Blog Tour | A Mighty Long Way: My Journey to Justice at Little Rock Central High School by Carlotta Walls LaNier & Lisa Frazier Page

Title: A Mighty Long Way: My Journey to Justice at Little Rock Central High School
Author: Carlotta Walls LaNier, Lisa Frazier Page
Genre: Nonfiction / Memoir / Social Justice
Publication Date: January 17th, 2023
Publisher: Delacorte Press

—>Click Here For Tour Dates!<—

Thank you to the publisher and TBR and Beyond Tours for a complimentary earc and a chance to help promote this book!

Follow the story of Carlotta Walls LaNier, who in 1957 at the age of fourteen was one of nine black students who integrated the all-white Little Rock Central High School and became known as the Little Rock Nine.

At fourteen years old, Carlotta Walls was the youngest member of the Little Rock Nine. The journey to integration in a place deeply against it would not be not easy. Yet Carlotta, her family, and the other eight students and their families answered the call to be part of the desegregation order issued by the US Supreme Court in its 1954 Brown v. Board of Education case.
As angry mobs protested, the students were escorted into Little Rock Central High School by escorts from the 101st Airborne Division, which had been called in by then-president Dwight D. Eisenhower to ensure their safety. The effort needed to get through that first year in high school was monumental, but Carlotta held strong. Ultimately, she became the first Black female ever to walk across the Central High stage and receive a diploma.
The Little Rock Nine experienced traumatic and life-changing events not only as a group but also as individuals, each with a distinct personality and a different story. This is Carlotta’s courageous story.”

Content Warning: racism, violence, segregation in education

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Indigo | IndieBound

Carlotta Walls LaNier attended Michigan State University and graduated from Colorado State College–now the University of Northern Colorado, on whose board of trustees she sits. After working for the YWCA, she founded her own real estate brokerage firm, LaNier and Company. A sought-after lecturer, LaNier speaks across the country, and she has received the Congressional Medal of Honor and two honorary doctorate degrees. She is the mother of two children, Whitney and Brooke, and lives in Englewood, Colorado, with her husband, Ira.

Carlotta Walls LaNier is available for select readings and lectures. To inquire about a possible appearance, please contact Penguin Random House Speakers Bureau at speakers@penguinrandomhouse.com or visit http://www.prhspeakers.com.

Website | Goodreads

Lisa Frazier Page, an editor and award-winning reporter at The Washington Post, is the co-author of the New York Times bestseller The Pact: Three Young Men Make a Promise and Fulfill a Dream. A graduate of New Orleans’s Dillard University, Page holds a master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. She grew up in Bogalusa, Louisiana, and lives in the Washington, D.C., area with her husband. They have four children.

Website | Twitter |Goodreads

This is a very important read and one I don’t know much about besides what was taught in school. It will be one I can share with my daughter as well since I homeschool her.

What do you think about this one?

Advertisement

Blog Tour | Cookie Monsters by Erika J Kendrick (Promo)

Title: Cookie Monsters
Author: Erika J. Kendrick
Genre: Middle Grade / Contemporary
Publication Date: January 17th, 2023
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

—>Click Here For Tour Dates!<—

Thank you to the publisher and TBR and Beyond Tours for a complimentary earc and a chance to help promote this book!

A fun, fast-paced novel about friendship, family, fighting for what’s right, and standing out from the crowd while standing up for yourself. 
 
Twelve-year-old Brooklyn Ace is ready to take the Valentine World Scouts by storm and build her own cookie empire. She nearly won the top cookie selling spot last year and is determined to make her mom—who recently passed away—proud by coming in first this time around. With her fabulous best friends by her side, Brooklyn knows she’ll become Santa Monica’s District Cookie Queen. The crown is practically in the bag. 
 
Then Piper Parker arrives. 
 
Piper has a rich dad, a fancy hotel, and a drive to steal the cookie crown right off Brooklyn’s head. Before long, most of the seventh grade is under Piper’s spell. But Brooklyn is in it to win the biggest cookie war the school has ever seen. With the help of her cookie squad, her rockstar grandmother, her super cool therapist, and a lot of self-love and inner growth, maybe—just maybe—Brooklyn can end up a winner after all.” (Goodreads)

Goodreads Amazon Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Indigo | IndieBound

Erika J. Kendrick is an acclaimed writer, a national speaker, and a mental fitness expert. She earned a psychology degree from Stanford University and an MBA from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Erika was an NBA cheerleader for the Chicago Bulls before writing her novels, Confessions of a Rookie Cheerleader (Random House) and Appetite (Random House). She is currently touring her debut middle grade novel, Squad Goals, with Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. The spinoff, Cookie Monsters, is set for a summer 2022 release.

After battling her brain pain, Erika founded Mental Fitness For Life where she launched her latest Mental Fitness book tour, “Who Moved My Happy?” While talking to audiences of all backgrounds and ages, Erika shares her story of brain pain and inspires hope by creating safe spaces for life-saving conversations. She has presented and guest lectured at colleges and universities as well as the US Army and US Air Force, national sororities and fraternities, middle and high schools, conferences, retreats, and national organizations, large and small. Erika has toured with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) and is a speaker with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) where she has been inducted into their Hall of Fame.

Erika is a recipient of several “Who’s Who” honors, a Rising Icon honor, and several Awards of Excellence. Erika has taken the stage for TEDx, appeared on Good Morning America – The Third Hour (GMA3), NBC News, CBS News, The Wendy Williams Experience, national television and radio segments, and a host of other media outlets. She has been featured in several publications, including Page Six of The New York Post, The Huffington Post, The Chicago Tribune, and various other magazines and digital media.

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads | Facebook

I never was a Girl Scout but I feel like this would be a cute read and give me a glimpse at that life! It’s definitely a book I’d love to share with my daughter.

What Do you think about this one?

Blog Tour: You Can Go Your Own Way by Eric Smith (Arc Review)

Title: You Can Go Your Own Way
Author: Eric Smith
Genre: YA Contemporary / Romance
Publication Date: November 2nd, 2021
Publisher: Inkyard Press
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐✨

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for an earc to review! All opinions are my own.

No one ever said love would be easy…but did they mention it would be freezing?

Adam Stillwater is in over his head. At least, that’s what his best friend would say. And his mom. And the guy who runs the hardware store down the street. But this pinball arcade is the only piece of his dad that Adam has left, and he’s determined to protect it from Philadelphia’s newest tech mogul, who wants to turn it into another one of his cold, lifeless gaming cafés.

Whitney Mitchell doesn’t know how she got here. Her parents split up. She lost all her friends. Her boyfriend dumped her. And now she’s spending her senior year running social media for her dad’s chain of super successful gaming cafés—which mostly consists of trading insults with that decrepit old pinball arcade across town.

But when a huge snowstorm hits, Adam and Whitney suddenly find themselves trapped inside the arcade. Cut off from their families, their worlds, and their responsibilities, the tension between them seems to melt away, leaving something else in its place. But what happens when the storm stops?

Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Books-A-Million / IndieBound / Apple Books / Google Play

ERIC SMITH is an author and literary agent from Elizabeth, New Jersey. When he isn’t working on other people’s books, sometimes he tries to write his own. He enjoys pop punk, video games, and crying during every movie. He lives in Philadelphia with his wife and best friend, Nena, and their son, Langston. WWW.ERICSMITHROCKS.COM

Twitter / Instagram / Goodreads

Eric Smith’s first book really captured my attention since it was about videogames and being a female who loves to game. I was really excited to learn about his latest book and obviously had to jump at the chance to read it! Although it didn’t surpass his first book for me, I liked a lot of aspects about this book as well as the mentioning of Blizzard Entertainment because I play their game World of Warcraft.

The book is split into two point-of-views: Adam and Whitney. Adam’s family owns a dying out arcade that is filled with pinball machines, some being a rare find. I thought this was a cool nod to the earlier years of gaming as well as giving us a cool setting for some of the book. Whitney’s family owns an esports café which is the latest craze in gaming. I liked how their businesses showed the progression of gaming. Adam and Whitney used to be friends and since they are no longer Adam has a bit of a grudge for multiple reasons against her family and because of this there is a lot of banter between the two!

If you liked Tweet Cute and the exchanges those characters had over Twitter then you may like this one as Adam and Whitney argue over social media which also brings in other people as well. Ah, the internet! Got to love it. Some of these bystanders are other businesses that are local. This was an amazing way to show community and how small acts can bring people together especially during tough times like a blizzard. It also was funny to see some of the other shops banter back and forth as well.

You can find romance in this book and I would definitely say it can be considered enemies-to-lovers. I guess it would be more like friends-to-enemies-to-friends-to-enemies-to-lovers. It’s a complicated mess but what relationship, including friendship, isn’t? Ha. They suffered a falling out for a reason that is found out later in the book. I can understand both sides for this and I think Adam and Whitney tried their best in their own way. I did like a lot of the moments they shared together while being on friendly terms and thought they were really cute.

