Review: Wolfsmund V 1 by Mitsuhisa Kuji

 

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

I picked up Wolfsmund because I am having so much fun reading Vinland Saga and I thought I’d try another historical graphic novel series.  This one is set during the Middle Ages, at St. Gotthard Pass, which is located in the Swiss Alps.  Baliff Wolfram brutally exposes and executes those desperate enough to try to sneak into Italy through his barrier station.  He’s a sick SOB, too, taking pleasure in taunting his victims while savagely punishing them for their transgressions.  A rebellion is afoot, and the Austrians are ruthlessly responding to the unrest by killing entire clans if a rebel is discovered in their midst.  Ugh. 

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[PR] Georgetown Academy News

I loved these books, so I wanted to pass along a press release I received:

Georgetown Academy is a juicy series about the politics at D.C.’s most elite prep school. A cross between Scandal and Gossip Girl, it’s fans include Eva Longoria and nearly a million Wattpad fans.

To celebrate the series’ success, we’ve put together an amazing campaign that involves and benefits readers—the more participation, the more we’ll give. Here are the steps:

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Interview with Kelley York, Author of Hushed

The pre-release madness for Entangled Publishing’s new Embrace imprint continues! Don’t forget to check out the post from earlier this morning so you can enter the giveaway!

 

Please welcome Kelley York to the virtual offices this morning!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Kelley York] Capable of wanting to read/write rainbows and unicorns one second, and death and destruction in the next. I like books to make me cry.

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Interview with Debbie Levy, Author of Imperfect Spiral

Please give a warm welcome to Debbie Levy this morning. Debbie is visiting the virtual offices to celebrate the release of Imperfect Spiral.

[Manga Maniac Café] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Debbie Levy] Mom, spouse, dog- and cat-friend. Reader, writer, nature-lover. Once upon a time: Newspaper editor. Lawyer. Don’t hold that against me.

[Manga Maniac Café] Can you tell us a little about Imperfect Spiral?

[Debbie Levy] In Imperfect Spiral, Danielle Snyder’s summer job babysitting five-year-old Humphrey Danker turns tragic when, as they walk home from the park, Humphrey runs into traffic to chase down his football. Immediately Danielle is caught up in the machinery of tragedy: police investigations, neighborhood squabbling, and, when the driver of the car that struck Humphrey turns out to be an undocumented immigrant—a politically charged immigration debate. Danielle’s thoughts are on Humphrey—her funny, fun, peculiar “Humpty” and the two months they spent together—but all around her, friends and strangers seem focused on everything and everyone else.

So the novel is about a tragedy, a community’s search for someone or something to blame, and Danielle’s growing realization that sometimes the most, and least, you can do is try to stop one bad thing from leading to another. And it’s equally the story of a deep connection between two slightly oddball souls—Danielle and Humphrey—that transcends age and, in some ways, even death.

[Manga Maniac Café] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Debbie Levy] My process is not tidy or organized—although I, personally, am both of those things, really I am—so I could honestly answer this by saying:

Who knows.

But I can also try to impose structure on the disorder that characterizes the inception of most of my projects. So I can say that the origins of Imperfect Spiral were my musings about a character, a teenage girl who feels that she is terribly peculiar. She’s not actually terribly peculiar but she may be a little bit peculiar. In a good way, in my opinion, but not hers.

There’s more. I thought it would be helpful for my character—Danielle—to come to see herself reflected in the eyes of someone else, but not a love-interest someone else, so I came up with a little boy. A great little boy, who is also a little bit peculiar. Who thinks Danielle is absolutely the greatest. And who can make it clear to the reader how great she is. I named that boy Humphrey.

And then. . . . Well, then, Humphrey died. At my hands, obviously.

And this is where the idea-making process gets even more difficult to explain. Once my two main characters came into being, they took on lives of their own. Once I had Danielle and Humphrey in play, the situation presented itself: that of something terrible happening to Humphrey, and happening on Danielle’s watch, when she was babysitting him. This is what presented itself, sad as the idea was.

[Manga Maniac Café] What three words best describe Danielle?

[Debbie Levy] Work. In. Progress.

[Manga Maniac Café] Name one thing Danielle is never without.

[Debbie Levy] Her fare card for the Washington, D.C. area subway and bus system. Because you never know when you might want to go somewhere.

[Manga Maniac Café] What are your greatest creative influences?

