My Week with Darby K.: Griffin’s Fire (Book Two: Fire/Griffin #2): Review

Title: Griffin's Fire (Book Two: Fire/Griffin #2) Author: Darby Karchut Format: Paperback, 200 pages Published: April 15, 2012 by Twilight Times Books  ISBN:  1606192124 (ISBN13: 9781606192122) Edition language: English Series: Griffin #2
Title: Griffin’s Fire (Book Two: Fire/Griffin #2)
Author: Darby Karchut
Format: Paperback, 200 pages
Published: April 15, 2012 by Twilight Times Books
ISBN: 1606192124 (ISBN13: 9781606192122)
Edition language: English
Series: Griffin #2

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Synopsis:

For centuries, there have been rumors about a lowly caste of supernatural beings known as the Terrae Angeli. Armed with the power to control Earth, Fire, Wind and Water, these warriors and their apprentices clandestinely serve as guardians for humans in danger.
Forced to become mortal, ex-teen angel Griffin has been banished from the Terrae Angeli. Struggling to adjust, he enrolls in the heaven-and-hell known as high school. In spite of his friends’ support, Centennial High proves to be a battleground, complete with a malicious math teacher.
And to make matters worse, his Mentor, Basil, has been ordered to take on a new apprentice, the gifted and egotistical seventeen-year-old Sergei, whose covert attacks make Griffin’s home life as bleak as a Siberian winter.
Caught between school, Sergei, and a desperate secret, Griffin is certain of one thing: the only way to fight a Cold War is with Fire.

Source: Darby K. for a fair and honest review

My Rating: 5/5 stars

My Review:

At the end of 2011, my bloggy boss asked me to put together a list of the best reads of the year. On that list was Darby Karchut’s Griffin Rising, and this year, book two in the on-going series will make the list! Griffin’s Fire is an exciting and somewhat tragic read that I absolutely could NOT put down.

Griffin’s Fire opens with a very angry and depressed Griffin, who has had his angelic powers stripped and is now facing life as a mere mortal. Sadly enough, this is not the only trial Griffin is facing. He’s also challenged with high school and algebra, a new Tiro Sergei
moving into the house, and a girlfriend who is absolutely stoked about Griffin’s new mortal status. Too bad Griffin isn’t as stoked. (HA – stoked, fire!)  A delightful and extremely patient Basil tries his hardest to help Griffin adjust to his new reality, but the road is long and arduous, and Griffin is quite resistant to change. Griffin does his best to fit in at school, but trouble seems to follow the poor kid, and incident after incident (and detentions) piles up. The hits just keep on coming at home, too: Sergei is an arrogant butthole, and Griffin is forced to sit on the side lines while Basil and the butthole go out on mission after mission. For Griffin, the future is little more than a bleak existence, with his only hope coming from his intense desire to somehow, someway, and despite all the odds, earn back his angelic abilities.

The greatest strength of this book is its characters! Karchut literally had me sighing at each of the incidents in which Griffin found himself
involved, hating the new Tiro and Nicopolis (oh yes, he’s back!), wanting to thump Basil on the head for not paying enough attention to Griffin, and wanting to slap Katie for being selfish, even if it is only in her diary. Additionally, the key moment in the book when everything changes for everyone had me obnoxiously cheering out loud, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. Karchut has a knack for creating substantial characters in whom the reader can become absolutely invested. When you place these kinds of characters into a roller coaster plot, everything just gets better. Karchut has done just that. The plot line for this book is a fast-paced roller coaster ride and believe me, you will
gladly strap yourself in and hold on for the ride. It’s OK if you squeal a little as well; roller coasters have been known to cause such behavior.

The Bottom Line: book one of this series was so good that I was afraid book two would not be able to live up to the high standards set by book one. (Do I really need to make an Alanis Morissette “Jagged Little Pill” reference here?) I needn’t have worried, as I am beyond impressed with book two! Karchut delivers once again with a smooth, exhilarating, and wild ride that has the reader hooked from the beginning. The plot, the characters, the writing, the pace, everything about this book is top notch. Overall, the series is perfectly appropriate for young adult readers, but I would encourage adult readers not to overlook this series because of its young adult classification. I highly
recommend this book and its predecessor to anyone looking for, quite simply, a fantastic read.
Next up in the series is Griffin’s Storm: Book 3: Water.

Darby K.About the author and where to find her:

Darby Karchut is an award-winning author, teacher, and a compulsive dawn greeter. She lives in Colorado with her husband and owns more backpacks than purses. As she should.
Her YA books include GRIFFIN RISING (2012 Children’s Literary Awards Gold Medal, 2011 Sharp Writ YA Book of the Year), GRIFFIN’S FIRE (2011 Readers Favorite Bronze Medal for YA Fantasy), and GRIFFIN’S STORM (November 2012).  Her debut Middle Grade novel, FINN FINNEGAN (Spencer Hill Press) will be released March 2013. The next book in the Finnegan series, GIDEON’S SPEAR (Spencer Hill Press) will be released February 2014.
She has also co-authored a non-fiction book for teens entitled MONEY AND TEENS with her husband, author Wes Karchut.
Visit the author at her website:   www.darbykarchut.com

Want to check out/buy the Griffin series?