This book isn’t just about games or romance but also about grief, friendships, and learning to just say how you feel. There is a lot packed in but each one is sure to resonate with readers in one way or another.

Overall, this was a good book and had a lot of great aspects. I definitely would recommend for those wanting a book with a cute romance filled with banter!

CHAPTER 1

Adam

“The playfield is truly the heart of every pinball machine. All of the player’s goals are right there, splayed out in front of them. And like life, it’s up to you to find a way to reach them, with the tools you’re presented. In this case, it’s a ball.”—THE ART AND ZEN OF PINBALL REPAIR BY JAMES WATTS

The sound of collective screaming and a massive crash shake my entire workshop, and I almost stab myself with a piping-hot soldering iron.

“Adam!” my mom yells from inside the arcade. If another pack of junior high kids from the nearby Hillman Academy “accidentally” flip over a machine trying to get it to tilt, I am going to lose it. I grip the iron, the cracked brown leather wrapped around the metal handle squeaking a little against my skin, and shake my head, trying to refocus. Maybe I can finish this before it’s time to pick up that custom piece—

And another crash rattles the walls. A few parts tumble off my shelves, tiny intricate pieces of metal and glass, bits of copper wire, all clinking against my table.

I attempt to catch a few of the electronic pieces, trying not to burn myself with the iron in my other hand, and then a hammer falls off the perforated wall of tools in front of me. It collides with a small cardboard box full of pinball playfield lightbulbs, and I wince at the small crack and pop sounds.

“Goddammit,” I grumble out. I toss the soldering iron aside and try to clean up the mess. At least those lightbulbs are like, ten bucks a dozen on arcade wholesale websites. But pinball machines have a lot of lights.

“Adam!” This time it’s Chris. “Dude, where are you?”

I’m about to bolt from the workshop when I remember Mom is out there. I reach for the latest read I promised her I’d finish—We Built This Gritty by Kevin Michaels, a book on launching small businesses by an entrepreneur here in Philly that one of her colleagues is teaching at the county college—and immediately yank my hand back. The soldering iron had gone right in between the pages when I tossed it, and the book is already smoking. I pull the iron out and set it aside and flap the book around wildly, little wisps pooling up from inside the bright orange book. I flip it open.

It’s burnt right down the middle. Great. Something tells me she won’t be able to trade this back in at the campus store.

I glance over at The Beast and give the forever-in-progress Philadelphia-themed home-brewed pinball machine a pat, the glass still off the surface, wires and various parts splayed out over the playfield. My well-worn copy of The Art and Zen of Pinball Repair by James Watts sits smack in the middle of everything. I’ve still got a way to go before I can try playing Dad’s unfinished machine again, but if anyone is gonna get me there, it’s Watts. If I could just get a free chunk of time in between the studying and the arcade and the—

An array of swears echoes from inside the arcade, snapping me back.

Right. Chris. Mom. Chaos. Potentially broken and nearly irreplaceable machines worth thousands of dollars.

I unplug the soldering iron and place it in its little stand, like a quill pen in an inkwell. I wedge the now-toasty book under my arm and take a few steps to pick up some speed, to get a little force, and I push my shoulder against the dark red wooden workshop door. I push, gritting my teeth. The splintering surface presses into my arm, stinging with the pressure, until finally, the wood squeals against the frame, shrunken in and wedged together due to the sharp Philadelphia winter.

The whole workshop is like that, really, casting a major contrast to the polished, well-kept-despite-its-years pinball arcade. The cracked workshop table that is way more rickety than it has any right to be, tools showing their age with hinges that refuse to move and metal pieces falling off shrinking wood and weak plastic handles, vintage pinball parts that maybe still work, a concrete floor with a surface that’s chipping away, revealing dirt and dust, lightbulbs I don’t even remotely trust. My sad excuse for a drafting table sits off to the end of the workshop, and I’ve never really used it, preferring to fuss with plans right on the messy workshop table, next to all of Dad’s scribbles.

We could clean it up, have this room match the rest of the arcade. But I love it. It reminds me of him.

The door swings open suddenly and hits the wall inside the arcade with a loud bang.

And it is absolute chaos here.

A bunch of little kids are rushing outside, and I see a couple of adults gathering coats and their small children, who are likely about to join the exodus. The afternoon light that’s pouring in from the wide-open front door and the large plate-glass windows lining the wall make me wince. The glare hurts only slightly less than the idea of customers hustling out of here on a Saturday, easily our best, and only, solid day during the wintertime off-season. Especially now, at the end of the year, with so few days left before we close for the New Year holiday.

People don’t come to pinball arcades in the winter. Well. Maybe they do, but not when your arcade is located near all the tourist stuff in Old City, all the college students are away on break, and you don’t serve any alcohol. No tourists, no college kids, no booze, no pinball. It’s a neighborhood for expensive restaurants and niche boutiques, old-timey candy shops and artisan pour-over coffee. Not an arcade with a poor excuse for a snack bar inside that mostly serves soda, chips, and reheated chicken tenders and fries.

If it wasn’t for the upcoming Old City Winter Festival, I’m not sure we’d be able to keep the lights on come January. And there’s a businessman out in West Philadelphia who would very much like to see that happen, and there’s no way I’m going to let him do that. I’ve eaten way too many burnt chicken tenders that were “well, these are still kinda good, Adam” according to my mom, but not good enough for the customers. I’ve paid my dues.

“Mom!” I shout, looking to the back of the arcade. “Chris, what is—”

But then I see it.

On the other side of the arcade, my mom has her hands on her hips and is glaring intently at a handful of college guys who are sheepishly milling about near one of the windows. And Chris is trying to lift up a machine that’s currently knocked over, the glass that would normally be covering the playfield shattered across the floor. Another machine is tilted, leaning against a support beam, and looks okay from here. But judging by the angle and the amount of force it would have taken to get it off the legs in the first place, I’m betting we’re going to have some dents on the light box (the back of the machine that juts up over the area where you actually play, and displays the score and art).

“What the hell?” I snap, kicking the workshop door closed and storming across the arcade. My thick black boots squeak loud against the worn, polished hardwood floor, all the imperfections of the ancient Philadelphia wooden boards permanently glossed in place. A few more guys, these ones my age, weave around me, fiddling on their phones and oblivious. Bits of glass crunch under my feet, and I glance down at a bumper, red and black and looking like one of those crushed lantern fly bugs that litter the city sidewalks.

“What happened?” I ask, tossing my burnt book onto the floor. I nudge the tilted machine upright and then bend down to help Chris, who is straining to move the machine on the floor. I manage to wedge my fingers under the side, carefully tapping the metal, trying to avoid any extra glass, and lift. Chris lets out a groan and I grit my teeth as we push the machine upright, and it nearly topples back over the other way, but Mom reaches out and stops it.

“They happened.” Mom nods back at the guys who are standing about awkwardly. “Any updates there?” She points at one of them, and that’s when I realize they’re all sort of keeping an eye on one vaguely familiar-looking dude in the middle, who is fussing with his phone.

“Just a second,” he grumbles out, and he flicks his head to the side, his emo black bangs moving out of his eyes. I can’t help but squint at him, trying to place his face. Half his head is shaved, and he has this sort of Fall Out Boy look that would be cool, if he and his pals hadn’t clearly destroyed a pinball machine in my family’s arcade. A splash of anxiety hits me in the chest as I realize I don’t know what game has been totaled, and I turn to look at the machine.

Flash Gordon.

I exhale, relieved that it’s not one of the more popular or rare games in the arcade. But still, it’s a machine from the ’80s. One of the first games in the industry to use the popular Squawk & Talk soundboard, a piece of technology that is wildly expensive to replace, since it isn’t made anymore. That’s the sort of pinball trivia both Chris and my mom tend to shush when I start rambling too much, telling me “that should be a tweet,” which translates to “shut up” in the nicest way possible. I’m almost positive that’s the reason they pushed me to get the arcade on social media—to have a place to share those musings.

The machine didn’t deserve this, even if that awful movie maybe did.

I run my hand along the side of the other machine that was just bumped into, leaning on one of the wooden beams that are scattered throughout the arcade, you know, holding the building up. It’s the Terminator 2: Judgment Day machine, and thankfully, it looks undamaged. A little dented along the light box, as I suspected, but the glass and everything else seems fine. It’s a popular one with the Millennial crowd, and I’m relieved.

“How much is it going to cost to fix?” the familiar guy with the hair asks. He must catch me staring at him, ’cause his eyes flit over to mine, irritated, and I look away, focusing back on the machine.

I pluck at some of the glass on the surface, nudging around some of the broken obstacles on the playfield, and feel a sharp sting in my hand. I quickly pull away and spot a thin line of red trailing along my palm.

“Adam?”

I glance up, and my mom, Chris, and Emo Hair are all staring at me expectantly.

“What?” I ask, focusing back down at the machine and then back at all of them.

