Review: Gold Spun

It’s time for another great Book Tour with TBR AND BEYOND BOOK TOURS! This time, I jumped deep into the world of Rumpelstiltskin in this fantastic retelling, Gold Spun, by author Brandie June.

Check out the Full Tour Here

About the Book:

Content Warnings: One mild scene of cutting for blood magic.

If Nor can’t spin gold, she can always spin lies.

When seventeen-year-old Nor rescues a captured faerie in the woods, he gifts her with a magical golden thread she can use to summon him for a favor. Instead, Nor uses it for a con—to convince villagers to buy straw that can be transformed into gold. Her trick works a little too well, attracting the suspicion of Prince Casper, who hates nobody more than a liar. Intent on punishing Nor, he demands that she spin a room of straw into gold and as her reward, he will marry her. Should she refuse or fail, the consequences will be dire.

It’s always been up to me to make sure we have a plan.

Nor, Gold Spun

My Thoughts

I am a sucker for a good retelling of any story, and this is a unique look at the Rumpelstiltskin story, with a fiery protagonist who might just be in a little too deep for her own good. From the beginning, Gold Spun lets readers know that this isn’t the straw into gold story you thought you knew. Instead, this is the story of fey and bartered kingdoms, of death and destruction and weird, unlikely alliances. This is the story of kingdoms on the brink of chaos and the unlikely people who might save them – or watch the world burn while they try.

When human Nor comes face to face with her first real faerie, she realizes everything she’s been told might not quite be accurate. I loved this description as she meets Pel for the first time, “I almost couldn’t believe it, but there he was. And he looked nothing like the monsters they flyers warned us about. he looked stunningly, painfully beautiful.” This chance meeting leads to an unlikely alliance, not quite a friendship, not quite anything more, that comes to head when Nor tries to use a small gift from Pel to get ahead in life, and instead finds herself stuck in a palace, with straw into Gold as her only way to freedom.

June is a talented writer who manages to weave the familiar elements of the folktale with a whole new adventure as the headstrong and action-oriented Nor finds her place among the elite – and has to decide whether or not she is willing to risk everything to help the future King, Caspar, see the world he has inherited beyond the castle walls.

Gold Spun is full of fun, action, and adventure. There is a little magic, a little romance, and a little forbidden obsession that just might destroy their world. The book ends of a cliffhanger, and I can only hope that I get the opportunity to catch up with Nor, Caspar, Pel and their warring kingdoms sooner rather than later.

About the Author:

Brandie June loves storytelling in all sorts of formats, whether she is marketing animated movies or writing fantasy novels. Most of her early life she was on stage or at least as close to the front row as she could get. Initially an actor, she got her B.A. in Theatre from UCLA and branched out into costume design and playwriting, eventually getting her M.B.A. Her first stand-alone play, a dark comedy about Oscar Wilde, premiered at the Hollywood Fringe Festival to a sold-out run and won the Encore Producers Award. As a writer, she is especially passionate about fantasy and mythology, has published several pieces in anthology, and is a recent finalist with The Writers of the Future Award. Her debut novel, Gold Spun, is a fresh retelling of the Rumpelstiltskin tale through the miller daughter’s POV. Except now the miller’s daughter is a con artist and Rumpelstiltskin is a mysterious faerie with a dark secret.

Author Links:

Website: https://www.brandiejune.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/brandiejune

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/thebrandiejune/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/19793140.Brandie_June

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheOriginalBrandieJune/

Review: My Last Summer with Cass

I’m super excited to be a part of this fun book tour for My Last Summer with Cass by Mark Crilley. I’ve only recently gotten into graphic novels, but man, this one is already a favorite. It’s sweet and fun, and a reminder than some friendships live in our hearts and lives from our childhood into our own adulthood.

Check out the Full Tour Here!