[Debbie Levy] Books, woods, and water. Books, because they remind me that, hard as it is to write something that really touches people, it is possible. Woods and water, because walking in the woods, paddling in, or even just looking at, rivers and other bodies of water clears my head, helps me create, and also helps me deal when the creating is not going well.

[Manga Maniac Café] What three things do you need in order to write?

[Debbie Levy] An idea. And then two more.

[Manga Maniac Café] What was your biggest distraction while working on Imperfect Spiral?

[Debbie Levy] I was putting together presentations for my 2010 book, The Year of Goodbyes, which involved revisiting some very emotional territory. That book is about my mother’s last year as a child living in Nazi Germany in 1938, and what happened to her friends and family. I have a lot of photographs and other documentary material that I use to illustrate those presentations, and you know a picture is worth a thousand words (a cliché is a cliché because it’s true)—so this was all very intense.

[Manga Maniac Café] What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?

[Debbie Levy] The Interestings, by Meg Wolitzer. Before that, Stoner, by John Williams. It’s a quiet classic that I’d never heard of before this year, and I can’t piece together how I heard of it this year—but anyway, it is so intelligent, so clear, so non-gimmicky. Fiction for grown-ups. Before that, Wonder, by R.J. Palacio.

[Manga Maniac Café] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?

[Debbie Levy] Seriously, just one book?

Okay. All-of-a-Kind Family, by Sydney Taylor.

[Manga Maniac Café] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Debbie Levy] I love to kayak, enjoying birds and other wildlife and also fishing from the kayak. I know, not so enjoyable for the fish, but we are not a vegetarian family and I only take the fish that I’m going to fillet and cook. I also love to read. (Surprise!) And to swim.

[Manga Maniac Café] How can readers connect with you?

[Debbie Levy] Email me at debbie@debbielevybooks.com. Send me a Tweet at @debbielevybooks. Friend or message me on Facebook.

Or skywrite me a message. I’m always looking up.

[Manga Maniac Café] Thank you!

Purchase Link:

About the book:

Danielle Snyder’s summer job as a babysitter takes a tragic turn when Humphrey, the five-year-old boy she’s watching, runs in front of oncoming traffic to chase down his football. Immediately Danielle is caught up in the machinery of tragedy: police investigations, neighborhood squabbling, and, when the driver of the car that struck Humphrey turns out to be an undocumented alien, outsiders use the accident to further a politically charged immigration debate. Wanting only to mourn Humphrey, the sweet kid she had a surprisingly strong friendship with, Danielle tries to avoid the world around her. Through a new relationship with Justin, a boy she meets at the park, she begins to work through her grief, but as details of the accident emerge, much is not as it seems. It’s time for Danielle to face reality, but when the truth brings so much pain, can she find a way to do right by Humphrey’s memory and forgive herself for his death?

Review: Georgetown Academy Book 4 by Alyssa Embree Schwartz and Jessica Koosed Etting

 

 

Title: Georgetown Academy Book 4

Author: Alyssa Embree Schwartz and Jessica Koosed Etting

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

 

When the vice president resigns and Ellie and Taryn’s parents emerge as the frontrunners, the girls find themselves back in the spotlight.

Ellie could not care less about becoming the Second Daughter, but she knows how much the opportunity to make history means to her mother – and women everywhere. With her family taking center stage, Ellie must decide whether she can put her feelings for Gabe on hold – again.

Taryn, so used to captivating the hearts and minds of everyone she meets, is unbothered by the increased media scrutiny. But an inopportune screw-up has her beholden to an unlikely – and unfriendly – source for help.

Overnight, Evan has skyrocketed from social pariah to Miss Popular. As she and her reluctant parents adjust to her new lifestyle, the last thing she needs is a front-page scandal.

Brinley can’t stop thinking about her Stowe-bound hook-up…until her father’s intern, Patrick, starts flirting. Is it time to abandon her fling now that she has a more appropriate suitor?

With the second highest office in the land up for grabs, everyone is picking sides. But where does the heart lie when duty, truth, and love collide?


Review:

Oh, my gosh, I don’t even know where to start with this one!  I really like this series, and while I didn’t feel that Book Four was as strong a read as Book Three, it still kept me turning the pages at a frantic pace.  Ellie and Taryn get some big, big news – Either of them could potentially be the Second Daughter of the good old U S of A!  Yup, Ellie’s mom and Taryn’s dad are in the running to be the next VP of the US, after the current Vice President had to resign due to an illness.  Nice!  That means moving to bigger digs, and living life under even closer scrutiny.  Yay! Sign me up!  Not!

