Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Guest post: Jwan Jordan, comic book author

Affairs of The Mind: Chibi

Hello! My name is Jwan Jordan and I am the author of Affairs of the Mind: Chibi comic book! I am not like other authors out there. I am all over the place and I keep myself very busy with motivational presentations at schools and for other audiences as well as working for a gaming website online all on top of writing my comics!

What I do...

Jwan Jordan
For those new to my humble side of the independent comic book world, I have been producing comics and doing motivational seminars since 2007. I've created the Circular World: Ballad of the Broken Steel, Affairs of the Mind, and Affairs of the Mind: Chibi and contributed to various other indie comics.

How it began...

My fascination with creating in terms of art/comics began at Walt Disney Studios. My father was a stuntman and worked at the studio and I was able to spend a lot of time watching some of Disney's greatest characters get drawn right before my eyes. It was at that moment that the creative bug hit me like a ton of bricks.

Where did the idea for Affairs of the Mind series come from?

I've lead, what I consider, a very good life but despite that I've always struggled with depression. I use to frequently talk to my Grandmother, Jerry Jordan, about my depression and she said something that stuck with me till this day..."All the affairs of life come from your state of mind." Around the year 2007 I began writing comics and I decided to create a book that I felt would show an old philosophy I personally hold dear while being entertaining enough for all ages to enjoy. Hence, Affairs of the Mind was born!

What is my dream...

My true dream is have a Saturday morning cartoon for kids. Similar to Ben 10 and cartoon network series that are fun to watch and I would like to add an education message at the end of each cartoon like back in the 80′s when cartoons were really good and wholesome. I am also in the progress of starting a Kickstarter Campaign for an AFTM video game! More details on that coming soon.

More about Jwan Jordan:

Jwan Jordan is the author and creator of the Affairs of the Mind: Chibi comic. He also performs motivational seminars at school and serves as a life coach to all ages and walks of life.

For those interested, you can chat or keep in contact with him via his Facebook motivational/comic page at Jwan Jordan Comics.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Heads in Beds

Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality, by Jacob Tomsky.

These were my first glimpses into the lives of strangers, something I was coming to realize was a side effect of this business (or perk, depending on the predominance of your voyeuristic tendencies). Want to know what people are really like? What their strange habits are? How they treat people when no one they deem important is watching? Ask their desk agent. Basically, ask their servants: because that is what we are, an army of servants, included with the price of the room.

Heads in Beds, Jacob Tomsky, hotels, nonfiction
I don't usually read nonfiction. If there's a topic I'm particularly interested in, then I might seek out a book, but otherwise, I avoid it; usually the genre doesn't interest me for 'pleasure' reading. When I saw this book on NetGalley, however, it sounded interesting, so I put in a 'read request' for it and was approved. And I am definitely glad I did!

Official synopsis:
Jacob Tomsky never intended to go into the hotel business. As a new college graduate, armed only with a philosophy degree and a singular lack of career direction, he became a valet parker for a large luxury hotel in New Orleans. Yet, rising fast through the ranks, he ended up working in “hospitality” for more than a decade, doing everything from supervising the housekeeping department to manning the front desk at an upscale Manhattan hotel. He’s checked you in, checked you out, separated your white panties from the white bed sheets, parked your car, tasted your room-service meals, cleaned your toilet, denied you a late checkout, given you a wake-up call, eaten M&M's out of your minibar, laughed at your jokes, and taken your money. In Heads in Beds he pulls back the curtain to expose the crazy and compelling reality of a multi-billion-dollar industry we think we know.
-

First off, everyone has pseudonyms in this book - even the author. Instead of going by Jacob Tomsky, he decides to call his character Tommy Jacobs (get it?). He starts off in the hotel business kind of by accident: he graduated from college with a degree in Philosophy, only to find (surprise!) that there's practically no jobs suited for that major, so he takes a valet job at a New Orleans hotel to pay the bills. He eventually graduates to the front desk, then to a manager of housekeeping job, and then later moves to NYC, since he has always had the "travel bug" was surprised he lasted in New Orleans so long.

