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Thursday, June 25, 2015

Date With a Rockstar Sarah Gagnon *Blog Tour Review & Giveaway*

Title: Date With a Rockstar

Author: Sarah Gagnon

Release Date: June 23, 2015

Publisher: Spencer Hill Contemporary

Only one girl will win the cash prize...and a chance at love with Jeremy Bane.

Monet isn’t just another lust-struck teenager trying to win the heart of Rock God Jeremy Bane--she needs the prize money from his new reality show to cure her illness. 

Monet has Fluxem, a contagious disease that's spread through saliva. It's completely curable if you have enough money, which she and her single mother don't. Now that she's on the show, Monet has to work harder to keep her Fluxem hidden. She only has to keep the secret long enough to woo Jeremy Bane so he picks her as the winner. She doesn't even care about the love part; the prize alone will change her life.

But the real Jeremy Bane is nothing like she imagined. Monet finds herself fighting against feelings that make her want to give in to her attraction and Jeremy's attempts for a kiss. The further she goes in the competition, the more impossible it becomes to resist him--and when the producers turn the tables and start digging up dirt on the contestants, Monet fears her secret will be revealed before she's ready and ruin everything.

The only way to win Jeremy's heart is to tell him the truth, but confessing her disease could cost her the competition, the prize money, and him.


I'm thrilled to be reviewing Date With a Rockstar today :). Big thanks to Sarah Gagnon and Spencer Hill Press! 

*I received an e-copy in exchange for an honest and fair review* 

Date with a Rockstar is the fun, somewhat silly read that I tend to miss out on because such novels tend to have a little too much romance and not enough plot for my taste, but this novel, though both fun and somewhat silly, set itself apart from the very beginning with a lovable protagonist and a fantastic didn't-see-that-coming premise. I really enjoyed it! Yes, there was a good bit of romance, but the subplots and Monet's goal—not to mention some stellar secrets and backstory tidbits—made for a complex and riveting story. 

Great Protagonist
One of the reasons I found Monet so relatable was her lack of money. Maybe that's judgmental, but it did lessen her chances—at least in her mind—to succeed, and added a dimension of rawness and realism to her story. Then, of course, there was the illness...which was tragic and worrisome, yet fascinating. Monet's hobbies also drew me in (art? I love art).  I thoroughly enjoyed having a down-to-earth, determined, and intelligent protagonist.

Killer World
I could rave for a page about how cool the world-building was, but I'll spare you that lengthy monologue. It was unexpectedly good. That sounds insulting, so I'll qualify: I was under the impression that this was not a novel that would be exploring the world outside of the typical setting...and that the setting would be typical...because the main storyline revolves around winning this competition—winning the rock star. I'm so glad I was wrong. 

Gagnon added a nice big slice of futuristic fantasy-esque material to her settings. It was like finding a bunch of easter eggs in a Nancy Drew game (win. So much win) because fantasy is my GENRE. You know how people say someone is their homeboy? Fantasy my homeslice. (Don't judge me.) In other words, I felt like I'd won the jackpot without even playing. 

And there's more: Gagnon's finesse in the area of world-building is impressive, but what really blew me away was her ability to weave backstory and setting details into the story so subtly and creatively. Skyrim sneak level? 100—and Legendary. Brilliant. 

Sadly, as with most novels, there were some things I didn't love about Date With a Rockstar:

Jeremy Bane, Rock god? ...Really?
...If you know me, you already know why I have a problem with this. If you don't, here's my attempt at an uber short explanation: he's just a guy. Nothing particularly special about him other than the fact that, like hundreds of other guys, he can play some instruments and jam out on a stage. I don't appreciate or condone encouraging girls to look up to rockers--male or female--as anything more than human...because they aren't. 

And I know, I know--it's a terminology thing. "That's just what people say." My unforgiving opinion: Gagnon's a writer. Finding something better to say is part of her job description as an artist, and judging from her novel, she's more than capable of rising to the challenge.

Happily ever after? 
The ending and all loose ends were wrapped up nicely. A little too conveniently, really. Still, despite the fact that the ending wasn't as believable as I would've liked, it was still a solid, fulfilling, and desirable ending that left me feeling a tad warmer and fuzzier than before I began the journey alongside Monet. 

Mother dearest
I actually empathized with Monet's mother and resonated with her until around the 85-90% mark, at which point I was stunned by how unrealistic her response was to everything that had happened. It was the one thing that I just could not buy into. My disappointment was compounded by the above-described coziness of the ending as a whole. 

