Book Review: I Was Here

20522640Novel: I Was Here by Gayle Forman | Goodreads
Release Date: January 27th, 2015
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher

Cody and Meg were inseparable.
Two peas in a pod.
Until . . . they weren’t anymore.

When her best friend Meg drinks a bottle of industrial-strength cleaner alone in a motel room, Cody is understandably shocked and devastated. She and Meg shared everything—so how was there no warning? But when Cody travels to Meg’s college town to pack up the belongings left behind, she discovers that there’s a lot that Meg never told her. About her old roommates, the sort of people Cody never would have met in her dead-end small town in Washington. About Ben McAllister, the boy with a guitar and a sneer, who broke Meg’s heart. And about an encrypted computer file that Cody can’t open—until she does, and suddenly everything Cody thought she knew about her best friend’s death gets thrown into question.
 
I Was Here is Gayle Forman at her finest, a taut, emotional, and ultimately redemptive story about redefining the meaning of family and finding a way to move forward even in the face of unspeakable loss.

If you didn’t already know this, I’m a beyond huge fan of Gayle Forman. She’s one of my spirit animal writers. After talking to her about this book back in October, I had a tingly feeling that I would love it just as much I have the rest of her books, and oh look! I was right.

I Was Here follows Cody, a witty and somewhat lost girl living in a small town in Oregon and her search for the real reason her best friend killed herself. Meg, her best friend, has gone away to college, leaving Cody at home, trying to figure out what she’s going to do. Then, when Meg commits suicide, I saw this feeling of confusion, one that I assume to be common after a loved one kills themselves (I’m admittedly not familiar), and it’s this feeling that carries the storyline. Cody’s hunt for the truth leads her to Meg’s dorm at college, to Nevada, and down paths in her own life she never planned on traveling.

There are two parts of this book that stood out to me, and neither was the romance (although it was great). The first was the relationship between Cody and her mother. Through the course of the book, Cody grows to not only understand her mother but also the way she raised Cody, allowing Cody to love her mother more than before. The second was the approach to the topic of suicide. Few novels that discuss suicide talk about the thought process leading up to the event – I’ve not read a single book that confronts the question “what would I do if I wanted to kill myself?”. In I Was Here, Forman handles it with grace and curiosity, a combination that allowed the reader to not feel too shocked when reading at some points.

If you’ve got I Was Here on your TBR get excited to read about Stoner Richard! He’s one of my favorite characters, mainly because at points I burst out laughing because of him. His character development was one of the highlights of the novel for me, and I wish I had more of him.

There are certain books that will always stand out in my mind. I Was Here is one of them. It’s a captivating and emotional look at friendship that explores the harsh realities of the internet and how we interpret the word “family”. Thunderous applause for I Was Here.

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Music Monday {20}

music mondays

On a Music Monday, I will introduce a couple of new songs that I’m enjoying with you all and put the Youtube video in so you all can check out the song. You can find the playlist on Spotify with all of these songs here.

1. Be Easy by Ghost Loft

During some particularly long nights with my homework this week, I turned to the Spotify playlists. The first one I tried was Indie Electronica, and this was one of the songs of this playlist. I love it – the vocals and the mixing is right up my alley.

2. Arcadia by The Kite String Tangle

This was also off that playlist, and can we take a minute for the band name?! It’s incredible. Just like this song. I love the lyrics: “You were tryin’ make it work/You were sleeping in my shirt/Arcadia/Sometimes things don’t come full circle/I was hopin’ that you cared/I was distant, I was scared” from the chorus. Possibly a new band love right here.

3. Thinkin Aboutchu by Dan Croll

I’ve recently found Dan Croll’s album Sweet Disarray, and this one of my favorites off of it. Unfortunately there’s no music video so I picked this live performance from SXSW (when I cry because I didn’t know about Dan Croll yet) instead.

