Party School by John Hart

a non-spoiler review

Party School tells the story of Dylan Mills, as he leaves high school and enters college. He’s not pumped, he’s not at an it school, and his girlfriend wants to “grow”, whatever that’s supposed to mean. He comes from Castleton, a posh, high-end, and pretentious town that calls itself a village for the vibes. Where everyone around him is rich and going on to college at it schools, as they call them, Dylan instead, is heading to North South, formerly two separate community colleges combined into one, only about twenty minutes from a prison. He’s an outsider from the poor part of town, trying to make a name for himself in Castleton.

His girlfriend, Rosemary, is going to one of these it schools, and while she’s there, she wants to meet new people, and see new people, but they won’t break up. She promises. Dylan wants no part of it, but he agrees. He would do anything for Rosemary, even the three weeks of radio silence she insists on.

Now with no contact from Rosemary, Dylan learns more about himself and grows into a new type of person. Away from pretentious Castleton, away from his, frankly, overbearing parents, and in a new place with stoner friends, eclectic professors, and a school with a reputation for weed and partying, Dylan sees a new side of himself, his loved ones, and the “village” he once called home.

Party School is a fun, quick read that taps into the mind of Dylan, all of his emotions laid bare for us to see and feel with him. The story is fast-paced and the characters are interesting to read about. From Wally and Sam and Berkowitz, to Dylan’s best friend Dorian who we only ever meet through the phone, they all play a part in helping Dylan through his journey of self-discovery. Party School is definitely a book worth checking out.

Drop Dead by Danielle Bird – review

a non-spoiler review

Drop Dead is, to quote a meme, a better love story than Twilight. Pop culture nowadays is saturated with paranormal and supernatural love stories, a lot of them centering on vampires and the oft star-crossed nature of their relationships, but Drop Dead is one of the better, fresher takes on the idea. There is no relationship more star-crossed than monster and hunter, and Drop Dead does not disappoint.

The characters are where Drop Dead really shines. In many books the main character function as an audience stand in, a blank slate for the reader to project themselves onto, someone that everyone can relate to. The main characters of Drop Dead are not like that all. They are fully fleshed out, fully realized people in their own right. Ethan is intense and head strong, filled with a desire for vengeance. Meanwhile Simon is timid but snarky, a flighty addict in over his head. These are characters that could so easily be unlikable if made to fulfill another roll, or weren’t written with the care they deserve. But in Drop Dead they are endearing and lovely, and you can’t help but root for them.

Drop Dead features alternating point of view chapters, which helps the reader to fully understand the story. In some books, the mystery of not knowing the other side of the story is great, but for some like this, when all the characters are so interesting in their own way, with conflicting yet contradictory goals and issues.

The relationship between Ethan and Simon is so well-done and thought provoking. Their relationship has so many obstacles. They’re a homosexual, inter-species couple with a supernatural power dynamic that borders on psychic manipulation. The conversations this brings about consent, bodily autonomy, and the self-doubt of ones own decisions and true feelings is fascinating to read.

“I Fail at the Afterlife” by Anni Sezate

a non-spoiler review

Summary from Goodreads:

When you die and become an angel you don’t expect there to be so much paperwork.

At age seventeen, David Garcia fell to his death and has spent the past ten years filing papers for dead people. His uneventful afterlife is thrown into chaos when he’s attacked by a pernicious demon called Malum. Frozen in terror, David does absolutely nothing to prevent the demon’s escape. Blaming himself, he joins a group of demon hunters intent on recapturing Malum before he destroys the world. Armed with ten years of receptionist training, mediocre fighting skills, and non-stop self-deprecating sarcasm, David soon learns he is in way over his head.

David Garcia has only been an angel for ten paper-pushing years when he decides to become a demon hunter to the fight the incredibly strong demon Malum. This book shows his struggles to balance the Light and Darkness that comes with such a task, especially for someone whose never been much of a fighter. He has to do all this while still trying to be a guardian angel for his living family members and not missing shifts at his office job.

This book is filled with such great world building. Many people have ideas of what the afterlife may look like, and this book does a great job fleshing out this version. Along with setting, the moral dilemmas that inevitably come from books about angels and demons are well developed.

The characters are also well done. David is the most developed as someone who is awkward with low self-esteem, but he feels real, and you can’t help but root for him. He trips all over himself, but he’s doing his best. Other characters like his best friend Jake, his still-living high school friend Sandy, and the demon Sheila are incredibly interesting, and along with some other named but rather unknown characters (I’m so intrigued by Daisy!) we’ll hopefully see more from them in the coming books.

