Wednesday, July 31, 2013

GIVEAWAY: Nicholas Sparks' Novel Learning Series (NLS), including Dear John and A Bend in the Road

If you know me, you know I'm a huge fan of Nicholas Sparks' books, and the book-to-movie adaptations as well. I've reviewed The Best of Me and The Last Song on this blog, and I believe I reviewed The Last Song movie on my film blog as well. So I was excited to hear that Sparks has a teen reading series that takes his novels and adds questions and writing prompts within them so that students can use them to prep for college and the SAT/ACT.

It's called the Novel Learning Series (NLS), and Sparks is including three more books in it this summer: Dear John, A Bend in the Road, and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.

More info about the series:
  • Each book contains study guides and "question and explanation" sections
  • NLS was launched in 2013 with four of Sparks' books: The Notebook, A Walk to Remember, The Last Song, and Three Weeks with My Brother. The Notebook, Dear John, and The Last Song will also be a part of Walmart's back-to-school promotions.
  • Each book also contains standard test questions, which will help students prepare for standardized tests like the SAT and ACT
  • Sparks has future plans to publish more of his own titles as well as other "classic works" by authors (such as Mary Shelley, with Frankenstein)
One lucky Books I Think You Should Read reader has the opportunity to win two of Sparks' new books in the series, Dear John and A Bend in the Road! Enter via the Rafflecopter form below. The contest will end on Wednesday, August 7th, at 11:59pm EST, and the winner will be contacted on August 8th and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner will be chosen. U.S./Canada only, please.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

CONTEST: win a copy of Social Media Engagement for Dummies, ends 8/6

I just returned from the BlogHer conference in Chicago, where I learned a lot about social media - something I use every day, from Twitter, to Facebook, to Blogger (which hosts this blog). Aliza Sherman and Danielle Smith have just launched Social Media Engagement for Dummies, and I have a copy to give away to one of my lucky readers. Read on to learn about the book and its authors, and enter via the Rafflecopter form at bottom to win.

Book Synopsis:
Put "engage" front and center in your social media marketing engagement strategies!

When you focus on the engagement side of a social media marketing strategy, you'll build and grow relationships with followers and customers, craft content just for them, analyze how they're responding, and refocus and refresh your campaigns accordingly. This smart guide shows you how to do all that, and then some. From building trust to sparking conversation to using video and other tools, this creative book is a must read if you want to discover all that goes into the most important aspect of today's social marketing.

Social Media Engagement For Dummies will help you connect to followers, convert them to customers, turn them into evangelists for your company, and boost your bottom line!

Social Media Engagement for Dummies
Aliza Sherman (left) and Danielle Smith
About Aliza Sherman:
Aliza Sherman is an award-winning author, speaker, and Web pioneer with a mission to empower women through technology. She is an authority on digital marketing and has been online since 1987 and consulting clients about the Internet since 1992.

Sherman has been featured numerous times in national publications including USA Today, US News and World Report, Newsweek, Time, and the Wall Street Journal as well as on major network news shows on CBS, CNN, CNN-FN, MSNBC, and CNBC. She has produced segments for local and national public radio including "Marketplace," and produced a 12-part documentary series for Wyoming Public Television. She is the author of 10 books including Social Media Engagement for Dummies (Wiley), The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Crowdsourcing (Alpha), and Mom, Incorporated (Sellers).

About Danielle Smith:
With a background in television, Danielle Smith brings a unique perspective on engaging with an audience. Smith is a former award-winning television news anchor and reporter turned digital correspondent, host, spokesperson, media trainer, and public speaker traveling around the country empowering women to utilize the power of social and media to follow their passions. She is the author of two books, Social Media Engagement for Dummies and Mom, Incorporated.

Smith is the founder and primary author of and, as well as the host and producer of the original lifestyle series ‘Keeping Style in Your Life.’ Danielle has emceed events that included guest appearances by the First Lady, Michelle Obama and Martha Stewart.