Goodreads:     Book #1     Book #2     Book #3

Amazon     Barnes & Noble

My Week with Darby K.: How I Became a Writer, Part One

Darby K.About the author and where to find her:

Darby Karchut is an award-winning author, teacher, and a compulsive dawn greeter. She lives in Colorado with her husband and owns more backpacks than purses. As she should. Her YA books include GRIFFIN RISING (2012 Children’s Literary Awards Gold Medal, 2011 Sharp Writ YA Book of the Year), GRIFFIN’S FIRE (2011 Readers Favorite Bronze Medal for YA Fantasy), and GRIFFIN’S STORM (November 2012).  Her debut Middle Grade novel, FINN FINNEGAN (Spencer Hill Press) will be released March 2013. The next book in the Finnegan series, GIDEON’S SPEAR (Spencer Hill Press) will be released February 2014. She has also co-authored a non-fiction book for teens entitled MONEY AND TEENS with her husband, author Wes Karchut. Visit the author at her website:   www.darbykarchut.com

How I Became A Writer

Part One

One day, the idea of writing my own story, with my own characters, ambushed me while I was running in the foothills near my house. A story about a young hero rising above a brutal past with the help of others along the way, with whiffs of fantasy and history and philosophy and even a love story. Maybe something with … with … with angels.

Man, I really should have run faster.

For I already had a career. I taught, and still teach, social studies at a junior high school, and during the summers, my husband and I have been building a modest cabin in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. A full life. A happy life. A life with some bloody down time!

But the idea of writing my own story would not die. I kept thinking about writing a book. Which is all good and well, except for one problem.

I had never written anything like a book.

I had never written a short story.

I had never written creative fiction (except a few pieces of fan fiction)

I had never written a song or an epitaph or a poem.

Nothing. Nada. Zippo.

I had no idea what I was doing.

Now don’t misunderstand me. All my life, I have consumed books. I have read hundreds of books, thousands of books. Mostly fantasy, but also historical fiction, chick lit, biographies, world history, philosophy, science fiction, and young adult books. A metric ton of young adult books.

If my home library was a continent, it would be Asia.

It was similar to having an eating disorder. There’s an old saying among writers: you read and you read, and then one day you throw up a book. So to purge myself, I decided to write one, too. About a troubled teen angel named Griffin, and his steadfast father-mentor, Basil.

Because my life was getting just too easy and laid back.

Damn Calvinistic streak.

As I wrote my first book, I did everything wrong. I had two characters, but no plot. No plot as no beginning, no middle and certainly no ending. It was like building a house on an empty lot and starting out by purchasing a coffee table and an ice cream scooper.

But I took advantage of the Internet, my local Borders Bookstore, and other writers, and I learned and practiced the noble craft as I wrote. And rewrote. And rewrote. And rewrote.

Then I broke the rules to make the story better. Everything is about the Story.

Stupid Fate

As well known author, Toni Morrison, once said, “Write the book you want to read.”

Best advice ever for any author.

I think I toyed with the idea of writing a book for years, but only on a subconscious level. I was a child of J.R.R. Tolkien, Lloyd Alexander, C.S. Lewis, Madeline L’Engle, and many other classics, so I knew if I ever did write one, it would be a fantasy.

As I said at the beginning, I had never written a story before. Oh, I’ve written one master thesis, various reports, and a bazillion lesson plans, but I never created a tale, populated with good guys and bad guys having adventures. I did not like or dislike writing. To me, it was simply a means to other ends.

Then, one day in late June 2009, several months after posting my first fan fiction piece, I happened to re-read C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters. It is a curious little text in which he explains the basic tenets of Christianity through a series of letters between a senior devil and his apprentice. In the Introduction, Lewis briefly mentions that the opposite of devils are, of course, angels. Warrior angels. Butt-kicking angels. Not the poufy little cherubs that make me believe childhood obesity began during the Victorian era, but real soldiers of Heaven.

I liked the idea. Of celestial warriors. In fact, I found myself wishing Lewis or someone had written such a book. About an angel teaching and training his young apprentice while fulfilling their roles as guardians of humankind, but with an urban twist.

So, off to Poor Richard’s, my favorite local used bookstore, for such a book. Searching, searching, searching. Rats. Nothing.

However…

While digging around, careful not to get splinters from the plywood shelves, I came across a battered paperback on angelic lore from various cultures. And there it was. From the High Middle Ages in Europe came a description of a lower caste of angels said to control the four elements: earth, fire, wind, and water. Sounded like Jedi knights with halos.

I was hooked. Fate decided that I needed to write the book I was searching for.

Stupid Fate

But I didn’t want goody-goody angels. I even wrote, in huge letters across the top of my first page: “No Touched by An Angel allowed.” I wanted a down-to-earth type of angels who did the mundane, day-to-day guardianship stuff the other angels were too busy to take care of, with a strong emphasis on the delightful friction that occurs when the everyday rubs up against the supernatural.

