Review – The Storm Runner by J. C. Cervantes

Watermark_ByTailorBrandsSome time ago, I read that Rick Riordan was opening his own publishing imprint. As an avid reader of Riordan’s work, I was pumped. The more I read, the more excited I got. Not only was he starting an imprint, he was going to use this imprint and his influence to publish original middle-grade works by authors of color.

His goal, as he has stated on his own website, is to publish authors of various cultural backgrounds to retell the stories of their mythologies, the way he has with Greek, Roman, and Egyptian mythology.

I love few things the way I love a modern retelling of an ancient culture or mythology. I gobbled up the Percy Jackson books like they were candy. I swallowed up The Kane Chronicles whole. The Heroes of Olympus books held me captivated. And I’m not typically a serial reader. But these series were all so entrancing and wonderfully, brilliant delivered.

So to find out that Riordan was searching for storytellers who were able to pen the stories of their individual cultures made me giddier than I’d care to admit.

This weekend, I had the pleasure of reading the second book from Rick Riordan’s new imprint, The Storm Runner by J. C. Cervantes.

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Zane Obispo spends every day exploring the sleeping volcano in his backyard. “The Beast,” as he calls it, is the one place where he can escape other kids, who make fun of him because he has a limp and walks with a cane.

After a twin-engine plane crashes into The Beast, a mysterious girl named Brooks shows up at Zane’s doorstep, insisting that they meet at the volcano, where she will reveal a terrible secret. Zane agrees, mostly because beautiful girls like her don’t usually talk to him. Brooks tells him that the volcano is actually a centuries-old prison for the Maya god of death, whose destiny is directly tied to Zane’s. No way, Zane thinks.He’s just a thirteen-year old nobody, and destiny or no destiny,he wants nothing to do with any of it, especially some god of death.

But Brooks opens his eyes to the truth: magic, monsters, and gods are real, and Zane is at the center of an ancient prophecy that could mean the destruction of the world.Suddenly finding himself entangled in a web of dangerous secrets, Zane embarks on a quest that will take him far from home and test him to the very core.

Feisty heroes, tricky gods, murderous demons, and spirited giants are just some of the pleasures that await in this fresh and funny take on Maya mythology, as rich and delicious as a mug of authentic hot chocolate.

There is hardly a more likable character than Zane Obispo. He’s so endearing. And injured. And I don’t mean his limp. He’s injured by the world. He’s jaded from the problems that face a young boy who has a limp in a world where children are cruel. His affinity for his old neighbors is adorable. I mean. Seriously, I was sold on this kid from the very beginning.

Not only is Zane basically the most lovable character in all of fiction (beat out only by Wilbur because, let’s face it, pigs are better than anything) he’s surrounded by a lovable cast of characters. From the old people he loves, to his quirky uncle, to his Mom, and his new friend Brooks, this ensemble cast of characters captured my heart.

After Zane witnesses a plane crash into the volcano near his house, Zane’s world is turned upside down. He is thrust into a world full of terrifying monsters and action and adventure. And Zane learns that he must save all of humankind, alongside his shape-shifting friend, Brooks, and his Uncle Hondo.

This book is packed with action and adventure. I literally gasped on more than one occasion while reading. Unlike my last two reviews, I am not sad that I read this book quickly, at all. I am sad that I could not read it quickly enough. I didn’t want to put it down, and I couldn’t get Zane out of my head whenever I wasn’t reading.

This book may be classified as a middle grade novel, but it explores big concepts. It explores the true power and strength of a boy seen by society as broken and injured. It explores what it really takes for a young boy to realize his true potential.

The writing is wonderful. The characters are lovely. The story is enchanting. And for me, personally, the source material of Mayan mythology is so interesting. I have always loved reading about Mayan culture, for as far back as I can remember.

If you’re looking for a good read for the entire family, I highly, highly recommend The Storm Runner by J. C. Cervantes.

Plucky’s rating?

4 /5 stars.

Yours,
The Plucky Reader

Note: I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are mine and were not influenced in any way by the publisher or author.

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Review – Fresh Ink edited by Lamar Giles

Several months ago, I received an ARC for this anthology, Fresh Ink. It’s been sitting in my Kindle for far longer than I’d care to admit. I remember reading the description and thinking it sounded so interesting and, well, fresh. And then, I guess I just forgot about it.