As a result of her work, Smith has been featured nationally on the CBS Early Show, Fox News, MSNBC, NPR, and in USA Today, Forbes, and Publisher's Weekly.

One winner will win a copy of Social Media Engagement for Dummies - enter via the form below. Contest will end on Tuesday, August 6th, at 11:59pm EST, and winner will be emailed on August 7th and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner will be chosen. U.S./Canada only, please.

Good luck!

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Friday, July 19, 2013

Why your next read should be The Spectacular Now

Shailene Woodley and Miles Teller in The Spectacular Now

The Spectacular Now, by Tim Tharp.

I'm going to confess something here: I started this blog to bring you reviews of books I read - that I personally chose to read - and then somewhere along the way I started to receive so many books I "had" to read, that when I read "for pleasure" now, I sometimes keep my reviews to myself. Sure, I'll post them on Goodreads or wherever, but not here - I'm just too busy or tired (I also do movie reviews over at Yes/No Films, my movie blog, and it's occasionally hard to juggle both).

The Spectacular Now, however, is a secret that shouldn't be kept. I just read it for my book club, and it was a unique tale; it's also coming to the big screen on August 2nd, so if you're going to read it, you should do it this month.

It's a YA (Young Adult) book, which is one of the genres I'm rather fond of, but the narrator is a teenage boy: Sutter Keely. Sutter likes to live in "the spectacular now," which means being the life of the party, drinking more than he should, and not making any goals for the future. That is, until he meets Aimee Finecky, the typical "nice girl," whom he wants to help loosen up and feel more confident. That's the goal at first, anyways, until it turns into something more, something that surprises them both.

When I was reading this book, I had Miles Teller (Footloose) and Shailene Woodley (The Descendants) in my head as the two main characters, because they will be playing them in the movie adaptation, and I have to say that the casting there is a fantastic choice. Teller was great in Footloose and I can definitely see him as the carefree, loving-life Sutter, and Woodley exudes innocence and sweetness that will be needed to play Aimee.

I'm excited to see the movie when it hits theaters on August 2nd, and I recommend that you read the book first, as it was a great read.

4.5 stars out of 5.

(*This post is not sponsored; it's just me being really enthusiastic about an awesome book that's soon to turn into a movie.)

The Spectacular Now trailer:

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

GIVEAWAY: win A Year of Diapers, Toys, and Books from Incredibundles - ends 7/28


Below is a description of Incredibundles from a fellow blogger. I'm choosing to take part in this giveaway because of the Year of Books that Incredibundles offers - great for your child once they get older! Read the information below and enter via the Rafflecopter widget at bottom.

To be honest with all the baby showers that I have to attend to every year, I'm starting to run out of ideas. You see when I buy presents I make sure that it's something that the new parents can really use. I also want it to be unique so that the new parents won't have to deal with the problem of having duplicate baby products. I just found a site that will make gift giving for baby shower super easy. If you want to surprise a new mom & dad with awesome baby shower present, make sure to check out Incredibundles! They offer foolproof baby present bundles that for sure new parents will appreciate.

Not only will you be able to choose pre-made baby bundles by price but you can also find adorable bundles that targets specific products for new moms and their babies. They have a lot of options such as Learn & Grow Bundles, Book Bundles, Bath Bundles, Sleep Bundles, Organic Bundles, Keepsake Bundles, Diaper Bundles, Sesame Street Bundles, Gear Bundles, Bundle Subscriptions and Gift Cards. So far, my favorite is their Bundle Subscriptions where you can choose to give a year of toys, diapers or books. Isn't it great to receive diaper subscriptions? Wish I received that when I had my child.

I also found their Dr. Seuss and Peter Rabbit Book bundles super adorable and fun. If you want something that fits your budget, they also have an option for you to create your own bundles, like instead of giving a year subscription you can just opt for 3-months diaper subscription., the home of extraordinary baby gifts, redesigned the baby gift basket to create gifts that are as practical as they are stylish. The company got rid of the cellophane and wicker and replaced them with chic reusable storage containers filled with the best books, toys and products for babies. features a line of foolproof baby gifts, allowing gift-givers to give the nursery essentials every new parent wants and needs.

