Book Review- I am the Mission

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I am the Mission by Allen Zadoff
Published by Little Brown on June 17, 2014
Genres: Young Adult, Thriller, Mystery, Fiction
Pages: 432
Goodreads
Amazon

He was the perfect assassin. No name. No past. No remorse. Perfect, that is, until he began to ask questions and challenge his orders. Now The Program is worried that their valuable soldier has become a liability.

And so Boy Nobody is given a new mission. A test of sorts. A chance to prove his loyalty.

His objective: Take out Eugene Moore, the owner of an extremist military training camp for teenagers. It sounds like a simple task, but a previous operative couldn’t do it. He lost the mission and is presumed dead. Now Boy Nobody is confident he can finish the job. Quickly.

But when things go awry, Boy Nobody finds himself lost in a mission where nothing is as it seems: not The Program, his allegiances, nor the truth.

I am the Mission was I am the Weapon on steroids (or, ya know, tons of five hour energy). Every time I thought Boy Nobody-who adopts the name Daniel-is going to get a break, something crazy happened that totally threw the story in a new direction. No one is safe. I repeat: NO ONE IS SAFE.

So, incase you haven’t figured by now, I am the Mission kept me guessing the whole entire time. I saw nothing coming. There was so much going on and such high stakes. It was super intense. My only complaint is maybe there was just a little too much going on. At some points my brain just needed a break from all the action.

There are only five characters in I am the Mission that carry over from the first book. And I’m talking actual characters, not just people mentioned (like Boy Nobodies real parents). Those characters are: Boy Nobody (duh), Howard (yay!! love Howard!!), Mother, Father, and Mike. Everyone else is new. The setting is new. The mission is new. I actually really like that. The story feels fresh.

Again I love how downplayed the romance is in the book-if you can even call it romance. I mean sure, there is definitely something going on there, but its not the main focus of the book and I can not tell you how refreshing that is! I love the fact that the book is driven by events and characters rather than “love” (or rather, “lust”).

I am the Mission was a great read, and definitely the kind of book you want to read if you want to start reading thrillers and mystery books.

I am going to give I am the Mission four out of five hearts!

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Guest Post- Birth of a Collection

Hi guys! Today I have a guest post by Charles Salzberg, one of the three authors behind Triple Shot. His post illustrates how his collaborative writing journey began and evolved to where it is today.


A couple years ago my friend and fellow crime writer, Tim O’Mara, approached me with a proposition. He had just returned from Bouchercon and was excited about a planned website which would offer a download of a different crime novella to subscribers each month.

“I’m going to do it and if you have an idea you might consider doing it, too,” he said.

I’d never written a novella before but it was tempting in large part because they’re usually at least half as long as a novel and, I figured, half as hard to write. So I said, “I’ll give it a shot.”

Years earlier I’d collaborated a screenplay from an idea I’d had about an ambitious female journalist who’s contacted by a woman in prison who’s there for killing her husband and two children. She claims she was framed for the crime and asks the journalist to help prove her innocent. I can’t speak for other writers but I’m always looking for the easy way out and so I figured I’d just rewrite the screenplay as a novella.

The screenplay was optioned several times but, like most scripts in Hollywood, was never made. Every production company that optioned it wanted changes, all of which were either pretty silly or downright insulting. They wanted to soften both characters, and one producer actually went so far as to suggest that the main character, Trish, should be changed to a man. My co-writer and I laughed. First of all, it was essential the character be a woman, because we were playing against stereotypes in that we wanted her to be tough, ambitious, and not above cutting corners to achieve an end when necessary. Besides, did they think changing a woman to a man was merely a function of doing a universal search and changing Trish to Joe and she to he? The answer is, they probably did. We passed on the idea and they passed on the script.

Waste not, want not, so now Twist of Fate the screenplay was about to become Twist of Fate the novella.