Many years into his career, he starts to become a "hustler," as he calls it - being able to make money from tips while also providing good service to the hotel customers. But he also begins to get sick of the hotel game, yet doesn't know what else he can do with his life - he's worked too hard to start at a new hotel and get the crappy work shifts, but he's getting sick of the hotel he's currently at also.

This book was funny. I seriously don't remember the last time I laughed so much during a fiction book, even if it was a comedy. I would love to see this made into a movie, though I'd have to think a bit to 'cast' it. When Tommy (Jacob, the author) starts it he's around 22 and when the book ends he's in his early 30s, I believe, so it spans about ten years of time. Some of the tips he reveals I already knew about - if you grease a front desk man's palm and say "Anything you do for me would be appreciated," you have a good chance of getting a better room than you maybe were initially assigned - but some of the other tips and insights I did not know about.

I would recommend this book to anyone that has ever stayed in a hotel, really, or anyone that wants a hilarious, smart read.

5 stars out of 5.

*Disclosure: I received an e-copy of this book from NetGalley to review. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Orders from Berlin

Orders from Berlin, by Simon Tolkien.

All that remained now was to watch the final act of the drama that he'd set in motion. Seaforth looked to the right and saw the dapper, rotund figure of Bertram Brive coming into view. There was a jauntiness in his step that made Seaforth think Bertram had got what he wanted down at the Probate Office. It was strange to watch him strutting up the road, blissfully ignorant of the fate that awaited him, moments away, inside his flat. He stopped in front of the building, took out his key, and opened the door. And two minutes later came back out in handcuffs.

Simon Tolkien is the grandson of J.R.R. Tolkien (yes, that Tolkien - of Lord of the Rings fame) but his writing couldn't be more different. This Tolkien writes "half Christie and half Grisham" thrillers (L.A. Times) rather than those stories set in magical lands, and although I enjoy historical novels, I couldn't really get into Order from Berlin, though I will admit that the book did lure me in the more I read of it.

Official synopsis, from amazon.com:
It’s September of 1940. France has fallen and London is being bombed day and night. Almost single-handedly Winston Churchill maintains the country’s morale. Britain’s fate hangs in the balance and the intelligence agencies on both sides of the Channel are desperate for anything that could give them the edge.

Albert Morrison, ex-chief of MI6, is pushed over the banister outside his London apartment. He falls to his death at the feet of his daughter, Ava, but it is too dark for her to see the attacker before he escapes. Two Scotland Yard detectives attend the crime scene: Inspector Quaid and his junior assistant, Detective Trave. Quaid is convinced that this is a simple open-and-shut case involving a family dispute. But Trave is not so sure. Following a mysterious note in the dead man’s pocket, Trave discovers that Morrison was visited by Alec Thorn, deputy head of MI6, on the day of his death. Could Thorn—who is clearly carrying a flame for Morrison's daughter—be involved in a plot to betray his country that Morrison tried to halt, and if so, can Trave stop it in time in this gripping and intelligent thriller?

Tolkien's other novels, which I have not read, include Detective Trave, and therefore Orders from Berlin is almost a prequel novel of sorts for Trave's fans. The novel begins in Germany, with "the Fuhrer" (Hitler) having a conversation with one of his trusted minions, and I was confused as to how that conversation tied in to the rest of the book until the novel began to weave all of the threads together. I do like novels set in past time periods, and I'm especially interested in those occurring during World War II; this book did a good job of making sure most of the main European characters were included, such as Hitler and Churchill.

Once the thriller/mystery part of the novel gets started, the pacing starts to pick up, and I enjoyed the novel more. I think that anyone who enjoys historical books combined with mysteries/thrillers might enjoy this, though I can't say that with certainty because I should have enjoyed it more, using that logic; the novel took me a while to get through.

Orders from Berlin will be in stores on December 11th. 3 stars out of 5.

*Disclosure: I received a copy of this novel to review. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Diary of a Wimpy Kid Book Giveaway: Choose one!

credit: wimpykid.com
I haven't read any of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, but I've heard a lot about them. They were made into movies in 2010, 2011, and 2012, and the seventh book in the series, The Third Wheel, was recently released - check back soon for my review of it.

