Editorial: The US Election

Hello Guys.

I feel like many book bloggers are taking hiatus’ because of the US presidential election results. I will not be taking one so please look forward to book reviews and other bookish posts.

My experience was a different one than most Americans as I am currently working abroad in a country that has good relations with the US. While it did not have the same impact as I am not currently living in America, I understand you all. Many of you know I am Mexican-American. That should tell you a lot about my opinion of Trump. But I am choosing to be optimistic. I choose to not be filled with fear and dread. The country my parents come from is a lot more messed up than the United States and even then I still love it.  You can either be a part of the change or whine and moan, and do nothing. I understand we all need to mourn and grieve. We need time to come to terms with what just happened. But I will tell you this. The United States is still a great country regardless of the people who live in it. We had a fair and square election which does not exist in many countries.

If you want to see change and a different America you need to act and be the change. Be optimistic. Inspire others to be the change. And the only way this will work is by loving those who disagree with us, our neighbors and our enemies. If we don’t do that, we are no better than them.

I hope you will continue to read this blog. This blog is neither Blue or Red, Republican or Democrat. This blog is here to talk about books and be a bridge that connects people across the world. In a way, we are an entertainment blog as well find books entertaining, which is why this is the last time I will mention anything political on here. I just needed to address such a big event on such a tense time in the history of America.

The world has its eyes on you America. Will the world be filled with hope or despair? What will you do? What will WE do?

With Hope,

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My Life Abroad

Writers Corner

Well hello there. Long time no talk.

(I am writing this as I contemplate if I should turn on the floor heating or not. It is actually not that cold, but for a Southern Californian like me… it’s freezing. But I’m starting to appreciate the weather when it is not below freezing point. For Americans like myself that would be below 32 F and for the rest of the world including South Korea, I’m happy when it’s not below 0 C. )

I’ve been in South Korea for almost 3 months. I left California August 15th, and arrived in South Korea on August 16th. It feels as if I just got here, but also as if I’ve been here a while. I can’t point out why, but I think it is because I am finally getting used to life here and… I like it.

For those who may not know, I am currently a NET or Native English Teacher (some call me a GET/Guest English Teacher) in South Korea. I teach elementary and middle school students English as a Foreign Language. This is my first “official” teaching job and it is nothing how I thought it would be, but sometimes it is good to not have expectations when going into something. I really love my students. I think once I complete my one-year contract if I don’t renew, I will miss them a lot. They make my day brighter with their adorable faces. My middle school students are 7-9th graders and they are a handful, but teaching them is rewarding. I’m starting to create common ground with my students and it’s making them want to participate in class more. We all know when we are forced to learn a second or third language in school, no one really wants to. All students have that in common regardless of their cultural background or location.

Living by myself in another country is definitely making me grow as a person. I’m a person that is normally surrounded by friends or family and even though I am half an introvert, I needed to learn to be alone. I am definitely practicing that in South Korea. Especially because I got placed in the Gangwon-Do Province. It is the most rural province in South Korea with the lowest population number when compared to all the other provinces. I am the only foreigner in my town. I live in the same 14 stories apartment complex along with most of my students. Everywhere I go in town I hear “TEACHER TEACHER.” Students here are excited to see the foreign teacher. They also always tell me I’m beautiful so South Korea has definitely brought up my self-esteem. Haha.

Not having physical books has been tough here in South Korea. I brought my Nook HD+ with me because I knew I would have to read books on an e-reader, but sometimes you just want to hold a physical book. I did cave and bought two books from the book depository. So now at least I have two physical books. Sad thing is I will have to leave them here when I go back to USA.

I will be ending it here before this turns into a research paper length post instead of the essay I have just given you.

I will try to post more about my adventures here in South Korea in the coming weeks. But for now know I am doing well and thank you for being a loyal reader of the blog.