And I knew the story must incorporate a master and apprentice, knight and squire, father and son type of relationship. The archetypical champion and his wise sage had intrigued me even before Joseph Campbell made me aware of the hero’s journey.

So I began writing what was to become my first book, Griffin Rising, that weekend; a tale about a young apprentice angel with serious self esteem issues and his coming of age under the tutelage of a larger-then-life mentor, interwoven with a charming love story between Griffin and the mortal girl next door.

And thus angst-ridden Griffin and noble Basil and sweet Katie and everyone else in the book started talking.

To me. In my head.

All the time.

Like children when you are trying to make a phone call.

Earth Angels

Since my angels (or as I sometimes referred to them after a long writing session, the boys) had both their feet on the ground (so to speak), I decided they should belong to sub-caste of angels, the very lowest of the lows. Terra Angeli: Latin for Earth Angels. Now the belief in angelic beings can be found in many of the world’s religions and I borrowed freely from Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism. My Prologue gave a nod to the early Christian writing The Celestial Hierarchy and with my background in anthropology, any and all world cultures were grist for my mill, to be sure.

For example, the Terra Angeli were inspired by classical Sparta, the Irish myths of Cuchulainne, Finn and the Red Branch, the European feudal system, the Plains Indians of North America, and Great Britain’s Royal Air Force during World War Two (and there’s a tip of the hat to Foyle’s War.)

The Four Months

For the next four months, I wrote and re-wrote the first few chapters a dozen times. I knew I wanted it to be a character driven book, but I soon realized my characters needed something to do, by golly! Or it would simply be one lengthy Seinfeld episode.

After wailing to my husband that my book was stagnating like three o’clock coffee at Starbuck’s, he dragged me off to the Holy of Holies.

Otherwise known as our local Borders Bookstore.

“Look,” he said, gesturing to an entire rack of how-to-write magazines. “You could read a few articles about plot. Have a cup of coffee while jotting down pointers, then put the magazine back and pick up another. Voila! Free education for the price of a latte.”

I naturally pitched a fit about “the experts” stifling my creativity and that Real Writers learn by struggling on their own (preferably in a quaint cottage overlooking a pastoral scene or deep in SoHo in a hip martini joint) and blah, blah, blah.

When I finished, he nodded like he understood, then said, “Yeah. Whatever,” grabbed the nearest magazine and headed for the cafe. Stumping after him, I imagined tripping him from behind and sending him face first into a rack of greeting cards. Too bad he’s agile.

After ordering our coffees, we found a table by the window (because a view of a parking lot is always so motivational) and I opened the magazine to the table of contents. Okay. There was an article about how to outline the plot of your novel. And it didn’t seem too long. I even knew and respected this particular author. Fine, I thought. I’ll read the damn thing. But don’t expect me to follow her advice. I’m not some lemming jostling for a front row position.

You know. That whole creative-stifling thing.

But, by golly, there were some rock solid, down to earth, kind-of-obvious-if-you-bothered-to-pull-your-stubborn-head-out-of-your-butt ideas that made sense. And the author even added a caveat at the end declaring that any advice should always be taken cautiously. Find your way of planning or outlining or story boarding or whatever. Any method works as long as it works for you.

I HATE it when my husband is right.

I started going to Borders at least once a week. And I read every writer’s magazine, devoured every article. And I started seeing a pattern. Author after author, editor after editor, agent after agent kept repeating the same things: compelling plot, strong characters, crisp dialogue and find your voice.

And I began to develop a writing process. I would write a few chapters, then stop and study the craft of writing. Then I’d go back and re-write them. Then plow ahead a few more chapters and repeat. I wasted a lot of time, but it was perfect just-in-time learning for me. I would study another rule or technique, and apply it immediately. Not just practice it on a short story, but put it to use on the book I was passionate about.

This process quickly morphed into reading every blog, every website, every e-article about the art and craft of writing fiction. Learn, learn, learn. Apply, apply, apply. Fall asleep thinking about the book, the characters whispering in my ears like creepy little stalkers.

All this while teaching junior high school full time. Talk about incredible field research for a young adult author! I would stand around and soak up teenage dialogue, often making notes on my hand if paper wasn’t available.

Luckily, I had a friend, another faculty member at my school, who read one of my earliest rough drafts. She was always gracious about my pulling her to one side between classes to ask her opinion, although she looked a bit worried when I asked her, very earnestly, one day: “Do you think Griffin would wear a pink polo shirt?” (Griffin, of course, being my sixteen year old protagonist.)

At least I didn’t ask the boxers versus briefs question. That would have been awkward.

Along the Way and Away

The magic of writing is that some days I wrote the story, and a lot of days, I simply took dictation while the characters lived out their lives for me. My subconscious came up with scenes I would never have conceived of, even on my best days. Those were wonderful days.

Known to writers as The Flow. It would be my drink of choice if we could ever bottle it.