Recently I was roaming the shelves of Barnes & Noble (because, you know, I don’t have enough books to read at my house, sitting on a shelf, unread and gleaming for my attention), when I saw Fresh Ink sitting on the shelves.

I always feel so happy when I see the ARCs I’ve receive come to fruition as books on the shelf. It’s not a pride–it’s not like I discovered them or anything. But it’s so nice to seem them out and published and able to be in people’s hands. Usually, though, I also finish the ARC before it’s on the shelves. So, to make sure my joy was appropriately placed, I dusted off my Kindle and read my way through this anthology of short stories.

I was pleasantly surprised when I started this collection. I expected a typical collection of short stories. This was no typical collection of short stories. As the information clearly states (I’m just not a very thorough reader sometimes) this collection is told in nontraditional ways. There are short stories by new, diverse authors. But there’s also a one-act play. And a graphic story.

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I, personally, love graphic novels. I’ve added a ton of them to my classroom collection lately, and I totally support my students reading them. It was a nice change of pace when this one appeared.

From the first story, the tone of this collection is set. Fresh Ink opens with “Eraser Tattoo,” the story of first love and lost love. Two teenagers must say goodbye to their first loves. The story takes the reader through a series of flashbacks, as well as the present, to tell the story of unequal love. Something in the way Jason Reynolds tells this story is so real about the way teenagers love.

Other authors include Melissa de la Cruz (of Descendants and Witches of East End fame) and Nicola Yoon (author of The Sun is Also a Star and Everything, Everything). Sadly, I am not familiar with the writing of most of these authors. Which is exactly the purpose of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement co-founded by the editor of this collection, Lamar Giles.

All in all, I enjoyed my time with Fresh Ink. I wish, much as I said about I’d Rather Be Reading that I’d savored this book a little more. It’s a wonderful book rife with unique voices and diverse points of view. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Fresh Ink. My only disappointment was that it ended too quickly and had far too few stories.

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Plucky’s rating? 4 stars.

It is definitely worth the read.

Yours,
The Plucky Reader

Living Life with Regret

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I know you are supposed to live life without regrets. I know that we are supposed to treat everyday like it’s our last and make sure the things we do are worthwhile. I know that we are expected to be intentional in the things we do and the things we say so that we never look back on our lives and wish for something different.

But I have a confession.

I have a very large, extremely massive regret. And–shy of getting a lobotomy–there’s nothing I can do to fix it.

I regret that I will never be able to re-read Harry Potter for the first time.

Look, I get it. Harry Potter has been around for 20 years now. I should not now be lamenting over something quite this old, right? Wrong.

So here’s the deal about Harry Potter. When I was eleven years old, I didn’t know what I had in my hand was absolute, pure magic. When I was eleven years old, I didn’t realize that I was standing on the cusp of the biggest literary phenomenon of my entire life.

When I was eleven years old, I read the first three Harry Potter books back-to-back-to-back. Without sleeping. Or eating. Or blinking. And in the most hipster way I can possibly say this, I read them before they were a thing. That’s not to say they were hot-off-the-presses when I discovered them. I didn’t read them until Prisoner of Azkaban had come out,

My school library had hardly finished wrapping the cellophane around them before they were in my hands. My greedy little grubby eyes soaked in those pages like they were my life source. I read them faster than any other books I’d read in my entire life. I was so enraptured by Sorcerer’s Stone, I can remember sitting on the floor of my school library and reading the first five chapters before I could even force myself to stand to go check it out.

I swallowed the first three books whole. I engulfed them and chewed them up, covers and all, and absorbed them into part of me. After I’d read the first three books from the library, I begged my parents to buy them for me so I could read them over and over and over and over. And I did. I read them so many times. So. Many. Times.

And then came the awful, dreaded wait for Goblet of Fire. And I can remember the magic of reading Goblet of Fire. It was the summer after seventh grade and I worked all summer with my mom to be able to buy that book. (In retrospect, what a horrible trade-off. I’m talking I worked 8-hour shifts all summer for one hardback book.)

But that wait was nothing like Order of the Phoenix which came three years later. Three. Long. Years. Three years of me reading and re-reading and reading again the first four books. And then Order of the Phoenix brought with it the magic of a midnight release. I got to be out late. I was with one of my oldest and dearest friends (we’re still old and dear friends and I have the gray hairs to prove it) out WAY past my bedtime. More importantly, we were our WAY past our bedtimes at A BOOKSTORE. I was in a bookstore after hours. Cramped in a line. With a golden ticket in my hand which entitled me to a shiny, beautiful new book.