The romance
Ehhh, it was ok. Yeah, it was a cutesy love story and there were all the thrills you'd expect in any good romance—past love interest appearance, confessions/dirty secrets, angst—but sometimes the whole bachelor-thing really turned me off toward Jeremy. It made it harder to accept the romance as legitimate. (Probably didn't help that I have PTSD and trust issues with men lol.) The cattiness was also fairly obnoxious, though in fairness to Gagnon, I can't say that was unexpected.

Most bothersome? There was a scene or two near the end of the novel that was, in my opinion, not delivered in the best taste. Nothing raunchy, of course—this novel's clean with the exception of a few choice words sprinkled throughout—but it's the principle of the matter that bothered me. From Monet's pov, I get it; it wasn't unrealistic. But as an adult and a writer? I disagreed with the presentation and felt that Gagnon should've stepped up and discouraged the not-so-fantastic choices. 

Overall, I found Date With a Rockstar heartwarming, entertaining, and intriguing, and recommend it—especially to fans of romance. I was very impressed and will be on the lookout for Sarah Gagnon's work in the future :)!

Final Verdict: 

About the Author

Sarah Gagnon grew up in the frigid woods of Maine amidst snow and animal skins and has now moved back home. As a small child she wrote ship-wrecked romances all while being stared down by a taxidermied duck.

She has a BFA in photography and a minor in writing from the University of Southern Maine. She's the mother of two tiny, feral children and two ill-behaved dogs. For fun she’s taken up construction and interior design. Her first project: moving into a dilapidated farmhouse with her computer-genius husband. 

| Website |

Giveaway time! 
One winner will receive a Date With a Rockstar Tee and a finished copy of the book!

Must be 13+ to enter.
US only.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Gathering Research That Counts—a Cautionary Tale


Some revel in it and dive in with perhaps a little too much zeal; some flail and whine and procrastinate until they can't anymore, and continue to gripe during the process; and some whine and moan and complain and then find they actually like research...and go about the rest of their exploits with a jovial, can-do attitude and get stuff done.  

Everybody approaches the task differently, with varying rates of success.

Me, I actually like research (I'm one of those fanatical revelers :D). In fact, I like research so much that I overdo it and spend time looking up fairly irrelevant facts about things like ecosystems and water currents when I should be writing. 

I'm in recovery.

Back when I was a junior in college, I took a course that essentially revolved around gathering anthropological research—information about people groups and their cultures—and how to use that research in the context of ministry (I majored in Cross-Cultural Studies).

Initially I was excited about the project because it seemed easy enough and it was an opportunity to learn more about Japan because we got to choose our own people group—though it had to be a people group that hadn't been researched by other students in the last five years. I love Japan, so obviously I was going to choose a people Japan. (Didn't see that coming, did you? ;-) My mindset: Research+Japan=Double Win. 

I ended up choosing the Ryukyuan of Okinawa and used the term Okinawan...which turned into a funny story later because someone chose the same people group and it slipped the professor's notice because my fellow student referred to the people group as Ryukyuans! (: 

Anyway, our assignment was to fill a box with research on our chosen group and organize the info via categorical hanging folders as per the OCM, or Outline of Cultural Materials. 

The box itself was graded numerically, and I was an extremely busy student; time became the most important element of my efforts. Usefulness took a backseat to time spent because I had to have 15, 25, 30 (etc.) pieces of info in that box by the deadline(s) or risk failure...though that isn't to say I didn't think I was gathering at least somewhat useful information. I wouldn't realize how aimless my efforts truly were until I began to USE THE BOX. 

I don't know how I missed it...but the point of gathering research for the box was to write a paper—several papers, actually, each 10 pages with the exception of the capstone paper, which was 30+. Which requires research. Preferably relevant research. 

You see where I'm going with this? 

When I finally did get to writing said papers, I had a ton of unanswered—and unhappily required—questions that my box couldn't help me with. I had to do even MORE research. 

Commence table flipping and wailing about the cruelty of ignorance:

I'd say at least half of what I'd gathered was wasted effort. OUCH. Triple ouch, really. Still hurts sometimes...*sniffs*

If I'd known precisely what things I'd need to research to complete the papers, if I'd had some sort of rubric or guide, my research would have been targeted and, well, relevant. A good use of my time.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Ensnared A.G. Howard *Review*

My one word for Ensnared: Masterful!