Want to give a new mom a supply of diapers? It’s easy with an Diaper Bundle! will send a beautiful announcement package to your recipient featuring a cuddly bear and a certificate for a 3, 6, 9 or 12-month Diaper Subscription. Then, each month, mom and dad can select the brand and size of diapers they would like delivered straight to their door!

Why not fill the new baby’s nursery with all of the best books for a child’s first year and beyond? An Book Bundle is the ultimate in baby book gifts. Give a whole Year of Books for a truly spectacular present.

You can also provide countless hours of playtime for the new little one! Give a Learn and Grow Bundle or A Year of Toys. An toy gift stocks a baby’s nursery with must-have toys for lots of imaginative play in that first important year of learning. has partnered with

Shutterfly to launch The Ultimate Baby Gift Giveaway!


Want to win all these awesome
Incredibundles prizes in the photo above?

One lucky winner will receive all three of’s award-winning subscriptions –
A Year of Diapers, A Year of Books and A Year of Toys PLUS a fabulous package from Shutterfly that includes baby announcements, a photo book to record baby’s first year and a beautiful custom photo plaque to keep or give away.

Enter today for a chance to win this amazing prize for yourself or someone you love.

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Giveaway ends on 7/28/13.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Review and GIVEAWAY: Pipe Dreams

Pipe Dreams, by Destiny Allison.

As instructed, Vanessa avoided the Fallen and their children on her way to and from work. They were the outcasts, the undesirables. By refusing to comply with the mandates, they had been relegated to the streets, fending for themselves without benefit of food, electricity, or other conveniences. The drivers, smug in their management positions, cautioned against them, warning of theft, disease, and other unsavory possibilities. Had they been warning against something else, something worse? Part of her suspected their horrors paled in comparison with her own.

dystopian bookPipe Dreams is a little confusing to get through, but the story it tells is definitely an interesting one. It's a dystopian novel similar to Hunger Games, minus the fighting part, combined with science and untold threats always hanging over the characters' heads.

Official synopsis:
Beneath the park bench, a young girl cries for help, her voice a cold hand on Vanessa's throat. The naked girl is desperate, but compassion for the Fallen is never forgiven. In a moment of hesitation, Vanessa sets in motion a chain of events that will determine mankind's fate.

Unbeknownst to her, Lewis is still haunted by her thick, auburn hair, serious eyes, and mocking laughter. She is the symbol of all he hates and her interaction with the girl is what he needs to gain control of the virus. As his plan unfolds, Vanessa is forced to flee. Escaping through the sewer, she finds love, heartbreak, and the red beam of a gun sight dancing on the slick, black wall. In the deep dark of the foul pipe, she also discovers she has been betrayed. That's when she learns Texas is real.

Pipe Dreams is a dystopian novel set in the near future. If gene splicing could merge Margaret Atwood and Suzanne Collins, the resulting author might write this book.

The official synopsis is written in a "lyrical" way and kind of gives you a taste of this novel - at some points, it seemed more like poetry than a novel, although a story was definitely told. Vanessa wants to find a way to escape her sorry life; she's an Assistant in the NSO, a coveted position but which includes basically being a concubine to a man she hates. The citizens in this new society are kept in line by the ever-present fear of the Bird Flu, which supposedly wiped out most of the rest of the world a long time ago. What Vanessa and later her friends don't know as of yet is that the U.S.A. is still alive and well, and in fact is looking to infiltrate the NSO and its workers.

This novel is being touted as a merging of Margaret Atwood (The Handmaid's Tale) and Suzanne Collins (The Hunger Games series) and I would agree with that, although I would say that I enjoyed those books a little better than Pipe Dreams. If you like dystopian literature, however, you will most likely enjoy Pipe Dreams (as I did, for the most part).

3.5 stars out of 5.

*Disclosure: I was given a copy of this novel for reviewing purposes. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.