Order of the Phoenix had my favorite cover. And when the cashier put it in my hand, I felt magic crackle through my palms. My friend dropped me off back at my house and I stayed up all night–again without blinking or eating or doing anything–until I had swallowed every word whole. And I had the migraine as retribution for my choice.

Half-Blood Prince was spent in yet another incredibly long line, my friends around me, chattering excitedly about what they hoped would happen and what they predicted would happen. I was in the same bookstore, the line snaking all the way through the building, surrounded by my people who loved reading and loved Harry Potter. The next day, I went to a horse show where a very unhappy woman proceeded to tell my mother and me how I was going to hell for reading Harry Potter. To which I shrugged, opened the book, and informed her that if Satan was taking me, at least I was going to read a very good book before he did so.

Deathly Hallows brought a very different experience. This time, I was the man behind the register. I helped promote sales for Deathly Hallows and plan the party the store I worked at was throwing. I stepped on a girl’s hand and hit a boy in the face. Purely accidental. Seriously. And I had to make sure everybody else in the entire city got their copies of Deathly Hallows before I did. But I did get to keep the boxes the books were shipped to us in. I moved into two apartments and my first house with my wife in those boxes. Fond memories were attached to those boxes.

I read Deathly Hallows much more slowly than the other books. I knew it was the end. I knew that I would never again experience the world of Harry Potter the way I was right then, reading that last book. I savored it. I salivated over it. I almost lost my job over reading it. (Okay, but in my defense you can’t just STOP reading in the middle of the battle at Hogwarts. That’s sacrilege.)

And at 19 years old, I had to face the realities of a world in which there were no more midnight releases of Harry Potter books. I would never again read a Harry Potter book for the first time.

I squandered away those beautiful, golden years that were filled with new books of the biggest obsession I’ve ever had. I wasted those amazing nights of reading books that would never be new to me again. I lost the opportunity to savor the only first time I’d ever have.

My only regret in this life is that I will never be able to re-read the Harry Potter books for the first time.

Live your life without regrets (and savor every bookish moment you get!)

Yours,
The Plucky Reader

You Are Enough

This year, my principal asked every staff member to pick a word to guide us through our year. There were no guidelines, outside of the reminder that a single word can change a life.

My colleagues all took this and ran. They picked things like adventure and perseverance and courage. They chose words like faith, empower, evolving. Everybody picked a word that truly meant something to them. And it was beautiful to behold. It was amazing to watch everybody get on board. I can’t wait to see how their years are shaped by the words they picked.

My word? Enough.

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Growing up, it always felt like I wasn’t something enough. I wasn’t smart enough. I wasn’t fast enough. I wasn’t skinny or strong or fast enough. I wasn’t handsome enough.

I never felt like I had enough. I didn’t have enough money or enough courage or enough confidence. I didn’t have enough time or enough sleep.

I felt like whenever you added all the parts of me together, they didn’t equate to a full human being. I was never enough. And it was something I struggled with into adulthood.

Sometime in my life, that changed. There came a time when I began to realize that the person I am is exactly who I’m supposed to be. That didn’t mean that I was through changing and growing. It just meant that I was done doubting. It meant that I was stronger and ready to face the world and everything it had in store for me, good or bad.

At some point in my life, I also realized that part of that feeling, part of that voice in my head that told me I was never enough, was a real problem known as depression. And for a long time, admitting my depression was hard. Because I was embarrassed. Because people around me had so flippantly made fun of people on antidepressants. Because I lived in a society that didn’t understand mental health issues. I lived in a society that believed depression was an affinity for being sad.

Depression is a liar.

When I finally allowed myself to admit that I was struggling with depression, I learned something very important. That voice in my head that had always told me I wasn’t enough was a liar. Depression is a liar. I wish somebody had told me sooner. I wish I hadn’t wasted so many years of my life doubting myself, believing that voice in my head, and avoiding help for the situation.

I can’t change my past, but maybe I can change somebody else’s future. As I navigate this school year and beyond, I’m going to remind myself and everybody around me that we are all enough. We are the entire person we are meant to be. We are always changing, always growing, always being. And we are enough.