If you've been following the Splintered series, you're aware of the genius that is A. G. Howard. I enjoy her work so immensely I actually asked myself if it was possible to rave over a series too much. I thought about it for around 3 seconds and decided: Nope :)!

There's a New Red Queen in Town (aka Alyssa)
I've liked Alyssa from the very beginning—granted, she did  frustrate me a bit in Unhinged because of the love triangle bit, though that was resolved marvelously in the next installment—but in Ensnared? I LOVED HER.
I don't even know who this is...but I love this gif. He looks so excited LOL
After Morpheus and Jeb disappear into AnyElsewhere, Alyssa decides it's time to embrace her Netherling side. In the past, she tried to ignore, neglect, and/or suppress it (though she grew more accustomed to it toward the end of Unhinged), but now that the two men she loves—not to mention her mother—have been taken, she knows she's going to need every bit of Netherling power she can muster.

Ensnared reveals the delicious complexity brimming just under the surface in Splintered and Unhinged. I always knew Alyssa had it in her...but before, she held herself back. Not anymore.

Alyssa finally yields to the no-nonsense attitude I always knew she had, sets aside her fears, and takes fierceness to another dimension in her determination to save the ones she loves. She's powerful, ferocious, inventive, and relentless, and she bares her whole heart in all the glory of its duality. It was truly a privilege to witness her journey of self-discovery as both human and Netherling. *goes off to re-read the series because it's THAT stellar*

That Love Triangle
I've mentioned it before, and I'm sure I'll be mentioning it again, but I really don't like love triangles. (Or square wanna-be triangle blob things.) But the 'triangle' in Ensnared really is different—it's actually believable and, whoa, justifiable.

I am 99.9% confident that I will never, in all my life, describe a love triangle as justifiable again, so you can take that as a sign that A.G. Howard has truly gone above and beyond.

I don't do spoilers, so I can't go much further...but WOW. Who Alyssa is, the totality of herself as both human and Netherling, is a huge part of what makes the romance so compelling and believable. If that component wasn't there, the romance would've fallen into quicksand in my eyes. It really is ingenious.

Those Boys
*fans self*

Sure, looks are important, but they aren't worth fanning myself over. Integrity and chivalry? Someone go call the fire department. *continues to fan self*

Morpheus and Jeb really outdo themselves in Ensnared. The entire time Alyssa is trapped outside Wonderland, unable to secure a way in, these two are...*gasp*...together. In the same place. Helping one another.

Yes, I know—it's a beautiful (and unexpected) thing. The lengths they went to in order to help Alyssa and Wonderland itself were commendable. Ack. Those pesky spoilers prevent me from saying much more...but I will say I thoroughly enjoyed the direction Howard took with these two as individuals and as rivals.

The Ending—Alyssa's Choice
The big question: Who will Alyssa choose??!

*cheshire cat grin*

You'll have to dive in for yourself to find out, but I will say this: loads of people had mixed feelings about the end/her choice. Of course I was rooting for Morpheus, but...and I almost cannot believe I am saying this...Jeb is super sweet in this novel! In Unhinged he was meh. So he's a great artist and he's risen above his abusive father. That's stellar, BUT. Tug on my heartstrings it did not. Enter Ensnared, where he bypassed the heartstring tug entirely and ripped out my heart.

I gained such an affinity for and respect toward Jeb that I surprised myself. I mean, of course I wanted Alyssa to be with Morpheus...but at the same time, I felt that if she chose Jeb I'd be able to accept it—though mournfully—with grace. Are you seeing the level of skill as a writer you must have to be able to do something like this??!

Again, M-a-s-t-e-r-f-u-l.

A.G. Howard's ending was immensely satisfying (the gorgeous prose helped). I am SO EXCITED for Untamed. *ahem*

Final Verdict: 

About the Author
Photo by Pam Lary
A.G. Howard was inspired to write Splintered, the first book in her bestselling Splintered Series, while working at a school library in her Texas hometown. She always wondered what would've happened had the subtle creepiness of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland taken center stage, and she hopes her darker and funkier tribute to Carroll will inspire readers to seek out the stories that won her heart as a child.

When she's not writing, A.G.'s pastimes are reading, rollerblading, gardening, and family vacations which often include impromptu side trips to 18th century graveyards or condemned schoolhouses to appease her overactive muse.

| Website |