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Album Review: 1989 – Taylor Swift

1989 by Taylor Swift

1989 is Taylor Swift’s fourth studio album, and is her full departure from country into pop. It’s an album that you blast in your car on full volume, sing along to with your friends, and treasure. I first heard Taylor Swift when I was in elementary school, when she was still new on the music scene with “Teardrops on My Guitar”, and I loved it. This album though, I think, shows her growth as not only a musician but also as a person – she has grown from her debut album Taylor Swift at the age of sixteen, to 1989 at age 24. And I for one, love the way she has transformed.

The album opens with “Welcome To New York”, a peppy song that is honestly an incredible song to start an album with. It’s admittedly my least favorite song on the album (actually the only one I don’t like). “Blank Space” follows “Welcome to New York”, and is the story of a girl and her romances – it’s fantastic. Swift’s vocals shine on this track, and I love the simple drum beat throughout the song. The over-the-top but awesome music video came out last week:

[www.youtube.com/watch?v=e-ORhEE9VVg]

“Style” comes next, and this is probably one of my favorites from the album. It’s one I love to play loud and sing along with, channeling my inner Taylor Swift. “Out Of The Woods” is fourth and is the song that engaged me in this album. Released as the first promotional single, “Out Of The Woods” is produced (and co-written) by Jack Antonoff (lead guitarist in Fun. and now in his own solo project, Bleachers), whose vocals are also featured on the track as backing to Swift. Antonoff also co-wrote “I Wish You Would” and “You Are In Love”. “Shake It Off”, track six, is probably the most popular from the album, because the music drew national attention and was the first single. It’s not one of my favorites on the album, but I can’t help but enjoy it.

[www.youtube.com/watch?v=nfWlot6h_JM]

The second half of the album is incredible. “Bad Blood”, “Wildest Dreams” and “I Know Places” are my favorites, with driving beats and catchy lyrics. “Clean” rounds out the album with a slower song, reminding me a little of some of the songs off Red and Fearless.

Some people have been criticizing Swift because of her full departure from country, but honestly, I’m a fan. She’s become a popstar who can make incredible albums while also having a life. This album also had a deeper connection with fans (the 1989 Sessions – check out Swift’s instagram) and most “Swifties” adore this album. For the fans that have grown with Swift, this album defines their teenage and young adult lives. It’s thunderous applause for Swift from me for 1989.

(Also, if you haven’t seen Swift’s tumblr, you’re seriously missing out.)

iTunesAmazon

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Music Monday {19}

music mondays

On a Music Monday, I will introduce a couple of new songs that I’m enjoying with you all and put the Youtube video in so you all can check out the song. You can find the playlist on Spotify with all of these songs here. (Note: Today’s is a Soundcloud day!)

1. Hotel by D.I.D

One of my friends introduced me to D.I.D (formerly Dog is Dead) earlier this year, and this is the single from their upcoming record.

2. Side FXby Denetia & Sene

New Denetia & Sene! YES! I found Denetia & Sene last year, and have been following them ever since, as they’ve put out singles. This is one of their recent ones, and I love it.

3. Hold Back the River by James Bay

I’ve seen a lot about James Bay in the music world lately, so I thought I’d check him out. This song is my favorite – I love the drums, and his vocals are incredible.

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Magic Man Interview

On Thursday, November 13th, I had the pleasure of interviewing Magic Man before their show in Austin at Emo’s, on their tour opening up with Smallpools with Panama Wedding. The band is composed of Alex Caplow (vocals), Sam Lee (guitar and keyboards), Justine Bowe (keyboards), Joey Sulkowski (drums), and Gabe Goodman (bass). Their debut album, Before the Waves is out, and is one of my favorite albums of the year.

When I sat down with the band in their tour bus, I was immediately struck by how kind they were. They were snacking and offered me some of their stash, asked how I was, made sure they pronounced my name right – just plain nice people. Magic Man also loves their fans. Joey had at least ten fan-made bracelets on his left wrist that he has collected, and fan drawings and notes adorn a section of a wall in their tour bus.