Meanwhile, however, I have one Wimpy Kid book to give away to my readers - and the best part is, you can choose any book in the series!

That includes:
#1: Diary of a Wimpy Kid
#2: Rodrick Rules
#3: The Last Straw
#4: Dog Days
#5: The Ugly Truth
#6: Cabin Fever
#7: The Third Wheel

Enter your information in the Rafflecopter form below. This contest will end next Friday, November 30th at 11:59pm EST, and the winner will have 24 hours to respond to my email or an alternate winner will be chosen.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Dualed

Dualed, by Elsie Chapman.

From the moment you get your assignment and you make the decision to run, life changes int he most momentous of ways. It's no longer a question of what you're going to do that day, what you're going to eat, who you're going to see. It's how you're going to survive until the next day comes. That you were stressing out about some exam or essay means nothing. Instead you learn how to be paranoid. You learn how to distinguish between the echoes behind you. You learn how to beg and sneak and how to move in the dark.

You learn that you can never go home again. At least, not until you're complete.


This book was a combination of The Hunger Games and Matched, and was definitely fascinating. I also thought it seemed like one stand-alone book, but the second book in the series, Divided, will be in stores in February 2014.

Dualed, Elsie Chapman, dystopia, murdersIn West Grayer's world, random killings occur on the street each day - except they aren't so random. Every person in the world is born with an Alt (an Alternate), and sometime between the age of 10 to 19, each person will receive an assignment: they must kill their Alt. The reasoning behind this is that the stronger Alt will survive, and that person will be more fit to live in their city, the city of Kersh. For a price, however, people can be hired to kill your Alt: people more highly trained and effective than you. West decides to become one of these people, so that she can learn the art of the kill, but a few months after she starts, she receives her Alt assignment, and must kill her Alt - or else both of them will die within thirty days.

Official synopsis:
The Hunger Games meets Matched in this thrilling high-concept YA where citizens must prove their worth by killing their Alts—twins raised by other families. You or your Alt? Only one will survive.

The city of Kersh is a safe haven, but the price of safety is high. West Grayer has trained as a fighter, preparing for the day when her assignment arrives and she will have one month to hunt down and kill her Alt. Survival means advanced schooling, a good job, marriage—life. But then a tragic misstep shakes West's confidence. Stricken with grief and guilt, she's no longer certain that she's the best version of herself, the version worthy of a future. If she is to have any chance of winning, she must stop running not only from her Alt, but also from love . . . though both have the power to destroy her.
-

Just like in Matched, there's a "higher power" that mandates the rules in this dystopia - in this case, they are called The Board, and they are the ones who show up at your house to give you your Alt assignment. Once you receive your assignment, your eye pupils have a number on it. You and your Alt have thirty days to kill or be killed, and if neither of you are dead by that time, then both of you die.

I thought West's world was definitely fascinating. She was raised with brothers and sisters, all of whom die before her - not necessarily by Alts, but by accidents too - and it turns out that before she was born, her parents actually met her Alt's parents, by accident; they were placed together in the same waiting room at the fertility place where they went in order to "request" a child.

The ideas in this book are crazy to think about, because if this how real life was, there would be random sanctioned killings in the street, yet people would be accustomed to it; in one scene, a barista at a coffee shop sees West stalking her Alt, and tells her to take "that" away from there because it's "bad for business." I also thought Dualed wrapped up everything pretty nicely so I am interested in seeing what Divided will have in store for West and the people she loves.

Dualed will be in stores on February 26, 2013. 4 stars out of 5.

*Disclosure: I received an e-copy of this book from NetGalley to review. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made

Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made, by Alan Eisenstock, with Eric Zala and Chris Strompolos.