Synopsis:

This One Summer meets The Edge of Seventeen in this poignant coming-of-age YA graphic novel about two childhood friends at a crossroads in their lives and art—from the author of Mastering Manga.​ Megan and Cass have been joined at the brush for as long as they can remember. For years, while spending summers together at a lakeside cabin, they created art together, from sand to scribbles . . . to anything available. Then Cass moved away to New York.

When Megan finally convinces her parents to let her spend a week in the city, too, it seems like Cass has completely changed. She has tattoos, every artist in the city knows her—she even eats chicken feet! At least one thing has stayed the same: They still make their best art together.

But when one girl betrays the other’s trust on the eve of what is supposed to be their greatest artistic feat yet, can their friendship survive? Can their art?

Something amazing always happened when we worked together.”

Meg, My Last Summer with Cass

I loved this book! It was such a fun journey through friendship, from the early years of Meg & Cass meeting and sharing summer fun to high school where they have gone their separate ways, and to college, where heartbreak might just bring them back together. After a change in her family, Cass leaves her small-town life behind to move to New York. Meg & Cass stay in touch, and Meg goes to visit her during high school. The silly partner in friendship she remembers has been replaced by New York City Cass, a sassy, sarcastic teenage artist living with her mother and trying to make art that matters to her. At one point, Cass exclaims, “Change is everything.”

Change is Everything.

This is a book about how we change, and how we stay the same. It is a story about how we live and love and hurt each other. It’s a story about how we find our way back to the friendships and people that really matter to us. After Cass & Meg have a falling out, can anything bring them back together? Can their love of art survive? What really makes a friendship, after all?

Maybe the books says it best: “Sometimes friendship isn’t just like a work of art – it is a work of art.”

My Rating 3.5/4 stars. Easy to follow, the art is beautiful, and the story weaves quickly. I actually would have liked it to be a little longer!

About the Author

Mark Crilley was raised in Detroit, Michigan. After graduating from Kalamazoo College, he traveled to Taiwan and Japan, where he taught English for nearly five years. It was during his stay in Japan that he created the Eisner Award–nominated comic Akiko on the Planet Smoo, which spawned a series of graphic novels and prose novel adaptations. In 1998, Mark Crilley was named to Entertainment Weekly’s It List of the 100 most creative people in entertainment.

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My Last Summer with Cass is available today wherever books are sold! Here are some quick links just for you if you want to pick up a copy:
Goodreads Amazon Barnes and Noble Book Depository Indigo IndieBound

When The World is On Fire…

I’d be shocked that it’s been more than a year since I wrote on this blog, but… 2020.

There is so much to say and so much not to say. I’ve written a couple blogs in my head. I’ve scribbled lots of thoughts down. I’ve wondered and wondered and thought and thought. But, now, as the winter days settle in and everything feels so different and so familiar at the same time, I am struck with one thought:

Be rain to a burning world, not wind.

It feels like the world is on physical fire. And it has been. Wildfires have ravaged continents and coastlines. The middle of the country has been burned and scorched. Places where wildfires haven’t cropped up, hurricanes and tornados and storms have destroyed and dismantled. There is devastation everywhere, and it doesn’t seem to be letting up.

The world is on emotional fire. Emotions are at a boiling point. Elections. Social Media. Protests. Hurts. Humiliations. Fear. Exhaustion. Uncertainty. Emotional fires have played out in horrible words spewed at those that think differently. Never has the ugliness of who we could be as a people been so apparent. We’ve lost the ability to be cautious with our words. We’ve stopped weighing their impact. We’ve gotten callous and horrible with each other, each so sure of our rightness we’ve stopped acknowledging we might be wrong. Words are pouring gas onto the fire, and the flames are raging.

The world is on spiritual fire. Never has faith been so polarizing. So dividing. So filled with animosity and the “I’m right, and you’re wrong” rhetoric. My faith is under fire. Your faith is under fire. We are judged, and we are the ones doing the judging. Our brothers and sisters of color are fighting a hard fight, and their souls are weary. We are tasked with holding them up, strengthening them, and helping the world see their value and beauty.