I have one copy of Pipe Dreams to give to a lucky reader. Enter via the Rafflecopter form below. The contest will end next Monday, July 22nd, at 11:59pm EST, and the winner will be emailed on July 23rd and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner will be chosen. U.S./Canada only, please. 

Good luck!

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Saturday, July 13, 2013

Beautiful Bitch

Beautiful Bitch, by Christina Lauren.

It's possible that I called Bennett more in those three days than in the entirety of our relationship, but it wasn't enough, and did nothing to ease the hollow ache that had taken up permanent residence inside my chest.

I kept myself busy, but there was no denying I was homesick. I wasn't sure exactly when it had happened, but at some point, Bennett had become it for me. As in
it it. The One.

And it was fucking terrifying.

Beautiful Bastard, Beautiful Stranger
I think by now I am something of a Beautiful Bastard junkie - I reviewed that, the first book in this series, back in February; Beautiful Stranger, the second book, recently, in May; and also did an interview with the women behind the pen name of Christina Lauren, Lauren Billings and Christina Hobbs, in February. So when Beautiful Bitch, a novella that falls to being #1.5 in the series, came out recently, of course I asked for a copy ... and their PR team was nice enough to provide me with one to review.

Official synopsis:
Picking up where Beautiful Bastard left off, Chloe Mills and Bennett Ryan continue their steamy, combative relationship.

Just when Chloe’s career starts to take off, Bennett wishes it would all slow down long enough to spend a wild night alone with his girlfriend. But after he refuses to take no for an answer, Chloe and Bennett find themselves with two plane tickets, one French Villa, and a surprising conversation that, predictably, leaves them wrestling under the covers.

I liked this installment a lot, but my chief two complaints are that a) it was too short (but it's a novella, so that's apparent from the get-go) and b) although it had a few "steamy" scenes, it was actually really tame as compared to the other two books in the series. I definitely enjoyed reading more about Bennett and Chloe, though, as they had been minor characters in Stranger, and I think this was the first time we get to "hear" Bennett's point-of-view - Bastard was from Chloe's point of view - and that was very refreshing, and also interesting, to see what Bennett thinks of their relationship.

As I mentioned in my Stranger review, the next three books (2 novellas, 1 full-length) will be out in September, October, and November this year - I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for those, and I encourage you to do the same as well.

3.5 stars out of 5.

*Disclosure: I received a copy of this book for reviewing purposes. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

CONTEST: win an iPad Mini, ends 8/4

Welcome to Bay Area Mommy‘s 2nd anniversary iPad Mini Giveaway! Cohosted by Milk and Cuddles, Shortcut Saver, and Java John Z’s!

Personally, I've wanted an iPad Mini for a while now - it's the perfect size for a tablet, and it would make a GREAT e-reader too - easy to throw in a purse or bag, but at the same time, big enough to read books on. Thanks to Bay Area Mommy, I'm giving my readers a chance to win one!

One lucky reader will win an iPad Mini (winner’s choice of color)! Giveaway runs from July 10, 2013 at 12:01am EST through August 4, 2013 at 11:59pm EST. Open worldwide. Void where prohibited. Must be at least 18 years old to be eligible. No purchase necessary. Please see full terms in the widget below. To enter, use the GiveawayTools widget below. Good luck!

Disclaimer: This blog is not responsible for prize fulfillment. For questions regarding this giveaway or if you notice errors in the links, please contact Bay Area Mommy at

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Review and GIVEAWAY: Betty's Child, ends 7/16

Betty's Child, by Donald Dempsey.

Perhaps for the first time in my life, I fully comprehended what I was and how people saw me. My mother was a drain on her family and society in general, a woman who lived on welfare and on crime. I was nothing but a burden - a child most people assumed would mature into a man who would travel the path blazed by those who raised him.

They were wrong. I had no more room for pain. I wasn't going to beg, or need. And even though I wasn't quite sure where I was going or how I was going to learn to stand on my own, I knew I wouldn't going to follow after Betty.
I'd rather die, I vowed. People could think what they wanted of me, but I decided right then and there I didn't care one whit what they believed. I didn't need anyone. I wasn't going to need anyone, ever.

