Rules of Rain spotlight tour!

Rules of Rain graphicLast week, I posted a review of Rules of Rain by Leah Scheier. While this book wasn’t for me, I wanted to share details about it with all of you so that you can decide for yourself if you want to give this book a try!

However, I want to give a quick recap of some of the great things about this book. The characters are the best part about this book. Most of them were interesting and likable. I think the side characters were the most interesting. Scheier did not let her side characters fall flat and made them very human. In addition, the character development was absolutely lovely. Both Ethan and Rain developed nicely by the end of the book. I also really enjoyed reading about how hard Ethan worked throughout this novel so he could achieve his dream. It can be hard to make the characters change for the better in only 300 pages, but I applaud Scheier for making it happen!

Another really great thing about this book is its representation. It features a main character with autism which isn’t something you see often in popular media. I am really glad that there are more books and media that feature autistic characters as of late (The Good Doctor on ABC as well as Atypical on Netflix are just a few recent examples). To read and see more media that features characters who aren’t neurotypical is very important and Rules of Rain really delivered on that.

Now onto the details!

Title: Rules of Rain
Author: Leah Scheier
Pub date: December 5, 2017
ISBN: 9781492654261

How far would you go to protect the ones you love?

Rain has taken care of Ethan all of their lives. Before she even knew what autism meant, she was her twin brother’s connection to the world around him. Each day with Ethan is unvarying and predictable, and Rain takes comfort in being the one who holds their family together. It’s nice to be needed—to be the center of someone’s world. If only her longtime crush, Liam, would notice her too…

Then one night, her life is upended by a mistake she can’t undo. Suddenly Rain’s new romance begins to unravel along with her carefully constructed rules. Rain isn’t used to asking for help—and certainly not from Ethan. But the brother she’s always protected is the only one who can help her. And letting go of the past may be the only way for Rain to hold onto her relationships that matter most.

Leah Scheier works as a pediatrician and pens stories of romance and adventure. Her latest novel, Your Voice Is All I Hear, received a Starred Review from Booklist. She lives in Maryland. Learn more at leahscheier.com.

Buy links:
Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Chapters | iBooks | Indiebound

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Excerpt!

“I made a batch of Tums muffins.”

Liam blinks at me. “What’s a Tums muffin?”

“It’s one of my gluten- free experiments for Ethan. If you crush an antacid in the dough, it makes it fluffier and less rocklike. Ethan calls them Tums muffins. Except for him, I haven’t been able to get anyone to try them.”

“Yeah, you might want to rethink that name. You got some cold cuts or something? That’s what I usually have after school.”

I laugh and shake my head. “You mean like salami? God, no. My mom is terrified of processed meats.” “Really?”

I nod. “I think hot dogs may have caused my parents’ divorce.”

“That would make a great title for a talk show or something.” He grins at me. “How did that happen?”

I pull some organic cheddar and portobello mushrooms from the crisper and close the fridge. “My last memory of them together has to do with hot dogs. My mom was holding a pack of frozen Oscar Mayers in her hands, and my dad was scowling at her in the corner. And she was yelling, ‘This is what did it! This is why he’s like that. Because you keep feeding them this poison!’ And then she threw the package at him, and it hit him on the head.”

“Oh, wow.”

“Yup.”

“Sorry I asked.”

“No worries. If you want, I can make you some algae flour pizza.”

“Algae what?” Hope’s warning pops into my head, and I shake it away. Isn’t the best advice to “be yourself?” Well, this is the way I flirt (I think), with the coolest, top- secret food tips I’ve gathered from years of research. “I have a small packet of algae flour I got at a trade show a while back. It’s pretty new— and kind of scandalous.”

My offer is the foodie equivalent of front row tickets to the Super Bowl. Seriously. No one has this stuff yet, and those who do certainly aren’t sharing. Probably because the company that was using it had to recall some of its products last year. But I’ve tested it in my own recipes with no problems at all. Still, I’m not surprised he doesn’t seem impressed.

“I’m sorry… Algae?”

“Yeah, I know it sounds weird, but you wouldn’t even know it’s there. And the dough comes out amazing! Algae is basically a substitute for everything— eggs, wheat, dairy…”

His lips twitch, and his brows come down. “You want me to try your pond scum pizza.”