The flames are lapping at our ankles, at our knees, at our bellies. We are consumed by hurt and division. We are enduring a literal plague. We are bullied for our choices (or lack there of). We are divided along party lines, along opinions lines, along color lines. We are stretched to the point of breaking.

We are begging for relief. Any relief. Fires eventually burn themselves out. At some point, there is nothing left to burn. But the cost is often too much. Life. Love. Hope. We can sit by and watch the fire burn, or we can do something.

So, what are you going to do? Be a welcome rain or a fanning wind?

Rain calms and cools. Rain heals cracked land and brings new life from dead soil.
Rain diminishes the flames as clear drops cover the burning embers.
Rain promises renewal, even when it’s torrential.
Rain clarifies. Clears. Restores.

Wind spreads the flames.
Wind sweeps the good and the bad up together.
Wind gives oxygen to the fire, makes it grow.
Wind helps things burn until there is nothing left to catch flame.

Both wind and rain are important in their own time. But today, I’m choosing to be rain. I’m choosing to lessen the flames and not stoke the fire. What’s your choice?

Dreams Aren’t Dumb

…nor are the Dreamers

Sometimes things just happen in life. They are unexpected and surprising and beautiful and challenging. One of those things happened to me and I’ve been struggling to try and put into words what the experience has meant…which is ironic for reasons you will soon read.

A random series of events and friendships about two years ago led to breakfast with a complete stranger – a bundle of passion and energy who had already launched a full-fledged production company in Bloomington and was looking to expand the education arm of their foundation. That man was John Armstrong. The production company was Pigasus (The Good Catholic; Ms. White Light). He was (and is) a chaotic bundle of energy, passion, and excitement. At the time, I didn’t know breakfast would change so much for me.

Fast forward to February 2018, and I took the leap and became a teacher. For the past few months, I’ve been teaching Intro to Storytelling for Kids at the newly-created Bloomington Academy of Film and Theatre, and it has been life-changing. When I was first asked to be a part of this project, I was convinced it was a mistake – all the other instructors are actual experts in their fields, trained and confident. I am just a girl with a library degree who knows the power of story – and how your story is the most important, authentic thing you can give the world.

Now, two sessions behind me and missing my kids and my co-workers something fierce, I thought I would tell you what I’ve learned:

  • Everyone has a story – and they all matter
  • Teaching is just as much about listening as it is telling
  • You never know what you’re capable of until you step outside your comfort zone
  • You will find some of the best people in the world when you try something new
  • Friendships formed through the crazy experience of starting a school are real and will stand the test of time
  • You don’t have to be an expert to share your passion
  • You’ll only fail if you aren’t authentic
  • Actor kids and their families are the most encouraging, uplifting sort of folk
  • You’ll see yourself in every single kid you teach
  • You’re never done writing your own story

The tagline for Pigasus is “Dreams Aren’t Dumb.” And it’s never been more true in my life. I’m a dreamer: one who is pursuing her dreams in a bunch of crazy ways with a bunch of crazy people, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Dreams aren’t dumb. But neither are the dreamers. The people willing to take risks, make mistakes, dream even bigger, and put their whole hearts into something. So, here’s to the BAFT dreamers: John, Eric, Zach, Kate, Emelie, Byron, Amanda… thank you for helping me build bigger dreams and keep reaching for the next amazing opportunity.

Awkward & Awesome

pink awkward and awesome thursday logo

Years ago, my friend Sarah started Awkward and Awesome Thursdays as a way to highlight the good, bad, and ridiculous about life. I have decided to bring it back as a way to sum up my 2019 thus far, and a way to have a little weekly fun. So, without further ado…

Awkward

  • WordPress changing things and the amount of time it took to figure out how to make bullet points.
  • Random health issues have led to just a lot of drama (doctor’s appointments, surgery, etc). Even at my follow up last night, my doctor said my body was weird.
  • My inability to read since finishing grad school. My ability to focus is ridiculously low right now.
  • How I picked an “easy” word for 2019 and that word – joy – has been almost comically elusive.
  • Changing friendships: I know it’s part of the cycle, but man, it’s hard.
  • My new license photo: why is smiling so horrible to the government?