Then there were days when every word written was covered in blood and spit. I would struggle with a sentence, a scene, a character, heck, a comma! But those were muscle building days. When I was literally clubbing my book to work; when I fought to use every little trick and skill I had recently picked up. Smashing the craft into my brain and then out onto my work.

Writing is gut-busting, molar-grinding hard work.

And, oh, so sweetly satisfying when it goes well.

Obsessive does not even begin to describe my behavior during those months. Thank goodness, my husband, who is an award winning artist, understood the creative drive. But I had to learn to balance my career and my family while writing. For the sake of my marriage as well as my sanity. (Writing is a marathon, not a sprint. The best advice I can give anyone attempting to write a book: turn off the television. It’s all drivel anyway and you might as well be working.)

So I trained myself to write whenever I had a fifteen minute block of time (or longer). Even if it was just a few sentences. Lunch time, after school, during the evening, every weekend. I wrote and I wrote and I wrote.

And I found the more I wrote, the better I got at it.

Well, duh. You think?

One “trick” I learned was to stop just short of saturation for the day. I would stop in the middle of an action scene or during an emotional exchange. That way, I would come back fresh and eager knowing exactly what I was going to work on in the next session. This got me warmed up and gave me a quicker start out of the gate.

Another useful bit of advice I followed was to get a beta reader. A person who would read your work and give your feedback. I did so after a few months and holy cow, was that scary! What if I really did suck? Oops. Sorry. I mean inhale deeply. I had to develop a thick skin and fast.

But I so fortunate to retain my mother as my beta reader. As a retired school teacher, she had the background and time to critically read each chapter as I went along, pointing out weaknesses in the plot as well as discrepancies in the characters. But, being my mother and I, her favorite child, (no matter how much my siblings protest) she was also fantastic at pointing out what was working well. For me, a balanced viewpoint was critical at this stage in my career because I was always looking at what was wrong with my story. And I needed to know what I was doing right so I could repeat it.

Day after day, word after word, I plodded along, until I reached the infamous middle of the book. The nemesis of so many good writers. I had been dreading this moment. After reading about writers giving up at this point in their book, I was mentally prepared to slam into the Wall.

Maybe I was geared up. Or lucky. Or maybe all that advice from other authors helped, but whatever it was, I hit the middle of my book, lowered my head and battered my way to the two-thirds section. Came up for air and looked around.

And that’s when I knew.

I was going to finish my first book. The plot was slowly tightening up, dialogue was flowing like the Colorado River during the spring melt, and I even knew how Griffin Rising was going to end. The adrenaline took over and I sprinted toward the finish line.

Stay tuned for part two of How I Became a Writer by Darby K. on Thursday, February 14, 2013

In the meantime: Want to check out/buy some of Darby K.’s books?

The Griffin Series on Goodreads:     Book #1     Book #2     Book #3

Finn Finnegan: Book One of the Adventures of Finn MacCullen on Goodreads

Amazon     Barnes & Noble


My Week with Darby K.: Griffin Rising (Book One: Earth/Griffin #1): Review

Title: Griffin Rising (Book One: Earth/Griffin #1) Author: Darby Karchut Format: Paperback, 176 pages Published:  June 15, 2011 by Paladin Timeless Books (first published April 14, 2011)  ISBN:  1606192108 (ISBN13: 9781606192108) Edition language: English Series: Griffin #1 Literary awards: Winner-2011 Readers Favorite Awards (Honorable Mention) (2011), Winner-2011 Sharp Writ Book Award YA Book of the Year (2011), Gold Medal-2012 Literary Classics Award for Fantasy Novel (2012)
Title: Griffin Rising (Book One: Earth/Griffin #1)
Author: Darby Karchut
Format: Paperback, 176 pages
Published: June 15, 2011 by Paladin Timeless Books (first published April 14, 2011)
ISBN: 1606192108 (ISBN13: 9781606192108)
Edition language: English
Series: Griffin #1
Literary awards: Winner-2011 Readers Favorite Awards (Honorable Mention) (2011), Winner-2011 Sharp Writ Book Award YA Book of the Year (2011), Gold Medal-2012 Literary Classics Award for Fantasy Novel (2012)

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Synopsis:

For centuries, rumors have abounded of a lowly caste of supernatural beings known as the Terrae Angeli. Armed with the power to control Earth, Fire, Wind, and Water, these warriors secretly serve as guardians for mortals in danger.But for one young angel-in-training, Griffin, life is hell as a cruel master makes his apprenticeship a nightmare. On the verge of failing, a new mentor, Basil, enters his life and changes it forever.Taking on the identity of father and son, Griffin and Basil forge a special bond where honesty and trust go hand in hand to secure Griffin’s destiny as a Terrae Angeli. Griffin’s belief in himself and the love of a mortal girl are the perfect combination in overcoming the darkest days of his life. But will it be enough for him to succeed?For Griffin, it’s time to angel up.

