April 27, 2019

Making the Cover: "Tunnelville" 2.0 by Erin Callahan & Troy H. Gardner

Hello lovelies!

I'm treating you to something different today. Or better...something that I already did once, but you don't often see around. Not quite your classic cover reveal, but the illustrated story of how a concept is made into a cover. Which is probably interesting if you dabble in art yourself, but maybe even more if you don't have the faintest idea of how these things work (when the authors themselves are in charge of the process, that is).

Before we start, a short recap is due. In 2013, I received a review copy of Wakefield from the very hands of authors Erin Callahan and Troy H. Gardner. To cut a long story short, since then we have developed a great author/blogger relationship. I reviewed the three collaborative books they have put forth so far (after Wakefield, the sequels Tunnelville and Perfection), beta-read for both of them, and cheerleaded like a champion at every step of their writing journey. The books Erin and Troy co-authored are the first half of the Mad World double trilogy, originally published by a small press. After Book 3 came out - that is, in June 2013 - the two of them have been working at refining their craft, while also tending to their individual projects. Now, since the rights for the first three installments were reverted to them, Erin and Troy have decided to go indie, and to kick off Wakefield, Tunnelville and Perfection again, before they start publishing the second half of the series. This involved a whole rebrand, of course, starting with the covers. Troy is the one in charge of them, and today on the blog he kindly shares his creative process in a Tunnelville making-the-cover post. (Note: Tunnelville 2.0 is scheduled for the early summer, hopefully June, July at worst...the Dynamic Duo is presently giving the final touches to the revised version...so keep your eyes peeled! Though of course I'll keep you posted...literally 😉). Here goes...

April 20, 2019

Rehabilitating YA: 20 Trope-Free Standalones/Series to Read if You've Given Up on It (Pt.3)

Hello sweeties!

I've been wanting to write a post like this for a while. Every now and then, I hear someone say they've given up on YA (or are reading much less of it lately) because they got fed up with the tropes that come with the "genre". Now, while of course it's not mandatory to read YA at any age, and while I'm not denying the existence of such tropes (though really, any literary genre/age range has got its share of them...), I made it my reader's life mission to discover YA books that stand out for any reason and employ as little of those overused plot devices as it's humanly possible (hence, of course, my blog's name). So I thought I'd put together a list of YA novels blissfully devoid of tropes (or employing them in minimal doses), hoping to prove those reluctant/jaded readers that there's so much more to YA than meets the eye. And I ultimately decided to make this post into a series, because my list was too long for a single one. Here goes Part 3 (broken down by genres/my blog's Reading Rooms)...
(Note: these are not necessarily my favourite books - though some of them are. I only choose them for their lack/minimal amount of tropes. Also, there are a few mature YA/NA/adult friendly books in this list).

April 15, 2019

The Invisible Hiatus (And How I Learned to Let Go)

Hello sweeties,

on this very day, this space was meant to host a review. I had a precise book in mind, and I even reread it in order to be able to make it justice - to say the right things in the right way. I had this review appointed for weeks. I tried to make it happen for a couple ones at least (that was around mid-March). I went as far as to write the Pros and Cons sections...but then, I finally realised something - I wasn't feeling it. At first I didn't worry, because it's something that happens to me from time to time - even with 5 or 4 star books. Sometimes I have to give myself a kick in the butt in order to get moving...and then, lo and behold! the words flow and the review is done in a few hours and it's even kind of awesome. But this time, the more I kept procrastinating and moving said review further and further down my schedule, the more I hated the thought of having to write it. As I said, it wasn't the book - it was me. It got to the point where it was messing with my whole schedule - other posts that I couldn't or didn't want to cancel/move for any given reason. I had all the time in the world for writing that review, and suddenly, I had none left. Unless I wanted to force it out of my brain (damaging the book), and work around the clock, and postpone reading my new books because of it. That's when I finally drew the line.

April 10, 2019

Janet Tashjian: "For What It's Worth"

Title: For What It's Worth [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: None
Author: Janet Tashjian [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Contemporary with a Twist
Year: 2012
Age: 12+
Stars: 3.5/5
Pros: Nice coming-of-age story with authentic teenage voice and a classic rock soundtrack.
Cons: While middle-graders/younger teens are the best audience for this one, they're likely not to be familiar with most of the music featured, unless their parents (or grandparents?) exposed them to it.
Will appeal to: Youngsters dealing with first loves, complicated family dynamics and making sense of the world. Youngsters who can relate to loving music on a deep level. Adults who grew up with classic rock and are willing to read a well-crafted slice of teenage life set in the era.

Blurb: The year is 1971 and the place is Laurel Canyon, California. Quinn, a fourteen-year-old music "encyclopedia," writes a music column called "For What It's Worth" for his school paper. But Quinn's world is about to change when he is faced with helping a war dodger and must make some tough decisions. When he starts receiving cryptic Ouija board messages from Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, and Jimi Hendrix (all members of the 27 Club), he knows he is in over his head. Fortunately for Quinn, his new girlfriend Caroline helps him get a grip and channel his inner self. (Amazon)

Review: This one is a bit of an odd fish, since it crosses the boundary between MG and YA, and yet it would be better appreciated by an adult with a basic knowledge of the music involved. I think it was what influenced my rating the most, because FWIW has a lot going for it. Also, please note: this particular review has been split in two parts only (instead of the usual three) because it would have been redundant to do otherwise. FWIW is a coming-of-age story as much as it's a story fueled by music, and those are the two aspects my review will focus on.


I love how authentic Quinn's voice is. He's fourteen, never been kissed, passionate about music in a way that - alas - only a kid who grew up before the digital age can be. And self-absorbed (or lacking social awareness) in a way that rings completely true for a teen his age. He has an older female sibling with whom he entertains your classic love-hate relationship, but still leaning on the love side (though he probably would never admit it if not under torture). He's oblivious to what boils under his unbalanced family dynamic. And he's equally oblivious to the changes occurring around him, what with the Vietnam War seeping more and more into his idyllic suburban life. During the course of a few months though, all these things are about to change, for better or worse. As a coming-of-age story, Quinn's is well-executed and relatable, and the best thing is, it doesn't change the core of what he is (which would be an improbable feat, but it doesn't mean that a less skilled writer wouldn't have gone there). He makes mistakes and learns from them and becomes a better person, and this is the realest thing you can ask from a character. [...]

April 02, 2019

Tell Me Something Tuesday: How Do You Feel about Authors Throwing Big, Obscure Words into Their Books?

Tell Me Something Tuesday is a weekly discussion post on Rainy Day Ramblings, where the blog's owner Heidi discusses a wide range of topics from books to blogging. Weigh in and join the conversation by adding your thoughts in the comments. If you want to do your own post, grab the question and answer it on your blog.
Here is what is on deck this week:


I suppose I'm in the minority here, but I actually like them! I don't mean fancy talk, the kind you would find in an old book, or flowery language. But I get excited when a book I'm reading provides the random unusual word I have to look into a dictionary to unlock. Maybe it's because English is an acquired language for me, so I love to learn new words - even if I rarely remember them when I set to write a post or a tweet 😅. Or maybe it's more because I revel in the endless possibilities that English language [and my own as well, of course] offers, and I love it when writing gets spiced up and leans a bit towards the unconventional side. There are so many wonderful, neglected words out there - why don't use them for a change?