In additional to all of that competition to see who will be the next Vice President, Evan is finally living her dream.  She and Hunter are an item, even though she is assailed with self-doubts.  He is so far out of her social circle that it’s not even funny.  She keeps wondering what he sees in her, and the stress of trying to live up to her expectations of what she thinks he thinks she should be like is exhausting.  That sentence exhausted me, and I hope it made sense!  Yes, here’s Evan of the humble background dating Hunter, he of the golden spoon in mouth.  When Evan mistakes someone else’s jacket for hers, she opens the door to more grief than she ever expected.  Who knew those innocent looking mints were anything but?  And now she has a scoop that could change the outcome of the VP race, but she’s not going to spill the beans, because she’s so afraid nobody will believe a nobody like her!  Oh!!  Poor Evan!  While the set up for this disaster was more than obvious, I still got caught up in Evan’s downfall.  Just one mistake in this series and you. Are. Toast!  Your social standing is GONE!  At least until the next sap gets caught up in the next breaking headline.

Ellie’s got a lot of stress to deal with, too.  Her mom is in a war with Gabe’s dad, not like that’s anything new, but with the stakes so high, her mom finally takes off the kid gloves.  She verbally strikes out at Gabe’s mother, which he just does not appreciate.  With the press sniffing around for a sensational story, Ellie has to be careful, too.  She can’t let on that she and Gabe might be an item.  Everything has be kept on the lowdown.  Worse, their parents feuding is starting to needle into their relationship, confusing things even more.  I like this pairing!  It’s hard enough to be an couple when the whole world is watching your every move, but mix in your parents and their complete and utter dislike for each other?  Ugh! That is one ugly time bomb waiting to explode!  Will Gabe and Ellie be able to keep the love alive?  Maybe we’ll find out in Book Five whether they have any chance at all of having a happy ever after.  I don’t think I’m going to count on it.  Sad face.

Taryn makes several major blunders here, and while I wanted to feel sorry for her, I could not.  She throws one of her friends under the bus to keep her father’s chances of being the VP alive, and she starts thinking that she is just too cool for school.  After her father hires Brinley’s dad to manage his PR campaign, Taryn finds herself on the receiving end of all kinds of advice she isn’t sure she needs.  Brinley has been tasked to groom Taryn so that she always gives the best possible impression to the press, but Taryn chafes at being forced to act like someone she isn’t.  With Brooks assuring  her that she should just be herself, she makes a major misstep.  It’s like she took her eyes off the pathway, tripped over her fuzzy boots, and face-planted.  It’s so not good!  I was disappointed that Taryn would treat a friend as poorly as she did, because of all of the girls, Taryn seemed the most level headed to me, but after suffering some major embarrassment, I didn’t want to see her meet any other disasters.  Even if she deserved them and brought them on herself. 

I have so much fun watching Brinley squirm!  When she learns that Taryn’s dad has retained her father’s services, she is disdainful.  At first.  Until Brooks points out that another major loss for their father is going to have a direct reflection on how they are treated by the DC public.  Ha!  Then she’s like a chameleon.  She is all about coaching Taryn on how not to embarrass her family and, as a direct result, reduce her father’s chance of being elected to Vice President.  She is even forced to “fluff” Tayrn’s dress at a major party.  Score!  This horrible girl, who only thinks of herself, finally gets a taste of humble pie.  Sadly, it wasn’t much of a taste, and I doubt that she has anything to take away from the experience, but it sure was fun while it lasted.

So!  Did I enjoy GTA Book Four?  You bet!  This is such a fun read, with a varied cast of characters that I both love and HATE.  Often at the same time! Everyone gets a kick in the face to keep them all honest, but they also achieve little victories to keep them, and me, coming back for more.  Bring on Book 5!!