Awesome

  • Finishing Grad school and finally getting my diploma in the mail. I’m officially a librarian without a library!
  • Getting asked to direct a play with MCCT. I am excited to stretch my behind-the-scenes wings a little.
  • Teaching with the Bloomington Academy of Film and Theatre. It’s not something I expected, but I’m loving it (and having a ton of fun).
  • Deepening friendships. As some change, some get even deeper and more authentic, which is energizing!
  • Discovering Color Street! I love having pretty nails, even when everything else is falling apart!
  • My favorite Arepa place is finally open again. I love food, what can I say?
  • Getting ready for vacation! I love traveling with my husband
  • Live theater: Hamilton, Something Rotten, Price is Right Live, Finding Neverland, School of Rock, the King and I…it’s a good life!

What’s been awesome and awkward in your life?

A Word to Define a Year

colorful word joy

It’s been at least six or seven years since I started participating in the MY ONE WORD project. I’ve always thought long and hard about the words I want to choose to define my years…and I’ve picked some big ones.

Experience (2011)
Intentional (2012)
Ready (2013)
Pursuit (2014)
Forward (2015)
Progress (2016)
Trust (2017)
Peace (2018)

Each word has shaped that year in some way. Some have been big changes and some have been small. Some have been good years. Some have been hard.

But, as I thought about 2019 and what I want the next 12 months to look like, one word kept jumping to mind. It wasn’t a word that I at first thought would be challenging. It wasn’t a word that needed to be put out into the universe. But, the more I thought about other words, “harder” words, the more I realized the right word was already there:

colorful word joy

2019 is a year to link all my previous years of this project together. This is the year I choose to experience joy. This is the year I choose to be intentional about pursuing joy in my life. This year I am ready for joy. This year I will lean forward into a life of joy and trust the progression of my heart from overwhelmed to joyful. This year I will find peace in joy.

Joy isn’t about being happy all the time to me. It’s about finding reasons to delight in the world, in the people, in the moments that make up my time on earth. It’s about a deeper happiness than what is seen in moments of good things. It’s about finding joy in the simple and the spectacular.

So, in 2019 I choose joy as the word to embrace and define my year.

What is your one word?

Remember Me?

Signature — Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

It’s been awhile since I wandered into the land of this blog. So long, in fact, I seriously considered turning it off and not coming back. I thought about just closing this part of my story and moving on to a new…thing…

It’s not like anyone has really noticed I’ve been gone.

But, blogging has always been for me, not for the “masses” (or the 5 randoms that still read this thing). It’s been a way for me to process life and to just keep the writing part of my life active an engaged.

So, here I am…again.

Since August? I’ve been in a play. I’ve finished grad school. I’ve finished journeying down the Mother Road. I’ve spent hours in front of my computer writing papers and discussion posts. I’ve stumbled through another fall and winter season at work. I’ve gone to Harry Potter World (Universal Studios Florida). I’ve watched entire seasons of new shows. I’ve cleaned my house. Several times. I’ve decorated for Christmas. I’ve seen a few shows.

I’ve lived a lot of life.

And here it is – the almost end of another year. There have been amazing successes and deep sorrows in this season. There has been a lot of good. And some bad. I didn’t spend as much time with family as I would have liked.

I’m looking toward 2019 with anticipation. There is a lot to think about and a lot to process. I’ve already picked my word for the year. I’ve planned how I want to clean out the mess that is my house. I want to travel. I want to see family. I’ll turn 40. 2019 is going to be a good one.

So, here’s to new beginnings…and new tomorrows.

(Also, WordPress has changed and I’m not sure I like it.)

Can we stop with the shame game already?

