Thursday, August 25, 2016

Blog Tour: Review of Vicarious by Paula Stokes and 5 facts about the character Rose!

Dear All:
At long last, I get to promote one of my favorite books of the year-- it's finally out, yay!!! The amazing, stupendous VICARIOUS by Paula Stokes! You guys are in for a treat.

Book Description:
Winter Kim and her sister, Rose, have always been inseparable. Together the two of them survived growing up in a Korean orphanage and being trafficked into the United States. But they've escaped the past and started over in a new place where no one knows who they used to be.

Now they work as digital stunt girls for Rose's ex-boyfriend, Gideon, engaging in dangerous and enticing activities while recording their neural impulses for his Vicarious Sensory Experiences, or ViSEs. Whether it's bungee jumping, shark diving, or grinding up against celebrities in the city's hottest dance clubs, Gideon can make it happen for you--for a price.

When Rose disappears and a ViSE recording of her murder is delivered to Gideon, Winter is devastated. She won't rest until she finds her sister's killer. But when the clues she uncovers conflict with the digital recordings her sister made, Winter isn't sure what to believe. To find out what happened to Rose, she'll have to untangle what's real from what only seems real, risking her own life in the process.

Paula Stokes weaves together a series of mysteries and the story of an unbreakable bond between sisters in this unforgettable high-tech thrill ride.
Author Blurb:

Paula Stokes writes stories about flawed characters with good hearts. She’s the author of several novels, most recently Vicarious and Girl Against the Universe. Her writing has been translated into eleven foreign languages. Paula loves kayaking, hiking, reading, and seeking out new adventures in faraway lands She also loves interacting with readers. Find her online at or on twitter as @pstokesbooks.

Social media links:

Book buying links:
The Book Depository: 

My rating: 5 couches (if I were a gif person, I'd put a gif of Tom Cruise jumping on a couch)

My review: This book... where do I even start? This was by far one of my favorite reads of 2016. Vicarious by Paula Stokes stars Winter Kim, who does stunts while recording her neural impulses, which will then be used commercially for people to experience what she does... without the risk of actually injuring themselves. Winter, a Korean transplant, has had a difficult background, which I'll allow you to discover for yourself, but just let me reassure you, it feels authentic and is well done. Her sister has disappeared after a night of clubbing, and Winter will do anything she can to find her-- they've been through everything and Winter can't lose her now.

My description barely even scratches the surface of this pulse-pounding thriller. It has everything I love, from a strong and very sympathetic but deeply flawed female main character to a sexy love interest to techie science talk that warms my geeky heart to plot twists that left me breathless and disoriented in the best way possible. I've read a lot and the fact that I couldn't guess where the book was going is super impressive. And the prose... I can't even get started on the prose, it's gorgeous, dark, and lush. I've loved every book Stokes has written, but there's something very special about this book and has her best writing yet.

VICARIOUS by Paula Stokes is an ambitious, astonishing, and thrilling YA psychological thriller encased in a near future world-- a mesmerizing and seamless combination of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, GATTACA, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Just like Lisbeth Salander, Winter Kim is fierce, strong and troubled, but you'll have no trouble rooting for her all the way. Well-crafted characters, achingly beautiful (and quotable) prose, and a plotline that will keep you guessing until the very end. Take a chance on this phenomenal rollercoaster of a book, and you won't be disappointed. It's hands down the best book I've read all year.

5 Facts about Rose, the main character Winter's sister who has gone missing
1. Rose Kim picked her new name because The Little Prince is one of her favorite books.
2. Rose blames herself for the sisters ending up in a sex trafficking ring, because she feels like she should have been smart enough to recognize that the adoption wasn’t legitimate.
3. Because of this, Rose feels a huge debt to younger sister Winter, and she would do basically anything to protect her.
4. Rose’s favorite color is red. She owns several dresses that range from ruby to scarlet to maroon.
5. Rose finds strength in controlling and manipulating men. This is her way of retaking the power that she lost when she was being trafficked in Los Angeles.

There you have it, gang! You've got to put this at the top of your TBR, it's that good. You won't regret it!

Blog Tour Schedule
Fri. 8/26: Writing Outside My Perspective: Part 5
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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Review of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (SPOILER ALERT!!! Don't read if you don't want to know anything about this play!)


Dear All:
I may be one of the rare people to have loved this book. I even feel tempted to use a GIF here :-) Don't get me wrong, it wasn't perfect, but it was exactly what I needed it to be. But I know how personal of a journey the reading of such a revered series as Harry Potter is, so each person has to take from it what they will. But I just hope that more people than just me will take the amazing gift that Rowling, Thorne, and Tiffany have given us and embrace it for what it is.

It seems that many of my blogger friends were completely and totally satisfied by the end of the series. I was not one of those people. So here in all of it's glory is my review of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. If you don't want to know anything about this book, you shouldn't read this review. In fact, you should probably just wait to read this review as it will have spoilers in it.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child has been called the "8th Harry Potter book." While this is true in number, it really isn't. I think one issue people have is that they expected this would feel like a direct continuation where the 7th book ended, like the magic and feeling would be exactly the same. But while it is the eighth Harry Potter book written about Harry Potter, I would say it's a separate book with a different format and should be treated as such. It's also a play, which has been stated repeatedly, but people were expecting a novelization. I don't have issues reading plays, I've done it growing up and I love dialogue and character interactions a lot more than anything else in books so this worked for me. I'd say that this installment serves as a separate more satisfying epilogue than that last chapter that we received in book 7. I could go on about how that epilogue was one of the worst written chapters in history, but I won't. You get my drift. And part of me thinks that JK Rowling agrees, because she has given us this play. She must not have felt satisfied either.