I shut the refrigerator. “Oh, no, please don’t call it that. Just forget I mentioned it.”

“But I don’t want to forget.” He seems to be choking on suppressed laughter. “No one has ever offered me algae before. This is a special moment.”

“Never mind. Offer withdrawn.”

“I’m not making fun! I swear. I’ll eat the entire pizza. And no matter what it looks like, I promise I won’t post it on Instagram.”

I sink down on the kitchen stool and toss the package of mushrooms on the counter. “You saw the sperm pudding pic.”

“Everyone saw the sperm pudding pic.”

“That thing has ruined my reputation,” I mutter. “I was trying to find a way to make it look less…gross. Mike just caught it in the sperm stage. I’ve made improvements to the recipe since then. Like anyone cares.”

He smiles and clears his throat. “Well, I basically live on pasta and bologna sandwiches. So I’ll be happy to try your sperm pudding.” He chuckles quietly. “Hah. There’s a phrase I never thought I’d say.”

I get up from the stool and fetch a covered bowl from the counter. “You’re the first person to taste this since I’ve fixed it. It looks kind of like tapioca now.”

He lifts the spoon and sniffs, his eyes wary. “Holy crap,” he says after the first swallow. “Rain, this is actually…good.”

“Just good? Could you be more specific? Since that photo went viral I don’t get very many volunteers to taste my recipes.”

His shocked expression is the best compliment I’ve ever gotten. “It’s fantastic. Like a cross between butterscotch and— ”

“Cashew cream. Yeah. And that’s raspberry syrup in the topping.”

“You should put this picture up,” he insists, scooping a giant spoonful into his mouth. “Like a ‘before and after’ piece. Show how far you’ve come.”

I feel my face getting warm. “I can post it to my blog. With the title ‘How You Like Me Now, Haters?’” And there goes Hope’s last piece of advice. I’m discussing my blog with my crush. And he hasn’t run away. (Take that, traditional flirters.)

Come one, come all to Caraval.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval… beware of getting swept too far away.

— Caraval, Stephanie Garber

This book was a wild ride. The last 50 pages or so gave me moderate whiplash.

That being said, it was a pretty standard young-adult fantasy novel. I went into it expecting to be blown away because I had seen a lot of hype surrounding it. I was not blown away, but I did have fun.

Caraval by Stephanie Garber had a really interesting premise. From a young age, Scarlett, the main character, and Tella, her younger sister, are desperate to escape their father and explore the world of Caraval. Caraval was created by a legendary magician, appropriately called Legend.  Shortly before her arranged marriage, Scarlett receives an invitation to Caraval from Legend himself. Scarlett is hesitant, but is “convinced” by Tella to go. By convinced I mean kidnapped and taken against her will by Tella and a sailor named Julian. Upon arriving at Legend’s private island, Scarlett and Julian realize something is wrong and Tella is missing. It is revealed through riddles that Tella is the puzzle and has been taken captive by Legend. Scarlett only has five days to solve riddles and explore Caraval to find her sister. She enlists the help of Julian to guide her through Caraval and help her save Tella.

The world of Caraval is magically written and Garber creates place that I really wanted to visit. Garber did a fantastic job with her imagery and the infusion of magic in the world; however, it has a huge downside.

The riddles and puzzles to solve are painfully obvious to everyone except Scarlett. She has so many people around her giving her hints to the clues and game, but she barely listens to them. Scarlett, in fact, only relies on her feelings. She barely listens to the facts that are laid out in front of her and goes exploring things based on a sense she had.

I also found Scarlett very hard to keep up with at times. She was kind of like the character in a horror movie who is going to check out the weird noise in the basement even though you know there’s a monster down there. All you want to do is yell at them and tell them not to be so dense!

Julian is another one of those hard to keep up with characters. Julian is Scarlett’s mysterious companion who she falls in love with almost instantly. You think he’s a sailor, but he might not be a sailor and, wow, why does he know so much about Caraval? In addition, I love a good love story. Even instant love stories don’t bother me, but this just didn’t do it for me. However, I can see why Julian would appeal to a younger audience though. He’s brooding, handsome, and would do anything to save Scarlett. He’s definitely way too perfect and easy to have a crush on, but he’s not my kind of guy.