“The cost,” my mom presses. “That machine. How much do you think it’ll cost to fix all of this?” She gestures at the floor and shakes her head, her mouth a thin line. All that brewing frustration that she’s trying to bury down. Kids mess with the machines often, and we’ve certainly had a few hiccups like this before, but I’ve never seen her looking this wildly angry. I didn’t even think she liked that machine.

“Oh.” I swallow and clear my throat. “I don’t know. It depends on how bad the damage is?” I scan the playfield and then the side of the machine, which has a sizable dent in the steel that I can probably hammer out. But the shattered glass, the pieces, and who knows what’s going on inside it. I think back to Watts’s The Art and Zen of Pinball Repair, my holy tome, written by my hero.

“If you think it’s broken, it is. And if you think it’s going to be cheap to replace, it’s not.”

I stare at the broken glass.

“You know what, how’s a thousand dollars?” the familiar guy holding the phone asks. He looks around at his dude friends, their faces awash in expressions that are essentially shrugs, each nodding at him. “Everyone Venmo me two hundred after this or I’ll kick your asses.”

Some of the guys laugh while the rest break out their phones.

“Why?” scoffs one of them. “You’re the one with the money.”

Emo Hair snorts out a laugh and shakes his head, and glances back up from his screen. The fact that all of them are so relaxed about that much money irks me. The arcade is barely scraping by these days, and it’s no wonder other businesses have been sniffing around the building this year, leaving painfully awkward notes and emails for Mom. I’ve seen a few of them, here and there. The worst ones come under the guise of pretending to be supportive. Do you need anything? We’re here for you. Just checking in. And then in the same breath, bringing up property values and plummeting interest in arcades.

And despite frequent requests to stop mailing us, a local real estate developer loves sending us physical mail about the benefits of selling real estate in Old City now, and they’re always addressed to Dad. Assholes.

“What’s your Venmo?” he asks, looking at my mom and then at me. My mom and I exchange a look. He huffs. “How about PayPal? Apple Pay?”

“I mean…we could take a check?” My mom shrugs, wincing. One of the bros groans like this has somehow physically wounded him, and before I can say anything, my mom snaps a finger at the guy. “Hey, you five are the ones who broke this machine. If I want you to go get that thousand dollars in a burlap sack full of coins at the bank down the road, you’ll get it.”

“Sorry, ma’am,” one of them mutters.

“Just Venmo it to me,” Chris says, pulling out his phone. “I’ll hit the bank when I run out to pick up sidewalk salt for the snow, and get it taken care of, Mrs. Stillwater.” He glances at my mom and shakes his head at me. I know that look. He’s about to force another freaking app on me, and I don’t think I’ll be able to talk about pinball on Venmo. It was bad enough when he tricked me into joining Pinterest, convincing me it was a pinball thing.

He steps over to the pack of guys, and they’re all looking at one another and their phones and his, and I really shouldn’t be surprised that he knows how to handle this. Him and his apps. I wish he’d just run the social media for the arcade, but he says it wouldn’t sound “genuine” or something. If typos make someone sound genuine, I am very genuine.

A year behind me at Central, a junior, Chris has this whole Adam Driver look about him. Same sharp cheekbones and bits of facial hair, only a little shorter and with thin square glasses, and as geeky as you can get without actually being in a Star Wars movie. My best friend since I was eight, and our only employee in the off-season, as everyone is either a college student heading home for the break or a fellow local high schooler who has no interest in working over the winter.

He nods at the guys, looking at his phone.

“All right, I got it,” he says and then turns to us. The bros stand there for a beat.

“You can leave,” my mom snaps and points toward the door.

“Right, right,” the familiar guy says and gestures for the rest of his pack to follow. They amble out of the shop, their feet crunching the glass on the floor in a way that makes me feel like it’s on purpose. I take a step forward, but Chris reaches his arm out, his hand pressing against my chest.

I glance up at him, and he just shakes his head.

I huff and bend down to sift through the glass and pieces of machine, while my mom disappears into the back office. There are some bumpers on the ground, and a few small white flags, little targets meant to be knocked down for bonus plays, are scattered about like baby teeth. The glass, though, that really bothers me. A good sheet of playfield glass can go for a little over a hundred dollars, and while I know that’s not technically a lot of money in the grand scheme of things…we don’t have that much to spare these days.

Jorge over at NextFab, the makerspace that Chris practically lives in when he isn’t here, has been great at helping me replace some parts, as well as teaching me how to build some of my own, which is way more helpful than YouTube tutorials. But a whole sheet of glass? Bumpers with intricate circuitry and copper coils? That’s not something easily 3D printed, especially when he keeps doing it for free. And I don’t know how much of that I can manage in my workshop. Or afford, for that matter.

I look around the dirty playfield for the remaining flags but…dammit, they are nowhere to be found. At least the back glass, the lit-up artwork on the back of the machine, isn’t damaged. Flash is still there, looking dead ahead at me, alongside Dale and the…ugh, wildly racist Ming the Merciless.

Hmm.

Maybe the machine did deserve this.

Chris squats down next to me.

“Want me to grab the broom?” he asks, picking at a broken bumper.

I look back to my hand. The line in my palm is ugly but clean. I flex my hand a little, and the cut widens, and I see just how far up and down my hand it goes. I wonder if I’ll need stitches or if it’ll scar.

“Sure.” I clear my throat and both of us stand up. I glance toward the arcade’s exit, the place now empty, as Chris walks over to the snack bar. “Must be nice,” I say, “being able to drop that much money without thinking about it.”

“Yeah, well, not like his dad isn’t good for it.”

“His dad?” I ask, peering over. Chris is behind the bar, some paper towels already scattered out in front of him, a broom in one hand. Heat lamps keeping fries and onion rings warm tint his face a reddish orange for a moment before he ducks back out.

“Well, yeah?” He shrugs, walking over. He places the paper towels in my hands and nods at the cut. “Apply pressure.” He starts sweeping, moving bits of glass and broken parts into a small pile. “I swear, one more incident like this, and that is what’s gonna make me finally try to get a job at the makerspace. Or a coffee shop…” He looks up at me as I stare at him. “What? You know I can’t work in here forever, bro.”

“What do you mean what? I know that part.” I laugh. “Who is his dad? You’re just gonna leave the story hanging there?”

He nearly drops the broom but reaches out to grab the handle.

“Are you serious?” he scoffs. I shrug and he shakes his head. “Adam, that was Nick. That’s why I thought you were so mad, looking like you were about to charge after him and his goons.” I shrug again. “Jesus, Adam. Nick Mitchell.”

The stress on that last name.

Mitchell.

It sends a shock through my entire system, and I turn to look at the exit, as though he and his friends might still be there. I tighten my hand into a fist, and the pain from the cut sears through my palm, lighting me up through my forearm. And I swear, for a moment I can feel it in my head, bouncing around like a pinball against bumpers.

Nick Mitchell.

Whitney Mitchell’s brother.

And also the oldest son of the man trying to buy my father’s arcade from my mother, with plans to make it into another one of his eSports cafés. He’s been poking around all year, like a vulture circling over something that might just die any minute. But this place still has a little life in it. A little fight in it.

And dammit, so do I.

Did he even recognize me? Did he know this was our arcade? Back when me and Whitney were supposedly friends, before high school changed everything, I don’t think I ever saw him come around. But I saw him all the time at school and before her dad’s career took off, when we’d play at Whitney’s old house in South Philly. And when we were kids, everyone had their birthday parties here at the pinball arcade. With so many mutual friends and the like, he had to have been in here at some point. Until they forgot about us, like the entire building was just one giant toy that fell behind a dresser.

“All right, well, I can tell you know who he is now,” Chris says, walking back toward the snack bar. He grabs some more paper towels and thrusts them at me, nodding at my hand. I look down, and the paper wad is an awful dark red, soaked through from my rage. “Go take a seat. I’m gonna get the first-aid kit out of your workshop.”

“What about Flash Gordon?” I ask, glancing back at the messed-up machine.

“It’s a problematic racist relic. Who cares? Come on.” He laughs, reaching out and grabbing my shoulder. “Besides, if you want some replacement bits, I’m heading to the makerspace tomorrow—we can rummage for parts. Go grab a seat.” He nods at the snack bar and walks off. I turn around and pull my phone out, snapping photos of the broken pinball machine. The scratched-up metal exterior, the dented places around the playfield. I bend down and snap pictures of some of the crunched glass still on the floor, the broken parts scattered in a neat pile thanks to Chris. I even take a few photos of the dented Terminator 2: Judgment Day machine.

I stroll over to the arcade’s snack spot, Dad’s last great idea for the place, and sit down. The chairs aren’t exactly the pinnacle of comfort, and the hard wood digs into my back, but it’s what my family could afford when we first put this spot in here. It’s still passably cozy enough that local writers will drop in to play a few games, drink our bad coffee or nurse a soda, and spend the day staring at a blank screen while scrolling through Twitter instead of writing.