Have you ever really wanted to write a blog, started it a dozen times, and then not finished? Well, that is how this one has been. It’s something I want to write, but it’s been hard. Hard because there are some emotions involved. Hard because, with time and distance, it seems silly?

That’s this post. I’ve sat on it off and on for two years, sometimes mad, sometimes thinking it’s not worth writing. Then, today, the photo that prompted it all showed up in my time hop.

The caption with the picture reads “not only does amazon not deliver on release day, but my book is all jacked up. #disappointed”

I was annoyed that my book had come mangled after a shipping mishap, and put the photo up. Looking back, it wasn’t worth the social media post, but I don’t regret that I did it. I have a lot of bookish friends and we were all waiting – anxiously – for the latest installment in the life of the boy who lived. I had a good laugh about it with some friends, called Amazon and got a replacement book, and set this one aside to send back. And went on with my day.

The next morning, I opened the blog of a mutual friend of mine and saw that my mini rant/annoyance was pointed out, in just a sentence in her blog. It was a blog about struggles in her life and my seemingly less than important issue. I saved the blog because it bothered me that much, but I won’t quote it here or link it. I think it was written in a moment of high emotion for her, as well. The summary of it was this: can you believe that people complain about these things when the world stinks so much sometimes?

She took issue with my annoyance (and called me out on it without mentioning me) because there are hungry people in the world that need our help.

My “issue” was not an issue because there are people in the world whose lives are much worse than mine.

Here’s the thing, though. I get it. I know that being frustrated about something that was totally a purchase made from my “blow” money is kind of silly. I know there are starving and hungry people in the world. I know there are homeless people in my city. I know there are hurting families surrounding me. I know that things like a “fancy” hardcover book are splurges that many people won’t ever even think of making.

But, can we please, please, please stop shaming people for their choices? Can we please stop making people feel somehow less because they bought a book they wanted instead of spending that money on something “more worthy?” Can we stop shaming people for liking what they like and wanting what they want?

Can we acknowledge that people can be compassionate, despite their “selfish” wants? Can we acknowledge that I can both be annoyed by a crumpled book and still want people to not be hungry, scared, or alone at night?

Buying a book, movie, shirt (insert whatever your latest purchase was here) doesn’t lessen your compassion for the world.

Now, don’t get me started on that whole #firstworldproblems hashtag that floats around on social media every now and then…that’s another blog for another day.

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How Reading Challenges Shape my Reading Life

Ah, the reading challenge. There is something about having a little guidance that makes my never-ending log of books I want to read a little more manageable. For the last several years, I’ve focused mostly on the Goodreads Challenge. There are no rules to the Goodreads challenge; just set a book number goal for the year and go for it!

The lack of rules is nice. The pressure is a little crazy. At my peak, I read 155 books one year. But, here’s what I realized about myself last year? With a few exceptions, there were books I didn’t read in 2017 because I knew they would take too long. They were too long or too dense and I knew that giving the time to reading them would mean that I wouldn’t be able to hit my goal. So, I didn’t.

This year, I want my reading life to be different. I’ve set a slightly smaller goal on Goodreads, but I want my reading life to be about things I love and books that challenge me. So, I’m focusing on a couple different challenges.

The Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge

I love Anne Bogel. Like, a lot. I read her blog for awhile and loved it, but then got busy with life. However, her podcast, What Should I Read Next, is one of my favorite things ever. So, I’m focusing on her annual reading challenge first.

The Book Riot Read Harder Challenge

Book Riot is a great reading resource and this challenge is hard! It requires a lot of reading and a lot of stepping out of your comfort zone, book-wise. But they also do regular blogs with the categories and what they suggest reading from each.

Check out all the details here.

I’ll do a post soon about books in each category I’m planning on reading, but what category above excites you the most? What would be the hardest category for you to fulfill?

What book challenges are you doing this year? I’ve had a hard time finding new ones (even though there were approximately 11 billion in 2017).