The truth is, I was never comfortable writing screenplays. I need more than just dialogue and description. Besides, I initially see the world in words not images. So now, writing a novella, I could get deeper into the motivations of all the characters and, if possible, make the story even darker because I didn’t have to satisfy a whole bunch of cooks who had not idea what the broth is and what makes it tasty.

Twist of Fate was a bit of a departure for me. The two main characters were women, and the story would be narrated by a woman, something I’d never done before. Not only would the two protagonists be women but they wouldn’t be particularly nice women. So much for that old saw about having to like the characters in a book in order to like the book. I’ve never believed that. As far as I’m concerned you have to be interested in the characters, not like them.

I submitted Twist of Fate and soon after I did I told my friend, Ross Klavan, at our weekly lunch about the project and urged him to write something, too. He accepted the challenge unspecifiedmmand all three novellas, mine, Ross’s and Tim’s, were quickly accepted.

Unfortunately, as good an idea as it might have been the website never materialized and, after a year or so, we started getting restless/ If our novellas were never going to see the light of day, we wanted them back. But what would we do with them? There’s really no market for stand-alone novellas, so Tim and I came up with an idea. Why not get the rights back and, along with Ross, package the three novellas in one collection?

That’s what we did and the result is Triple Shot, a collection of noir crime stories, which is going to be released this month (August).


unspecifiedCHARLES SALZBERG is the author of the Shamus Award-nominated Swann’s Last Song, Swann Dives In, Swann’s Lake of Despair (re-release Nov. 2016), Devil in the Hole (re-release Nov. 2016), Triple Shot (Aug. 2016), and Swann’s Way Out (Feb. 2017). His novels have been recognized by Suspense Magazine, the Silver Falchion Awards, the Beverly Hills Book Award and the Indie Excellence Award. He has written over 25 nonfiction books, including From Set Shot to Slam Dunk, an oral history of the NBA, and Soupy Sez: My Life and Zany Times, with Soupy Sales. He has been a visiting professor of magazine at the S.I. Newhouse School of Communications at Syracuse University, and he teaches writing at the Writer’s Voice and the New York Writers Workshop where he is a founding member.

Find Triple Shot Online:

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Artist Spotlights- Bad Carrot Studios and Day Light Full

Along with my undying love for books, I happen to love art. All kinds of art, from acting and dancing to painting and drawing. So I decided to shine whatever spotlight I have on some wonderful artists that combine my love of books to my love of art.

What art form does this? Fan art.

After looking through pages and pages of fan art on Etsy (which is pretty much my favorite online store at this point) I found two incredibly talented artists who agreed to do some art for me! For the purpose of this post, I sent the artists identical descriptions of some of the characters from my current work in progress (Candy Wrappers  ) to see what they came up with.


The first artist is Brittany from Bad Carrot Studios . Here is a little bit about her:

Brittany is an actor with a youthful and energetic voice. She has a background in singing and a Masters in Fine Art from the Savannah College of Art and Design. She majored in Sequential Art, and after graduating in 2008, she became the primary artist for the first eight chapters of the webcomic Snow by Night. Since then, she’s been working as a freelance artist through Etsy as Bad Carrot Studios.

Along with a talent for art, Brittany has had a passion for Acting and Voice Acting since she was young and has been working in the industry since 2012. She completed the full training course from Voice Coaches and continues to further her education at Nick Conti’s Professional Actor’s Studio for acting and with Deborah Richards Studio for voiceover.

Brittany is currently working as an actor in various productions around Atlanta, GA and doing commercial voice overs nationwide.

Brittany did two sketches for me: one of Malia Reed, who is my female main character, and one of Warren “Ren” Hartman, who is my male lead.

Brittany was able to draw the characters with only a brief description of them, and her full blown fandom art is unbelievable.

It was very interesting to watch the sketches go from first draft to finished. Each draft had a little bit more of the characters in them, and she worked tirelessly until they were perfect.

I love Brittany’s style of art because of how well proportioned they are. They look like they could walk right off the computer screen and flop down in the chair next to me.