Source: Darby K. for a fair and honest review

My Rating: 5/5 stars

My Review:

Holy crap, Batman!  I don’t know where Darby Karchut has been (actually I do, I read the author info) but I can tell you, she is a welcome addition to the world of young adult writing!  Her first-in-a-series novel Griffin Rising was a fantastic read that had me hooked at page one of the prologue.

Griffin Rising is a novel that follows Griffin (DUH!), a young Tiro or apprentice who is learning the skills necessary to serve the world as a Terrae Angeli or guardian angel.  This particular caste of angels is completely earthbound and often blends into society at large which allows them to better perform their jobs.  For the most part, the guardians look just like other humans but unlike the humans they protect, they have a unique skill set which requires training and years of practice to master.  Griffin Rising traces Griffin’s life and training with his mentor Basil, a lovely British Terrae Angeli who comes to love Griffin as if he were his own.  When Basil first encounters Griffin he finds a thirteen year old boy who has been abused by his first mentor, Nicopolis; Griffin is scared and virtually untrained despite his innate ability to control both earth and fire.

Rather than bogging the reader down in the minutiae of the training years, Karchut advances the story three full years following the meeting of Basil and Griffin.  At this point, Griffin is sixteen, a funny and talented apprentice who is able to fully participate in rescue missions alongside Basil, and totally smitten with Katie, the girl across the street.  It is in these aspects that the reader will find one of the novel’s greatest strengths: characters that are real and completely accessible to readers of all ages.  Karchut establishes early on that the Terrae Angeli must blend into the human world.  To support this she had to create characters that the reader could understand and fully relate too.  Mission accomplished!   Throughout the book there is humor, witty conversation, moments of anger, anguish and tension, as well as moments of fun and pure joy – all emotions that the reader can certainly identify with.  Add to this the complete and utter likability of Griffin, Basil, Katie, and her parents and you have a wonderful cast of fully developed characters whose story you eagerly follow.

Rest assured dear reader there is drama aplenty in Griffin Rising as well.  All Terrae Angeli apprentices must, at the end of their three year training period endure a wicked and awful test known as the Proelium.  Unfortunately during the performance of his Proelium, Griffin’s tortured past comes back to haunt him in the form of Nicopolis.  Oh Nicopolis, how I hate you!!  This is yet another of the book’s great strengths, the level to which you find yourself actually hating a character.  Thank you Darby Karchut for making me wish evil, awful, and vile things to happen to a guardian angel – I feel so good about myself now J

The Bottom Line: At the end of the day, Griffin Rising is an excellent book by an exciting new author in the young adult world.  Take the time to read the information following the end of the novel: you will find that Karchut is an extremely well-educated writer who thoroughly researched her topic before setting pen to paper.  Her research and preparation has paid off!  Griffin Rising is an extremely well written first novel with strong characters (both likeable and not) an intriguing plot, and the potential to be an outstanding series.

Darby K.  About the author and where to find her:

Darby Karchut is an award-winning author, teacher, and a compulsive dawn greeter. She lives in Colorado with her husband and owns more backpacks than purses. As she should.
Her YA books include GRIFFIN RISING (2012 Children’s Literary Awards Gold Medal, 2011 Sharp Writ YA Book of the Year), GRIFFIN’S FIRE (2011 Readers Favorite Bronze Medal for YA Fantasy), and GRIFFIN’S STORM (November 2012).  Her debut Middle Grade novel, FINN FINNEGAN (Spencer Hill Press) will be released March 2013. The next book in the Finnegan series, GIDEON’S SPEAR (Spencer Hill Press) will be released February 2014.
She has also co-authored a non-fiction book for teens entitled MONEY AND TEENS with her husband, author Wes Karchut.
Visit the author at her website:   www.darbykarchut.com

Want to check out/buy the Griffin series?

Goodreads:     Book #1     Book #2     Book #3

Amazon     Barnes & Noble

Heart’s Storm by Julia Sherman: Excerpt and Giveaway

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Hi!  Welcome to my stop in the AToMR Tours-sponsored stop on the Heart’s Storm tour.  Today I have an excerpt and giveaway for and should you like to follow the rest of the tour (and we would be all kinds of excited if you do!) just click here.

CoverSynopsis:

Elizabeth Shulman, a twenty-seven-year-old Russian Jewish immigrant, would like nothing better than not to die a corporate accountant working at a Fortune 100 company. She wants to walk away from the corporate rat-race, but…she’s still holding onto the painful memories from her poor past—from the days her family came to America with nothing so that their children could have a free life.

 But soon one day’s event turns Elizabeth’s world upside down and inside out. With her bubble burst, Elizabeth decides to take the first step, quit her job. However, her bullying boss from HELL offers her a promotion and a big raise. But there’s a hitch. She must also agree to do pro bono work to bolster the company’s image. Her pro bono assignment: tutor unprivileged kids in a Southwest Chicago elementary school. And there, in school, her life begins to change when she gets a peek at a different type of world from her own.

 Heart’s Storm is a bitter-sweet romantic comedy about love and career, family and friends, immigration and hardships, betrayal and forgiveness, and the promise of the American dream.