During the interview, Justine was wielding a bottle of silly string, the band cracked jokes, and even did my work for me sometimes, asking questions of one another. It really was more Willa’s Ramblings in conversation with Magic Man, especially as the conversation took some interesting turns – from feminism and Legally Blonde to FKA Twigs and RPatz to learning to swim. But either way, here’s the interview, settle in for some reading – it’s a long one!

(Note: WR = Willa’s Ramblings, and my questions are in italics.)


WR: How did you all get interested in music initially when you were kids?

Joey: My father was in the Marine band and played clarinet. He was in the band for 26 years, and then when he retired I was two and he just hung out with me and my brother all the time and taught us music, taught me how to play the clarinet, and then suggested piano lessons and then later figured out I should be a drummer. Then later, he got me a drum set.

WR: When did you get the drum set?

Joey: 11.

Alex: I was in two bands in middle school, called the Hydraulic Bananas.

Gabe: The legend in my family is that from a zero to three I would sit in front of the closet where my dad kept his guitar and cry. No one knew why I was crying until they figured out that when my dad took the guitar out and played it for me I was happy. So eventually they found a shortcut which was to just get my own guitar. And then they got me one for my fourth birthday and I’ve been playing music ever since.

Justine: My dad and my sister played piano, and so I guess I saw them doing it and I wanted to do it as well. It seemed like the thing I had always done.

WR: I took piano until recently and started out on classical – was that the same for you, or were you into a different genre?

Justine: I don’t honestly know. I guess I took jazz lessons before I took anything else. But for a while it was mostly just self-taught. Once you know just a little bit of theory you can just figure it out.

WR: What bands did you listen to when you were growing up?

Justine: My mom had some awesome taste in music. She was listening to like Simon & Garfunkel, Leonard Cohen – all the classics. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, and all that. Those were the first bands I got really, really into.

[at this point Justine squirted Joey with silly string, and it formed a mustache, causing immense laughter]

Joey: So, my father listens to Christmas music year round.

Alex: And that’s why Joey only DJs Christmas music.

Joey: So I went to music school, and some of my finals definitely turned out to be Christmas carols. So, thanks dad.

WR: Wait, seriously?

Joey: Yeah. I mean not like the cheesy ones, but the old ones. And then my first concert was a Neil Diamond concert.

Gabe [to Justine]: What was your first concert?

Justine: Skatefest 2002.

Gabe: Is that the band name? [laughter]

Justine: Well, there was a lot of skating, a lot of festing.

Gabe: Want to know what my first concert was? Hoku.

Justine: Oh my god. Do you guys remember Hoku?

[Alex and Gabe launch into “Perfect Day” by Hoku, off the Legally Blond soundtrack]

Justine: I remember that one! I was actually just recently thinking about how Legally Blond is a legitimately great movie.

WR: It genuinely is!

Justine: Great movie, great premise! I love it. Because I feel like there are ways for it to think of it as an obnoxiously girly movie, but actually I think that there’s a lot of feminism that isn’t “pro-girls” or “pro all girls”, and I think Elle Woods is a brand of femininity that a lot people can identify with and that should be celebrated too. We should watch.

WR: I love that there’s not any caddy weird girl stuff going on in the movie too.

Justine: Yeah! Well, there’s Vivian, but they resolve it! And then that’s the story. Also my sister is super vapid and going to Harvard and was super girly in high school so it was a good story.

WR: What was your first concert Alex?

Alex: I can’t remember the order of things… But I remember I went to a KISS concert with The Barenaked Ladies…

[laughter]

[At this point, Sam walked into the bus and joined in on the interview.]

WR: Where did the title for the album “Before the Waves” come from?

Alex: It’s a lyric from the song “Waves” that we liked a lot. We liked the generally feeling of it, the tension and the release, the calm before the storm. We always liked those three words too. We also always thought we could go #BTW when it was coming out, but we never posted that.