One of the things I like about being a book blogger is that if often leads me to books that I might not have ordinarily picked up off the shelf. Betty's Child is one of those books, although it's being compared to Angela's Ashes (Frank McCourt) which I did read a while back.

Official synopsis:
In the tradition of Frank McCourt and Angela's Ashes, Don Dempsey uses Betty's Child to tell the story of life with his cruel and neglectful mother, his mother's abusive boyfriends, and hypocritical church leaders who want to save twelve-year-old Donny's soul but ignore threats to his physical well-being. Meanwhile, Donny's best friend is trying to recruit Donny to do petty theft and deal drugs for a dangerous local thug.

Young Donny is a real-life cross between Huckleberry Finn and Holden Caulfield as he tells his story, with only his street smarts and sense of humor to guide him. Donny does everything he can to take care of himself and his younger brothers, but with each new development, the present becomes more fraught with peril--and the future more uncertain.

Donny (the author, Don Dempsey) was a great narrator. Funny and sarcastic, he guides the reader throughout his train wreck of a childhood, telling in great detail how he helped raise his brothers, who were 3 (Chip) and 6 (Terry) when he was 12. His mother, Betty, was always running check scams and never kept them in any one place for long, though he did manage to make friends when they lived in Ohio for a bit.

This novel tended to jump around a bit; Kindle never tells you how long a book is, but Amazon says it's around 400-450 pages, and I will say that it took me a while to get through it. However, even though the novel content and situations are often sad, I was always laughing at the way Donny described things. One example:
As a health teacher, it was Mrs. Perkins's job to teach us how to take care of ourselves, and I supposed she should probably get some credit for still trying while so many others didn't care to. But I needed more aggravation in my life like Betty needed unemployed boyfriends.
At one point, Donny sort of wrapped up his Ohio life - he tells us the future of the lives of the kids he was friends with there - and it felt like the novel was ending, but in fact his family was just moving again, which is why I suppose he decided to let us in on what happens to them.

Overall this was an interesting read. I do wish that Don told us what happened to Betty or his middle brother, Terry, in the end, though; in the "after section," he tells us about a conversation with Chip, his youngest brother, but never mentions Terry, though we can surmise that Betty was either still in jail or on her way back to jail, I would imagine.

4 stars out of 5.

*Disclosure: I was provided with a copy of this novel for reviewing purposes. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.


I have one copy of Betty's Child to give to a lucky reader.

Enter via the Rafflecopter form below. The contest will end next Tuesday, July 16th, at 11:59pm EST, and the winner will be emailed on July 17 and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner will be chosen. U.S./Canada only, please.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

CONTEST: Win a $500 gift certificate, ends 7/22

contest, gift card

Welcome to the $500 Gift Certificate Giveaway!

Hosted by Giveaway Promote.
Sponsored by Michael Phillip Cash.

book, mysteryMichael Phillip Cash recently released his second book, Stillwell: A Haunting On Long Island.

Paul Russo’s wife just died. While trying to get his family’s life back in order, Paul is being tormented by a demon who is holding his wife's spirit hostage on the other side.

His fate is intertwined with an old haunted mansion on the north shore of Long Island called Stillwell Manor. Paul must find clues dating back hundreds of years to set his wife's soul free.

To celebrate the release of Stillwell: A Haunting On Long Island, Michael is giving away a $500 gift card to

Use this gift card to plan a romantic getaway for two. Who knows, maybe you'll even find a few spirits when you stay at one of the nearly 4,000 participating inns across the US and Canada.

Pack your bags and enjoy your stay. Be sure to pick up a copy of Stillwell and enjoy!

Enter to win a $500 Gift Certificate

Complete the tasks below to earn entries into this giveaway.
Refer your friends using your unique link at the top of the Rafflecopter for even more chances to win.
One winner will be chosen at random from all valid entries.

Open Worldwide.
Ends at 11:59pm EST on July 22nd, 2013.