I sigh and glance up at the wooden shelving that looms over the café corner, a shabby-chic display that Chris’s parents helped build. Tons of Mason jars, full of coffee beans and loose-leaf tea, illuminated by strings of white Christmas twinkle lights, sit on nearly every shelf. Decor meant for hip college students and artsy creatives in West Philly, pulled from a Pinterest board someplace and made real. I think it looks pretty, but if Gordon Ramsay made an episode about our arcade’s little food corner, it would just be a twenty-eight-minute scream.

Chris walks around the side, a little first-aid kit in hand, and gestures for me to give him my hand. I hold it out and he glances back at the Flash Gordon machine.

“Real shame,” he says, wistfully looking at the shattered game.

“Yeah.” I nod. “I took a bunch of photos to post—”

Pssssssst!

There’s the sound of spraying, and I scream, yanking my hand away. I glare at him, and he’s sporting the widest grin I’ve ever seen, a bottle of spray-on rubbing alcohol in his hand.

“Argh!” I groan. “Why!”

“Kidding, fuck that game.” He laughs.

“You could have told me you were going to do that!” I shout. He tilts his head a little at me. “Fine, you’re right—I would have made a scene over it.”

“Everything okay?” Mom’s in the doorway to the office, peeking out.

“Yeah, Mrs. Stillwater,” Chris says.

My mom scowls at the two of us before breaking into a little smile, but that expression disappears as her line of sight moves toward the broken pinball machine. She closes the door, and I look back at the exit to the arcade again. I feel like with every setback this place has had this year, it gets us one step closer to my mom putting the pinball machines in storage for good and selling the place to Mr. Mitchell. And two damaged machines, one of which is basically destroyed, isn’t going to help.

“And I’m gonna need you to stop it,” Chris says, reaching out and grabbing my hand, slapping a large Band-Aid on my palm. I wince and suck air through my teeth, and he just gives me a look. He pulls out some of that gauze-wrap stuff and starts to bandage up the big Band-Aid, keeping it pressed to my palm. “That guy isn’t worth it, that machine isn’t worth it, and that family definitely isn’t worth getting all riled up over.”

“He had to have known this was my place,” I grumble. “Whitney probably sent him here. If not her, then definitely her father.”

“Oh, come on,” Chris scoffs. “I’m not her biggest fan either, and I know you two don’t get along, but she isn’t some nefarious supervillain. And her dad isn’t going to send henchmen here. When was the last time you and her even talked, outside of snarky social media posts? You like pinball, she likes playing Fortnite and Overwatch. Not exactly a blood feud.”

“I’m not even sure she’s into the video games at her dad’s places or whatever,” I grumble. At least, she wasn’t into video games when we were kids, always so irritated when we’d retreat inside to get in games of Halo. “Besides, you don’t understand.” I shake my head, trying to chase away the memories of that summer before high school and those first days wandering the halls at Central. Her and her new friends, leaning against their lockers, matching jean jackets and bright lip gloss. She was like an entirely new person, and the way she laughed with them when I walked over to say hi…

“Anyway.” I clear my throat. “I wouldn’t put it past her.”

“You need to spend more time worrying about the people who are there for you and less about those who aren’t,” he says, fastening the gauze together with two little metal clips. “Maybe go on a date with someone or something.”

“How do you even know how to do this?” I lift my hand up, flexing my fingers, ignoring the dating question. “There’s no time for that, between the arcade and school. If I kiss a girl by the end of my senior year, it’ll be a miracle.”

“Please, my dads are carpenters and you know how I spend my free time,” he says. “It’s best to be prepared in case someone loses a finger at home or in the shop or at the makerspace.”

I laugh and again find myself looking toward the door. I let out a long exhale through my nose.

“You think we’re going to get anyone else in here today?” Chris asks. “It’s just, you know, maybe I could duck out early to go work on stuff?” There’s this beat of silence that doesn’t need to be filled, and I sigh.

“I think we both know the answer there, right?” With the snowstorm we all know is coming, the brutally cold gusts of wind, and the fact that business slows to a crawl right before the Old City Winter Festival, there’s not much to even say.

I lean back in my chair a little, the sharp pain of the wood digging into my back weirdly comforting, distracting me from my hand and thoughts of Nick and Whitney and that whole terrible family.

“Do you need to talk?” Chris asks, and I glance back at him. “I mean, I can hang a bit longer if you need me.” He digs around in his pocket and pulls out a little candy bag and waves it at me, the plastic crinkling. Swedish Fish. Not the regular kind either; the tropical sort, with orange, pink, purple, and off-white fish in the mix. He shakes it until one drops out onto his hand, and he holds it up between his fingers. “I grabbed a bag at the CVS before I came over here, for my dads. Didn’t realize we’d have to use it, though.”

“Oh, God, no,” I whine. “If you’re gonna do that to me, just leave.”

Whenever Chris’s parents want to talk about “big feelings,” they break out these Swedish Fish candies. Have something important to say? Out comes the candy. It’s usually something critical that might make someone feel upset, but it’s the way you’re feeling, so it’s good to get it all out. Then pair it with something that makes you feel good while you’re hearing something that might make you feel bad.

It was a tradition Chris first told me about when we were really little, and one that’s been ongoing. I’m not quite sure why Swedish Fish are the candy of choice, but I’m guessing it’s because you can buy them in bulk at the South Philadelphia IKEA. He’s since introduced it to me and all our friends. Tell someone how you feel, let them eat the candy, and take in all those thoughts and emotions. Or, give someone the opportunity to say how they’re feeling, and take it all in. Simple enough. And while we don’t practice it at home, my mom often likes to say, “Do you need a fish?” when she thinks I have something I need to talk about.

I hate it so much.

“I hate this so much,” I grumble and pluck the fish from between his fingers.

“Listen,” he says, reaching out and closing my good hand around the candy. “You’re upset. You’re thinking about Whitney and the Mitchells. Nick and the boys. Both of those sound like terrible West Philadelphia indie rock bands. And you’re thinking about maybe going on Twitter and saying something snippy on social media. That what those pictures are for? Yeah?”

“N-no.” I barely stammer the word out. “It’s for…insurance.”

He gives me a look.

“You’re the worst.” I glower at him.

“Nothing good ever comes out of these little fights you have with Whitney online.” He presses, pointing at me. “All you do is get all the stores in the neighborhood riled up, dunking on one another. As if you get points for dunking on people online.”

“You’re the one who taught me how to use social media.”

“Don’t give me the whole ‘I learned it from watching you’ thing. Resist the urge to go online. It’s a waste of your energy,” he says, nodding at me. “Save your online presence for posting your pinball puns and facts. Now, eat your candy.”

“No.” I glare at him.

“Fine, fine.” He smiles, shaking his head, and pulls out his phone. “I’m gonna head off to NextFab. You behave.”

“Ugh, can’t you just work on your weird woodworking coffee things in the workshop?” I groan and gesture toward the red door on the other side of the arcade. “Then you could just be here all the time.”

He laughs and then sighs. “What are you going to do here without me?” he asks.

“Hmph,” I huff. “Probably have a meltdown on the regular.”

He reaches over and taps the screen of my phone, and my eyes flit up to him. “Don’t do it, and you’ll be fine,” he says and then bends over to grab his backpack. It’s this beaten-up leather thing that looks straight out of an old movie. I half expect to see it filled with vintage books tied together in beige string, but I know it’s just full of woodworking tools, and depending on the day, some glassblowing stuff. It’s not lost on me that my best friend spends all his time creating beautiful new things out of nothing, while I stress over repairing machines older than I am every single day.

He walks out of the snack bar and toward the door but stops and turns around.

“And hey, if you need to talk—” he throws something, and I reach out to catch whatever it is that is flapping its way toward me; the plastic bag of Swedish Fish makes a loud crinkling sound as I grab it out of the air “—text me. But I’m gonna want pictures of you eating your candy. It’s important that you trust the process.”

He’s out the front door, and I’m alone in the arcade with his candy and my phone.

Excerpted from You Can Go Your Own Way by Eric Smith, © 2021 by Eric Smith, used with permission from Inkyard Press/HarperCollins.

Blog Tour: Float Plan by Trish Doller

Title: Float Plan
Author: Trish Doller
Genre: Adult Contemporary / Romance / Mental Health
Publication Date: March 2nd, 2021
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Thank you to the publisher for reaching out and asking me to be a part of this blog tour and the complimentary copy to review! All opinions are my own.

“Critically acclaimed author Trish Doller’s unforgettable and romantic adult debut about setting sail, starting over, and finding yourself…

Since the loss of her fiancé, Anna has been shipwrecked by grief—until a reminder goes off about a trip they were supposed to take together. Impulsively, Anna goes to sea in their sailboat, intending to complete the voyage alone.

But after a treacherous night’s sail, she realizes she can’t do it by herself and hires Keane, a professional sailor, to help. Much like Anna, Keane is struggling with a very different future than the one he had planned. As romance rises with the tide, they discover that it’s never too late to chart a new course.