 

The second artist I worked with is Whitney from DayLightFull. Here is a little on her:

I’m 21 years old and I’ve been drawing since I could hold a crayon. I’ve drawn all my life but only in the last 4-5 years have I been able to draw exactly what I see in my head. I have a tremors in my hands and an very dyslexic which make my two favorite things in life (art and writing) a challenge. The tremors in my hands make it very hard to draw smooth and precise lines but I never let that stop me! Even though the tremors get worse as I get older, I’ve worked hard and long enough to where you can hardly tell I have the disability in my art! So I’m always encouraging people to never give up on their passions because of a diagnosis. Art is my passion and I love making people smile with it!

Whitney’s art style is much different than Brittany’s, but unbelievably beautiful. She drew Malia and Ren, as well as a few other important characters in the plot line. Here is what she came up with:

I love Whitney’s art because of how much I can feel that characters personalities coming off the page. She did a wonderful job of capturing their attitudes and expressions.


I want to say a huge thank you to both of these talented artists for making these beautiful pieces of art for me. I encourage all the readers of this post to go look at their other work; you will be amazed!

“So Many Books, So Little Time…” Throw Pillow Giveaway

Hi everyone! This summer has been amazing, but really, really busy. So I’m sorry if my postings have been a bit all over the place.

A few weeks ago I reached out to Darlene Nudy after coming across her Etsy store, which you can check out here. You can also visit her Facebook page here, and don’t forget to give it a like! Darlene is a seamstress who does custom sewing and embroidery. What really caught my eye was her throw pillows.

Why? Because anyone who loves decorating loves throw pillows. And, anyone who loves decorating AND books can’t help but love Darlene’s book inspired pillow!

To my delight, Darlene agreed to work with me to bring this wonderful giveaway to you! She sent me two pillows, one with Keystroke Blog’s logo on it, and the other saying “So Many Books, So Little Time…” (which perfectly describes my life at any given moment).

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I am so happy with these cute little pillows! They are a good fabric and are sewn very well. And they are so adorable! I am so happy to have the chance to give one lucky winner one of these pillows.

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To enter the giveaway, follow the rafflecopter link below. Good luck!

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/e20309ab3/?

Author Q&A- Brandy Nacole

Today I had the pleasure of interviewing Brandy Nacole. Brandy is the author of the Shadow World series and the Spiritual Discord Series. Here is her interview!