Warmly,

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ARC Review: The Lovely Reckless by Kami Garcia

The Lovely Reckless

GoodReads Summary:

I’ve become an expert at avoiding things that could hurt me—which means I will figure out how to stay away from Marco Leone.

Seventeen-year-old Frankie Devereux would do anything to forget the past. Haunted by the memory of her boyfriend’s death, she lives her life by one dangerous rule: Nothing matters. At least, that’s what Frankie tells herself after a reckless mistake forces her to leave her privileged life in the Heights to move in with her dad—an undercover cop. She transfers to a public high school in the Downs, where fistfights don’t faze anyone and illegal street racing is more popular than football.

Marco Leone is the fastest street racer in the Downs. Tough, sexy, and hypnotic, he makes it impossible for Frankie to ignore him—and how he makes her feel. But the risks Marco takes for his family could have devastating consequences for them both. When Frankie discovers his secret, she has to make a choice. Will she let the pain of the past determine her future? Or will she risk what little she has left to follow her heart?

My Review:

I received this book through Miss Print‘s ARC Adoption Program. And I have to say when I received it I was so excited to read it. The synopsis sounded amazing and I know Kami Garcia is a fantastic writer. Her Beautiful Creatures series is just that, beautiful.

But as you can see I haven’t posted a review in a while.

There have been many changes in my personal life, ups and downs, that have lead to me reading less. And while these changes were occurring, I was reading The Lovely Reckless. So my feelings on this book, I think, are a bit biased because of my personal life.

I do have to say The Lovely Reckless was enjoyable, but not as enjoyable as other contemporary books have been for me. I enjoyed Frankie’s character growth over the course of the novel, but I felt disconnected from her. I also had a difficult time with the Frankie/Marco instalove story. It felt a little like  Romeo and Juliet? I guess when you’re that young (I am 28) and you have stopped caring about life and people, instalove does happen. But I felt disconnected with that too.

I did enjoy the background characters more, though I was disappointed with how lacking the parent existence was as well as Frankie’s attitude toward them when she did speak to them. Lexi was funny and I really enjoyed how loyal she was to Frankie. Cruz was super cute.

But overall the story just felt lacking. And again I think, due to personal circumstances, I liked this book less than I would have at another time. Due to this I did not finish it. And I hate DNFing a book. There have been few books that I’ve done that to and it guts me.  Don’t let my attitude toward this book stop you from reading it. I know so many people who enjoyed it immensely.

Rating: DNF

Thank you to Miss Print and her ARC adoptions for the opportunity to read this novel. Receiving this novel for free doesn’t sway my opinion.

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Book Review: Defending Taylor by Miranda Kenneally

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Goodreads Summary:

There are no mistakes in love.

Captain of the soccer team, president of the Debate Club, contender for valedictorian: Taylor’s always pushed herself to be perfect. After all, that’s what is expected of a senator’s daughter. But one impulsive decision-one lie to cover for her boyfriend-and Taylor’s kicked out of private school. Everything she’s worked so hard for is gone, and now she’s starting over at Hundred Oaks High.

Soccer has always been Taylor’s escape from the pressures of school and family, but it’s hard to fit in and play on a team that used to be her rival. The only person who seems to understand all that she’s going through is her older brother’s best friend, Ezra. Taylor’s had a crush on him for as long as she can remember. But it’s hard to trust after having been betrayed. Will Taylor repeat her past mistakes or can she score a fresh start?

Review:

I love reading an authors work as the years pass by because you see how their writing changes and how much better it gets overtime. It is pretty incredible really. At least I think so. From the very beginning I loved Miranda’s writing and that still has not changed. Especially if her writing keeps getting better which I didn’t think it could be possible. Alright enough gushing over her, let’s get to the real reason I am writing this review.