In Trish Doller’s unforgettable Float Plan, starting over doesn’t mean letting go of your past, it means making room for your future.” (Goodreads)

Buy Here

TRISH DOLLER is the author of novels for teens and adults about love, life, and finding your place in the world. A former journalist and radio personality, Trish has written several YA novels, including the critically acclaimed Something Like Normal, as well as Float Plan, her adult women’s fiction debut. When she’s not writing, Trish loves sailing, traveling, and avoiding housework. She lives in southwest Florida with an opinionated herding dog and an ex-pirate.

Instagram / Twitter / Website

CW: Suicide / Self-Harm

I have never been one to want to take a long boat ride anywhere, let alone travel, but this book made me want to drop everything and feel the wind in my hair!

The setting was a perfect escape full of tropical places, island hopping, and sight-seeing on an adventure of a lifetime for Anna after losing her fiancé. Not only is it filled with all of those things but it is also a journey of healing as she deals with the grief of what she has lost.

Although I have not lost my spouse, I can understand grief as I have my own when it comes to losing my grandmother due to old age. I have also seen my step-sister deal with the loss of her father to suicide. Grief may be caused by different outlets but it is still one of the hardest things to deal with and learning to cope with it is different as well. Anna chooses to deal with it when her phone alarm sounds for the day they were both to depart on this trip. She packs up and leaves her life behind after spending many months in bed. Honestly, it takes guts to do what she did! I don’t think I could ever manage such a thing but it was so refreshing to see her face everything head on.

Things don’t always go according to plan and that’s when Keane enters into the picture.

One thing I loved about the romance and the relationship that blossomed was that it didn’t happen overnight. It took time and Keane was understanding of her and what she had to work through on her own but was also there to give her a boost, especially when it came to sailing. I liked learning more about him and what happened to his leg. I honestly can’t remember reading a book where someone had a prosthetic but it’s great to see all of the different rep in books these days.

I will say that Keane could be a bit too perfect and there wasn’t as much drama as I thought there would be, especially compared to other books in this genre, but it wasn’t entirely a bad thing. There are genuine guys out there and I liked seeing one in a book that didn’t end up being a dillweed for some stupid reason.

Overall, there was so much to like about this book! I’d definitely recommend to those who enjoy this genre.

Anna—

There’s a kind of jacked-up happiness that comes when you know your life is almost over, when the decision to end it becomes solid. It might be adrenaline. It might be relief. And if I had always felt like this, I might have climbed mountains or raced marathons.

Now it’s just enough to see this through.

I should have left you alone that first night at the bar. If I had, you wouldn’t be reading this letter at all.

You’d be walking your dog or watching TV with your boyfriend. You didn’t deserve to be dragged into my shit, and you definitely don’t deserve the pain I’m about to cause. This is not your fault. For two years you have been my only reason for living. I wish I could give you forever.

You are strong and brave, and someday you’ll be okay. You’ll fall in love, and I hate him already for being a better man. Someday you will be happy again.

I love you, Anna. I’m sorry.

—Ben

ten months and six days (1)

I walk out of my life on Thanksgiving Day.

Last-minute shoppers are clearing shelves of stuffing mix and pumpkin pie filling as I heap my cart with everything I might need. (Dry beans. Canned vegetables. Rice.) I move through the grocery store like a prepper running late for doomsday. (Boxed milk. Limes. Spare flashlight.) I am quick so I won’t lose my nerve. (Apples. Toilet paper. Red wine.) I try not to think beyond leaving. (Cabbage. Playing cards. Bottled water.) Or about what I might be leaving behind.

My mother calls as I’m wrangling the grocery bags into the back seat of my overstuffed Subaru. I haven’t told her that I won’t be there for Thanksgiving dinner, and she’s not ready to hear that I’m skipping town. Not when I’ve barely left the house for the better part of a year. She’ll have questions and I don’t have an- swers, so I let the call go to voicemail.

When I reach the dock, the Alberg is right where it should

4 Trish Doller 

be, the shiny hull painted navy blue and the transom empty, still waiting for a name. For a moment I expect Ben’s head to pop up from the companionway. I wait to see his little fuck-me grin, and to hear the excitement in his voice when he tells me today is the day. But the hatch is padlocked, and the deck is covered in bird shit—another part of my life I’ve let fall into neglect.

Ten months and six days ago, Ben swallowed a bottle of pre- scription Paxil and chased it with the cheap tequila that lived under the sink, and I don’t know why. He was already gone when I came home from work and found him on the kitchen floor. In his suicide note, he told me I was his reason for living. Why was I not enough?

I breathe in deep, to the bottom of my lungs. Let it out slowly.

Step onto the boat and unlock the hatch.

The air is stale and hot, smelling of wood wax, new canvas, and a hint of diesel. I haven’t been aboard since before Ben died. Spiders have spun their homes in the corners of the cabin and a layer of dust has settled on every surface, but the changes leave me breathless. The interior brightwork is varnished and glossy. The ugly original brown-plaid cushion covers have been replaced with red canvas and Peruvian stripes. And a framed graphic hangs on the forward bulkhead that reads i & love & you.

“Why do all this work for a trip you’ll never take?” I say out loud, but it’s another question without an answer. I wipe my eyes on the sleeve of my T-shirt. One of the things I’ve learned is that suicide doesn’t break a person’s heart just once.

It takes me the rest of the morning to clean the boat, unload the contents of my car, and stow everything away. Traces of Ben are everywhere: a saucepan at the bottom of the hanging locker,

Float Plan 5

an expired six-pack of Heineken in the cockpit lazarette, a moldy orange life jacket stuffed in the refrigerator. I throw these things in the trash, but even with my spider plant hanging from an over- head handrail and my books lining the shelf, the boat belongs to Ben. He chose it. He did the renovations. He charted the course. He set the departure date. My presence feels like a layer as tem- porary as dust.

The last thing in my trunk is a shoebox filled with photos taken using Ben’s old Polaroid, a dried hibiscus flower from our first date, a handful of dirty-sexy love letters, and a suicide note. I take out a single photo—Ben and me at the Hillsboro Inlet Lighthouse about a week before he died—and stash the box in the bottom drawer of the navigation station. I tape the photo to the wall in the V-berth, right above my pillow.

And it’s time to go.

My only plan was to spend today in bed—my only plan since Ben’s death—but I was startled out of sleep by an alarm. The notification on my phone said: TODAY IS THE DAY, ANNA! WE’RE GOING SAILING! Ben had programmed the event into my calendar almost three years ago—on the day he showed me his sailboat and asked me to sail the world with him—and I had forgotten. I cried until my eyelashes hurt, because there is no lon- ger a we and I’ve forgotten how to be me without Ben. Then I got out of bed and started packing.

I’ve never been sailing without Ben. I don’t always get the ter- minology correct—it’s a line, Anna, not a rope—and I’ll be lucky if I make it to the end of the river. But I am less afraid of what might become of me while sailing alone in the Caribbean than of what might become of me if I stay.

Blog Tour: Road Out of Winter by Alison Stine (Review + Excerpt)

42599479._SY475_Title: Road Out of Winter
Author: Alison Stine
Genre: Sci-fi / Dystopian
Publication Date: September 1st, 2020
Publisher: Mira Books

Thank you to the publisher for reaching out/ giving me an e-copy to be a part of this blog tour! All opinions are my own.

synopsis header
In an endless winter, she carries seeds of hope

Wylodine comes from a world of paranoia and poverty—her family grows marijuana illegally, and life has always been a battle. Now she’s been left behind to tend the crop alone. Then spring doesn’t return for the second year in a row, bringing unprecedented extreme winter.

With grow lights stashed in her truck and a pouch of precious seeds, she begins a journey, determined to start over away from Appalachian Ohio. But the icy roads and strangers hidden in the hills are treacherous. After a harrowing encounter with a violent cult, Wylodine and her small group of exiles become a target for its volatile leader. Because she has the most valuable skill in the climate chaos: she can make things grow.

Urgent and poignant, Road Out of Winter is a glimpse of an all-too-possible near future, with a chosen family forged in the face of dystopian collapse. With the gripping suspense of The Road and the lyricism of Station Eleven, Stine’s vision is of a changing world where an unexpected hero searches for a place hope might take root.” (Goodreads)

Harlequin / B & N / Amazon / Books-A-Million / Powell’s

authorbio

AlisonStineAuthorPhotoALISON STINE lives in the rural Appalachian foothills. A recipient of an Individual Artist Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), she was a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University. She has written for The Atlantic, The Nation, The Guardian, and many others. She is a contributing editor with the Economic Hardship Reporting Project.