You are enough.

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Don’t let depression lie to you. Don’t let fear become weakness. Don’t let yourself believe you are anything less than worthy and amazing and beautifully, wonderfully made.

Don’t ever let you or anybody else convince you that you are anything other than enough.

Yours,

The Plucky Reader

Book Tour – I’d Rather Be Reading by Anne Bogel

Today is an exciting day as I get to be part of Anne Bogel’s release tour for her new book, Reading People: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life, which will be released September 4, 2018.

Last year, I was chosen to be part of Anne’s launch team for her first book, Reading People, and that experience is what prompted me to launch The Plucky Reader. Having the opportunity to support her second book–after having been so inspired her in the past–is an incredible opportunity. But being chosen as part of her Book Tour is an even greater honor.

I’d Rather Be Reading could very well be the title of my autobiography. I say this phrase at least six times a day. I think it probably several hundred times more. And if you’re reading this blog, chances are you’ve had this thought a time or two.

I’d Rather Be Reading is an essay collection, and to be honest, it’s the first essay collection I’ve read. It’s only been in the past few years that I’ve developed a love of nonfiction, memoir, and essays. Reading once had been my escape from this world, but it has slowly evolved into a way for me to view different facets of the world, instead.

Reading isn’t just a way to pass time–it’s a lifestyle. Books shape, define, and enchant us. They are part of who we are and we can’t imagine life without them. In this collection of charming and relatable reflections, beloved book blogger and author Anne Bogel leads you to remember the book that first hooked you, the place where you first fell in love with reading, and all the books and moments afterward that helped make you the reader you are today.

If you’ve read any of my previous posts, you can see how this book would resonate with me. I have written about the book that made me fall in love with reading, and I remember all the places I’ve read my favorite book. The marks books leave are indelible, and I can remember every one I’ve read, all of them like the memories of old friends.

Old books, like old friends, are good for the soul.

In Bogel’s essay, “Again, for the first time,” she discusses the power of rereading a great book. As a notorious rereader, it’s refreshing to hear of the power of rereading through someone else’s eyes. She points out the magic of knowing the ending, the power of knowing a character’s true intentions. The first time you read a story, you’re discovering something brand new. But the second time, third time, fourth time, you’re seeing the small things, the nuances that lead to the story, the motivation of the characters, the arc of the storyline well before it’s revealed itself. It’s a beautiful experience.

Bogel’s essays speak the hearts of readers. From “Confess Your Literary Sins” to “Bookworm Problems” to “How to Organize Your Bookshelves” they are real and beautifully written and relevant to the heart of every reader. Her writing is conversational and familiar. It’s like having a conversation with a friend. It’s easy to connect with.

I often relate reading to food (my other great passion in this world), and in this case, I’d Rather Be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life is dessert. But not something light, not a fruit salad to be gobbled up all at once. No. It’s something rich and buttery, something heavy with ganache. It’s something to be savored, not devoured all at once. It’s a small book, the essays read quickly, but I can’t imagine blowing through this book in one sitting, it needs time and attention.

Pick this book up! It’s beautifully written and beautifully designed. The perfect little book to keep beside your bed and read an essay before sleep.

Order it before September 4th for some amazing pre-order bonuses, including:

  • FREE digital download of the audio version of the book, read by the author
  • Access to Anne Bogel’s class “7 Ways to Get More Out of your Reading Life,” a live class recorded on August 2. The recording is available for all preorders.
  • Beautiful digital artwork of the book

You can access these preorder bonuses on the I’d Rather Be Reading website.

Plucky’s Rating?

5/5 Stars

Yours,
The Plucky Reader

Full disclosure: As a member of the I’d Rather Be Reading launch team, I received a copy of this beautiful book (now I’m talking design-wise, the cover is beautiful), along with some other beautiful promotional items. I’d like to thank Anne Bogel and the I’d Rather Be Reading team for including me in her launch and her book tour.

Anne Bogel is the creator of the popular blog Modern Mrs. Darcy and the podcast What Should I Read Next? Her book lists and reading guides have established Bogel as a tastemaker among readers, authors, and publishers. The author of Reading People, she lives in Louisville, Kentucky.

Why We Do It

We have just finished our first full week of school.