Defending Taylor is not your ordinary story. We get a glimpse into the life of a powerful family, yet it is not all the color of roses. The story also doesn’t follow your typical rich girl in a political world story. Taylor is just a girl who decides to cover for her boyfriend whom she loves and doesn’t want him to lose his scholarship to the private school they both attend. She thought she could cover for him because her father is a senator, but little did she know her father would not move a finger to help her. She ends up having to change schools and goes to Hundred Oaks now. There she learns to navigate the world and that any decision you make whether good or bad has the potential of being life altering.

I do want to point out that I loved how great and supportive Ezra is throughout the book. He is literally her other half. He is working through some issues and with encouragement and help from Taylor he is able to overcome his shame and get help.

Defending Taylor is about growing as a human being and being careful about the decisions you make. I know I may have made this book sound too deep maybe, but it is a great story with great characters. Like I said… Miranda’s writing is on point yet again.

Rating: 5 out of 5

Book Review: Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch

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Goodreads Summary:

“I made the wrong choice.”

Lina is spending the summer in Tuscany, but she isn’t in the mood for Italy’s famous sunshine and fairy-tale landscape. She’s only there because it was her mother’s dying wish that she get to know her father. But what kind of father isn’t around for sixteen years? All Lina wants to do is get back home.

But then she is given a journal that her mom had kept when she lived in Italy. Suddenly Lina’s uncovering a magical world of secret romances, art, and hidden bakeries. A world that inspires Lina, along with the ever-so-charming Ren, to follow in her mother’s footsteps and unearth a secret that has been kept for far too long. It’s a secret that will change everything she knew about her mother, her father—and even herself.

People come to Italy for love and gelato, someone tells her, but sometimes they discover much more.

Review:

So FREAKING Adorable. The title says it all. Love & Gelato. Gosh I want to go to Italy now. Maybe I will…

Anyways moving on… Love & Gelato. I can’t get over how adorable and heartbreaking [in a good way] it was. I just want to hug it and absorb all its wonderful energy. I think Korea is getting to me. LOL

So we start of the book with Lina. Something horrible happened and she is now moving to Italy where she meets many attractive guys, but Ren shows up and ahhhhh who needs a guy that’s hotter than him when he is the sweetest person ever? Am I biased? You bet I am!

Love & Gelato is more than just a fluffy YA contemporary book with romance. It deals with hard subjects like death of a loved one, first love, others past affecting your own, and how to navigate the world on your own. This book is not all sweet like gelato, it can be bitter like coffee as well. I will say the balance between the fluffy and the hard truth are perfectly balanced and you end up feeling with a sense of reassurance and happiness at the end of the book.

If you’re looking for something heavy yet delicious then look nor further. I assure you that you will like this book!

Rating: 5 out of 5

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ARC Review & Interview: Wake the Hollow by Gaby Triana

Wake the Hollow

GoodReads Summary:

Tragedy has brought Micaela Burgos back to her hometown of Sleepy Hollow. It’s been six years since she chose to live with her affluent father in Miami instead of her history-obsessed eccentric mother. And now her mother is dead.

But while Sleepy Hollow was made immortal by literature, the town is real. So are its prejudices and hatred, targeting Mica’s Cuban family and the secrets of their heritage that her mother obsessed over. But ghostly voices whisper in the wind, questioning whether her mother’s death might not have been an accident after all, and Mica knows there’s a reason she’s here.

With the help of two very different guys—who pull at her heart in very different ways—Micaela must uncover the hidden secret of Sleepy Hollow…before she meets her mother’s fate.

My Review:

So  this review is going to be on the shorter side. I got the opportunity to interview Gaby Triana about Wake the Hollow. I’ll let her tell you more about the novel, but I was so enthralled with this book; I needed to know what happened and finished it in 24 hours.

Wake the Hollow’s plot is a nail bitter, chilling you to the bone. You don’t know who to trust- Bram, the childhood best friend, Dane, the handsome witty new teacher, Mica’s father, who is unavailable most of the time, or the voices leading Mica. It’s very clear that Mica has a complicated relationship with both her mother and the people of Tarrytown. Her mother has been considered the town “crazy” for a long time. Her mother is also accused of stealing valuable property from a historic society. So when her mother dies, Mica is forced to confront her own demons along with the town’s intolerance of her mother. Everything Mica has ever known she starts to question.