Website / Twitter / Instagram / Goodreads

bonuscontent

Chapter One

I used to have dreams that Lobo would be arrested. The sheriff and his deputies would roll up the drive, bouncing on the gravel, but coming fast, too fast to be stopped, too fast for Lobo to get away through the fields. Or maybe Lobo would be asleep, and they would surprise him, his eyes red, slit like taillights. My mama and I would weep with joy as they led him off. The deputies would wrap us in blankets, swept in their blue lights. We were innocent, weren’t we? Just at the wrong place at the wrong time, all the time, involved with the wrong man—and we didn’t know, my mama didn’t know, the extent. 

But that wasn’t true, not even close. 

I sold the weed at a gas station called Crossroads to a boy who delivered meals for shut-ins. Brown paper bags filled the back of his station wagon, the tops rolled over like his mama made him lunch. I supposed he could keep the bags straight. That was the arrangement Lobo had made years ago, that was the arrangement I kept. I left things uncomplicated. I didn’t know where the drugs went after the boy with the station wagon, where the boy sold them or for how much. I took the money he gave me and buried most of it in the yard.

After his station wagon bumped back onto the rural route, I went inside the store. There was a counter in the back, a row of cracked plastic tables and chairs that smelled like ketchup: a full menu, breakfast through dinner. They sold a lot of egg sandwiches at Crossroads to frackers, men on their way out to work sites. It was a good place to meet; Lisbeth would come this far. I ordered three cheeseburgers and fries, and sat down.

She was on time. She wore gray sweatpants under her long denim skirt, and not just because of the cold. “You reek, Wil,” she said, sliding onto the chair across from me.

“Lobo says that’s the smell of money,” I said.

“My mama says money smells like dirty hands.”

            The food arrived, delivered by a waitress I didn’t know. Crinkling red and white paper in baskets. I slid two of the burgers over to Lisbeth. The Church forbade pants on women, and short hair, and alcohol. But meat was okay. Lisbeth hunched over a burger, eating with both hands, her braid slipping over her shoulder.

“Heard from them at all?” she asked.

“Not lately.”

“You think he would let her write you? Call?”

“She doesn’t have her own phone,” I said.

            Lisbeth licked ketchup off her thumb. The fries were already getting cold. How about somethin’ home made? read the chalkboard below the menu. I watched the waitress write the dinner specials in handwriting small and careful as my mama’s.

“Hot chocolate?” I read to Lisbeth. “It’s June.”

“It’s freezing,” she said. 

And it was, still. Steam webbed the windows. There was no sign of spring in the lung-colored fields, bordered by trees as spindly as men in a bread line. We were past forsythia time, past when the squirrels should have been rooting around in the trees for sap. 

“What time is it now?” Lisbeth asked.

I showed her my phone, and she swallowed the last of her burger.

“I’ve got to go.”

“Already?”

“Choir rehearsal.” She took a gulp of Coke. Caffeine was frowned upon by The Church, though not, I thought, exclusively forbidden. “I gave all the seniors solos, and they’re terrified. They need help. Don’t forget. Noon tomorrow.”

The Church was strange—strange enough to whisper about. But The Church had a great choir; she had learned so much. They had helped her get her job at the high school, directing the chorus, not easy for a woman without a degree. Also, her folks loved The Church. She couldn’t leave, she said.

“What’s at noon?” I asked.

           She paused long enough to tilt her head at me. “Wylodine, really? Graduation, remember? The kids are singing?”

“I don’t want to go back there.”

“You promised. Take a shower if you been working so my folks don’t lose their 

minds.”  

“If they haven’t figured it out by now, they’re never going to know,” I said, but Lisbeth 

was already shrugging on her coat. Then she was gone, through the jangling door, long braid and layers flapping. In the parking lot, a truck refused to start, balking in the cold.  

I ordered hot chocolate. I was careful to take small bills from my wallet when I went up to the counter. Most of the roll of cash from the paper bag boy was stuffed in a Pepsi can back on the floor of the truck. Lobo, who owned the truck, had never been neat, and drink cans, leaves, and empty Copenhagen tins littered the cab. Though the mud on the floor mats had hardened and caked like makeup, though Lobo and Mama had been gone a year now, I hadn’t bothered cleaning out the truck. Not yet.

The top of the Pepsi can was ripped partially off, and it was dry inside: plenty of room for a wad of cash. I had pushed down the top to hide the money, avoiding the razor-sharp edge. Lobo had taught me well.

I took the hot chocolate to go.

In the morning, I rose early and alone, got the stove going, pulled on my boots to hike up the hill to the big house. I swept the basement room. I checked the supplies. I checked the cistern for clogs. The creek rode up the sides of the driveway. Ice floated in the water, brown as tea. 

No green leaves had appeared on the trees. No buds. My breath hung in the air, a web I walked through. My boots didn’t sink in the mud back to my own house in the lower field; my footprints were still frozen from a year ago. Last year’s walking had made ridges as stiff as craters on the moon. At the door to my tiny house, I knocked the frost from my boots, and yanked them off, but kept my warm coveralls on. I lit the small stove, listening to the whoosh of the flame. The water for coffee ticked in the pot.

I checked the time on the clock above the sink, a freebie from Radiator Palace. 

“Fuck,” I said aloud to no one.

Excerpted from Road Out of Winter by Alison Stine, Copyright © 2020 by Alison Stine. 

Published by MIRA Books

reviewheader

There is something about dystopians that draw me in. Maybe it’s the way humans react to hard times. How they become animalistic. All I know is that because of the plot, this book was hard to put down!

Wylodine has been on her own for awhile so when the world starts taking a turn she is basically in her element. It’s easy for her to think rationally, which is very important when its dooms day everywhere you go.

She was an easy character to feel sorry for when it came to her circumstances. The book covers the present but there is also flashbacks to better times with her friend Lisbeth and what it was like growing up with her mom and Lobo. The flashbacks did help to bridge gaps, especially when it came to her relationships with people.

There are other characters I did like reading about like Grayson and Jamey. None of the characters in the book have had an easy time since the start of the long winter. It can get very dark real quick. One scene I was not ready for!

Although I liked the characters, the book leans towards plot driven which was fine. The character development isn’t much.

When it comes to the plot, it’s better to be surprised! I didn’t know where it would lead but it’s easy to get hooked.

I only had one issue and that was the ending. This is probably just a personal opinion but I am one that wants more closure. I want to know that everything works out and everyone is fine. This book has an open ending, which I know some enjoy, but they aren’t for me.

Overall, this is a tense book filled with the realities of human actions when it comes to survival. It’s a good book and if you enjoy dystopians I’d recommend you check this one out.

-Joanna TheGeekishBrunette (1)

Blog Tour: Hunted by the Sky by Tanaz Bhathena

dWgVHXAQ

46223341Title: Hunted by the Sky (The Wrath of Ambar #1)
Author: Tanaz Bhathena
Genre: YA Fantasy
Publication Date: June 23rd 2020
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Thanks to the publisher for the free e-copy! (I received a copy for reviewing. All opinions are my own.)

*Click here for all other tour dates!

synopsis header“Gul has spent her life running. She has a star-shaped birthmark on her arm, and in the kingdom of Ambar, girls with such birthmarks have been disappearing for years. Gul’s mark is what caused her parents’ murder at the hand of King Lohar’s ruthless soldiers and forced her into hiding to protect her own life. So when a group of rebel women called the Sisters of the Golden Lotus rescue her, take her in, and train her in warrior magic, Gul wants only one thing: revenge.

Cavas lives in the tenements, and he’s just about ready to sign his life over to the king’s army. His father is terminally ill, and Cavas will do anything to save him. But sparks fly when he meets a mysterious girl–Gul–in the capital’s bazaar, and as the chemistry between them undeniably grows, he becomes entangled in a mission of vengeance–and discovers a magic he never expected to find.

Dangerous circumstances have brought Gul and Cavas together at the king’s domain in Ambar Fort . . . a world with secrets deadlier than their own. Exploring identity, class struggles, and high-stakes romance, Hunted by the Sky is a gripping adventure set in a world inspired by medieval India.” (Goodreads)

Amazon / B & N / Book Depository / Google / Kobo / iTunes

qtlqv7xATanaz Bhathena writes books for young adults. Her sophomore novel,The Beauty of the Moment, won the Nautilus Award for Young Adult Fiction and has also been nominated for the Ontario Library Association’s White Pine Award. Her acclaimed debut,A Girl Like That, was named a Best Book of the Year by numerous outlets including The Globe and Mail, Seventeen, and The Times of India. Her latest book,Hunted by the Sky, (releasing June 232020) is the first of a YA fantasy duology set in a world inspired by medieval India. Her short stories have appeared in various publications including The Hindu, Blackbird, Witness, and Room.

Born in India and raised in Saudi Arabia and Canada, Tanaz lives in Mississauga, Ontario, with her family.

Goodreads / WebsiteInstagram 

bonuscontent

SkS-OVaA

*Read An Excerpt Here*

promote

zYauPyYw

Ends: August 31st, 2020

Orders of a hardcover book will receive limited edition swag and be entered to win a $100 gift card.