Any teacher can tell you, the first week is a harrowing experience. You get a room full of energetic kids, made up of equal parts excited and resentful. Excited to see their friends after summer, resentful that summer is now used in a past tense context.

Exhausting as it is, I love the first week of school. It’s rife with opportunities. It sparkles with magic. It’s filled with hope and promise and beauty. The first week means I have new lives to touch and new teachers to learn from. I love that my students have things to teach me, and worlds to introduce me to, and personalities and opinions and experiences that will help me see the world in a more complete, more focused way. I love that I am still filled with wonder when I meet a new kid, and I hope that I will never think that I always have kids figured out.

The first week of school also means a lot of work. It means more work in one week than most people complete in a month. Seriously. It means running copies, writing letters, planning lessons, team building, seat assigning, pencil sharpening, board writing, and everything else it takes to make your room perfect and ready for your new babies. Personally, I spent ~40 hours just painting my classroom and setting the tables up the way I want them. That’s not even to mention the amount of money I’ve spent on my classroom thus far.

It’s no secret that teachers don’t make a lot of money. And anyone who’s ever met a teacher knows that we spend a lot of time at school. In the eyes of many, teaching is a thankless job. So why do we do it? Why do we spend countless hours grading papers and staying after school to tutor and calling parents and checking in on our students? Why do we spend countless dollars buying pencils and markers and paper and food and clothing for our kiddos?

Sometimes it seems we spend more time at school than at our houses, even in the summer.

Why?

Because we love kids. We love what we do.

I love nothing more than helping students, offering them the chance to do something amazing, to be whatever they want to be. I love being the person they share victories with. I love being able to watch them mature and grow and change. I love watching their faces light up the first time they understand a difficult concept. I love watching their smiles as they find their tribe, find where they belong.

Teaching’s not a thankless job. People just don’t know how to look for thanks. Kids don’t always speak their appreciation, but they always show it.

I have a student in my English class, for instance, who has a history of being a handful for other teachers. For whatever reason, though, this student loves me. She’s never been an issue for me; in fact, she helps her classmates. This girl who is known for her negativity in other classrooms is a leader and a nurturer in my classroom. It’s her way of saying thanks.

And stories like this line the paths that teachers walk on. This story with this student is not unique. Every day we are making differences in kid’s lives. And watching them change is thanks in itself. Watching them listen to and apply the things they learn is the best way to witness gratitude.

So much about what I do is misunderstood by people. Outsiders think we have loads of free time, with free nights and weekends and holidays and summers (it sounds like we’re an early 2000’s cell phone plan.) None of that is accurate, for the record. I worked all summer long, and I wasn’t alone. I am usually grading papers or reading or lesson planning into the late hours of the night. We spend holidays worried about our kids, hoping they’re safe with their families, hoping they’re taken care of when they’re not in our sight.

And I wouldn’t change any of it for the world.

So, sure. My feet hurt. I don’t get the opportunity to use the bathroom from 8:00-3:00. My lunch is 22 and is, every Wednesday, eaten while I walk around and make sure kids don’t get into fights. I pull long hours and I’ve got bags under my eyes that would make Coach envious. But it’s worth it.

Every minute is worth it.

Yours,
The Plucky Reader

Review – Scream All Night by Derek Milman

Last month, I received an email asking me to consider reading and reviewing a new book, Scream All Night by Derek Milman. I love getting these emails, I’m not ashamed to admit. I love them so much, that I almost always say yes without even reading about the book or doing any research or even checking my schedule to see if I actually have time to read these books.

So, like the accept-first-think-later person I am, I said yes. And then I read the jacket copy.

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DARIO HEYWARD KNOWS ONE THING: He’s never going back to Moldavia Studios,the iconic castle that served as the set, studio,and home to the cast and crew of dozens of cult classic B-horror movies. It’s been three years since Dario’s even seen the place, after getting legally emancipated from his father,the infamous director of Moldavia’s creature features.

But then Dario’s estranged brother invites him home to a mysterious, shocking ceremony involving his father and a tribute to his first film — The Curse of the Mummy’s Tongue.

Dario swears his homecoming will be a onetime visit. A way for him to get closure on his past — and reunite with Hayley, his first love and the costar of Zombie Children of the HarvestSun, a Moldavia production fraught with real-life tragedy — and then say good-bye for good.

