Book Review: Crier’s War by Nina Varela

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Title:
Crier’s War
Author:  Nina Varela
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: October 1, 2019
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Science Fiction, LGBT
Rating: ★★★★★

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Synopsis:

After the War of Kinds ravaged the kingdom of Rabu, the Automae, designed to be the playthings of royals, usurped their owners’ estates and bent the human race to their will.

Now Ayla, a human servant rising in the ranks at the House of the Sovereign, dreams of avenging her family’s death…by killing the sovereign’s daughter, Lady Crier.

Crier was Made to be beautiful, flawless, and to carry on her father’s legacy. But that was before her betrothal to the enigmatic Scyre Kinok, before she discovered her father isn’t the benevolent king she once admired, and most importantly, before she met Ayla.

Now, with growing human unrest across the land, pressures from a foreign queen, and an evil new leader on the rise, Crier and Ayla find there may be only one path to love: war.


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Alright, I am saying this right now, but this might be my favorite book of 2019. I’ve only  had one book this year that I gave 5 stars, and Crier’s War is definitely my second 5-star worthy read of 2019. As a constant-page turner, I often found myself lost in the themes of rebellion, political power, humanity, and elaborate world-building.

Varela’s writing is so engaging, rich, and lush; the characters are so vibrant and dynamic; and the mix of alchemy and machination allows this novel to effortlessly mesh fantasy and science into a world of Automa (artificial intelligence) overruling humans. The author masterfully molds all these complex elements into the most beautiful and enthralling story.

As Varela’s debut novel, and the first book in a duology, do yourself a favor and add Crier’s War to your TBR asap. As an own voices novel with a slow-burn queer love story that had me swooning, Crier’s War flawlessly and emotionally drives her two main characters, Crier and Ayla, into conflict and determination to seek out their own motives–motives and narratives immersed in rage, revenge, vulnerability, epiphanies, an enemies to lovers romance, and surprising betrayals. 

 

Blogger Note: Thank you so much to Wunderkind PR for sending me a free copy of Crier’s War to read and review. 

Book Review & Mood Board: Butterfly Yellow by Thanhha Lai

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Title:
Butterfly Yellow
Author:  Thanhha Lai
Publisher: HarperCollins
Release Date: September 3, 2019
Genres: Young Adult, Historical, Fiction

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Synopsis:

In the final days of the Việt Nam War, Hằng takes her little brother, Linh, to the airport, determined to find a way to safety in America. In a split second, Linh is ripped from her arms—and Hằng is left behind in the war-torn country.

Six years later, Hằng has made the brutal journey from Việt Nam and is now in Texas as a refugee. She doesn’t know how she will find the little brother who was taken from her until she meets LeeRoy, a city boy with big rodeo dreams, who decides to help her.

Hằng is overjoyed when she reunites with Linh. But when she realizes he doesn’t remember her, their family, or Việt Nam, her heart is crushed. Though the distance between them feels greater than ever, Hằng has come so far that she will do anything to bridge the gap. 


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Butterfly Yellow is an emotionally driven novel told in multiple POVs; more specifically in the points of view of Hằng and LeeRoy. Hằng is a Vietnamese refugee traveling to Texas in search of her younger brother, Linh, who was taken to America during the Vietnam War. And LeeRoy is an eighteen-year-old whose main aspiration is to be a cowboy. The interactions between this unlikely pair allows the novel to flow so beautifully. 

Determined to find her brother, Hằng internally struggles with her own PTSD and her hard journey from Vietnam to Texas. Not only is she physically exhausted and vulnerable, but she is also conflicted with coping with emotional distress, survival, hunger, and language boundaries.

On his way to meet his rodeo idol, LeeRoy is unwillingly pushed to drive Hằng on her quest to find her brother. LeeRoy’s quirkiness and straightforward attitude provide a comedic relief to Hằng’s feisty stubbornness and her heartbreaking journey. Although the dialogue between the characters is often stilted, it becomes a learning process and a great facilitator that instills the friendship between these two characters.