There are twists and turns that you don’t see coming as past and present are reconciled. The story is also educational. Triana pulls from Washington Irving’s real life to build suspense about a secret journal of  his and a possible affair that could change everything people know about Irving. If you enjoy suspense, romance, and Sleepy Hollow give this book a read!

Rating: 4 out of 5

Interview:

Thanks so much for joining us here at The Talking Bookworm. I’d  first like to say that I absolutely loved Wake the Hollow and your portrait of the Sleepy Hollow. I finished it in about 24 hours; I was so enthralled and did not want to put it down.

Thank you! That’s the ultimate compliment for any author—“couldn’t put it down.”

Can you tell us a little bit about Wake the Hollow?

Wake the Hollow is a re-imagining of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow set in modern times. However, it was important to me not to write a straight retelling of the classic, since we all know how that story goes, so I took a different approach. I turned the love triangle of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow into a subplot, coupled it with the gothic elements and open-endedness of the classic tale, and created a completely new storyline. In the end, we have an homage to the classic with new things to think about.

In the acknowledgement section of your book, you said it took eight years to finalize once you had “finished” it. Why did it stew for so long?

Life changes made me put it aside for a while and move on. Also, it couldn’t seem to find a home with any publishers, and I realized it was because the story was hard to pinpoint. I had all these great elements that weren’t gelling the way I would’ve liked, but I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with them either. Several revisions later, the story started to sort itself out, I cut a lot of the noise distracting us from the root of the story, and Micaela’s real story started to come through. Sometimes, you’re too close to a story and have to step away for a while.

What was so interesting about the story of Sleepy Hollow that inspired you to write a retelling of some sorts? and the author Washington Irving?

I’ve always been fascinated by The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. It began with the Disney short cartoon from the 50’s, then I read the story as a child, and I’ve always been intrigued by the open-endedness. We think it’s about the Headless Horseman, but it’s not. It’s about an out-of-town schoolmaster named Ichabod Crane who tries to get the town coquette to fall in love with him, but her boyfriend isn’t having it, so he uses Ichabod’s superstitions to his benefit and drives him away dressed up as the legendary town ghost. I always loved how Irving left the story’s ending to your imagination.

You had to have done quite a bit of research on Washington Irving for this novel, can you tell us a little bit about that process? Did you actually travel to Tarrytown, New York?

Yes, in 2008 I took a 4-day trip to Tarrytown with my mother to scope out the area and get a feel for Sleepy Hollow. I tried to capture the feel of the fall season in Tarrytown without getting too technical about locations. I did a lot of research on Washington Irving and discovered lots of things that helped bring this story together. The man led a fascinating life—he was Ambassador to Spain, lived a long time in London, wrote most of his all-American stories while in Europe, and penned massive biographies, only to be mostly remembered for a couple of short stories he didn’t feel represented his best work.

Through the research I did after reading Wake the Hollow, because lets face it your novel is full of fun interesting facts I didn’t know and wanted to learn more about, what made you decide on the Mary Shelly plot?

Ha ha, I got you on Google, didn’t I? One of the things I learned while researching was that Washington Irving had been friends with Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein, and a few sources said he might’ve had a very brief relationship with her, even though he would’ve been about 30 years older than her. The first thought to go through my mind was one of those rap lyric battles—Frankenstein vs. The Headless Horseman…who will win?? Here you had two famous authors of Gothic literature possibly in a secret romantic relationship…it just doesn’t get better than that.

I loved that Mica was of Cuban descent. Did you decide upon her heritage after researching Washington Irving’s life? What about the other characters? What was your thought process for them?