Joey: It’s also one of our Twitter follower’s Twitter names, before it was out.

Alex: Oh yeah! It was her name a long time ago, and I remember thinking she was going to be so happy.

WR: I’ve always loved the album cover. Where did that come from creatively?

Alex: We were trying to do stuff similar to the EP album cover but sort of with a new direction for the progression, so like the natural landscape of some sort of surreal element – sort of like the “Paris” video too. And we found this artist named Tobias Hutzler (http://www.tobiashutzler.com/) who did a lot of work with long exposure and light drawings. We thought of some locations that we thought would be beautiful and sent him off to Block Island for a weekend, and he just stayed up in the middle of the night with these glow sticks that we’d tied together and this big net and threw it out into the waves and left the camera on and then those colorful swirls were natural – it was wherever the waves took it.

WR: What’s the writing process like for you go? Like any song on the album, for example, what’s the process for that?

Alex: Usually, it’s Sam and I coming up with an idea and we pass it back and forth between us for a while and add a few things and change things, and restructure it, and pull an idea from another song, and then the song is pretty much done. Or even the songs change once they’ve been recorded they still change for the live shows, because there’s so many layers on the tracks and live there’s just us. So then, we start fresh and try to pull the most essential parts of the song and figure out how to play them. So that’s sort of the process from beginning to show time.

WR: What was SXSW for you when you came last year?

Justine: IT WAS A ZOO! It was a good zoo. I was just shocked by how many human beings were packed into such a small space. But for us, it was really exciting because it was one of our first major festivals. One of the first times we got to really take the time to network with other bands. You know, make connections and such. There was some free stuff.

WR: I saw a picture of you, Alex, in that Game of Thrones throne which was pretty good.

Alex: Oh yeah!

Justine: We got so many seasons of Season Three of Game of Thrones.

Sam: I sold mine on Craigslist.

Justine: How much?

Sam: Ten dollars.

Justine: Only ten dollars?!

WR: So on the topic of touring, you guys have toured with so many incredible bands – Panic! at the Disco, Walk the Moon, Sir Sly – what has been a highlight?

Alex: I’d say the highlight, besides obviously, being able to play shows, because before anybody knows who you are how are you supposed to play shows, you know? So you open for bigger bands, and suddenly you’ve got this built-in audience, and the fans are super enthusiastic, and so it made for a really great time. We learned so much from them, but I think the best part of touring with the bands we’ve been with is getting to know them with people. And knowing that we’re not only co-workers but also family after seeing them everyday for a month or so. And then we got to tour with Walk The Moon again to just reinforce that love, and so hopefully we’ll keep on bumping into them.

WR: What is your favorite tour that you’ve been on?

Joey: This one.

Gabe: For sure.

Justine: It’s been the easiest to stay alive, because we’re in this BandWagon [the type of bus that they’re in and the interview was held in]. It’s the first time we’ve been able to sleep.

Alex: Joey’s enjoyed not having to drive.

Joey: To add onto what Alex was saying earlier, we do a bit of a different thing from a lot of other bands, and so just the camaraderie of people trying to do the same thing – to better their craft.

WR: That was a nice segway – so I asked Landon of Sir Sly [whom they toured with previously] if he had any messages he wanted me to pass on, and he told me to tell you, Alex, “bologna”. I don’t know what the importance of that is, but that’s what he told me to tell you.

Sam: It’s a state of mind.

Alex: A state of being. A way of life.

Sam: We practiced the way of bologna.

WR: What is the way of bologna?

Alex: Uh…

Justine: Are you making this up?

Alex: [laughs] No! Bologna is everything and everything is bologna.

Sam: It involves worshipping the god “Sly”.

Alex: Yes. In Sly We Trust. Sly’s the new deity.

[Sam corrects Alex’s pronunciation of “deity”]

Gabe: I always thought it was “diet”.

[laughter]

WR: I have a question for you, Justine – what’s it like being the only girl in the band?

Justine: Can we flip that question on its head?