Overall, the pacing of this novel is wonderfully steady. Each chapter is short and to the point, while the words flow like a beautiful poem. I quickly connected with the characters within a few pages of meeting them, and from there on, I enjoyed their paths that often unfolded into mosaic of heartbreak, love, determination, and the idea of accepting your mistakes and moving forward.

Mood Board Butterfly Yellow

 

Blogger Note: Thank you so much to Wunderkind PR for sending me a free copy of Butterfly Yellow to read and review. 

Book Review: A Constellation of Roses by Miranda Asebedo

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Title:
A Constellation of Roses
Author:  Miranda Asebedo
Publisher: Harper Teen
Release Date: November 5, 2019
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Magic Realism
Rating: ★★★

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Synopsis:

Ever since her mother walked out, Trix McCabe has been determined to make it on her own. And with her near-magical gift for pulling valuables off unsuspecting strangers, Trix is confident she has what it takes to survive. Until she’s caught and given a choice: jail time, or go live with her long-lost family in the tiny town of Rocksaw, Kansas.

Trix doesn’t plan to stick around Rocksaw long, but there’s something special about her McCabe relatives that she is drawn to. Her aunt, Mia, bakes pies that seem to cure all ills. Her cousin, Ember, can tell a person’s deepest secret with the touch of a hand. And Trix’s great-aunt takes one look at Trix’s palm and tells her that if she doesn’t put down roots somewhere, she won’t have a future anywhere.

Before long, Trix feels like she might finally belong with this special group of women in this tiny town in Kansas. But when her past comes back to haunt her, she’ll have to decide whether to take a chance on this new life . . . or keep running from the one she’s always known.

With lovable and flawed characters, an evocative setting, and friendships to treasure, A Constellation of Roses is the perfect companion to Miranda Asebedo’s debut novel The Deepest Roots.


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A Constellation of Roses is a well-developed contemporary novel that hints at magic, but provides a serious outlet and tone for realistic, young adult situations. After her mom fails to come back home one day, Trix takes the matter of survival into her own hands. Trix relies heavily on her gift as a undetected thief to take what she needs to survive. Without giving too many spoilers, Trix’s antics are not unseen and she is sent to live with some unknown relatives. 

Now surrounded by three generations of women who also have their own talents and gifts, Trix puts up a hard shell that’s not easy to crack. As Trix adapts to her new surroundings, makes new friends, and slowly starts trusting her newfound family, she begins to explore the truth about herself and her familial past. More importantly, she begins defining and understanding what family truly means. And as the story unfolds, Trix also begins acknowledging that everyone, no matter how happy they seem on the outside, are also going through their own personal struggles. 

Filled with emotionally-curing pie, a dash of magic, and teenage antics, A Constellation of Roses will have you swimming in emotions of heartache, laughter, tears, and swoons. This novel explores some very heavy issues, which makes these characters so realistic and so easy to connect and fall in love with.

Some favorite quotes:

“Fortune-telling isn’t a science. It’s an art. And sometimes art is messy.”

“Scars tell a story, even when we don’t want them to.”

“You know, there’s an old story that back when they founded Rocksaw, the McCabes were one of the first families here. And their daughters were so beautiful and so strangely gifted that people in Buffalo Hills thought they were witches and wanted to run them out of the area.”

“Love is promising Persian kittens. Love is American slang dictionaries for Scrabble. Love is Coke-and-cherry slushes as midnight. Love is watching the lights come on in town from law chairs on Cedar Mountain. Love is lemon-meringue pie on porch steps.”

“Yes, I have gotten what I always wanted. My deepest secrets. Not a perfect family, after all. But a constellation of women, connected by pie and fortunes and roses. And love.”

 

Blogger Note: Thank you so much to Wunderkind PR for sending me a free copy of A Cosntellation of Roses to read and review. 

Blog Tour: Songs from the Deep by Kelly Powell

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Title: Songs from the Deep
Author:  Kelly Powell
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Release Date: November 5, 2019
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Historical, Mystery
Rating: ★★★★

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Synopsis:

A girl searches for a killer on an island where deadly sirens lurk just beneath the waves in this gripping, atmospheric debut novel.

The sea holds many secrets.