This book is heartfelt and funny, while also portraying the very real danger that the characters are in. Honestly, the only negative is the frequent Harry Potter references, this book can hold its own weight. It’s a great opening to a trilogy! It sets a strong foundation for the next books to come.

For fans of series like Percy Jackson and the Olympians and Artemis Fowl, I Fail at the Afterlife is a fun and easy read to pick up as your next book!

5 Reasons You Should Read “The Lightning Thief”

a non-spoiler review

Percy Jackson and the Olympians has been my favorite book series for as long as I can remember. I’ve read the first book so many times that I can’t even keep count. This year, I’m starting a series I’d like to call the “Riordan Re-Read Reviews”, where I read and review every book in the Riordan-verse, and there’s no better place to start, than the book that started it all.

#1. The television show is coming out soon.

While there is no set release date, the filming for the Percy Jackson television series wraps up any day now. If you’re at all interested in watching the television show, you may want to read the book first! Unlike the (rather poor, in my opinion) movie adaptation, Percy Jackson author Rick Riordan penned the script for the television series, I have high hopes for the quality and accuracy of the series. You can even read the book after watching the series, if you don’t want to be spoiled! Season one should follow book one, so their isn’t much you’ll have to catch up on!

#2. A modern take on mythology.

For lovers of Greek mythology, this book series is for you, especially if you’re a fan of either urban fantasy or magical realism. In the Percy Jackson series, the Greek gods are real, and they live in the United States. Monsters hide from mortals in plain sight, and Poseidon wears Hawaiian shirts. Most Greek myths are only seen in the context of ancient Greece, but this series brings us to the modern day in early 2000’s New York.

#3. Great for kids and older readers alike.

I read this book for the first time when I was around elementary school aged, and re-read it again at almost 25 years old. It had aged incredibly well, while also being entertainment both times I read it. As a child, it ignited my interest in both Greek mythology and reading. For adults reading it for the first time, it can awaken a sense of childhood wonder and joy that can be fun to rediscover. For adults who loved it as a child, the strong nostalgia makes you want to read it again and again.

#4. Filled with humor.

The Percy Jackson series is filled with humor. Percy himself is dry and sassy, Annabeth is sarcastic, and Grover, to pick a made-up word, adorkable. But it’s not just the characters that are funny, the prose itself carries humor throughout the entire book. For example, the first chapter is titled, “I Accidentally Vaporize My Pre-Algebra Teacher”. How fun is that? That same energy carries through the entire series, and keeps the book lighthearted, even in it’s more serious and emotional moments.

#5. It’s the beginning of a great journey.

The Lightning Thief is book one of five (six now with the announcement of The Chalice of the Gods) in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, which is expanded upon in many other series. The following book series follow other Greek demigods, and then expand into the Egyptian, Norse, and Roman pantheons. There are also multiple spin-offs, guides, and cross-overs. This creates a rich world of interweaving characters and stories that all start with Percy Jackson in The Lightning Thief.

To Keep In Mind

The Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, and specifically The Lightning Thief came out in 2006, so much of the humor and references should be read with that context in mind. It was also written with a middle-grade audience in mind, so keep an open mind and use your suspension of disbelief, it is a fantasy after all!

Happy reading!

Camp NaNoWriMo July 2022 is here!

Can you believe it’s that time of year again already? It feels like just last week we were wrapping up the April session, and now it is time for camp once again.

For the next 30 days, I will be embarking on a journey to write 50,000 words and finish my novel. I will be continuing my novel “Uncover the Truth” (a tale of murder, mystery, and the loyalty and love of sisters), which I worked on during the April session. I am closer than ever to finishing, and I’m hoping that this session will finally push me to completion.

I love writing, but I always struggle with motivation, and not being overwhelmed by how much I have to do. But NaNo has always been my saving grace, a way for me to power through and write.

Will you be attempting NaNo this camp session? If so, what is your story about? I wish you all the best of luck in the month to come. Happy writing!

Antonius and the Zodiacs by Dahlia Ornelas – Review

Non-Spoiler Section

Summary from GoodReads: “Okwu, the outcast by association. Always less, and nothing more. It’s the only way Kiyoa Apuzzo is known on the Temples, and it’s all his brother’s fault. He’s about to make his debut as the BookKeeper’s apprentice, a powerful position that could rewrite his destiny. But it all goes wrong when his brother makes an unexpected visit.