I already knew from the beginning that I wanted to give the story a Cuban angle. I do this will all my books because my parents are from Cuba, and I pay homage to that in some small way every chance I get. But when I started planning Wake the Hollow, I thought, how the heck am I going to make anything Cuban in a story about an author as American as apple pie? Then I found a clue about Irving’s past and knew I had to follow it and use it to tie the whole thing together. All three main characters are modern-day parallels from The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Micaela Katerina is the rich man’s daughter (Katrina Van Tassel), Dane Boracich is the worldly new schoolmaster from out of town (Ichabod Crane), and Abraham Derant is the handsome town hero (Brom Bones).

Which character is your favorite? I personally loved Dane!

Dane is my absolute favorite too. Without saying too much, he holds secrets, harbors quiet love he can’t express, and is a sworn man of duty.

Can we talk about that ending for a second? No spoilers, I promise! I had so many theories and you just destroyed them all! Will we be getting a second book or is Wake the Hollow the end of the story? If so, I need people to start some fan fiction for me!

Again, without saying too much, I will probably write a second book, because I want to see Micaela start a new life, one she lives for herself rather than others.

I know when you aren’t writing, you design whimsical cakes; what type of cake would you design for Wake the Hollow? What cake flavors would you assign Bram, Mica, and Dane?

I love this question! Let’s see…I would probably create a topsy-turvy Tim Burton inspired cake with black, purple, and green layers, a Headless Horseman on top carrying a flaming pumpkin, and lots of painted silhouettes of gnarly trees and tombstones. Bram’s layer would be Devil’s Food Cake, Micaela’s would be cinnamon cake with dulce de leche filling, and Dane would be marbled vanilla and chocolate, light and dark, good and bad all rolled together.

Best read of 2016… go!

I’ve spent 90% of my time this year so far writing, writing, and more writing, but I did manage to read a few great books, though they may not be from 2016. The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin, Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins, and Rot and Ruin by Jonathan Maberry.

What is the number one thing that helps you write? Music, a specific room, coffee? (note: I like knowing what helps writers write or like surpass the madness)

I have three kids, all boys, aged 15, 10, and 10. So what helps me write the most…is late-night silence.

I’d like to again thank Gaby Triana for taking the time to interview with us. I can’t wait for you all to read Wake the Hollow!

Excerpt:

I hear the laugh once again, calm and satisfied. A solid wave of rage starts between my forehead and the back of my head, overtaking my entire body. Teeth clenched so hard, I hear them grind. I scream, “What’s so funny, you sick bastard!”

Then a new sound, so clear there’s no mistaking it. A horse’s neigh, followed by the woody, hollow sound of hooves galloping right toward me.

Thirsty leaves rustle on the ground like littered newspaper in the wind. I stand paralyzed over my mother’s grave, eyes roving, searching for the source of the sound. A horse in the cemetery? Seriously? But there’s no one here! Yet the galloping feels a blink away.

Run, Lela!

I break free of the invisible straitjacket immobilizing my upper body. I plunge through the woods, boots pounding the earth in time with my breath, eyes focused ahead, dodging grave markers, logs, rocks, and fallen limbs in my way. Who’s charging me on a horse? The Headless Horseman is only a character in a story. A legend.

Isn’t he?

I run straight for the bridge, my breath short and choppy. Isn’t the horseman supposed to stop chasing his victims once they cross the bridge? How ridiculous that I’m considering the logistics behind a work of fiction. Maybe it’s not a real spirit at all, but someone playing a trick on me.

It’s unnervingly dark inside the covered bridge, but I have no other choice. The galloping is right behind me. I’ll have to go through it if I don’t want to sense a horse’s hot breath prickling my neck. I avoid eye contact with whoever is chasing me, in case paralysis freezes my body again.

I charge through the bridge, my breath loud in my ears, panicked footsteps echoing against the siding, plowing along the musty planks until I blast out the other end, nearly tumbling onto the ground. I check over my shoulder. Nothing followed me through. But next to the bridge, a hazy mist hovers above the ground in the shape of what could be interpreted as a massive horse with a rider on top. It stands at the edge of the river, watching me escape.