I really, truly loved the world creation in this book. I wanted to place myself in Caraval and watch the game be played out, but I didn’t want to watch the characters we were given. Scarlett was wishy-washy. Julian was too brooding. Tella was way too selfish. There wasn’t really any point to Scarlett’s fiance, except to give her an internal conflict about falling in love with Julian…

And yet, as I say all of these things, I find myself really wanting to read the sequel. This book was ridiculous, but fun and entertaining. Garber described things well (except the whole feelings as colors and tastes thing… that was a little strange) and created an interesting story. My hope for the sequel is that Garber sharpens her characters and makes them stronger. I think with that, the series could be something really special. I am looking forward to the sequel because I do enjoy light and quick reads very much and Caraval was exactly that.

‘Cause females are strong as hell

Let me tell you about my favorite female character this year.

Audrey Rose Wadsworth.

Audrey Rose is the protagonist in the Stalking Jack the Ripper series (made up of Stalking Jack the Ripper and Hunting Prince Dracula) by Kerri Maniscalco. Audrey Rose is a 19th century badass who refuses to listen to what is expected of her and pursues her own passion: forensic science. Audrey Rose spends her time avoiding the responsibilities of being a high-society woman and apprentices under her uncle. It is in her uncle’s lab, whese books begin to follow Audrey Rose’s story of uncovering gruesome murders (of Jack the Ripper and Prince Dracula, respectively) and how she uses forensic science to discover the true identity of the murderers. Unfortunately, because Audrey Rose is a high-society woman, there are people in her life that do not approve of her interests and while she is trying to stop these terrible murders, there are people in her life trying to stop her.

Here’s why I love Audrey Rose so much: She is a headstrong, intelligent woman who is determined to break the mold society has set for her and make a life for herself. I really think that Maniscalco did an amazing job writing such a strong female character with all of the intricacies of humanity woven throughout. Audrey Rose is not just a Mary Jane or a cold-hearted, stereotypical “strong” girl.

While Audrey Rose is my favorite character in this series, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention her infuriating and handsome companion, Thomas Cresswell. Thomas is also an apprentice of her uncle’s who has made it his personal mission to help Audrey Rose solve the murders and to get her to fall in love with him. The really great thing about Thomas, though, is that when Audrey Rose tells him to stop and respect her space… he does! Not only is he intelligent and handsome, but he is respectful and truly seems to believe in Audrey Rose and what she is capable of.

Moving on to the books themselves, Maniscalco is incredible at mystery and horror writing. You would not have guessed this was a YA novel based on her writing and her creation of the plot and characters. I was blown away by her work in both books. She keeps the books light and fun where it needs to be and cranks up the intensity when it’s the right time. She also does a great job of infusing humor and romance in the story as well without taking away from the plot or Audrey Rose’s independence.

I vote that these books are a must read for pretty much everyone. These books have strong characters (male and female), humor, romance, mystery… everything that makes for a really entertaining read. Both of these books I could not put down and had such a strong desire to read one right after the other. I honestly cannot recommend these any more than I am. They are just that good!

Whenever the sequel comes out, you can bet I’ll be grabbing it as soon as possible. Read these books, you won’t regret it!

Need a reading break? Try some of these games!

We all have those moments. You have a million unread books and the one in front of you is so good, but you aren’t in the mood to read…

That’s okay! It happens to the best of us.

Whenever I have those moments I either take a nap (which is never a bad choice) or I pick up a video game. I have a couple favorites that always help me satiate my mood for something other than reading.

5. Just Dance 2018

So this game is utterly embarrassing, but so much fun. It makes you listen to terrible (but secretly amazing) Top 40 music while flailing around your living room. I absolutely love it. It’s one of the first games I played with friends when I was in high school and we weren’t afraid to do stupid things.

Just Dance is a good game to play when you’ve been sitting in an awkward position all night trying to finish your book. It not only is a mini-workout, but it’s a way to let loose and laugh at yourself (and with others)!

4. Hey! Pikmin

The original Pikmin games stress me out. You only have so much time to explore before the sun sets and you have to get your Pikmin to the ship before the die! Too much pressure.