Grade:  B/B+

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: Black Helicopters by Blythe Woolston

 

Title:  Black Helicopters

Author:  Blythe Woolston

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

 

A teenage girl. A survivalist childhood. And now a bomb strapped to her chest. See the world through her eyes in this harrowing and deeply affecting literary thriller.
I’m Valkyrie White. I’m fifteen. Your government killed my family.
Ever since Mabby died while picking beans in their garden — with the pock-a-pock of a helicopter overhead — four-year-old Valley knows what her job is: hide in the underground den with her brother, Bo, while Da is working, because Those People will kill them like coyotes. But now, with Da unexpectedly gone and no home to return to, a teenage Valley (now Valkyrie) and her big brother must bring their message to the outside world — a not-so-smart place where little boys wear their names on their backpacks and young men don’t pat down strangers before offering a lift. Blythe Woolston infuses her white-knuckle narrative, set in a day-after-tomorrow Montana, with a dark, trenchant humor and a keen psychological eye. Alternating past-present vignettes in prose as tightly wound as the springs of a clock and as masterfully plotted as a game of chess, she ratchets up the pacing right to the final, explosive end.


Review:

Wow – this is a powerful read, despite the short length, but I don’t know how I feel about it.  I don’t know if this is a book that you can like.  It’s certainly compelling, and I could not put it down, but ultimately, there are so many questions that were never answered to my satisfaction.  I guess I hated that Valley was nothing more than a pawn, and even when she had the chance to leave her past behind her, she choose to hold steadfast to her father’s survivalist training and strike out at Those People.  Whoever the heck Those People were!   Argh!

Black Helicopters is told through Valley’s present day adventures and flashbacks to her childhood.  Her mother was killed by black helicopters when she was in the garden picking beans, leaving her father to raise her and her brother, Bo.  They live somewhere and somewhen in Montana.  Valley and Bo are expected to keep themselves hidden from Those People while their father is away from the family’s rustic cabin, so they aren’t shot and killed like coyotes.  They are trained in survival skills; drop Valley on the side of mountain with a knife, and she’ll get by without much else.  They have caches of supplies hidden in case the government comes for them, and they have been taught how to hide and how to fight.

In the present day narrative, Valley is a suicide bomber. She is angry and tired of not being able to strike back at the people who have taken so much from her.  She decides to make the ultimate statement and make the ultimate sacrifice to wake people up.  The government, with their secrets and their black helicopters, are out to get everyone!  Surrounded by like minded individuals, Valley and her brother have been training for something big like this for their whole lives.  After seeking refuge with Wolf and his family, Valley is dismayed at the changes in Bo.  He isn’t acting like her brother anymore, and she makes up her mind then, as he changes before her eyes, that she’s going to make people sit up and take notice.  What I found depressing was that I don’t think Valley ever really knew Bo; he was allowed freedoms denied to her, as he worked with their father, going into the outside world while Valley was left at home in the den, keeping herself hidden and secret.  Bo was able to see and do so many things, and the world outside of the den wasn’t such a mystery to him. 

Parts of this book just bothered me.  Valley is powerless virtually the entire book.  Her own father only values her for the help she gives him during his acts of domestic terrorism.  She and Bo have been thoroughly brainwashed, and she would never ever even dream of going against his orders.  Her entire purpose is to be a good little soldier and follow her mission to the end.  When  Valley is molested by the man who is supposed to offer them a safe haven, she doesn’t tell Bo.  She is forced to keep this terrible secret and endure this awful man’s abuse because she’s afraid he’ll kill her brother.  Valley doesn’t have much power over her own life until she and Bo escape to Wolf’s; there, she makes the decision to don a vest and make the loudest, most violent statement possible.

Another problem that I had is that it is so hard to like or be sympathetic for Valley and her family.  They see threats everywhere, and they must be constantly on guard.  They believe that the deadly black helicopters are just a horizon away, that they will eventually come for them and kill them dead.  Deadly conspiracies abound, and every one will end with their deaths.  With her constant vigilance, it’s hard to get to know her, and that ever present wariness kept an emotional distance from Valley and the reader.

All of that out of the way, this is an impossible book to put down.  I wanted to know what happened next, and I gobbled this book up.  I’m just not sure how much I actually liked it.  I certainly hated the ending, because it seemed so pointless to me.  I guess I don’t agree that any cause is worth dying for, and I was angry that Valley thought that hers was.  I just saw her as gullible and brainwashed, which made her come across as pathetic.  She wasn’t heroic or brave; she was a puppet, and that made this book even more depressing.  The adults who should have been teaching, mentoring, and inspiring her all failed her.  They were so caught up by their own agenda, by their own need to cause civil chaos, that they didn’t leave any other path for Valley.  My own mind set and world view is too firmly established to accept that any cause is worth the life of a teenager.  So, I recommend this book, with the many reservations listed above.

Grade:  C+/B-

Review copy provided by publisher