Excerpt from Heart’s Storm:

I was ready to cross, but the light has turned to red, so I stopped to wait for it to change. I glanced up and down the sidewalk and across the street, where pedestrians were rushing back and forth.

Rushing pedestrians. Back and forth, back and forth, there, there they went: click, click, click. I could hear their heels on the pavement, trying to conquer the beast, rush against time in the city, where the shushing echo bounced from building to building, from ear to ear; “time is money,” it screamed; a substance that doesn’t grow on trees; a substance that everyone wants; and yet, I sighed deeply, a substance that you can’t take to your grave. Click. Click. Click. So why rush so fast then?

For a second I stood on the sidewalk just watching the pedestrians, and then in my mind I saw myself take off and sprint into the crowd. There I go, there I go, clearly blending in with the rushing people, and running, running along as I always did everyday. Just like them, just like them. How I hate myself for doing that! There, there, I go! Where are we rushing like that? Can anyone please give me an answer to that?

Then something squeezed tightly inside me. There it was again, that sad, overwhelming, deep aching emptiness in my heart. It came on like a hurricane. How could this happen so fast?

A few moments ago, I was among people: I stood next to businessmen and women, a homeless bum, construction workers, young college kids, a few cops, and others townspeople, under the bright blue sky that hung low over the skyscrapers.  Everywhere I looked, people were wide awake, talking. They stood close and chatted in groups, or they stood apart and yelled, their voices echoing the streets. Not anymore. On the sidewalk I was standing utterly alone, staring now at the building across the street. What was inside the walls was pure futility. They are still here, people, and yet, I am all alone.

Stop it! It’s just a building. Not so. For five years, that was my whole life. It is still your whole life, isn’t it?

I craved something different, I needed meaning and purpose. I didn’t know what I needed.

I looked up in the sky, and said, in a voice louder than I intended, “Just so you know, I’m not going to be there for the rest of my life.”

My philosophy professor in college often talked about how life is a lot like puzzle. We can eventually make sense of it, if we could just hold all the pieces together at the same time. I haven’t gotten any further than that.

Press PhotoAbout the author and where to find her:

Julia was born in Minsk, Belarus. At the age of eleven, she immigrated with her family to the United States. She currently lives in Chicago, IL with her husband and their daughter, Arielle.  She graduated from DePaul University in 2002 with a B.A. in Accounting and Finance. She also has an MBA from DePaul University in Entrepreneurship. She studied Creative Writing with Jerry Cleaver at the Writer’s Loft, and with Susan Breen at NYC Pitch and Shop, among many others. Additionally, Julia was one of the staff writers for the Chicago Holocaust Project, “Evidence of Holocaust: Never Forget.”

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Thanks to Julie at AToMR Tours for organizing this tour 🙂

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Finn Finnegan (Book One of the Adventures of Finn MacCullen) by Darby Karchut: Review

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Holy cats!!!  Today I am honored to offer you my review of Darby Karchut’s Finn Finnegan: Book One of the Adventures of Finn MacCullen.  I have been reading and reviewing Darby’s books for a couple of years now and I can honestly say she is in my Top Five of favorite authors 🙂  She is also one of the coolest people I have ever met and I am proud to say she has become a friend as well as a favorite author.  I do hope you all will enjoy the review and I would like to thank both Darby and Kendra at Spencer Hill press for allowing me to participate in this tour!!  Yes, there is a tour 🙂

Title:  Author: Darby Karchut Format: Paperback, 200 pages Published: March 12, 2013 by Spencer Hill Press  ISBN:  1937053326 (ISBN13: 9781937053321)
Title: Finn Finnegan (Book One of the Adventures of Finn MacCullen)
Author: Darby Karchut
Format: Paperback, 200 pages
Published: March 12, 2013 by Spencer Hill Press
ISBN: 1937053326 (ISBN13: 9781937053321)

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Synopsis:

Finnegan MacCullen: a thirteen-year-old apprentice with the famous Irish temperament.
Gideon Lir: a legendary Celtic warrior with a bit of a temper of his own.
Secretly, these blue-collar warriors battle the hobgoblins infesting their suburban neighborhood…when they are not battling each other.
Finn (not bleedin’ Finnegan) MacCullen is eager to begin his apprenticeship. He soon discovers the ups and downs of hunting monsters in a suburban neighborhood under the demanding tutelage of the Knight, Gideon Lir. Both master and apprentice are descendents of the Tuatha De Danaan, a magical race of warriors from Ireland. Scattered long ago to the four corners of the world, the De Danaan wage a two thousand year old clandestine battle with their ancient enemy, the Amandán, a breed of goblin-like creatures.
Now with the beasts concentrating their attacks on Finn, he and his master must race to locate the lost Spear of the Tuatha De Danaan, the only weapon that can destroy the Amandán, all the while hiding his true identity from his new friends, Rafe and Savannah, twins whose South African roots may hold a key to Finn’s survival.
Armed with a bronze dagger, some ancient Celtic magic, and a hair-trigger temper, Finn is about to show his enemies the true meaning of “fighting Irish

Source: ARC from Darby K. for a fair and honest review

My Rating: 4½/5 stars

My Review:

Someday I am going to write a totally professional, eloquently crafted, non-gushy review.  Today is not that day so pull on your rain boots ‘cause I am about to gush all over the place about the beginning of a promising new series by one of my hands-down favorite authors, Darby Karchut.  Let the gushing begin . . .