WR: Sure!

Justine: What’s it like for the dudes? What’s it like being the four dudes in the band?

Joey: I think this place is probably smelling and looking better since we have her here.

Gabe: It’s great because we have all the privilege, so we’re just treated differently.

Justine: How often do you guys think about your gender? Like, in this industry? On stage?

Gabe: I think about it contextualized from conversations we’ve had, or I’ve had. I honestly don’t think if there was a girl in the band, or if I wasn’t so close to many girls in my life who are interested in music, or had music as a part of their, I would not think about my gender as much in this industry. But I think it’s a widely known fact that it’s a very male-dominated industry, and so I think that we’re all very fortunate to have another perspective in the band. Or bandwagon. [laughter] I think it’s easy to get lost in that privilege or get lost in the fact that it’s a male dominated community sometimes.

Gabe: I think about it way more now, because I’ve played in bands before this band and I was never in a touring situation with a girl, and I’m happy that I’m now in a band, not only with a girl but with Justine. Because I think about it, and am way more away about to navigate situations to make situations to make it easier for her.

Alex: Also, so WATERS is a band that was opening up for us for the first half of this tour [Panama Wedding joined the tour in Houston, the previous night], and we love the, got along with them really well and Sarah, who plays keyboard with that band. Every night, Van, the lead singer, would ask the audience “How many of you girls out there are in rock bands?”, and some shows where no one would say anything, but he always made it a point on stage of being like, that’s got to change, you’ve all got to go pick up an instrument.

Justine: But that’s still a man telling a woman what to do. But I loved it! I thought it was great!

Joey: But yeah, even the sentiment, I think people are more excited about welcoming females into the music community. Or they’re not even making it a thing.

Justine: Yeah, I mean I feel like I want it to be a thing on the daily. One thing that I do notice is that people will talk about entire conversations that happen when I’m not present that wouldn’t have been said if I was present? So people saying things they just otherwise wouldn’t say if there was ” a lady in the room”. So that’s sort of frustrating that people feel like they gotta say shit, (a), but also (b) that there’s something about me that there’s something you’re not supposed to say in front of me. It’s kind of weird. It’s still a very much a boy’s club, and I’m super lucky to be in this boys club.

WR: What’s been – as a band or individually – one of your top albums of the year so far?

Sam: The new Bear’s Den album.

WR: I love that album.

Gabe: The St. Vincent album came out this year right? Yeah, that is probably one of my favorite releases.

Joey: Maybe the Porter Robinson album?

Sam: I’d assumed you’d already written it down on my behalf but 1989 by Taylor Swift.

Gabe: Also the 100 Waters album.

Alex: HAIM and Chvrches were last year, so…

Justine: I’m really into FKA Twigs right now.

Sam: Rumor is they’ve gotten engaged.

Justine: Her and R-Patz?!

Sam: There are pictures of her with a ring.

Gabe: I love that. I want them to be married for a hundred years.

Justine: I wonder how long have they’ve been together?

Sam: Rumors have only been circulating for a few months.

Justine: Oh, because I feel like those songs are about some ex-lover so was an a-hole. I feel like the dude in the songs was a big a-hole, and then I’m wondering if it’s him.

Gabe: I’ve seen a few interviews with her and my understanding is that the relationship happened after the album came out.

Sam: There’s a picture of him in the crowd at one of her shows with flowers… But apparently he’s given promise rings in the past, so maybe this is just a promise ring… Does anybody have anymore questions? [laughter]

WR: Is there anything that you guys want to learn – personally or music related – like talents?

Alex: Are we talking about resolutions right now?

WR: We can do resolutions.

Justine: I’ve actually thought today that I would like to start – not because I’m trying to do this, but because I think it’d be good practice for my diction – I’d like to start rapping a little bit. Fully on my own, fully for no one to ever hear it. But I feel like it’s a skill that would develop a lot of other areas in my brain.

WR: A lot of rhythm there too.