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Bloggers, if you'd like to participate in a giveaway event like this one, sign up for Giveaway Promote's weekly giveaway events newsletter.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Meg-A-Readers: review of Overbite

The Romance Bookie hosts Meg-A-Readers each year, celebrating the books of Meg Cabot, and I am very happy to participate this year - Meg is one of my favorite authors! From The Princess Diaries series to Size 12 is Not Fat and all of her series', I love all of her books. To celebrate, I'm reposting a review of Overbite, from 2011, which was the sequel to Insatiable - both were great and definitely worth reading.


"Why do you hate him so much?" she asked. "You're always calling him a soulless monster. And yet that night at St. George's, he didn't kill you when he had the chance. In fact, he protected you. And Father Bernard, and Sister Gertrude, and me, and even those firefighters who came to dig us out. Instead, he killed his own kind. Was that the act of a soulless monster? When are you going to admit that not every demon is one hundred percent evil, just like not every human is one hundred percent good? When, Alaric? When?"

He tore his gaze from the road to look at her.

I randomly received this book in the mail the other day (I was not expecting it) and was excited because it was a Meg Cabot book.
Overbite Meg Cabot
However, I soon figured out that it was the sequel to Insatiable, which I reviewed last year, and that made me even happier to read it.

Meena has been trying to stay away from Lucien Antonescu, the son of Vlad the Impaler (aka Dracula), but he always seems to come back to her. She and her coworker, Alaric Wulf, must figure out why there have been so many deaths of tourists in NYC recently, and why these haven't been all over the news either, and Alaric, who despises Lucien, thinks Lucien has something to do with it. The circumstances of their deaths, however, end up being something completely the opposite of what they expected.

This book was just as whimsical as the first, although it has a lot of serious parts in it as well, and I liked it very much. Cabot's books are usually good, but the fact that she can write a series like The Princess Diaries, which I enjoyed when I was a teenager, and also write fiction such as this says a lot about her skills as a novelist. The book definitely sets itself up for another sequel so I am hoping one will be out soon; on Cabot's website, in the FAQ section, when someone asked if there will be a sequel, she cryptically answered "Are you sure you want one?" so there is no definite answer on that as of yet; however, on the Facebook fan page for the first novel (Insatiable), it says that it will be a trilogy, and so I look forward to the next book in the series.

4 stars out of 5.

Overbite will be in bookstores on July 5th, 2011.

*Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book to review. However, the opinions listed are all my own.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Review and GIVEAWAY: Not So Long Ago, Not So Far Away

Not So Long Ago, Not So Far Away, by Trisha Slay.

It's a terrible thing to live under a question mark. The lies and the truth keep getting tangled and twisted in my mind. That's why I can't stop examining every minute, every second, every breath of that last night, looking for some shadow or flaw that might reach out to drag Cassie back to this prison she fought so far to escape.

It's the summer of 1977, and Erika Williams has just helped her best friend Cassie escape their "Nowheresville" town of Ohio. Erika lives with her "Mother Monster," Anita, and misses Cassie like crazy, but she had to help her escape - Cassie's father, the chief of police, was abusing her. Erika is feeling lonely that summer until two major things happen: the movie Star Wars comes to theaters and changes her life, and she starts "interning" at the Bixby, a gorgeous, older theater in town, where she can watch Star Wars as much as she likes.

Official synopsis:
When Erika helps her best friend, teen beauty queen Cassie Abbott, escape their “Nowhere, Ohio” town, she promises to keep all of their secrets safe, but then the days stretch into weeks with no word from Cassie. Worse, the sheriff’s investigation into Cassie’s disappearance is making Erika doubt she ever really knew Cassie at all. Under the weight of scrutiny and confusion, Erika struggles just to breathe…until a new movie called Star Wars transforms her summer with a new hope.

For Erika, Star Wars changes everything! She volunteers to do chores for a local theater owner just to gain unlimited access to a galaxy far, far away from her current reality. At the Bixby Theater—a beautiful but crumbling movie palace from a more civilized era—Erika discovers new friendships, feels the crush of first love and starts an exciting new romance with Super 8 film making. But she can’t hide in a darkened movie theater forever.