Finn (not bleedin Finnegan!) MacCullen is a bit lost: both of his parents are dead; he is generally overlooked or just ignored in his aunt and uncle’s home; he is often teased for being a half-breed and; he is due to begin his apprenticeship to become a Knight of the Tuatha De Daanaan if he can just find the home of his new master.  See? Lost.

Because of his very nature, it doesn’t take Finn long to find the home of his master, Gideon Lir, a hulk of a man with a fabulous Irish accent, a wretched training schedule, and a heart of pure gold!  Gideon makes it clear to Finn from the beginning, their mission is deadly serious and the training to become a Knight of the Tuatha De Danaan is rigorous, intense, and absolutely necessary.  For Finn, this knowledge and Gideon’s house feels like home.  When not training, Gideon helps Finn understand the long and fascinating history of the Tuatha, their relationship to Ireland and why the Knights are still needed in this most modern period.  Finn soaks it all up like a skinny sponge and while he often complains (loudly!) about the rigors of training he still completes his tasks (mostly) and works hard (most of the time) to become a help rather than a hindrance in battle.  You see, the Knights are charged with exterminating the Amandán, a super-stinky race of creatures who want possession of Ireland just as badly as the Knights do.  The Amandán are fearless, mouthy, hard to disable and even harder to kill.  As the plot unfolds we find out just how truly smelly and hard to kill the Amandán really are as Finn and Gideon fight side-by-side to destroy their enemy.  During the fight scenes we see what Finn is made of: he is a fierce fighter with a loyal heart and some stunning anger management issues.  Though he has a lot still to learn about the fine art of fighting, Finn never gives up and does everything within his power to protect Gideon.

As with all of Darby K.’s books, Finn Finnegan is driven by its fully developed and highly realistic characters.  Despite being members of an ancient, noble, and mythic race, Finn and Gideon are still very much a part of the human world making them relatable to the reader.  Finn and Gideon are joined by a cast of minor characters including Mac Roth, a mighty beast of a Knight who is one of Gideon’s oldest and dearest friends and the twins Rafe and Savannah Steel who live across the street from Finn and Gideon.  While Gideon warns Finn it is unwise and generally forbidden for a Tuatha to mingle with mortals, Finn is drawn to the twins and often disobeys Gideon’s orders to stay away from the Steel kids.  Rafe and Savannah are delightful characters who are easy to like, much to Gideon’s great displeasure. 🙂  These characters are some of the most realistic I have encountered in the world of fiction.  Karchut writes such excellent descriptions, dialogue, and interactions that her characters no longer feel like creations of the imagination on a page but real people, friends even.  Even if the plot sucked (which it totally does not) I would come back to this series again and again to check in on the lives of these people!

The Bottom Line: Finn Finnegan is fresh new read dealing with Celtic myth and legend, a subject often sadly ignored in popular fiction.  The short-term plot is wrapped up nicely by novels’ end but we are left with a ton of unanswered questions.  For example: Why does Rufus Steel (the twins’ dad) behave in such a shady manner?  What’s up with the Steel twins?  Although I am not sure even they realize the full extent of it, the twins know more about Finn’s world than they are letting on.  What secrets from his past is Gideon hiding?  Who is Iona and why does Gideon not trust her?  Perhaps most importantly, is Finn really the weapon of legend that can bring an end to the Amandán?

While this book is marketed for a middle-grade audience I find this designation both limiting and ridiculous.  Finn Finnegan is a fine story with excellent characters and fascinating subject matter that can and will appeal to an audience far and wide from nearly every age group.  Stop thinking about it and buy this book now!!

Darby K.  About the author and where to find her:

Darby Karchut is an award-winning author, teacher, and a compulsive dawn greeter. She lives in Colorado with her husband and owns more backpacks than purses. As she should.
Her YA books include GRIFFIN RISING (2012 Children’s Literary Awards Gold Medal, 2011 Sharp Writ YA Book of the Year), GRIFFIN’S FIRE (2011 Readers Favorite Bronze Medal for YA Fantasy), and GRIFFIN’S STORM (November 2012).  Her debut Middle Grade novel, FINN FINNEGAN (Spencer Hill Press) will be released March 2013. The next book in the Finnegan series, GIDEON’S SPEAR (Spencer Hill Press) will be released February 2014.   She has also co-authored a non-fiction book for teens entitled MONEY AND TEENS with her husband, author Wes Karchut.

Visit Darby’s website:   www.darbykarchut.com

Want to pre-order your very own copy of Finn Finnegan: Book One of the Adventures of Finn?