With only a few props gathered, no costumes - thanks to Chris's fedora and leather jacket spray-paint disaster - the boulder demolished, and hundreds of storyboards to go, the boys decide to concentrate on the one area they know they can handle: stunts. Chris, showing off his practiced Indiana Jones swagger, approaches each day as if it's the day that they might somehow get hold of a camera and actually film this thing. He vows to be ready. He sets his sights on the pit scene, where Indy leaps over and open pit to escape the collapsing temple cave by swinging from tree branch to tree branch. The boys find the perfect tree right outside Gus and Irene's house - a sturdy white pine in a neighbor's front yard - climb it, and prepare to "rehearse." That's the word they use. Because every thought, every action, every play date, every trip to the mall, every conversation, every nickel they save or spend goes into what will be their Raiders.

Raiders The Greatest Fan Film Ever Made, Chris Strompolos, Eric ZalaI had never heard of this movie before reading this book, but apparently it's quite famous - Spielberg himself even wrote the filmmakers a letter when he did eventually see it. The book focuses on two kids who, in the 1980s, decided to make an adaptation of Raiders of the Lost Ark, scene for scene. They didn't anticipate at the time that it would take them seven years to finish, or that during the process their friendship would eventually destruct; however, they continued to work at the movie until it was completely finished: editing, music, and all.

Official synopsis:

In 1981, in a small town in Mississippi, ten-year-old Chris Strompolos and eleven-year-old Eric Zala met on a school bus. They discovered they shared a passion for comic books and the film Raiders of the Lost Ark, and a friendship was born. They decided to re-make Raiders - every scene, every shot, every stunt - even though they had no camera, no money, and no clue how to make a movie. But what they did have was a vision, sheer will, limitless imagination, and each other.

Incredibly, they realized their dream, though it took them a staggering seven years to complete their movie. By then, they had grown up - and almost burned down the family home, nearly killed Eric, and stopped speaking to each other. Twenty-nine years later, today Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation has an obsessive and devoted following of millions and is considered the best and most successful fan film ever created.

What I really loved about this book is that by the end of it, you felt like you knew both Eric and Chris - almost like they were friends of yours - since the novel follows them from early childhood until 2005, when Katrina hits Mississippi and Chris comes home to help Eric and his family. I've watched a clip from the beginning of the film, too (see below), and it's pretty good for kids on a "shoestring" budget. The novel shows how much love and work they put into this movie, too, and how they were obsessive about capturing every last detail from the original, as well as how a twist of fate put a copy of their film into the "right hands" and how it eventually ended up becoming a cult favorite.

Raiders! will be in bookstores on November 13th. 4 stars out of 5.

*Disclosure: I received a copy of this novel to review. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Reflected in You

Reflected in You (Crossfire series, #2) by Sylvia Day.

The starkness of his gaze bled away, replaced by sexual heat. "Oh? Planning on pacifying me with sex, angel?"

"Yes," I admitted shamelessly. "Lots of it. After all, the tactic seems to work quite well for you."

His mouth curved, but his gaze had a sharpness that quickened my breath. The dark look he gave me reminded me - as if I could forget - that Gideon wasn't a man who could be managed or tamed.

"Ah, Eva," he purred, sprawled against the seat with the predatory insouciance of a sleek panther who'd nearly trapped a mouse in his den.

A delicious shiver moved through me. When it came to Gideon, I was more than willing to be devoured.


Reflected in You, Sylvia Day, Crossfire series
I am reviewing this book for the BlogHer Book Club, and they and Penguin were kind enough to send both this novel and Bared to You, the first book in the Crossfire series. I read both of them and it's definitely good that I did, because this book picks up almost instantly after BTY ends.

Gideon Cross is a billionaire who, in the first book, notices Eva on her first day working at his office building, at a PR firm. He actually backtracks so that they can cross paths, and soon afterwards propositions her in a rather crude manner. Eva normally wouldn't go for such things, but Gideon is ridiculously hot, and soon she finds herself spending all of her time outside work with him.

The first book mostly consists of them having mindblowing sex and also learning a little bit about their pasts. In this novel, it's less sex (but still intense sex when had) and more past-exploring, specifically as to why Gideon is keeping secrets from Eva. Eva also runs in to one of her exes, who is now the frontrunner of a band she goes to see with Gideon and a friend, which causes some problems between her and Gideon, as he tends to get jealous very easily (as does Eva, of Gideon's exes).

