progresses, so it’s never overwhelming.

And now the bad news: The first book established Nearly’s relationship with all the main characters in Nearly Found. Because I missed out on that, I felt there was significant character and relationship growth and change that didn’t really resonate with me as much as it would have if I had seen those relationships build in Nearly Gone. Nearly has an intriguing backstory as well as a unique ability to taste emotion when she touches people. I thought these things added some interesting dimension to the story, but I would have loved to have seen them explored more deeply. I kept wondering if they were a more important piece of the first book, and maybe would have appreciated them more if I had that background.

So yes, I’d recommend reading these books in order if at all possible, but I still had fun jumping in at the middle. Cosimano’s writing is clear and unaffected, deftly balancing a fast-paced plot with a fairly complex mystery. I appreciated that Cosimano didn’t just take the easy route with the mystery but instead added several layers to it, forcing Nearly to examine her own conclusions carefully to see the big picture. I also loved that the book didn’t shy away from some high stakes. Nearly takes some major chances throughout the story, and there are several harrowing passages ranging from creepy to terrifying.

Mystery, and particularly this type of mystery, is really underrepresented in YA. We constantly read about teens in life-threatening dystopias and fantasies, but it’s not that often we see it in a contemporary setting, and particularly not when paired with a thoughtful mystery. I don’t know why there’s a dearth of this type of YA book, but it certainly made reading Nearly Found a unique and engaging experience. As an added bonus, Nearly Found eschews a lot of the common contemporary YA tropes, focusing hard on the puzzle at its core, so I think this is definitely a series with appeal above and beyond YA audiences. If you’re looking for something a little dark, a little different, and a lot of fun, definitely keep an eye out for Nearly Found, and don’t forget to check out Nearly Gone for the full-series experience!