Moira Alexander has always been fascinated by the deadly sirens who lurk along the shores of her island town. Even though their haunting songs can lure anyone to a swift and watery grave, she gets as close to them as she can, playing her violin on the edge of the enchanted sea. When a young boy is found dead on the beach, the islanders assume that he’s one of the sirens’ victims. Moira isn’t so sure.

Certain that someone has framed the boy’s death as a siren attack, Moira convinces her childhood friend, the lighthouse keeper Jude Osric, to help her find the real killer, rekindling their friendship in the process. With townspeople itching to hunt the sirens down, and their own secrets threatening to unravel their fragile new alliance, Moira and Jude must race against time to stop the killer before it’s too late—for humans and sirens alike.


4

Songs from the Deep reads like the steady lyrics of a richly melodic song. Set on an island dependent on tourism and the sea, this novel delves into the a story of murder, mystery, friendship, and deadly sirens.

I found Songs from the Deep to be a constant page-turner. Kelly Powell’s lyrical writing and vivid scenic descriptions, create a very atmospheric setting that makes you want to curl up on the couch and drink warm tea as you read the story’s mysteries unfold. 

I enjoyed reading the reconnection of an old friendship and the subtle love story that unfolds throughout the pages, along with the thrill of the two main characters, Moira and Jude, solving the murders of local islanders. Moira and Jude are the perfect sleuthing pair; they balance out each other’s flaws and secrets, while also using their own ingrained abilities to help save the sirens from being wrongfully accused and then hunted.

As an entrancing novel of unsolved mysteries, dangerous sirens, and unraveled secrets, Songs from the Deep is must read. Along with the small-town lives of the islanders, the steady swooshing of the waves, the enticing song of the sirens, and the scent of the sea, you will easily be bewitched in the dark ambiance of this novel.

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Moira’s mom is a baker, and throughout small parts of the story, I kept craving yummy pastries. So as a great pairing with Songs from the Deep, I bought some scone mix, and decided to make some “Save the Sirens Scones.”

Because I did not bake these scones from scratch, I made sure to follow the directions on the scone mix bag. Along with the scone mix, I only needed butter and milk. After smashing the butter into the mix and stirring in the milk to make a clumpy dough, I formed the dough into a ball and then spread it out on a greased baking pan. I used a spatula to deeply score the dough into wedges. After baking for 17 minutes at 350 degrees F, I let the scones cool. 

If you decide to bake your own scones, be sure to you make yourself a cup of your favorite tea to pair with the pastry. With a scone and tea at hand, you will create the perfect reading setting to enjoy the mysterious and very atmospheric novel, Songs from the Deep.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

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About the author:

Kelly Powell has a bachelor’s degree in history and book and media studies from the University of Toronto. She currently lives in Ontario. Songs from the Deep is her debut novel.

 

 

 

 

 

Blogger Note: Thank you so much to Simon Teen/ Simon & Schuster for inviting me to host a “Raves & Craves” post on this blog tour and sending me a free copy of Songs from the Sea to read and review. 

Trick-or-Treat Yo Shelf: The Lady Rogue by Jenn Bennett

The Lady Rogue
Title:
The Lady Rogue
Authors: Jenn Bennett
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release Date: September 3, 2019
Genre: Young Adult, Historical

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Synopsis:

The Last Magician meets A Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue in this thrilling tale filled with magic and set in the mysterious Carpathian Mountains where a girl must hunt down Vlad the Impaler’s cursed ring in order to save her father.

Some legends never die…

Traveling with her treasure-hunting father has always been a dream for Theodora. She’s read every book in his library, has an impressive knowledge of the world’s most sought-after relics, and has all the ambition in the world. What she doesn’t have is her father’s permission. That honor goes to her father’s nineteen-year-old protégé—and once-upon-a-time love of Theodora’s life—Huck Gallagher, while Theodora is left to sit alone in her hotel in Istanbul.

Until Huck arrives from an expedition without her father and enlists Theodora’s help in rescuing him. Armed with her father’s travel journal, the reluctant duo learns that her father had been digging up information on a legendary and magical ring that once belonged to Vlad the Impaler—more widely known as Dracula—and that it just might be the key to finding him.