I am not actually going to speak too much about the basic plot except for the fact that it revolves around Albus Potter, Harry's second child, and Scorpio, Draco's son and their friendship/relationship with each other and their fathers and trying to live up to or live apart from the expectations thereof. All of the character interactions really worked for me, particularly the parent/child ones. I think that this partially has to do with me being a relatively new parent and also like many other people having sometimes a difficult relationship with my parents, which has continued to evolve over my life, and so these relationships really spoke to me on multiple levels.

I've seen complaints of how none of the original core group (Harry, Hermione, and Ron) are the same as in the books. They aren't. They are in their 40's and now parents themselves. I thought in particular, with Harry's background, his character remained very true and consistent. I can only imagine having three children but all of his dearest father figures are dead-- his actual father, Dumbledore, Sirius Black, Lupin, and yes, even Snape. He must feel totally out of his element, in particular when dealing with Albus. I feel that Hermione and Ron also are very consistent. There are some issues with how Ginny and Ron are characterized, but honestly, the story is not about Ron, so while he has some of the best lines in the play (other than Scorpio), he doesn't have a major role to play in the outcome. Ginny was never one of my favorite characters in the books, so if this is your favorite character, you may be disappointed. I felt she was a likeable and realistic character, playing a good foil to Harry's angst and issues being a father, but again, she doesn't play a vital role in what unfolds.

I love the fact that Albus becomes a Slytherin. I think this is fantastic. I feel like the Slytherin house is completely underutilized in the original series, and honestly, are depicted as a Nazi group (or Nazis in training) without much three dimensionality to any of the characters including Draco, who is the most prominent Slytherin character throughout the series. I think it's highly unlikely that all of the Slytherins were bad/evil kids that would definitely become evil people. Stereotyping a whole house like that never sat well with me. And I was hugely disappointed in the 7th book that all of them sided with the Death Eaters and then an entire house was forced to be jailed in the basement of Hogwarts.

Draco too in this installment finally comes into his own. I felt it was clear from the books that Draco was not bad to the core, but had terrible parents, and was trying to just survive in a really terrible situation. While Harry had it hard for some reasons (no parents, terrible adoptive parents, etc), I would say Draco had it worse (can you imagine being told to kill Dumbledore??). Draco even says it at one point in this play, saying how jealous he was of Harry, to have this amazing core of 3 highly intelligent individuals who would back each other up through everything and together they were stronger than apart. I loved that Ginny also remarked that she was jealous of the trio. Draco had no one, just Crabbe and Goyle who hardly had a brain between them. And I loved how he fell in love with a woman who gave him a reason to change for the better, and then is trying his best to raise Scorpio. The fact that Scorpio is such an amazing character spoke the most to how Draco is as a father and how he must treat him so much differently than his own father treated him. I loved this so so much.

Scorpio, oh Scorpio. I don't even know where to start. He is so amazing. A kind, loveable goofball with most of the scene stealers and best lines in the play. I love that he makes Albus see what a twit he is being later in the play. I mean seriously, while I get where Albus is coming from, he really does have it good in comparison to Scorpio, who has lost his mother and who everyone thinks is the son of the worst villain in the history of Wizardom.

I absolutely love the time traveling in this book. I know there are problems with this. I am a scientist and usually time travel drives me crazy, but in this particular situation for me, it totally works. I love the idea of going back in time to change Cedric Diggory's death as this is when things started to take a turn for the worst. And then I LOVE the idea of alternate worlds, allowing us to explore what might have been, sort of like the best Choose Your Adventure book ever. Some of how this comes about is kind of ridiculous and honestly, lame, like how in one alternate world, Hermione and Ron don't get together and this apparently makes Hermione this old spinster teacher at Hogwarts who is really mean to everyone.

But to me, this whole time traveling makes it possible for what I believe is the absolute best best BEST scene in the whole Harry Potter franchise, which is where Snape finds out from Scorpius that Harry in an alternate world has named his son after him. I didn't realize how much I needed to see this amazing scene, for this incredible man to recognize that his sacrifice wasn't for nothing and that he is remembered by Lily's son. I couldn't help but choke back a sob.  The climax of the piece was also great, but for me, that was the shining moment that made this play completely worth it.

I feel all of the emotional payoff in this story and most of the zingers in the dialogue are all vintage Rowling (I did steal that phrase from my sister so she gets full credit). And I respectfully disagree with people who say that this reads like bad fanfic or that this doesn't sound like JK Rowling at all. Her imprint is all over this play.

Overall, it wasn't perfect but I absolutely loved it and after reading it, felt an incredible satisfaction I didn't have after the 7th book, which to me, given what an incredibly hyped, beloved, and rich legacy this series has left the world, is a bit of a miracle. So just for that alone, I give it 5 stars.

I hope that some of you have a similarly magical experience because it really is quite fantastic.

I would love comments from those of you who have read it already!

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