Open to residents of US and Canada. Rules & Conditions.

reviewheader
As one of my anticipated reads of the year, this did not disappoint. There are many good things found in this book and I had a hard time putting it down for long periods of time. I mean, I did binge it and stayed up past my bedtime to finish it.

The book starts off with a punch to the feels! The author doesn’t hold back and let’s you know from the beginning that this book can be quite intense. There are two different point-of-views throughout and a extra special one at the end. I also enjoyed that the book is split into different parts that indicate a transition when it comes to days passing. It helped with not being confused as some books don’t really have markers for transitions like that.

Gul has many tragic things happen to her and she could be very impulsive. Sometimes I wanted to shake her because she was making not so great choices but that’s why I liked her. We have all been there when it comes to being impulsive and it made her feel real. It was also easy to understand her feelings as well and I never had a problem when it came to connecting with her.

Cavas is a simple guy and he life starts changing rather quickly when he meets Gul. He is definitely the opposite of Gul because he is more calculated with his thinking. I think that’s why he would get annoyed by her, ha. I felt bad for him most of the time because people treated him differently since he is known as a non-magi. I enjoyed his point-of-view as much as Gul.

Sometimes multiple point-of-views don’t always work but in this case it really helped with understanding the class struggles.

There are definitely some characters that I despise and Major Shayla is a dillweed, let me tell you! I haven’t used that word in awhile when it comes to reviews but she definitely is one. I’m curious to see where the next book will take some of the characters and I’m really hoping one is doing well!

I wasn’t sure what to expect when it came to the plot but it sure was surprising! The plot centers around a prophecy and I thought that was really cool. It plays a part throughout the book and we get snippets of the verses that explain it. There are also talks about goddesses which is one thing I enjoy about. As mentioned above, the beginning starts off with a bang. It does slow down a bit to build the kingdom, class dynamic, and also the characters but when it picks back up, the ride doesn’t stop. There were many plot twists and I was surprised by them all.

Of course, this has a bit of romance. Not a lot but enough to let you know and understand what is going on. I wasn’t on board with it at first but the farther you get into the book, the more it’s explained and then it all made sense!

Overall, this is a very solid book that starts off a new series. I will definitely be getting my hands on the next book when it comes out because I need to know what happens!

favquotes

“Children only repeat what their elders say.”

“Power comes in many shapes and forms. You keep doubting yourself, Gul. That’s your biggest weakness.”

“Every heart holds a warrior. Some are born, some are made, while some choose to never take up arms. What you are and who you will become will be entirely up to you.”

“People have tongues that wag far too often and minds that don’t think as much.”

giveaway

Win a copy of Hunted by the Sky by Tanaz Bhathena [US/CAN Only]

Starts June 23rd, 2020 and ends July 7th, 2020

Click Here to Enter Giveaway!

border2

I hope you enjoyed my blog tour spot for Hunted by the Sky by Tanaz Bhathena! Be sure to check out the other stops!

Tour Schedule

Find me on Instagram / Goodreads

-Joanna TheGeekishBrunette (1)

Blog Tour: What Unbreakable Looks Like by Kate McLaughlin

 

BlogTourBanner_BEFORE On sale

47571266Title: What Unbreakable Looks Like
Author: Kate McLaughlin
Genre: YA Contemporary
Publication Date: June 23rd, 2020
Publisher: Wednesday Books

Content Warning: Trafficking, Suicide, Abuse, Sexual Assault

eARC provided by publisher through NetGalley for review. All opinions are my own.

synopsis header
“Lex was taken – trafficked – and now she’s Poppy. Kept in a hotel with other girls, her old life is a distant memory. But when the girls are rescued, she doesn’t quite know how to be Lex again.

After she moves in with her aunt and uncle, for the first time in a long time, she knows what it is to feel truly safe. Except, she doesn’t trust it. Doesn’t trust her new home. Doesn’t trust her new friend. Doesn’t trust her new life. Instead she trusts what she shouldn’t because that’s what feels right. She doesn’t deserve good things.

But when she is sexually assaulted by her so-called boyfriend and his friends, Lex is forced to reckon with what happened to her and that just because she is used to it, doesn’t mean it is okay. She’s thrust into the limelight and realizes she has the power to help others. But first she’ll have to confront the monsters of her past with the help of her family, friends, and a new love.” (Goodreads)

*+Where to Buy+*

Kate McLaughlinKATE McLAUGHLIN likes people, so much so that she spends her days making up her own. She likes writing about characters who are bent, but not broken – people who find their internal strength through friends, strife and sometimes humor. When she’s not writing, she likes studying people, both real and fictional. She also likes playing board games with friends, talking and discovering new music. A proud Nova Scotian, she’ll gladly tell you all about the highest tides in the world, the magical creation known as
a donair, and people who have sofas in their kitchens. Currently, she lives in Connecticut with her husband and four cats. She’s the author of What Unbreakable Looks Like. (Twitter)

bonuscontent

What Unbreakable Looks Like_Excerpt

reviewheader
I knew that this book would be talking about a hard subject. I didn’t know how much it would affect me until I started reading. I would be lying if I said I didn’t cry a couple times. It may also have to do with being a mother to a daughter. It’s something I never want to have happen to her. I only had one issue with this book overall which made it hard to understand at times but it didn’t effect the overall message.

Lex has to come to terms with a lot of things. She has been rescued from the trafficking life but what happens after that? It is all she has known for years. I think the author did a good job of showing the mindset of these young girls and how their pimps pull them in by pretending to love them and give them gifts. They condition these girls to believe that they need them and by that time it is hard for this girls to walk away. There are times that when the girls do get rescued they still run back. It’s just heartbreaking.

Even though she is having a hard time adjusting and trusting others, like her aunt and uncle, she tries to be strong and they continue to support her and love her. Lex also makes a couple friends along the way and they never treat her any less. Although she has a great support system, her old life still haunts her. It also plays a role in a relationship where her “boyfriend” continues to take advantage of her. Seriously, I just wanted to punch him so hard.

The thing is, although for the most part everything works out in the end for her it didn’t for other girls she knew. I also felt that the bad guys getting what they deserve doesn’t always happen in real life either. We see it on the news, people buying their way out of jail. It’s hard to be optimistic. Although I think her intentions for writing this is to shed light on this topic but maybe it is also here to give hope.

My one complaint is that the timeline in chapters would switch making it hard to follow. I had to reread a bit each time to understand the jump.

I have never been in this situation and I hope it never happens, especially for my daughter, but I’d like to think that the author did a good job with such a tough subject.

Overall, this book was good but it will not be for everyone. You definitely need to be in a good mindset and even if you are, prepare to have a gut-wrenching feeling while reading.

-Joanna TheGeekishBrunette (1)

 

Blog Tour: Sisters of Sword and Songs by Rebecca Ross

JUlIQU4A

52038346Title: Sisters of Sword and Songs
Author: Rebecca Ross
Genre: YA Fantasy
Publication Date: June 23rd, 2020
Publisher: HarperTeen

Thanks to the publisher for the free e-copy! (I received a copy for reviewing. All opinions are my own.)

*Click here for all other tour dates!*

 

synopsis header
From the author of The Queen’s Rising comes a thrilling YA stand-alone fantasy about the unbreakable bond between sisters. Perfect for fans of Ember in the Ashes, Sky in the Deep, and Court of Fives.

After eight long years, Evadne will finally be reunited with her older sister, Halcyon, who has been proudly serving in the queen’s army. But when Halcyon appears earlier than expected, Eva knows something has gone terribly wrong. Halcyon is on the run, hunted by her commander and charged with murder.

Though Halcyon’s life is spared during her trial, the punishment is heavy. And when Eva volunteers to serve part of Halcyon’s sentence, she’s determined to find out exactly what happened. But as Eva begins her sentence, she quickly learns that there are fates much worse than death.” (Goodreads)

Amazon / B & N / Book Depository / Google / Kobo / iTunes

mIrnhVFg

Rebecca Ross grew up in Georgia, where she continues to reside with her husband, lively dog and endless piles of books. She received her bachelor’s degree in English from UGA. In the past she has worked at a Colorado dude ranch, as a school librarian, and as a live-time captionist for a college

Goodreads / Website / Twitter / Instagram / Facebook / Pinterest

bonuscontent

Sisters of Sword and Song PDF

reviewheaderThe cover for this book automatically caught my eye. All of the details are just beautiful! I haven’t read anything else by this author yet but I am glad that I was able to read this book and experience her writing.

This book follows two sisters, each one having their own point-of-view. Evadne and Halcyon are quite the opposites as one is more strong and the other a bit magical. Hence the title of the book. If you have read previous book reviews from me you would already know that I love reading books with sister bonds. These two sisters were no exception. Even though this is a standalone you could feel the bond they shared from the beginning.

The plot is quite unique because the author weaves mythology in and creates deities and relics that add a bit of wonder to the pages. There is adventure and a dash of romance which is always nice to see.