Journeying into Romania, Theodora and Huck embark on a captivating adventure through Gothic villages and dark castles in the misty Carpathian Mountains to recover the notorious ring. But they aren’t the only ones who are searching for it. A secretive and dangerous occult society with a powerful link to Vlad the Impaler himself is hunting for it, too. And they will go to any lengths—including murder—to possess it.


TOTYS TLR

Welcome to my second “Trick-or-Treat Yo Shelf” post of the season. All through September and October, I will be reviewing new releases and helping you decide if you should TREAT YO SHELF to the featured new release.

Today’s book choice is The Lady Rogue by Jenn Bennett, which released on September 3, 2019. And you guys, SPOILER ALERT, I’m just going to tell you right now: you need to TREAT YO SHELF to a copy of The Lady Rogue ASAP!

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I am a huge fanatic of Jenn Bennett’s YA contemporary novels, and I could not wait to read her historical book. And surprise, surprise: I adored The Lady Rogue so much. After reading this constant page-turner, I was raving to everyone on my social media outlets, insisting and demanding that everyone add Jenn Bennett’s historical, fantasy novel to their TBR NOW! The Lady Rogue gave me extreme The Mummy vibes (the best kind of vibes, in my opinion), and, of course, the angsty, swoon-worthy feels that are the epitome of Jenn Bennett’s novels.

This novel is definitely the perfect book to read this autumn. The Lady Rogue eloquently melds adventure, history, romance, Gothic scenery, cursed objects, and magic into the perfect historical tome. 

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Are you still wondering if The Lady Rogue is the perfect book to Treat Yo Shelf to? Well, my bookish friend, wait no further. If you like more than three things off this checklist, you best believe you need to add The Lady Rogue to your TBR list.

The Lady Rogue Checklist

♦ A fierce and sassy heroine
♦ A charming and dashing hero named Huxley Gallagher a.k.a. Huck
♦ Witty and angsty banter
♦ Treasure hunting for magical artifacts
♦ Trekking through the Romania wilderness
♦ Characters taking some unethical but daring risks
♦ Code-breaking and puzzle solving
♦ Unraveling tales and legends of Vlad the Impaler
♦ Adventurous travels through modes of trains and planes
♦ Secret societies and Gothic vibes
♦  SWOONS!

TLR TYS

Blogger Note: A huge thank you to Simon Teen for providing me an ARC to read and review. All statements and opinions are my own. 

 

Blog Tour: Review & Favorite Quotes of All the Bad Apples

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Title:
All the Bad Apples
Authors: Moïra Fowley-Doyle
Publisher: Penguin
Release Date: August 27, 2019
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult, Mystery

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Synopsis:

The day after the funeral all our mourning clothes hung out on the line like sleeping bats. ‘This will be really embarrassing,’ I kept saying to my family, ‘when she shows up at the door in a week or two.’

When Deena’s wild and mysterious sister Mandy disappears – presumed dead – her family are heartbroken. But Mandy has always been troubled. It’s just another bad thing to happen to Deena’s family. Only Deena refuses to believe it’s true.

And then the letters start arriving. Letters from Mandy, claiming that their family’s blighted history is not just bad luck or bad decisions – but a curse, handed down through the generations. Mandy has gone in search of the curse’s roots, and now Deena must find her. What they find will heal their family’s rotten past – or rip it apart forever.


1

Once again, Moïra Fowley-Doyle has created a beautiful atmospheric story filled with magic, mystery, and familial curses. All the Bad Apples includes twists and turns that are traced through letters, which provide details of the main character’s family history. A history sprinkled with cursed family members, also known as the bad apples. The letters include clues on how to break the curse placed on the family’s bad apples, but more importantly, the letters bring Deena one step closer to finding her missing, or thought-to-be dead sister, Mandy.

As an own voices novel, Moïra Fowley-Doyle fills the pages of All the Bad Apples with fictional but realistic accounts of unwed mothers, rape survivors, incest, abortions, racism, and the stigma encompassed in Ireland’s history and present day state. Deena’s story and the narratives of her ancestors are a bitter bite into reality; their stories and hardships reflect the oppression of women, orphaned children, and queer men that does not seem to go away over time.