Hey! Pikmin takes that away completely. It’s a 2D scrolling game with various levels where you collect Pikmin and shiny objects that contain “sparklium” to help fuel Olimar’s ship. Each level determines what type of Pikmin you can use (so you don’t have to worry about bringing the wrong ones!) and there is no time limit to any level.

I find that I really enjoy this game because 1) Pikmin are adorable little creatures and 2) it’s very low stakes. It’s a nice game to take a break from your book, but one that you can play in bed so you can stay cozy.

3. Super Mario Odyssey

If you have a Nintendo Switch, then I’m sure you’ve heard of Super Mario Odyssey. My boyfriend, who I think might be in love with Mario, says not only is it his favorite game of the year, but that it might be his favorite game ever.

In Super Mario Odyssey you play as Mario as he fights his way through different worlds to save Princess Peach from Bowser. The best part about this game is Mario has a companion, Cappy. Cappy is a hat ghost from the Cap Kingdom whose sister was also kidnapped by Bowser.

This game is open world so you have free reign to explore and collect power moons to power up the ship Mario and Cappy travel on. I’ve played it a few times and it’s a lot of fun to just run around and explore all worlds that Nintendo worked hard to create.

Also, after a certain point in the game a little Shiba Inu (that strongly resembles a Nintendog) in a cowboy hat will follow you around and show you places where things are hidden!

I mean just look at how cute this little guy is (Photo Credit: Polygon).

2. Anything Sims

I’ve been playing The Sims since 2004. As an introverted kid I used Sims as a way to “make friends” without having to actually make friends.

Setting that aside, Sims is a great game. It doesn’t matter what iteration or version, I have always enjoyed myself while playing Sims. Whether it was creating myself and a boy I had a crush on or making characters for a story I tried to write, Sims was there.

The current version of Sims that is out is The Sims 4. It has various expansion packs out, the most recent being Cats and Dogs. I haven’t had the chance to play it yet, but I have always loved the pet expansion for Sims.

Any Sims game is a great way to unwind and just have fun building up (or tearing down, if you’re into that) the lives of little virtual people.

1. Anything Animal Crossing

Animal Crossing is everything. Any Animal Crossing game is a great choice to give you a break from reading. It’s a really positive game where you just decorate your home, fish, make friends, shop, etc.

My current obsession right now is Animal Crossing Pocket Camp. It’s a mobile app where you build up a campsite where you invite animals to visit. While there are other players in the game, the only way to interact with them is by visiting their camps and giving kudos.

Here’s a picture of my character hanging out with a cute dog!

It doesn’t matter what Animal Crossing game you choose because any version will take you to a world full of positivity and cute animals.

Any of these games are great for when you’re in a slump and need a break from reading. Remember, there’s nothing wrong with a reading slump! Just take your time and do other things that you enjoy. Maybe even check out one of these games, you may find yourself getting addicted (like I am to Sims and Animal Crossing).

Feel the Rain [under] your skin…

Oof.

I really wanted to like Rules of Rain by Leah Scheier… I did, but I just could not. I almost fell into a reading slump after this book, but luckily I was able to pick something up that was interesting enough to keep me from slumping.

This book was really so-so for me. Rules of Rain tells the story of Rain and Ethan, who are twins. Rain feels an immense responsibility to take care of Ethan partially because he’s family and partially because he’s autistic. Rain feels that she has to be the one to take care of her brother through everything that life throws at them. Their parents divorce, their mother’s illness, bullies at school… it doesn’t matter. Rain is there for Ethan. That is until Ethan starts to want his independence. It is then that Rain realizes that the brother she’s spent her entire life protecting may not need her anymore, but she needs him more than ever.

First, I do want to go over some positives about this book because it does have them! The characters (with the exception of one which I will be getting into later) were interesting and likable. I think the side characters were the most interesting and if there had been some more focus on them, this book would have been way better. I also think that the character development from beginning to end was good. Both Ethan and Rain developed nicely by the end of the book. I also really enjoyed reading about how hard Ethan worked throughout this novel so he could achieve his dream. It can be hard to make the characters change for the better in only 300 pages, but I applaud Scheier for making it happen!

