Category: Blog Tour

Blog Tour: #FridayReads, The Books that Got Me Into Shakespeare

SWheaderIt is true. The Jedi Doth Return. In a series that has broken all kinds of barriers since the first book released, William Shakespeare’s Star Wars is one of those literary phenomenons that cannot be missed. With the third book in the series releasing in just a few days on July 1st, Quirk Books asked if we’d like to have the author, Ian Doescher, on the blog to talk about Shakespeare himself.

I’m so thrilled to not only be a part of this blog tour for such a fantastic series but to also live in a time where these books actually exist. Stick around after the post and you can enter for a chance to win the first book in the series! Take it away, Ian!


When I was in eighth grade, my brother Erik (then a senior in high school) was studying Hamlet in his English class.  Like most younger brothers, I thought my older brother was pretty cool—though I never would have told him—so I bought a copy of Hamlet at a used bookstore on a family trip to the Oregon coast (shown here).  I think I found the “To be or not to be” speech and pretty quickly put the book aside.  But from that point forward I called myself a Shakespeare fan.

The next year, as a freshman, I read my first Shakespeare play when we studied Othello.  I did a lot of theater back then, and here was a play—meant to be performed!—that we were reading in English class.  When we had to memorize Othello’s “It is the cause” soliloquy from Act V, I was excited about the assignment and was the first to raise my hand to perform it in front of the class (yes, I was that guy).

My interest in Shakespeare snowballed from there.  Sophomore year we studied Julius Caesar, and I adapted it with the idea of performing it with some friends (it never happened).  That summer, Kenneth Branagh’s film version of Much Ado About Nothing came out, which I saw in the theater with my mom about ten times.  This tells you something about my interest in Shakespeare and my social life at the time.  Junior and senior years my interest in Shakespeare continued—I started seeing Shakespeare performed live in Portland, memorized some soliloquies just for fun, and started building my Shakespearean library.  After that first copy of Hamlet, the first three Shakespearean books I owned were The Friendly Shakespeare: A Thoroughly Painless Guide to the Best of the Bard by Norrie Epstein (still a personal favorite), Shakespeare A to Z: The Essential Reference to His Plays, His Poems, His Life and Times by Charles Boyce, and The Complete Works of Shakespeare.   (The summer after my junior year of high school, the movie Mr. Holland’s Opus was filmed at my high school, and I stalked Richard Dreyfuss to get him to sign my complete works.)  As a budding Shakespeare devotee, Kenneth Branagh’s book Beginning was significant—it’s not a book about Shakespeare, but about how he became an actor and, ultimately, how he made his debut with the Royal Shakespeare Company and his first film, Henry V.

In college, I would discover The Riverside Shakespeare—still the best complete works available—and the Arden Shakespeare series, which are the best individual versions of the plays.  (I’m proud to have Sir Patrick Stewart’s autograph on my copy of The Riverside Shakespeare.)  It was also while I was in college that Looking for Richard came out, Al Pacino’s performance of Richard III/documentary on the difficulties of the play itself.

Those were the books and films that led me to Shakespeare.  Today, I would add into that list Shakespeare: The Biography by Peter Ackroyd, Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human by Harold Bloom and Shakespeare: The World as Stage by Bill Bryson.  How about you?  What are your favorite editions of Shakespeare or books about the Bard?


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To keep up with the rest of the blog tour, CLICK HERE!

Blog Tour: Q/A with Anna Schumacher, author of End Times & Giveaway

End Times headerEnd TimesToday, I have the awesome privilege of having Anna Schumacher, author of the book End Times (Penguin Teen), on the blog today as part of the official blog tour! Oneof the questions I hear the most at book events or author panels is the very same question I asked Anna. Not because it’s an easy question to answer, but because it makes the author rethink what it took to get them to write a book and get published. You’ll hear many different answers to this very same question and that’s what I love about it.

What’s your advice for aspiring writers? 

I believe strongly in writing the books you want to read. When I was a teenager I loved books that were dark, mysterious, and character-driven. I liked books where things happened, but straight genre fiction bored me – I always felt like there wasn’t enough character development, and the writing wasn’t pretty enough. I was really into religious themes (it’s why I love horror movies like The Exorcist and Rosemary’s Baby), but wasn’t interested in reading religious fiction because I grew up in a very secular household. Books like Stephen King’s THE STAND hit my sweet spot: it’s got God, Satan, an apocalypse, and is told in so many utterly unique and delightful points of view.

I wrote END TIMES to reach that sweet spot: the intersection of action, religion, and character. I don’t think I’ve reached Stephen King’s level of mastery yet, but I will never stop trying!

So (tangent aside), my advice to aspiring writers is to identify your own personal “sweet spot,” and write in that. Chances are, someone out there is craving a book exactly like the one in your head!