I was intrigued when I heard about this book because I'm a fan of Star Wars - as many of you may know, I'm also a movie blogger - and I was wondering how the author was going to integrate the movie within this book. Erika becomes obsessed with the film shortly after seeing it, and it defines her entire summer - it makes her take chances and become braver than she might ordinarily not have been.

I liked Erika overall as a character. She was a bit naive, but by the end of the summer I think some of that "naiveness" has gone away. The book is set up in that she writes letters to Cassie, which I presume she never mails because she doesn't have a new address for her, but within those letters, we get a sense of Erika and the relationship they used to have. She's definitely a typical teen:
But wait, it gets even better. Jeff still works at the Bixby. So this means I'm going to be seeing Jeff and talking to Jeff every single day all summer long.
Oh my stars! I think I might die of happiness before this summer is over. 
(Jeff is a boy that Cassie went out with a few times, but on whom Erika has a major crush)

Not So Long Ago, Not So Far Away juggles a lot of plot points throughout, and I think that's what helps make it the book that it is. Erika is juggling the "loss" of Cassie along with being teased at school, yet she's able to carve out a niche for herself at the Bixby, and even try to help save it from being repossessed when she finds out that Nick, its elderly owner, is behind on the Bixby's bills. I'd recommend this novel for anyone who is a fan of Star Wars or who has ever had a summer or an event that was life-changing; baby boomers who grew up in the '70s will surely enjoy all of the references (they drink Tab!) in this book as well.

4 stars out of 5.

*Disclosure: I was given a copy of this book for reviewing purposes. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.


I have one copy of Not So Long Ago, Not So Far Away to give to a lucky reader. Enter via the Rafflecopter form below. The contest will end next Wednesday, July 10, at 11:59pm EST, and the winner will be emailed on July 11 and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner will be chosen. U.S./Canada only, please.

I'll also be hosting another guest post by Tricia Slay on my movie blog next Wednesday, July 10th, and you'll be able to win a copy of the book there too - so check it out and double your chances of winning.

Good luck!

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Monday, July 1, 2013

Guest Post: Tricia Slay, author of Not So Long Ago, Not So Far Away

*Tricia Slay, the author of the Star Wars-inspired book Not So Long Ago, Not So Far Away, talks about how good parenting = a bad novel.

Check back on July 3rd for my review and a giveaway of Not So Long Ago, as well as on July 10th for a second guest post by Tricia and another giveaway on my film blog.

Tricia Slay author
author Tricia Slay
Ten years ago, I witnessed the murder of a very promising young adult novel. It was a horrible crime to behold. The memory of what happened to that poor novel and its struggling author still looms like a shadow over me, causing me to approach every new writing seminar and critique group with extreme caution. While I am forewarned and able to protect myself, I know there are other YA novelists who might be blind sided. That is why I want to tell the story. Perhaps I can prevent another novel from being extinguished before it has the chance to find its light.

Let's start with the basic facts of the happened during an online workshop for aspiring novelists. This was a serious workshop with a substantial price tag to match. There were eight of us in the class, but only two of us were writing young adult novels. The other YA author came to the class with an absolutely brilliant concept for her novel. Seriously. This writer turned in an early description and synopsis that were spectacular. Never before and not since that class have I felt such awe and, yes I'll admit it, a wee bit of jealousy over another writer's work in progress. (That said, you'll have to take my word for how wonderful this novel could have been since it's not my work and, therefore, not mine to share with the world.)

The format of the class was simple. We submitted a writing assignment every Thursday. The instructor would send feedback to each student privately. However, our assignments were also posted in an online forum where our fellow students would give Peer Critiques...that is where the terrible, awful things happened.