But then the unthinkable happens — Dario gets sucked back into the twisted world of Moldavia and the horrors, both real and imagined, he’s left there.

With only months to rescue the sinking studio, and everyone who has built their lives there, Dario must confront the demons of his past — and the uncertainties of his future. But can he escape the place that’s haunted him his whole life?

Honestly, if I’d read this in a bookstore, I’m not sure this book would have made it into my shopping cart. Not that it sounds like a bad book, just not typically my style of book. It sounds dramatic and a little on the horror side of things and just not really my kind of book.

Lucky for me, though, I didn’t do any research and I blindly said I would be happy to read and review Scream All Night. And I’m so, so glad I did.

Scream All Night is well written with characters you want to love and want to understand. I fell in love with Dario and my heart ached for him from the very beginning.

When the story opens, we find Dario living in a halfway house/orphan home. Interestingly, though, he gets a phone call from his brother to return for a tribute to his father, things get very blurred. Soon we learn that Dario has been emancipated from his family, and with that, the complications of the story start to unfold.

That’s when I first learned that with beauty comes a little bit of terror.

Dario grew up in a beautiful castle with sprawling fields, Moldavia. But within the beauty of Moldavia were terrible, dark secrets. For readers with triggers, this book should come attached with a trigger warning for child abuse. Dario’s relationship with his father is strained and at times very hard to read. There’s a lot of anger and hatred and pain.

But this book isn’t just sad and painful. Scream All Night is about a broken family trying to become whole again. It’s about people finding their places in the world. It’s about redemption and renewal.

In a house full of broken people, the things you keep close to your heart better be broken too.

Honestly, this book started out slow for me. The dialogue was a bit stilted in the beginning. But by the third chapter, I was hooked and couldn’t put it down. I wanted to know more about Hayley and her parents, Aida and Hugo. I wanted to know why things were so strained between Dario and his brother, what happened to Dario’s mother. I wanted to know everything.

Something unique and fresh to Scream All Night was the whole monster movie feel. References to monster movies are sprinkled throughout this book, and with each one, I can see the movie playing out in my head. Milman, the author, is an accomplished actor. His knowledge of filming and acting makes the writing authentic and natural. The fact that they’re B-horror movies adds to the charm. There are references that bring to mind Elvira, Mistress of the Night. For me, it evokes images of my favorite cartoons from my childhood. I was reminded of shows like A Pup Named Scooby Doo and Tiny Toons. Both of these shows made their own jabs at B-horror movies, werewolf films, monster movies.

Though this book was totally unique and fresh, there was a sense of nostalgia about it that kept me wanting more.

When that moment comes, you’ll know you’ve made it through all the darkness God drew for you, and come out into the light.

So much of this book is about healing and redemption and renewal. This is one of the rare books that didn’t make me cry, but that I still loved. I love when a book makes me cry, but not crying in this book did not mean that I wasn’t emotionally connected to it. It was just much more subtle. And considering the subject matter, I’m glad it was more subtle. It was a bearable ache that I could endure all in one sitting.

The bad stuff leaves the scars

Scream All Night is a family story, more than anything else. It teaches us that families are more than just the people you’re related to. Families reach far and encompass so many people. Families are drawn together and need each other to survive.

Some people are pulled into orbit with one another–a planet and its moon.

Families are like that. Entwined with each other and pulled into each other’s orbit.

I am absolutely delighted that I was asked to read and review Scream All Night by Derek Milman. It was a wonderful read and one that will find its home on my shelf when it comes out.

Scream All Night will be released on July 24, 2018 and will be available where all great books can book found.

Plucky’s rating? 4.5/5 stars

You Can Always Trust Someone with Blue Hair

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For the past month, I’ve had blue hair. And I’ve loved every minute of it

Growing up, we weren’t allowed to dye our hair. And after I was an adult, I’ve always had a job that didn’t allow me to have crazy-colored hair. Even in the summers, when teachers allegedly have loads of freedom. (I’ll let you know when I have one of those free summers with nothing to do that’s just two months of a paid vacation.)

But this summer, I’ve taken actual time to myself and I let loose. I dyed my hair blue. Okay, that’s the extent of my wildness because I don’t do so well at wild.

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When I first got my hair done, my stylist, Alexis, told me, “everybody’s going to be looking at you now.”