Steal the Book of Sky Diamonds and I’ll make you a hero. It’s an offer Antonius ‘Naias’ Apuzzo can’t refuse, especially when there’s nothing he wants more than to be a hero. After ten years of banishment, Antonius returns home to the Temples to fulfill the Patron’s request and steals the book whose magic the Temples rely on. In his attempt, the Book’s magic is unleashed, casting the world into destruction.

Before their world is torn apart, Kiyoa and Antonius have no choice but to work together to restore the sacred Book, a quest where they’ll learn what it means to be heroes, but also brothers.”

The worldbuilding in this book is incredible. There are so many different places and people to explain, but it does it in a way that is very easy to understand, and doesn’t feel forced or awkward. Usually, with books like these, where the author has to explain everything about the world, it can feel like an overbearing infodump. However, how this book explains the world is so smart. The book begins during the Night of Stars festival, where the BookKeeper of the Book of Sky Diamonds, reads from the Book, as a sort of creation story is read. I think this is a wonderful way to do exposition. It felt incredibly natural.

One thing I love about this book is the character work. Our main character, Antonious (known from here on as “Naias”), is a joy to read. He’s brash, mischievous, emotionally turbulent, and so, so fun to watch. He’s an incredible choice for the main POV character and I loved reading about him. Naias is headstrong and brave, but above all, he is hopeful, earnest, and a survivor. Even after being cast out to the Below, all he wants is to be a Hero among the stars, to see his family again, to be accepted home.

Kiyoa, Naias’s brother is such an interesting character. I will talk more about him in the spoiler section of the review because one of my favorite things about the character is how he grows and changes as the story goes along. At first, I liked him, then I didn’t, and by the end, I was emotionally invested in him, and fond of him in a way I didn’t think I was going to near the beginning of the book.

When Naias steals the Book, and accidentally releases the Living Stories, Kiyoa is sent with Naias to fix the book. One of my favorite tropes/concepts is a broken family coming together for a common goal, and finding their love for each other again. I was excited that this seemed to be where this book was going.

Sometimes, you don’t know how much you have to say about something until you are actually trying to explain it to someone. This Father’s Day, my sister came home to celebrate with us, and while she was here, I decided to tell her about some of the work I’m doing lately, mainly, reading and reviewing this book. I thought I would just sort of explain the plot, but then I spent the next twenty minutes ranting and raving about the characters, the themes, and everything in between. I had opinions, and I needed to share them with her.

Above all, I really enjoyed this book, and would highly recommend it. To see my initial, immediate reaction to this book, read it on my GoodReads here.

At first, one of my complaints about the book was how easy it was for Naias to capture the Zodiacs, I had thought it was too easy for him. But then, once you understand that the Zodiacs want to help him, that they want to go back into the Book, it all makes a lot more sense. Of course, they just allow themselves to get sucked into the book, that’s where they need to be.

I took notes while reading this, and at one point, these were the notes I took on Naias, “I love Naias. He’s a little gremlin boy, and I think he should be allowed to kill more monsters, actually”. Now after having finished the book, I still feel the same. Whenever Naias would do something “bad”, I couldn’t bring myself to admonish him. I think that if you banish a nine-year-old to your version of literal Hell, I think he’s allowed to lash out, kill a rhino, and steal a magic book. One thing I really enjoyed about Naias, though, was how he grew up over the course of the book. Initially, all he wants is to be a hero. By the end, he didn’t care about being a Hero anymore, he could care less so long as he could save and be with his brother. His family was more important than any personal glory he could possibly get.

Kiyoa was such a struggle for me. At first, I thought I was going to like him, but then I just couldn’t get on board with him. His POV chapters were initially filled with anger at Naias, and thoughts of how annoying Naias was. Then, when Naias would say words wrong or use completely unrelated words, Kiyoa would correct him, but in a condescending way. I thought it was especially rude, seeing as how he knew that his little brother hadn’t been in school, but the Below for ten years. I couldn’t get on his side. And then when Leonis gives Kiyoa the iska to kill Naias with, I was so surprised and disheartened to see him actually pull the knife on Naias. It’s not until Kiyoa is trapped with Cypress that I begin to like Kiyoa. He shows more of his actual feelings about his brother, how he was hiding his sadness about losing him, through anger and resentment. It felt very real, and I liked that he was becoming honest with himself, and by extension, us. I love how hard he fought for his brother, and how he tried to protect him. By the end, his POV epilogue had me crying.