As a contemporary novel embraced in history and elements of magical realism, Moïra Fowley-Doyle creates a jolting story—multiple accounts at that—filled with queer diversity, heartache, rage, feminism, and in the end, hope. Hope for change and a hope for equality across spectrums of sexuality, gender, and racism. All the Bad Apples will make your teeth clinch, your heart ache, and your eyes tear up—but overall it will leave a lasting impression that history is complicated. History is always changing but unfortunately forever repeating itself—a habit rooted in silencing those who do not conform or fit “traditional” standards.

Favorite Quotes:

“Sometimes you have to feel the past to believe it.”

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“Some loves ignite like forest fires, burn down entire towns before anybody’s noticed. . . Some loves smolder like a turf fire, are slow to start but will then burn bright and steady through entire winters.”

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“The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

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“A good cup of tea is a witch’s brew,” the old women said together with wicked grins. “Heals all ills.”

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“This is what a curse does: It takes a truth and twists it. It punishes those who don’t conform. It sets the parameters of conformity so narrow that few can actually stick to them.”

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“You tell the story,” said Mandy slowly. “You tell your story and the story of your family. You speak your truth. You shatter the stigma. You hold your head up to the world and speak so that everyone else who was ever like you can recognize themselves. Can see that they aren’t alone. Can see how the past will only keep repeating itself as long as we’re kept powerless by our silence.”

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Moïra Fowley-Doyle is half-French, half-Irish and made of equal parts feminism, whimsy and Doc Martens. She lives in Dublin where she writes magic realism, reads tarot cards and raises witch babies.

Moïra’s first novel, The Accident Season, was shortlisted for the 2015 Waterstones Children’s Book Prize & the North East Teen Book Awards, nominated for the Carnegie Medal & won the inaugural School Library Association of Ireland Great Reads Award. It received two starred reviews & sold in ten territories. Her second novel, Spellbook of the Lost and Found, was published in summer 2017, received a starred review from School Library Journal and was shortlisted for the Irish Book Awards.

 

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TOUR SCHEDULE

Note: Thank you to the The Fantastic Flying Book Club for having me on this blog tour. And a huge thank you to Penguin Teen for providing me an e-ARC to read and review for free in exchange of an honest review. All statements and opinions are my own. Please note that all quoted material is not final and may change in the final publication of the book.

Raves & Craves: Ziggy, Stardust and Me by James Brandon

Ziggy, Stardust, and Me
Title:
Ziggy, Stardust and Me
Author:  James Brandon
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Release Date: August 6, 2019
Genres: Young Adult, LGBT, Historical
Source: Physical ARC from publisher

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Synopsis:

The year is 1973. The Watergate hearings are in full swing. The Vietnam War is still raging. And homosexuality is still officially considered a mental illness. In the midst of these trying times is sixteen-year-old Jonathan Collins, a bullied, anxious, asthmatic kid, who aside from an alcoholic father and his sympathetic neighbor and friend Starla, is completely alone. To cope, Jonathan escapes to the safe haven of his imagination, where his hero David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust and dead relatives, including his mother, guide him through the rough terrain of his life. In his alternate reality, Jonathan can be anything: a superhero, an astronaut, Ziggy Stardust, himself, or completely “normal” and not a boy who likes other boys. When he completes his treatments, he will be normal—at least he hopes. But before that can happen, Web stumbles into his life. Web is everything Jonathan wishes he could be: fearless, fearsome and, most importantly, not ashamed of being gay.

Jonathan doesn’t want to like brooding Web, who has secrets all his own. Jonathan wants nothing more than to be “fixed” once and for all. But he’s drawn to Web anyway. Web is the first person in the real world to see Jonathan completely and think he’s perfect. Web is a kind of escape Jonathan has never known. For the first time in his life, he may finally feel free enough to love and accept himself as he is.

A poignant coming-of-age tale, Ziggy, Stardust and Me heralds the arrival of a stunning and important new voice in YA.


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Hi everyone! Today I am hosting a Raves & Craves post for Penguin Teen’s Daring Debuts campaign! I hope you are ready for a yummy treat paired with a raving review of Ziggy, Stardust & Me by James Brandon.