About End Times:

When life gets too tough to bear in Detroit, Daphne flees to her Uncle Floyd’s home, where she believes she’ll find solace in the silent hills of her childhood summers. But Daphne’s Greyhound bus pulls over in downtown Carbon County and it’s not silence that welcomes her. It’s the sound of trumpets.

Daphne’s desire to start again in simple country comfort is instantly dashed as the townsfolk declare that the End Times are here. And incredible occurrences soon support their belief. Daphne does all she can to keep her head down and ignore the signs. She works a job at the local oil rig, helps around the house, hangs out with her pregnant cousin Janie and gets to know Owen, a mysterious motocross racer and fellow roustabout at the rig. But soon a startling discovery shatters her resolve and calls into question all her doubts and fears.

Add End Times on Goodreads!

Anna Schumacher author photoAbout the author:

Anna Schumacher received an MFA in fiction writing from The New School. Born and raised in the tiny town of Guilford, VT (no traffic lights, no post office, one store), she now lives in Brooklyn, NY with her husband and two cats. END TIMES is her first novel.

Be sure to keep up with Anna by following her on TwitterTumblr, and Goodreads!

End Times Giveaway

If you would like to win a copy of End Times, enter via the Rafflecopter below! Thanks to Penguin Teen for providing a copy to give away! Unfortunately, this giveaway is for US readers only due to it being sent out from the publisher themselves. To enter, fill out the form below and answer this question:

If the end times were here and the world was ending, what is the one thing on your bucket list you would have to do?


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Blog Tour: Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith, Review + Giveaway



At least in Ealing, Iowa.

Sixteen-year-old Austin Szerba interweaves the story of his Polish legacy with the story of how he and his best friend, Robby, brought about the end of humanity and the rise of an army of unstoppable, six-foot tall praying mantises in small-town Iowa.

To make matters worse, Austin’s hormones are totally oblivious; they don’t care that the world is in utter chaos: Austin is in love with his girlfriend, Shann, but remains confused about his sexual orientation. He is stewing in a self-professed constant state of maximum horniness, directed at both Robby and Shann.

Ultimately, it is up to Austin to save the world and propagate the species in this sci-fright journey of survival, sex, and the complex realities of the human condition.

Grasshopper Jungle is an outrageous coming-of-age story set during the end of humanity about two boys who are determined to record its destruction while also trying to save it. Austin Szerba is the narrator and guide to the end of the world. He writes everything down to insure there is a comprehensive history of life in Ealing, Iowa. He’s done this for years. Now that there is an army of hungry and horny six-foot tall praying mantises taking over, Austin records it all. Andrew Smith is known for writing compelling and completely unique teen perspectives and this one is his most outlandish yet. His no holds barred stream of consciousness narration is probably not for everyone, but when it comes to Andrew Smith, I will tear through it like no other. Quite possibly the weirdest book I will read all year.

Going into this book, I had no idea what to expect. I hear nothing but good things about Andrew Smith’s books (especially from our reviewer Jennifer) so I knew the writing would be solid, but I was not ready for that level of high-octane weird and wonderful. It’s a testament to his writing that he is able to pull of such a mind-altering end-of-the-world scenario.

Austin Szerba is one hell of a narrator. He’s sexually frustrated and confused, like most teens male and female alike. He’s also one hell of a historian. Austin feels the need to write down every detail of life in Ealing and while it occasionally feels like unnecessary, scattered thoughts, the thoughts come together and reveal a hidden latticework of the story. All that aside, you will get to know Austin inside and out. For better or worse.

My best suggestion to any reader approaching this book, whether slowly or ravenously, just keep reading. No matter what you think initially. I bet you’ll love it.


Thanks to the lovely marketing team at Penguin Teen, they’ve allowed us to give away a special prize pack to one lucky winner! For a chance to win a copy of Grasshopper Jungle and #UNSTOPPABLECORN t-shirt, enter your name and email in the Rafflecopter application below. The contest ends on March 6th at 12:01am EST. Winners will be contacted via email.

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Andrew Smith is the award-winning author of several Young Adult novels, including the critically acclaimed Winger (Starred reviews in Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, Booklist, and Shelf Awareness—an Amazon “Best of the Year”) and The Marbury Lens (A YALSA BFYA, and Starred reviews and Best of the Year in both Publishers Weekly and Booklist).

He is a native-born Californian who spent most of his formative years traveling the world. His university studies focused on Political Science, Journalism, and Literature. He has published numerous short stories and articles. Grasshopper Jungle, coming February 11, 2014, is his seventh novel. He lives in Southern California.

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Blog Tour Review and Giveaway: Shelf Life by Stephanie Lawton


 Title: Shelf Life

Author: Stephanie Lawton
Genre: Contemporary New Adult
Publication date: December 3, 2013

*Mature situations and sexual content – recommended for ages 17+*

It’s impossible to focus on college biology when your family believes doomsday is imminent and the government is out to get you.