I thought Sal was such an interesting character. A Patron without any magic. But the first time we meet him, he eats Beasts?? How wild and, to me, magical. There was clearly something going on with Sal, getting possessed and being at odds with the Council of Divinities. I loved his relationship with Naias. So quickly they wanted to help each other, believed in each other and fought together. I really enjoyed how they interacted with each other. How, after they kissed, Naias blushed, and was confused with himself. It was fun, and I loved how it played out. I really wished that after Naias and Sal had been separated, they had been able to reunite. I wanted to know what became of him. Did he get his magic, did he become a proper Patron? I need to know! 

The ending devastated me. I will admit I cried throughout the entire epilogue. I definitely didn’t think that Naias was going to die at the end, but it also didn’t feel like it came out of nowhere. Right before the big finale fight, Naias starts talking about sacrifice, and how he’s not afraid to die. Then, he’s given the iska, which we’ve already seen. We know how devastating it is, how the purpose of its inclusion initially was to kill Naias. It’s almost poetic. But it also made me very sad. Lately, I’ve been consuming content that I know has a happy ending, everyone lives and falls in love, that sort of thing. But this book I came into completely blind, and it reminded me of how cathartic it can be to cry and really sit in your emotions.

I thought this book was absolutely wonderful. And despite my already owning a digital copy, I’ve already ordered the paperback.

Camp NaNoWriMo April 2022 – Retrospective

April is over and with it this year’s Camp NaNo. How did everyone do? Did you win? Did you finish an entire book? I’ll be honest, I didn’t do any of those things. I didn’t hit the word count, I didn’t win the challenge, and I certainly didn’t finish my book.

But what I did do, I think was almost more important. For thirty days, I wrote every single day. Sometimes I wrote 2,000 words, sometimes I wrote 50 words at 11:30, but that was still 50 words I didn’t have before. I made progress. I crossed off finished chapters. I found plot holes and fixed them, I found subplots I didn’t know I had and expanded upon them. For so long, I had felt stuck in my book. I felt as if I was never going to finish it, and that there was no point in even trying. And then, I reached the point where I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. This was a book that I could finish. And if I kept up my earlier pace, if I continued to write every day, I could finish it soon.

I had never felt that way before about a project of original fiction. I had always assumed that I would never be able to finish anything, but with the help of this session of Camp NaNo, I feel better about my skills and abilities than I have in years. And I hope that this session has done the same for you.

So, did you win the challenge? Did you finish your book? Or did you win something even greater? Because I sure did.

Camp NaNo 2022 is here!

Camp NaNo is starting today, who’s ready! By the time this is posted, us writers will be halfway through the day, writing our fingers off. How exciting! How nerve-wracking! But that’s part of the fun!

I’ve been participating in NaNoWriMo since before the regular and Camp sites merged, it feels like I’ve always been doing it. And I’ve never really finished it (it haunts me, really). But this year, I’m determined. Last year during NaNo, I started a mystery novel that I’m so far really proud of. I’ve got around 23K words already written, I’m practically halfway there! This session, I’m determined to finish, I’ve got the entire thing outlined, and I know how I want it to go, I just need to get it written. This is my year!

My novel, tentatively titled “Uncover the Truth”, tells the story of a younger sister gone missing, and an older sister who takes the search into her own hands. It’s the story of sisterly love, and the lengths family will go to to find them again. The characters have become so near and dear to my heart, and I can’t wait to tell their story to the world.

Are you going to participate in Camp NaNo? What’s your story about? Whatever it is, good luck to you! You can do it!

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams – Review

When I started to read Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, I wasn’t quite sure what I was getting into. I knew it was going to be funny, and I considered it a “classic”, so I decided to bite the bullet and just read it. What follows is a spoiler-free, rather short review. For the people who have read it, they will understand what I’m talking about, and for people who haven’t read it, it serves as a recommendation to a book I really enjoyed.

And I really enjoyed it. There were multiple times when I actually laughed out loud. It was wacky and absurd and didn’t take itself too seriously. The sci-fi elements didn’t really try to explain themselves, make the science “work”, they just said whatever they wanted and expected you to go along for the ride. And I was glad, too.

The characters were fun and interesting, you can tell that they’re not all they appear to be. At first, that was going to be a negative. I wanted to know more about them, to see where they were going to go in the future. And when I was still under the impression that this was a standalone novel, I was upset that I wasn’t going to be able to continue their journey with them. But when I realized there were many more books in the series, it quickly became a positive!