Two of the non-YA writers enrolled in our workshop were devoted, protective, conscientious mothers who were both writing boring drivel about restless housewives. (My apologies if that sounds overly harsh. No doubt, my opinion of their work has been colored by my disgust over what they did to a fellow writer. That said, it's important to consider the source when receiving critiques and these two women were not, as yet, producing any good writing themselves.) I'm sure these two women did not intend any harm. And yet, these two loving mothers tore the heart out of a fictional story and ripped an amazing premise to shreds. Why? Because they wanted, no, demanded better parenting for its main character.

Most of their critique statements were prefaced with qualifiers like "What kind of mother allows..." or "I would never allow my child to..." or "No, this would never happen if the mother...."

I tried to fight all of the invalid feedback. I really did try to rescue that novel, but I failed. It was a twelve week course. By the eleventh week, my fellow YA author stopped posting her work in the forums. She thanked everyone for their feedback and mentioned taking some time to "reconsider her options" in writing this story. As far as I can tell, her novel was never published. Ugh!

This was a case of death by parenting...or, rather, death by parenting a fictional character straight into a safe, supportive, loving existence that rendered the entire plot and character arc invalid.

Almost any great story in the history of YA literature was made possible by bad or inadequate parenting. And most YA stories could be ruined with good parenting. Think about it. Would Melinda Sorvino in Speak (by Laurie Halse Anderson) need her art or her art teacher so desperately if her parents were truly attentive and supportive.? Why would Margaret need to write letters to God if she could talk openly to her parents? Could Looking For Alaska (by John Green) take place outside of a boarding school? Would Katniss Everdeen have survived The Hunger Games if her father had not died in that coal mine and her mother had not been destroyed by grief? There are many more examples, but the reality is obvious.

Good parenting = Bad Novel.

I'm sure every reader could think of a successful YA story that is an exception to this rule, but the exceptions are few and far between. Every YA protagonist does not need to have evil parents. No, not at all! But, for the purposes of the story, the parents of the main character need to be disengaged for some reason...they could be dysfunctional, disabled, absent...or dead.

Would Hatchet have been such an amazing story of survival if Brian's dad was fighting by his side for those 54 days? Would Arnold (The Absolutely True Confessions of a Part-Time Indian) have fought so hard to get off the reservation if his parents weren't incapacitated by alcohol? If Ponyboy's parents were alive (The Outsiders), would he have ended up hiding in that abandoned church with Johnny?

In YA novels, as in any novel, things need to happen. Bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people. Excellent parenting gets in the way of a good story. Throw it away. Set the characters free to screw up, struggle and prevail. Otherwise, you may just be murdering a perfectly wonderful story where parental guidance is neither required nor desired.

About the author:
Hello. My name is Trisha and I’m a writer. I wish it wasn’t so. Truly. I wish I could redirect this passion for storytelling into something more sane and comfortable…like knitting plush Angora socks or organic mushroom farming. Unfortunately, writing has proven to be (at least for me) an incurable condition.

Currently, I live betwixt and between the Atlanta metro area and the North Georgia mountains, but I’m originally from Ohio…by way of the San Francisco Bay Area. (In other words, I drink pop, practice yoga and would like to thank all y’all for taking the time to read my bio.)

By day, it’s my job to make sure this country has thousands of opportunities to pause for refreshment. By night, I transform into a rather frightening hybrid of the next great American novelist and Cookie Monster. (Translation: I’m still an unpublished author and a bit of an emotional eater.)

When I’m not polishing my prose or polishing off a bag of Popchips, my interests include:

■70’s pop culture
■Unsolved mysteries
■Star Wars (original trilogy)
■Historic movie theaters
■Haunted history
■Reading (especially YA novels that don’t appear in the book section of Wal-Mart)
■Nutrition/Weight Watchers/Healthy vegetarian cuisine
■Hiking (exploring the National Forest trails with my guy)
■Yoga/Meditation (spiritual, not religious)
■Miscellaneous crafting projects (that rarely turn out as I envision)
■OSU Buckeye Football
■Writing letters I never intend to mail

My first novel, entitled Not So Long Ago, Not So Far Away, combines most of my interests into a cohesive coming of age story.

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