That’s no trick.

GABY TRIANA is the award-winning author of six YA novels—Wake the Hollow (Coming 2016), Summer of Yesterday, Riding the Universe, The Temptress Four, Cubanita, and IMG_3071Backstage Pass, as well as thirteen ghostwritten novels for best-selling authors. Originally a 4th grade teacher with a Master of Science in Elementary Education and ten years teaching experience, Gaby earned Teacher of the Year in 2000, wrote her first novel, Freddie and the Biltmore Ghost, then left teaching to launch a full-time writing career. She went on to publish young adult novels with HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster, win an IRA Teen Choice Award, ALA Best Paperback Award, and Hispanic Magazine’s Good Reads of 2008. She spends her time obsessing about Halloween, Christmas, and Disney World, as well as hosting parties, designing mugs, making whimsical cakes, and winning costume contests. When she’s not writing, she might also be watching Jurassic Park movies with her boys, posting excessive food pics on social media, or helping run the Florida region of the SCBWI. Gaby lives in Miami with her three sons, Michael, Noah, and Murphy. She has one dog, Chloe, and two cats—Miss Daisy, and the reformed thug, shooting survivor, Bowie. Visit her at www.GabyTriana.com.

I’d like to thank NetGalley and Entangles Publishing, LLC for the opportunity to review this ARC. Receiving this ARC for free does not sway my opinion.Blog Signature

ARC Review: Refuse (Recoil #2) by Joanne Macgregor

Refuse (Recoil Trilogy, #2)

GoodReads Summary:

Everyone wants Jinxy, except the one she loves.

In a near-future USA decimated by an incurable plague and tightly controlled by a repressive government, teenagers with special skills are recruited and trained to fight in the war against terror.

Now a rebellion is brewing.

All sixteen year-old expert sniper Jinxy James wanted was a little freedom, but now she’s trapped between the government and the rebels, unsure of who the real enemy is. When she uncovers appalling secrets and twisted motivations, Jinxy begins to question her allegiances. Soon she will need to choose between love and freedom, as she struggles to do the right thing in a world gone horribly wrong.

Refuse is the second book in the Young Adult dystopian romance that began with Recoil. This much anticipated sequel is filled with romance and heartache, shocking twists, and a thought-provoking examination of freedom, fear, loyalty and identity.

My Review:

SO back in May I was read and reviewed the first novel in this trilogy, Recoil, and really enjoyed what Joanne Macgregor brought to the table. It was quite a realistic dystopian story. The same can be said for the second novel in this series as well.

Refuse starts exactly where Recoil left off. Jinxy is sort of in hell. She has to convince the government that she isn’t some spy working for rebellion. She also has to decide which side of the fight she is on and who she can trust.

Macgregor’s story telling definitely improved with this novel. In a series like this the first novel is the setup and has to introduce you to a lot of characters and plot, but the second one is always better. You can dive right into the story, get to the nitty gritty of the characters and really focus on their decision-making process and character growth. I don’t want to spoil anything, so I will just say this, I really enjoyed watching Jinxy grow as a person. In the first novel she was young and naive. In Refuse she has grown up. She sees the world for what it really is. She sees the government and her missions for what they truly are. She understands that her actions have larger consequences, effect more people, more families. She understands that not everyone can be trusted and that you should listen to your gut when it’s trying to tell you something isn’t right.

The follow up to Recoil really brings the themes of right and wrong to the forefront of the story. Nothing is black and white and the gray area is very hazy. It does not do to always assume your government has the best interest of the people in mind. You should always be watching and questioning.

Definitely check this novel out.  There is cliffhanger after cliffhanger that will keep you wanting more.

Rating: 4 out of 5

I’d like to thank Joanne Macgregor for providing me with an ARC. Receiving this ARC for free does not influence my opinion in any way.

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