Normally I give books I review an overall rating, but with this book it is hard to do that. The story is very interesting, and I hope to read the third book, Reflected in You, when it comes to stores in May 2013. This series also is not a BDSM series like Fifty Shades of Grey, though there's definitely the suggestion of BDSM at times; Eva says over and over that she's an independent woman, yet she lets Gideon be very controlling over her, both in life and in the bedroom. However, I saw many similarities to Christian and Ana in this book - Gideon/Christian are billionaires and they both meet the main woman characters at the office (though Ana meets Christian when she goes to interview him for an article, and Gideon pretty much stalks Eva once he first sees her to ensure that they meet).

The main difference between this and other similar books I have read is that the writing flows very easily and is enjoyable to read, and also both Gideon and Eva have very complicated backgrounds. Eva is definitely not a virgin, and she's not really into BDSM, though she has no problem giving herself completely to Gideon. Gideon has a past as well, which involves his stepfamily (stepbrother & stepsister) and also his mother. Eva comes from money, kind of, since her mother is a "serial trophy wife," as she puts it - she's currently married to her fourth husband, and it's the reason that Eva and her roommate, Carey (who is bisexual but who has a platonic relationship with Eva), live in a huge apartment in NYC. Eva's mother is also very paranoid and even goes so far as to track her cell phone so she can know Eva's whereabouts, and this is partly the reason why Eva has trust issues.

This series is definitely worth reading, just be aware that although the story is great, there's definitely similarities to other romances I have read. Also be aware that although the second book (this book) does stand out on its own, it's extremely helpful to read Bared to You beforehand, to get the Gideon and Eva's full backstories before they are delved into in greater detail in Reflected in You.

Story: 4 stars out of 5
Originality: 2 stars out of 5
Series' rating (so far): 3.5 stars out of 5

*Disclosure: I was compensated for reviewing this novel. However, this opinions expressed here are my own.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Tilt

Tilt, by Ellen Hopkins.

Tilt, Ellen Hopkins, teenagers, crises
I have no excerpt to share from this book, because it's written in poetry-form. Usually I hate those types of books but this one was interesting in that it focused on three or four different teenage characters, and they all have drama going on in their lives. Tilt is actually a companion book to Triangles, which I now want to read, and Triangles focused on the adult characters in Tilt; the teenagers in this book can be found as minor characters in Triangles.

Official synopsis:
Caught in the midst of their parents' midlife crises as told in Triangles, three teens are left to fend for themselves as their once secure and familiar worlds are turned upside down. Mikayla is sure she has found the love her parents seem to have lost, but is suddenly weighing nearly impossible choices with an unplanned pregnancy. Shane, having come out about his sexuality, is unwilling to lie anymore about who he is, but finds himself struggling to keep it all under control in the face of first love and a horrific loss. Harley is a good girl who just wants to experience what it means to be a young adult, yet she finds herself compromising her values as she sets on a path of self-destruction.

Intense, gripping, and thought-provoking, Tilt explores the different ways we find the strength we need to hold on when our world's been tilted completely off its axis. It's an intimate look at the deepest feelings of these fully rendered young characters and is certain to inspire genuine communications between young adults and their parents.
-

I also liked how all of the stories are intertwined. Mikayla thinks she's found the love of her life, Dylan, but when she finds out she's pregnant he dumps her. Shane has found his first boyfriend, Alex, but he learns Alex is HIV-positive; Shane is also dealing with his 4-year-old sister not doing well, as she has SMA (spinal muscular atrophy). Almost-14-year-old Harley has started running with a "fast crowd," and soon finds herself "going farther" than she thought she would at this age. A few of these characters are cousins, too, so their parents know each other. Their friends all get to weigh in as well - they get a page between each character's sections so we get to see inside their heads - which is interesting to read.

I'd like to now read Triangles and see what was going on inside the heads of these characters' parents at the time, as the time frames of the two stories are the same - originally I thought Tilt was a sequel to Triangles, but the stories occur parallel to each other.

3.5 stars out of 5.

*Disclosure: I received a copy of this novel to review. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.