All Pete Wilson’s ever wanted is to become a veterinarian, but those dreams are going up in flames. Commuting to an urban college and helping his parents with their apocalyptic prepper crap is more than he can handle.

Worse, Pete’s asshole neighbor is stirring up trouble, his family’s stockpile has been destroyed and farm animals are turning up dead.

Lindsey Linger is the tomboy sister of his best friend. Now a sexy spitfire, she and Pete are liable to set the barn ablaze as their romance finally heats up. But she’s hiding a terrible secret, and rural life isn’t all bonfires and hayloft romps. That becomes clear one icy winter night when the survival of everyone Pete loves hangs in the balance.

Can Pete be the hero they need, or will this be the end of the world as he knows it?


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This marks my fourth review for Stephanie Lawton’s books and to this day it never ceases to amaze me just how messed up her characters and stories can be. Shelf Life is such an amazing coming-of-age story that it certainly stands apart from her other works.

We have the story of Pete Wilson who’s going through the rough transition of being a teenager to being an adult. It’s not easy for anyone, let alone Pete who has to deal with getting (and promptly losing) the girl of his dreams, losing his best friend, a dangerously sexy college girl, dodging an asshole of a bully, a completely bratty sister who doesn’t give a flip about anything, a dad dealing with PTSD, and a mom just trying her best to keep everyone together all while trying to keep the family farm running and the bomb shelter stocked. Feel overwhelmed? Now you can imagine how Pete feels!

And I have to say, I loved watched Pete grow as a character, even if it was painful for pseudo-adult self to read at times. I really appreciated that even though this is marketed as a New Adult book, it’s really, really not about, you know, sexy times. There’s a lot of heavy, dark issues at work and the sporadic sexy times are more like breaks in the heavy suckage of reality. So if you are wary of the New Adult category, thinking it’s nothing but hot sexy times, this is a fantastic bridging of Young Adult and New Adult.

The only thing I wasn’t particularly fond of was Jay’s super brief and slightly random POV scenes. I wasn’t exactly sure the point of them, whether it to give Jay’s backstory or create sympathy for him. Note: any tiny amounts of sympathy the POVs might have created was quickly erased in the climax of the book. Jay, you a crazy ass and I don’t like you or your intentions.

Still, as this seems to be a series, I am very interested to see where this goes. I (of course) will be checking out any and all of Stephanie Lawton’s books.

LAST, BUT NOT LEAST. The first THREE PEOPLE who comment on this review will get a little swag pack. You know you want it… you know you do.

Join us all day December 3rd on Facebook as we chat with Stephanie, as she celebrates Shelf Life’s launch day with giveaways, excerpts, special content, free downloads, & more!
About Stephanie
Always a misfit, Stephanie Lawton writes twisted romance that tugs the heart strings then punches you in the gut.
She has a tendency to psychoanalyze people, which comes in handy when creating character profiles. She has a fascination with teacher-student relationships, bullies, psychics, doomsday preppers and larger-than-life characters.
Making readers squirm is her greatest pleasure.
Proceed with caution.

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Blog Tour Review: The Obsidian Pebble by Rhys A Jones

11-year old Oz Chambers lives in a haunted house (Penwurt). His mother wants to move, but Oz would rather do double algebra (yuck) every day for twelve months than leave. Where others see spooky, Oz sees wonder and mystery and aching reminders of his deceased dad. When he and his friends hear ghostly footsteps in the boarded-up dorm at Halloween, it leads to an exploration of the old place’s eerie reputation. In his Dad’s locked study, Oz finds a parcel addressed to him and posted the day before his father died. Inside is the obsidian pebble, the link to all of Penwurt’s astonishing secrets. Suddenly Oz begins to change; he goes from maths dunce to A student overnight and has to deal with suspicious teachers and jealous pupils. But the footsteps in the locked rooms don’t go away and slowly, Oz begins to knit together the strands of lies and mystery that tie the obsidian pebble, his father and him together. What Oz hasn’t bargained for is that he’s not alone in that search for understanding and that solving Penwurt’s puzzles lead to other, much darker secrets that will test his loyalty and his bravery to the limit.

While reading this, I had flashbacks of Harry Potter. If Harry Potter weren’t a wizard, Hogwarts were a slightly creepy house and it were set in Wales not London. Meet Oz, Ellie and Ruff, the trio and each of them have their own thing they bring to the group in order to make them a strong little team. Not too much unlike *drum roll* Harry Potter. And in replacement of magic and beasts, there are cyphers, ghosts, mysterious artifacts and above all Welsh jargon! Less on the Harry Potter spectrum, there’s also a nice element of history which also weaves into the use hieroglyphics, cyphers and artifacts from Egypt. Creeptastic!

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