I both believed her and did not believe her. For one, I’m a BIG personality. It’s rare for me not to be the center of attention, because I demand attention. Admittedly, it’s a defense mechanism. If I control everybody’s attention, then I control the way they perceive and think about me. It stops them from being free to form their own opinions. I’m in control of people’s perceptions.

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But I didn’t believe that people would begin to notice me without my permission. I thought I was always in control.

Turns out that’s not the case. Apparently, people do notice you when you walk into a room with blue hair. People notice things like you only wear the color blue (guilty) and that you’re tall (apparently), and they feel obligated to comment on the things they’ve noticed. It’s one thing when it’s a kid. Kids are allowed to acknowledge their observations. But the amount of adults who share their opinions is surprising.

Remarkably, feedback on my blue hair has been really positive. People say it suits me. People say they’re jealous of it. It’s been a great conversation starter. Everybody who has ever dyed their hair has shared with me their experiences. And I love that. I love collecting people’s stories. I love how people feel instantly comfortable with me.

And my blue hair has only increased that. So what is it about blue hair that makes a difference? Maybe it’s because you’re not inconspicuous. It’s hard to hide in a crowd when you’re over 6 foot tall and have blue hair. You’re easily recognizable.

Maybe it’s because it’s a sign of individuality. People see your blue hair and think you are totally confident and secure and confident in yourself. You don’t listen to the crowd. You don’t follow the norms. You’re confident in who you are.

Maybe it’s because I just have a kind smile or something. At this point, I can’t really tell you why people have been more attracted to my blue hair thatI expected. What I can tell you is people have been.

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What I can tell you is recently, my wife and I went to a sunflower festival, where I was able to snap these beautiful photos. While we were there, I was asked to take pictures for people. One family asked if they could borrow the scissors I’d bought, because guests were welcome to harvest sunflowers to take home.

My wife and our friend who came with us overheard a woman say, “you can always trust someone with blue hair.” While I’m not sure of the truth or origin of this adage, it’s made me laugh. Whether it’s my blue hair or my smile or the confidence I’ve developed in myself since I dyed my hair blue, people trust me. And I guess there are far worse things in life than that.

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A Plucky Vacation

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Last week, my wife and I took a much-needed vacation to Hot Springs, Arkansas. We stayed at a beautiful cabin on the lake, spent some time in the water, wandered the streets of downtown Hot Springs, and disconnected from technology and the world for a few days.

I cannot tell you how amazing that was. I cannot even begin to describe what it was like to not be concerned with social media, with phone calls, with text messages. I didn’t ignore everybody; I was just choosey about whom I communicated with.

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I sat on the dock of the lake house and read as much as I possibly could (review coming soon for A Place For Us.) I basked in the warmth and the comfort of summer.

As I mentioned earlier, I’m happier in the sunlight. Even when it’s roughly three billion degrees outside, I enjoy the sunlight. I, in fact, really love to smell like sunscreen because it means I’ve been in the sun. (Now if I could just figure out how to enjoy sweating.)

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I encourage you, dear reader, to sit back and unplug sometime. Take a day to turn off your phone and turn your attention to a book or to your partner or to your best friend or to your dog. Take a few hours without the hassle of notifications and popups and emails. There was a time before social media and cell phones and even blogs. There was a time when we weren’t accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Treating myself to that kind of day has only made me crave me. I know it’s not realistic in today’s society of fast-paced immediacy to disconnect for more than a couple of days at a time. But wouldn’t it be nice? Imagine how much more reading you’d get done.

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Take time to explore. Smell the roses. Read the historical plaques. See the world as it is. Today is the only day this world will look as it does. Tomorrow it will be different and we’ll have missed what today held for us.

I’m as guilty as everybody else. But at least for a few glorious days, I saw the water and the wind and the breath of the world as it was meant to be seen. And for those few days of wonder, I will always be grateful.

(Channeling that feeling of wonder now as I deal with a broken air conditioner in Louisiana. Send help. Or ice!)

Yours,
The Plucky Reader

A Much-Needed Vacation

I apologize for my absence, as of late. I have been taking a much-needed break.

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I am currently on vacation, enjoying some creative time on a dock on a lake with a cold drink in my hand and fully-loaded Kindle. I will be back to posting on a regular schedule next week.

I hope you are all living your best reading lives!

Yours,
The Plucky Reader