Standalones can sometimes be hard because sometimes you just need more, whether it’s from the characters or setting, but I think the author did a nice job of making both come to life. I wasn’t left wanting more from either and it was satisfying to read.

Overall, this was a book worth reading. If you like mythology or sister bonds, I’d recommend picking this one up!

favquotes

“She saw the stars in his eyes, a slow awakening of joy in his face.”

“Failure is never final unless you choose it to be.”

“Where there is life, hope can be found.”

giveaway

Zfjqnffw

Win a copy of Sisters of Sword and Song by Rebecca Ross + 4 myth cards  (The Fall of Kirkos, Ari’s Shawl of Stars, The Entrapment of Pyrrhus, and Acantha’s Crown) [US Only]

Starts June 17th, 2020 and ends July 1st, 2020

Click Here to Enter Giveaway!

border2

I hope you enjoyed my blog tour spot for Sisters of Sword and Song by Rebecca Ross! Be sure to check out the other stops!

Tour Schedule

Find me on Instagram / Goodreads

-Joanna TheGeekishBrunette (1)

 

Blog Tour: The Kinder Poison by Natalie Mae

c6roN9qQ

42893340Title: The Kinder Poison
Author: Natalie Mae
Genre: YA Fantasy
Publication Date: June 16th, 2020
Publisher: Razorbill

Thanks to the publisher for the free copy! (I received a copy for reviewing. All opinions are my own.)

*Click here for all other tour dates!*

synopsis header
Perfect for fans of Victoria Aveyard and Holly Black, this enthralling fantasy adventure follows a teenage girl chosen to be the human sacrifice in a deadly game between three heirs who will do anything for the crown.

Zahru has long dreamed of leaving the kingdom of Orkena and having the kinds of adventures she’s only ever heard about in stories. But as a lowly Whisperer, her power to commune with animals means that her place is serving in the royal stables until the day her magic runs dry.

All that changes when the ailing ruler invokes the Crossing: a death-defying race across the desert, in which the first of his heirs to finish—and take the life of a human sacrifice at the journey’s end—will ascend to the throne and be granted unparalleled abilities.

With all of the kingdom abuzz, Zahru leaps at the chance to change her fate if just for a night by sneaking into the palace for a taste of the revelry. But the minor indiscretion turns into a deadly mistake when she gets caught up in a feud between the heirs and is forced to become the Crossing’s human sacrifice. Zahru is left with only one hope for survival: somehow figuring out how to overcome the most dangerous people in the world.” (Goodreads)

Amazon B & N / Book Depository / Google / Kobo

t2YaY_xANatalie Mae is an ex-programmer, dessert enthusiast, and author of young adult novels. She has also been a freelance editor and Pitch Wars mentor, and feels it notable to mention she once held a job where she had to feed spiders.She now writes full-time at home with a bag of dark chocolates in one hand and a leopard cat on her lap. She is most definitely not checking Instagram right now.

 

Goodreads / Website / Twitter / Instagram 

reviewheader

I had seen the cover circling for this one on every social media I have. The purple and gold together are amazing and it just has that dazzle that captures the eye. Even though I was a bit hesitant about picking it up, I’m glad I signed up for this blog tour because within in the first chapter I immediately fell in love with this story!

Zahru relies a lot on others. She tries to be brave and tries to be optimistic about the situations she gets in. She is kind, caring, and truly wants to see the good in others. Zahru reminds me a lot of me and that is why it was so easy to feel for her and really connect with her character.

There are quite a few characters that are present for a lot of the book. There was nothing minor about them and some had intense plot points that just left me shocked. I love when smaller characters don’t feel so minor and this was a nice surprise to see. There is a bit of background for a couple and it was easy to understand their motives.

Three of these characters were siblings: Kasta, Sakira, and Jet. These siblings each had their own personality. I liked getting to know each one (a couple more than others, ha) because they each had a different perspective of the race and what they wanted to get out of it. Plus, you all know how I like brothers and these two didn’t disappoint.

This is a unique plot and one that I haven’t read about before. I wasn’t sure how I would like the whole race aspect but it really brought an interesting take to sibling rivalry/capturing the throne. It had it’s fast paced moments and there really wasn’t much downtime. If it wasn’t for bed calling my name, I would have read it all in one sitting since I got to 55% on the first night. Oops, ha.

Overall, I really enjoyed this one. The characters were easy to connect with and the plot was a thrilling ride. Plus, that ending was not expected! I’ll be waiting for book two because I need to know what happens.

quotes

“Then we float around a bend, and I’m not the only one who gasps. It’s like spending your whole life knowing only candlelight, then looking upon your first wildfire.”

“Sometimes the promise of something is more powerful than the act.”

“Being compassionate doesn’t make you weak.”

“True monsters wouldn’t put someone else first.”

giveaway

Win (1) of (5) copies of The Kinder Poison by Natalie Mae (US Only)

Starts June 10th, 2020 and ends June 24th, 2020

Click Here to Enter Giveaway!

border2

I hope you enjoyed my blog tour spot for The Kinder Poison by Natalie Mae! Be sure to check out the other reviews and Instagram tour!

Find me on Instagram / Goodreads

-Joanna TheGeekishBrunette (1)

Blog Tour: Dark Skies by Danielle L. Jensen (Review)

-exWxKwA.png

41438058Title: Dark Skies (Dark Shores #2)
Author: Danielle L. Jensen
Genre: YA Fantasy
Publication Date: May 5th, 2020
Publisher: Tor Teen

Thanks to the publisher for the free copy! (I received a copy for reviewing. All opinions are my own.)

Look out for my instagram post too!

*Click the banner for all other tour dates!*

synopsis header
“A RUNAWAY WITH A HIDDEN PAST
Lydia is a scholar, but books are her downfall when she meddles in the plots of the most powerful man in the Celendor Empire. Her life in danger, she flees west to the far side of the Endless Seas and finds herself entangled in a foreign war where her burgeoning powers are sought by both sides.

A COMMANDER IN DISGRACE
Killian is Marked by the God of War, but his gifts fail him when the realm under the dominion of the Corrupter invades Mudamora. Disgraced, he swears his sword to the kingdom’s only hope: the crown princess. But the choice sees him caught up in a web of political intrigue that will put his oath – and his heart – to the test.

A KINGDOM UNDER SIEGE
With Mudamora falling beneath the armies of the Corrupter, Lydia and Killian strike a bargain to save those they love most—but it is a bargain with unintended and disastrous consequences. Truths are revealed, birthrights claimed, and loyalties questioned—all while a menace deadlier and more far-reaching than they realize sweeps across the world.” (Goodreads)

Amazon / B & N / Book Depository / Google / Kobo / iTunes

wimXCpDw

Danielle L. Jensen is the USA Today bestselling author of The Malediction Trilogy (Angry Robot), the Dark Shores series (Tor Teen), and The Bridge Kingdom series (Audible Originals). She lives in Calgary, Alberta with her family.

Goodreads / Website / Twitter / Instagram / Facebook / Pinterest

reviewheaderI was really excited to read this after recently finishing Dark Shores! One of the cool things about this series is that you can read this one or the other first since they are both different timelines that mesh together in the beginning and then will come together in book three! It’s a cool concept that I have never seen/read before.

The beginning of this book does take a bit to get into because it deals with some of the events I had read in the other book. Even though it was a bit slow at the beginning I did like that it did a recap of events but from a different point-of-view. Dark Skies has two different point-of-views both from different people that weren’t the main characters in Dark Shore.

Lydia definitely has her heart in the right place. She is very loyal. It’s easy to feel terrible about her position because she is always in between hard decisions. That ending really made me feel so sad for her! Ugh.

Killian is hilarious and so lovable! He really does have a soft spot for the citizens and he always does what he thinks is right even if it puts him in danger. He also employs young women for bodyguards to help him and I really liked that.

I liked that this book was set in a different area from the other and we got to see a completely different political force. There is definitely a lot of political intrigue and it’s hard to decide who wants what’s best for their people. I really had no idea who I stood behind until the end and even then, you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place with your feelings, haha.

The Gods are also back and we learn more about two different ones and it’s cool to have that. I’m always intrigued by mythology.

The plot is very intriguing and fast once you get past the beginning. The last 150-200 pages is intense! There are so many plot twists being thrown out and I wasn’t prepared. The relationship being formed is slow but you can definitely see a bond they share.

Overall, this was a great read and I know my feelings aren’t prepared for the next book.

quotes

aFHGfG44.jpg

eosZQDZQ.jpg

DwQe9CW4.jpg

oaW4DkTs.jpg

giveaway

Win (1) of (4) copies of Dark Skies by Danielle L. Jensen (US Only)

Starts May 5th, 2020 and ends May 19th, 2020

Click Here to Enter Giveaway!

border2

I hope you enjoyed my blog tour spot for Dark Skies by Danielle L. Jensen! Be sure to check out the other reviews and Instagram tour!

Tour Schedule

Find me on Instagram / Goodreads

-Joanna TheGeekishBrunette (1)