Justine: Definitely! But also flow, and syntax, and all that – I think it’d be really cool.

Alex: I think you’d come up with some good song lyrics from that too.

Gabe: You should learn Backseat Freestyle – that’s what Taylor Swift like to rap. You could do a duet.

Justine: Me and Taylor. Yeah.

WR: Are you a big Taylor Swift fan?

Justine: We love her.

Gabe: I think hanging out with Taylor Swift is something that I’d like to learn to do.

Justine: That’s happening in 2015.

Gabe: Yeah, Taylor Swift is coming on the BandWagon.

Justine: She is never coming to this BandWagon.

Joey: I’ve always wanted to learn to dance. Like proper hip-hop dance.

Joey: I would love to take lessons remotely.

Justine: I have a couple of hip-hop dance friends and I contacted them if they would ever do private lessons. For free of course.

Sam: This is actually an idea I had – I heard that Metallica for instance, because they’re such a big touring enterprise, would bring a doctor or dentists on the road, and they would cover the crew’s insurance and medical, and stuff like that. But I thought about how cool it would be if you had a particular skilled person to come on the road for a week and he could offer workshops.

Gabe: In 2015 I hope to learn to swim properly.

WR: You don’t know how to swim?

Gabe: I can swim. I just can’t tread water at all. I would die.

Alex: You need to learn to hold your breath, all that.

Sam: Public service announcement – drowning often doesn’t look like what you think. People are motionless, there’s no flailing around.

Gabe: I almost drowned once. Your lungs fill with water.

WR: Have you guys had any Tex-Mex while you’ve been here?

Justine: Does Chipotle count?

WR: No. Definitely not.

Justine: Well you’re talking to the wrong people.

Alex: What’s up with this taco joint over here? [there was a taco place not too face from the venue]

Gabe: “Taco More” got great reviews on Yelp.

WR: Well, I’m just going to say this, most places aren’t too shabby. The best ones are the ones that look like you’re going to get food poisoning.

Justine: The names – “Taco More”! [laughter]


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Here’s a couple of photos from the interview (the space was pretty small so it was difficult to get good angles and such.)

Thank you to Magic Man for letting me interview them – it was great fun. See you next time you’re in Austin!

Get the album: 

iTunes | Spotify | Amazon

Where to find Magic Man:

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Bandcamp | Soundcloud

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Court by Cat Patrick – Blog Tour Pt. 1

I’m honored to be a part of the blog tour for Cat Patrick’s newest novel, Court, available for Kindles as an e-book. Keep reading to find out more about the book, read an excerpt, and enter a giveaway for Cat’s previous novels!


unnamedNovel: Court by Cat Patrick | Goodreads
Release Date: October 23rd, 2014
Publisher: Kindle E-book

For more than 300 years, a secret monarchy has survived and thrived within the borders of the US, hiding in plain sight as the state known as Wyoming. But when the king is shot and his seventeen-year-old son, Haakon McHale, is told he will take the throne, becoming the eleventh ruler of the Kingdom of Eurus, the community that’s survived for centuries is pushed to the limit. Told through four perspectives, Court transplants us to a world that looks like ours, but isn’t. Gwendolyn Rose, daughter of the Duke of Coal, is grudgingly betrothed to Haakon — and just wants a way out. Alexander Oxendine, son of the Duke of Wind and Haakon’s lifelong best friend, already grapples with internal struggles when he’s assigned to guard Haakon after the king dies. And commoner Mary Doyle finds whispers in the woods that may solve — or destroy — everything, depending on your bloodline.

Money. Love. Power. Community. What’s your motivation?

About Cat Patrick:

Raised in a house that was struck by lightning–twice–Cat Patrick is the author of young adult books ForgottenRevived, and The Originals, and the co-author of Just Like Fate.