This book is perfect for those who want an easy read, a fun book they can laugh at and not have to take too seriously. It’s a book that many people have read, a classic of the genre. And for people who want to finally start reading classics, this is a great starting point. The language is simple, the plot isn’t too complex, and the characters are charming.

If you would like to see my immediate thoughts post-reading, you can find them on my Goodreads here:

The Ivory Key by Akshaya Raman – Review

Non-Spoiler Review

                “The Ivory Key” is described as “a traditional YA tale of vanishing magic and the princess who must bring it back” (Akshaya Raman). One of my favorite tropes in fiction is that of “found family”, but there’s something so charming, special, and meaningful about stories where families come back together and find the love for each other that they had lost. “The Ivory Key” is the story of four siblings, all on their own paths in life, wanting different things, and willing to hurt the others to get it. In this book, there is magic, secret societies, dangerous secrets, puzzles and riddles, and political intrigue.

                Vira is the maharani, the Queen of Ashoka whose kingdom is running out of magic and on the brink of war. Ronak is her twin brother who shirks his responsibilities and sells priceless artifacts to shady people to try and escape Ashoka. Kaleb is their older half-brother, imprisoned for the death of their mother by Vira, even though he continues to proclaim his innocence, and there was never any real evidence against them. Riya is the youngest sibling, who ran away before their mother died and joined a rebel group called the Ravens, desperate to prove herself as one of them. The relationships between them are fraught. Vira and Ronak are distant at best, hostile at worst. Vira literally imprisoned Kaleb and Riya was pronounced dead when she left. The only semi-good relationship is between Ronak and Kaleb. Ronak is trying to break Kaleb out and escape with him and is the only person who actually visits Kaleb in his cell. But even that relationship is slightly sour, as Kaleb has no hope to escape, and the thought of it makes him snappy and depressed. Watching how their relationship progressed throughout the entire story, despite the political and adventure elements, was definitely the driving force of this book.

                One thing I especially loved about this book was the worldbuilding. The world is very clearly inspired by India, which was a new location for me to read about, as many of the books I read aren’t based in India. The culture of the kingdom was so vivid, every passage is chock full of culture, from the language to the clothing, to the food. While it might not have stood out to a majority of readers, since the book isn’t focused on romantic relationships, I did really enjoy how queer characters are treated. As early as page fourteen there is mention of a female character flirting with girls, and it’s so offhand that it shows that queer relationships are completely normalized in this universe. If it had been just that one time, it could be written off as an accepting friend group, but it happens again where a male character is told he could “settle down with a nice boy” (paraphrasing, of course). And it keeps happening, the queer characters just living their lives in the background of the story, it’s not the main focus, it doesn’t have anything to do with the plot, they are just people living their lives, and they happen to be queer.

                I would recommend this book to anyone who likes stories about found family, fantasy adventure, and reconciliation. Despite the fact that these characters are actually related, it feels like found family. This book is good for anyone that wants to read a new take on the classic YA fantasy.

Spoiler Review

                I’ll be completely honest I did not see the betrayal coming. But to be fair, I don’t think any of us did. And isn’t that the true essence of a betrayal? As soon as I read it, I audibly gasped. This was the man that had told Vira that he could trust her, that he would always be there to protect her? It felt like a punch to the gut. The saving grace was that Riya had managed to make a copy of the Ivory Key, and they hadn’t lost everything in the betrayal. Despite what he did, I can’t help but think that maybe Amrit hasn’t actually betrayed him. I want to think that he is still on their side, that he actually loved Vira. That he’s just pretending to betray them, and he has a secret plan to continue helping them. But as of right now, the betrayal hurts.

                Something I enjoyed about the worldbuilding that we learn later on in the story, is more about how the magic works. Something that not even the characters in the book knew about. I think it’s so interesting that for so long in the book, magic is a tangible substance that you work with, and mold into different items. This is so different from how so many books use magic. But then near the end, we learn that magic had initially been something that people could do, a part of the people that they could control at will. Learning the (admittedly little) history about it was fascinating. While I don’t really understand how it works, I don’t really need to, it’s just interesting in general.

                Kaleb deciding to stay and become a sort of secret agent at the end is such an interesting thought. I had expected the siblings to stay together, but this gives Kaleb as a character some agency that I felt he didn’t really have before. It felt like everyone was making choices, except for him. Sure, he chose to help Vira figure out the riddle, but was that really a choice for him? He practically had to. By choosing to stay behind, he is finally taking control of his destiny in a way he hadn’t been able to before.