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Altered (Academy Series Book One) by Aubrey Coletti: Character Profiles and Giveaways

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Hi everyone and welcome to my stop on the AToMR Tours-sponsored tour of Altered (Academy Series Book One) by Aubrey Coletti.  Today I am pleased to offer you the biographies of the people who occupy the Altered world and two giveaways.  If you would like to check out the rest of the stops on the tour, just click here.

Happy Saturday to you all 🙂

Book CoverSynopsis:

When Toni, Joseph and Charlie arrive at their new boarding school, they are glad to leave their families – and respective problems – behind. Isolated as boarders, they meet a handsome senior with a personality like iced snake’s blood, teachers with a penchant for physical punishment, and four other outcasts who reveal that their being brought to the Academy wasn’t random at all. When the arrivals discover that their new school is engaged in “behavior modification” through electric shocks, isolation, restraints, and an ever-evolving set of methods to “fix” them, they declare war on their Academy. During their campaign of sabotage, they fight, hate, scorn, love, and begin to uncover the reasons why they were brought to the school. But as their war against the school escalates beyond their control, will they become the very things the Academy believes they are: dangerous, delinquent – and mad?

Character Profiles:

Toni White: Sassy, smart, and down-to-earth, Toni is often the member of the group to pull everyone back together when they start to fall apart. But for all her confidence and quick tongue, she has her own den of insecurities and secrets, and her true feelings are often more conflicted than they appear.

Charlie Persan: Intelligent, delicate, strange and uncertain, Charlie fights the fight of a brilliant individual trapped within a broken mind. While her heart is usually in the right place, her head sometimes runs in the other direction, and while her perception of others is laser-like in its accuracy, her perception of herself can shift like sand.

Joseph Valdez: Sarcastic and artistic, Joseph uses humor and his razor sharp wit to protect himself. But his boiling temper is balanced by his depth, and he’s generally much stronger and more aware than others expect.

Annabelle Cost: Tough, rough, and sly, Ann is often more comfortable playing the role of the ‘bad girl’ than expressing her true feelings. But when her walls come down, she is willing to do anything to fight for the few people she truly cares about.

Amina “Lieutenant” Jackson: Laid-back, clever, and contained when in control, Lieutenant veers between the cool, capable adult she wants to be, and the out-of-hand wild woman who emerges when her manic-depression gains the upper hand.

Melvin Stavos: Defiant and dark, Melvin refuses to buckle under the weight of outside expectations. However, it is easier to fight against the world than within yourself, and Melvin’s own inner demons may be slowly getting the best of him…

Anthony “Anton” Levant: As mercurial as a thunderstorm, Anthony’s personality seems to change at the drop of a hat. The only certainty appears to be his loyalty to his friends.

Want to buy your own copy of Altered (Academy Series Book One)?

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Want to try and win your own copy of Altered (Academy Series Book One) Your in luck!  There are two giveaways open for this tour; just click in the ‘copter links below and good luck to you 🙂

Giveaway #1: US Only ~ one print and one eBook copy of Altered (Academy Series Book One) are up for grabs.  Rafflecopter #1

Giveaway #2: US/International ~ one eBook copy of Altered (Academy Series Book One) is up for grabs.  Rafflecopter #2

Last but certainly not least, thanks to Julie at AToMR Tours for organizing this tour.

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Cover Reveal & Giveaway: The Crescent Chronicles #3: Found by Alyssa Rose Ivy

Title: Found (The Crescent Chronicles, # 3)Author: Alyssa Rose IvyExpected release date:  Summer 2013Genre: Paranormal RomanceAge Group: New AdultCover Designer: Once Upon a Time Covers; http://www.onceuponatimecovers.com/
Title: Found (The Crescent Chronicles, # 3)
Author: Alyssa Rose Ivy
Expected release date: Summer 2013
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Age Group: New Adult
Cover Designer: Once Upon a Time Covers; http://www.onceuponatimecovers.com/

Synopsis: Levi might be hot, strong, and have a cool set of wings, but it’s not enough to make up for keeping Allie in the dark.

 Allie’s tired of being left with more questions than answers. She’s tired of loving a guy who refuses to level with her.  Most of all, she’s tired of her life spinning out of control.

 Desperate to save Jess no matter the personal cost, Allie has to face the possibility that the only one she can trust is herself.

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Alyssa Rose Ivy  About the author: Alyssa Rose Ivy is a Young Adult and New Adult author who loves to weave stories with romance and a southern setting. Although raised in the New York area, she fell in love with the South after moving to New Orleans for college. After years as a perpetual student, she turned back to her creative side and decided to write. She lives in North Carolina with her husband and two young children, and she can usually be found with a cup of coffee in her hand.

Giveaway: Along with the reveal of this gorgeous cover each blog has the option to give away ONE of Alyssa Rose Ivy’s eBooks.  The author will provide winners with a Smashwords coupon to receive the book.  RoloPoloBookBlog is opting to offer a giveaway for a single eBook copy of   The Crescent Chronicles #1: Flight.  Just click on the ‘copter link below and good luck 🙂

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Last but certainly not least, many thanks to Julie at AToMR Tours for organizing and hosting this cover reveal.

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