Another positive is the topic of this book. It features a main character with autism which isn’t something you see often in popular media. I am really glad that there are more books and media that feature autistic characters as of late (The Good Doctor on ABC as well as Atypical on Netflix are just a few recent examples). I want to read and see more media that features characters who aren’t neurotypical and Rules of Rain delivered on that.

Here’s where I’m going to get a bit negative. Rain. Rain got under my skin in the worst way at the beginning. I did not enjoy her as a character and while she did have great development, her point-of-view earlier in the novel really soured her for me. The biggest issue I had was that Rain was the narrator and the entire book went through her lens. Seeing things from Rain’s perspective really hampered my enjoyment of the other characters and development of this novel.

This book really did have a lot of promise for me. I truly that if it wasn’t told from Rain’s perspective (maybe third person, maybe from another character?), it would have been great.

I had to give it two and a half out stars because it did have some saving graces, but I just can’t stop thinking about how much I want to shake Rain in the beginning and tell her to cut it out.

I received a copy of Rules of Rain from SOURCEBOOKS Fire through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

You have the sun, I have the moon.

Many of you probably know about Andy Weir from his novel The Martian. The Martian was a novel about astronaut, Mark Watney, after he gets trapped on Mars due to a dust storm forces his team to evacuate. The Martian is full of humor and science. Weir does an amazing job painting an interesting sci-fi world.

In his most recent novel, Artemis, Weir creates another amazing sci-fi world that rivals the world created in The Martian. Artemis focuses on Jazz Basahra, a smuggler who has spent most of her life on the moon. While delivering to her best client, Jazz is presented with the crime of a lifetime. One that will pay off her debts and then some. However, Jazz find herself dropped right in the middle of a fight for control of the city she’s known most of her life. Jazz is now in more danger than she’s ever been and must got deeper if she has even a chance to survive.

Artemis was a lot of fun. Weir’s story flourishes with his touch of humor and adventure. However, Artemis is different from The Martian in that it focuses on Jazz’s relationships with the other characters and how they work together to solve the problems within the city. The Martian was focused only on Mark and how he had to rely on himself. I think this change between stories really showed Weir’s versatility in how he writes his characters together.

I was very impressed with Artemis. It was full of fun, humor, and adventure. I loved the way Weir created the city of Artemis (he even included maps, which is always cool!). He also did a great job at creating interesting characters who were very human (even though they lived on the moon).

Artemis gets a solid four out of five stars from me. Weir is the best at sci-fi novels laced with humor and the intricacies of humanity. I’ve enjoyed both of his novels quite a bit. If you’re looking for fun, Artemis is for you!

What is your damage, Heather?

This review contains spoilers. Read at your own risk!

Where do I even start with this book..?

I was so excited for Heather, the Totality because Mad Men is one of my favorite shows and thought the mind behind the show (Matthew Weiner) would create another knock-out story.

This was not the case.

I was so disappointed by this book. It had so much of potential, but it just couldn’t quite get there.

When I finished the book, I was left wondering what the whole point of it was. Why was Heather so important? Why were her parents so concerned when she became a bratty teenager? Why did I need to read this story? I didn’t get any of those answers. I think that’s my biggest disappointment. I don’t like reading books where I feel like there was no point. I also don’t like reading books where if you created a list of the setting in the beginning and then created a list of the circumstances at the end, not much (if anything) would be different.

The lives of the Breakstone’s were the same at the beginning as it was at the end. Heather was still a brat. Her parents still hated each other. They still lived in the same place. It was essentially the same.

Weiner’s writing, while superb at times, had a tendency to run-on and I found myself re-reading sentences to figure out what had just happened. Some sentences were paragraphs long and, even with how short this book was, it felt like it was dragging.

In addition, the darker story line of Bobby included serves no other purpose except to normalize the Breakstones reactions to each other. Without it, this story is about a middle-aged father who murders a man for looking at his daughter strangely. I would have loved to have learn more about Bobby and seen some actual character development.

Heather, the Totality utterly let me down. It had a lot of promise and failed, but I saw where the story could have gone which is what saved it from a one-star rating.

Overall, this book got two out of five stars from me. I really don’t recommend it. It’s saving grace was how short it was, but I also think it was its downfall.