3

My heart is so content and heavy by how unbelievably earth-shattering, tear-inducing, and beautifully written this book is. Ziggy, Stardust & Me reads like a song that you want to hear for the very first time all over again. James Brandon’s words will flood your soul with tears of sorrow and intense pride.

Set in the 1970s, this novel clinches the historical realities of corrupt government scandals, blatant racism, and the treatment of homosexuality as a mental disorder. Mesh these wrongs with abstract lyrics of self-acceptance, change, hope, love, and the perceptive of humanity, and you encompass the heart and struggles found in Ziggy, Stardust & Me.

Jonathan (also known as Johnny), the main character, is going through so many life-changing experiences at once, which sets up his adolescence in a galactic spin of hardships, falling in love, and finding self-acceptance. Ziggy, Stardust & Me will immerse your heart in a coming of age story that is very relevant to today’s young generation who, like Johnny, struggle to find their own voice and find pride in who they are.

4

One of my favorite parts of this book was watching the friendship and relationship develop between Johnny and his new classmate and American Indian friend, Web. They share a love for music, imagining the moon as their safe haven, and accepting ice cream as a peace offering. I was constantly highlighting and tagging scenes and quotes between these two characters. Some of my favorite quotes that inspired this blog post snack are:

“You know, Carl Sagan says we’re all made of star stuff. Everything is made of it. When stars die they fall into our atmosphere and turn into these chemical compounds that become things. Sometimes they become people.”
“Far out.”
“I know. I hope one day we’ll all see each other without these stupid labels and instead see each other for who we really are. Starfolk.”

“And remembering a quote President Kennedy once said: ‘We choose to go to the moon not because it’s easy, but because it’s hard.’
I think I finally get it now. It’s a lot like love, isn’t it? It’s hard work, but if you don’t give up and keep pushing forward, the rewards are infinite . . .”

“We can always go there, you know? To the moon. It’s safe at least . . .”

“Just us, remember? To the moon,” he whispers.

In reference to these beautifully written scenes, I was inspired to make my own bowl of comforting ice cream sundae. While Johnny’s favorite ice cream is bomb pops and Web’s are Push-up pops, I thought I would put my own “To the Moon” sundae spin with my favorite ice cream, cookies ‘n cream. 

Ingredients:

  • Ice cream (vanilla)
  • Oreo
  • Cherries
  • Sprinkles (stars and moons, if you got them)

Instructions:

Scoop up your favorite flavored ice cream and place it into a bowl. Then add all your favorite toppings. In this case, I have added large crumbles of Oreo cookies, cherries (because the flavor reminds Johnny of Web), and a sprinkle of stars to represent their friendship and being ever-loving starfolk.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

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James Brandon
 produced and played the central role of Joshua in the international tour of Terrence McNally’s Corpus Christi for a decade, and is codirector of the documentary film based on their journey, Corpus Christi: Playing with Redemption. He’s the cofounder of the I AM Love Campaign, an arts-based initiative bridging the faith-based and LGBTQ2+ communities, and serves on the Powwow Steering Committee for Bay Area American Indian Two-Spirits (BAAITS) in San Francisco. Brandon is a contributing writer for Huffington PostBelieve Out Loud, and Spirituality and Health MagazineZiggy, Stardust and Me is his first novel. You can visit James Brandon at justbejb.com

TOUR SCHEDULE

Ziggy, Stardust and Me

Week One:

August 5 – The Book Bratz – Covers inspired by favorite singers
August 6 – Goblet of Fiction – Creative Instagram Picture
August 7 – The Quirky Book Nerd – Author Guest Post: What theme song would you choose for each character and why?
August 8 – Confessions of a YA Reader – Playlist
August 9 – Velarisreads – Inspired by the Book: Makeup

Week Two:

August 12 – Liv The Book Nerd – Review + Playlist
August 13 – The Nerdy Girl Express – Review
August 14 – Rants and Raves of a Bibliophile – Raves and Craves
August 15 – LGBT YA Catalog – Author Guest Post
August 16 – @booksandbrandy – Creative Instagram Picture

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Note: A huge thank you to the Penguin Teen for inviting me on this blog tour and for providing me an ARC to read and review. All statements and opinions are my own.