As a child, Cat could be found making up stories like her first book, Dolly the Purple Spotted Dolphin; growing corn in the backyard; or performing with a traveling sign-language troupe. She earned a journalism degree from the University of Wyoming and a master’s degree from Boston University, and worked in public relations for fifteen years. She lives outside of Seattle with her husband and twin daughters, and is on Twitter @seecatwrite, or Facebook at authorcatpatrick.

Cat once…

  • Interrupted Warren Beatty’s lunch to snap a picture with him.
  • Appeared on a game show, but not as a competitor.
  • Climbed a 50 foot tower and rappelled back down. (At least she thinks it was 50 feet.)
  • Met Muhammad Ali.
  • Was on the high school golf team.
  • Got a tattoo.
  • Was pooped on by a dolphin.
  • Performed a high kick routine to Personal Jesus.
  • Interviewed Carmen Electra.
  • Worked as a “concessionist” at a movie theater.
  • Met the guy who created Sonic the Hedgehog.

Cat likes… Crunchy snacks, decaf nonfat lattes, mint chip ice cream, Alan Rickman, zombies from afar, traveling, reading, easy hikes, challenging plotlines, stargazing, silly hats, and boots.

Cat dislikes… Talking on the phone, socks with holes, zombies close up, the flu, mean people, touching ice, copyedits, flying, spiders, squeaky windshield wipers, black licorice, and salmon.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads


Excerpt from Court:

HAAKON

Before he was the enemy, James Haakon McHale III was just a seventeen-year-old in what most people knew as the state of Wyoming, wishing he was somewhere other than the predawn forest with a rifle in his grip.

“It’s colder than moonlight on a tombstone,” Haakon muttered, blowing on his fist. His thick-soled boots swish-thumped on the hard earth as he skillfully avoided twigs, rocks, and low branches.

Alexander Oxendine—youngest son of the Duke of Wind, wide receiver, video game button masher, and Haakon’s best friend—laughed into his collar. It could’ve been mistaken for a cough.

“It’s colder than a whore’s heart,” Alexander said, his tone cautiously low. They were the youngest members of the hunting party, and were only allowed to take part because of their rank. Haakon could think of a thousand superior privileges.

He glanced around to make sure none of the other men were paying attention—especially his father. Smirking, he said, “Colder than a polar bear’s balls.”

The pair stifled laughter.

“Than a witch’s—”

“Too easy.”

“Colder than a dead woman’s touch,” Alexander said.

Haakon checked again, dialed down his voice even more, and said, “It’s colder than Gwendolyn Rose’s kiss.”

“Quiet!”

It was Haakon’s father: dictator, fun-spoiler, and—regrettably for his son—the tenth ruler of the Kingdom of Eurus, also known as the Realm, the monarchy hiding in plain sight in the depths of the Democracy known as the United States of America.

Every schoolchild knew the story. In 1670, after Joseph Dyer’s wife died in the Great Plague in London, he brought his five daughters to what would become the United States one hundred years later, seeking a better life. But it soon became apparent that his family would never thrive under strict Puritan rule in New England–which banned higher education for girls and taught submissiveness above all else, and which centered around extreme religious beliefs that were counter to Dyer’s own.

A friend, John Seymour, who was—controversially—married to a Native woman, suggested that they set out together in search of a new home deep within America’s treacherous unknown. Seymour’s wife had been attacked; her family persecuted. Seymour believed that rather than fighting the Natives, they should live in harmony with them.

Dyer, Seymour, and several other men and their families snuck away. After a long and dangerous journey, together they created their version of paradise: a kingdom that blended the best of England with Native cultures. Dyer was thought of as the Father of the Realm, and Seymour’s Native wife, who ensured their survival through tribal relations, the Mother.

Rather than cause a revolution, the founders decided to keep the kingdom secret. Inside the borders of what they’d eventually stake claim as Wyoming, they’d follow their own rules. Outsiders wouldn’t know they were different because they wouldn’t understand.

Outsiders weren’t to be trusted.

Dyer’s youngest daughter, captivated by the ancient Greek she wouldn’t have been allowed to learn in Puritan society, named the new kingdom Eurus, meaning east wind. She pronounced it “air-us.”

“But the winds here blow from the west,” Haakon had asked his father once—before Dad was King James. That was when it was okay to ask questions. When curiosity wasn’t an imposition.

“That’s right, Haakon,” his father had replied, straw between his teeth. They’d gone on a walk together. The sun was setting on an easy day. His dad had pointed toward the eastern horizon. “The wind here does primarily blow from the west, but our founders blew in from the east. That day, the wind changed directions.”

Haakon frowned away the memory of days never to return, and refocused on the trees. He walked as soundlessly as he could in his camo fleece jacket and vintage Levi’s, his rifle nestled in the crook of his left arm, a round in the chamber. He was on the left edge of the group, three rows behind his father. Evenly spaced gaps between them, the men were like migrating geese, locked in formation.

Geese hunting deer.

“Were you drinking last night?” Haakon’s father had demanded on the way to the meeting point that morning. “Is that why you’re so tired?”

“I’m tired because it’s so early that the birds aren’t even awake yet.”

“Good. Because you know what the consequences will be if you start drinking again.” They’d shared the backseat of the armored SUV; Haakon had done his best to preoccupy himself with his cell phone.

“Yes, sir, I know.”

“You need to turn that thing off before we arrive. And when’s your next haircut? You look slovenly.”

Will you just get off my back? Haakon had thought at the top of his lungs. What he’d said, though, was simply, “Yes, sir.”

There, in the forest, Haakon toyed with the idea of raising his gun and shooting King James square in the back of the head. Right there under his hat, just above the rise of his custom down hunting vest. He could do it. Even with the others present, he knew there’d be no trial, no trip to Corby. But offing his father wouldn’t solve anything. In fact, it would make life a lot worse. Because with his father gone, Haakon would be in charge.

Haakon would become the King of Eurus.

The thought made him want to puke.


You can enter a giveaway of 2 sets of signed copies of ALL of Cat’s previous books (4 in all!) here: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/bc4d7a9073/.

I’m incredibly excited about Court, as I’m a huge fan of Cat’s work. If you’re a Kindle owner, go give this one a try, and if not, read her past novels. Trust me, you won’t regret it.

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Book Review: Mortal Heart

20522640Novel: Mortal Heart (His Fair Assassins #3) by Robin LaFevers | Goodreads
Release Date: November 4th, 2014
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher

Annith has watched her gifted sisters at the convent come and go, carrying out their dark dealings in the name of St. Mortain, patiently awaiting her own turn to serve Death. But her worst fears are realized when she discovers she is being groomed by the abbess as a Seeress, to be forever sequestered in the rock and stone womb of the convent. Feeling sorely betrayed, Annith decides to strike out on her own.

She has spent her whole life training to be an assassin. Just because the convent has changed its mind doesn’t mean she has…

I’ve been in love with this series since the first book came out, Grave Mercy, and since then I’ve seen this series grow and blossom into something incredible. Robin LaFevers is one of those writers who on a whole ‘nother level when it comes to her writing, using prose that sucks you in and makes you feel every emotion in your body while simultaneously building an elaborate plot and these amazing characters.

In the third and final installment in this series, Annith gets her time to shine (well, maybe not “gets”) and oh boy, does she shine. Over the course of this novel you see Annith grow into her own, and realize that she is more powerful than she ever could’ve realized. She finds love where none have dared to go, and she pushes the boundaries of the Assassins, proving herself to be not only a valuable handmaiden of death, but also a valuable friend to Sybella and Ismae. Seeing the three girls come together in the final battle was the best part of this entire series – they’ve all grown into these incredible women through their respective missions and their skills compliment one another’s so well.

I highly, highly recommend this series finale, as well as this entire series. It’s a look into a culture I previously knew nothing about, and is great for fans of Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Mass and Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo – it fills that kick-butt female lead hole in all of our hearts!

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