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Q: How long have you been writing? Why did you start? 
A:  I’ve been writing since I was in the first or second grade. An author had visited our school and I was amazed by his whole presentation. That exact day, I went back to class and wrote my first story about a boy and his pet alligator. My mom still has it. The rest is history. I’ve been writing ever since. 
Q: What inspires your writing? Do you have a muse? 
A: Books I read and my dreams inspire me a lot. If I’m having trouble with a certain scene in a book I’m writing, sometimes reading or taking a walk can help twist the ideas the way I need them to be. 
I like to think my Grandma is my muse. Her and I were really when she was alive. We would spend many afternoons sitting out on the porch reading or inside writing notes from the books we’ve read, favorite lines and such. I know she would be proud of all I’ve done, having succeeded in making the dream I had as a child come true. 
Q: Tell me about your book series, The Shadow World and The Spiritual Discord. What inspired them? 
A: The Shadow World series follows the transformation of Racquel, a hybrid living in a purebred world. To say she’s unique, well that’s putting it mild. She has four different supernatural bloodlines coursing through her veins and never knows if she’s going to be sprouting claws or snacking on someone’s neck. It can make for some challenging days. Over the course of the series, we not only get to see Racquel find acceptance with the purebreds as she helps them find a shadowed villian, but also with herself. It’s not until she realizes she’s her biggest critic, that she’s able to let go and be free. 
The idea for the Shadow World came from a dream about Racquel. Her struggle and differences from everyone. It really hit home with a project I was working on with my local community for bullying, but with a twist of Fantasy. Racquel has been bullied her whole life since being a hybrid is forbidden. But once purebreds go missing and the High Council is shown that Racquel may be the only one who can help, she pushed into a world of trying to prove herself, accept herself, and realize that we are all unique in our own way – while also saving the world. She’s pretty badass. 🙂
Currently, the Shadow World series is getting a new look and some update, including a prequel. The whole series will be re-released this winter as a boxset. I’m pretty excited!
Skipping over to the Spiritual Discord series, we dive into a whole new world of fallen angels, vampires, and hellhounds, with a few average humans thrown in the mix. Oh, where to begin with this series… It’s so full of twists and turns, struggles and inner battles. I wanted to capture these thoughts with each of the main characters, so yes, it is a multiple POV novel with a total of 4 narratives. Kayson, the fallen angel who is only trying to prove a point against the universe, including God. Sabrina, who is trying to mind her own business and survive on animal blood, even though it’s lacking. Falon, Alpha of the Hell Hounds, is out to settle a score and prove his ranks in Hell. Then there’s poor Emma. A simple girl, trying to do a simple favor for her mom who is away traveling with her dad, when she’s thrown into the mist of a world she would have rather kept in the dark.
Broken Faith (Book 1) came out after the second in the Shadow World series. I had always wanted to write a fallen angels novel and it wasn’t until a drive home from New York State that got my wheels turning. Funny how a few road signs, stormy clouds, and boredom can get the ole wheels turning. This series has made me mad, sad, happy, and an all about loon, but I love the Fantasy world that has been built among all these different characters and am absolutely dreading the day the last book is released.
Right now, the first 3 books are available with the 4th being released soon!
I also have a standalone novel, Deep in the Hollow, that is based on a real small town legend. Greed has a price, and the dead do not always rest.
Q: Which of your characters would you most like to meet in real life?
A:Good grief, it’s questions like these that make me wish I could split myself in half. The ultimatum comes down between Racquel and Sabrina. I love both these girls. In the end, though, it would be Racquel. There is a part of me that can relate to Racquel, a part that unerstands. I’m not even going to lie and say there wasn’t times Racquel and I were one as I wrote.
Q: If you were thrown into one of the worlds you have created, what would you do?
A: Man, that’s one I haven’t been asked. What would I do? Well, after several panic attacks later, I imagine myself in the fight. I’m not one of those types to sit and be silent, so I like to think I would get right up in the mix of all the action.
Q: What is something you want the world to know? 
A: I want the world to know that we are all unique, just like our fingerprints, and that life affects each one of us differently. I want the world to know that instead of viewing that different as bad, it should be viewed as inspiring, as another art piece in the language of life. There are no rights or wrongs. To give compassion is to receive it. And that’s what I try to express in all my books. Even with all the action, mystery, and romance, there’s compassion and love for one another, for the unique and unusual. Remember this each and everyday. You are: Unique. Loved. Perfect
Find Brandy Online:

Book Reivew- I am the Weapon

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I am the Weapon by Allen Zadoff
Published by Little Brown on May 13, 2014
Genres: Young Adult, Thriller, Mystery, Action, Adventure
Pages: 368
Goodreads
Amazon

They needed the perfect assassin.

Boy Nobody is the perennial new kid in school, the one few notice and nobody thinks much about. He shows up in a new high school in a new town under a new name, makes a few friends and doesn’t stay long. Just long enough for someone to die — of “natural causes.” Mission accomplished, Boy Nobody disappears, moving on to the next target.

But when The Program assigns him to the mayor of New York City, things change. Somewhere deep inside, Boy Nobody is somebody: the kid he once was; the teen who wants normal things, like a real home and a girlfriend; a young man who wants out. And who just might want those things badly enough to sabotage The Program’s mission.

In this action-packed series debut, author Allen Zadoff pens a page-turning thriller that is as thought-provoking as it is gripping, introducing an utterly original and unforgettable antihero.

I am the Weapon was intense. It is action packed and fast paced from the first sentence. Boy Nobody, who later adopts the name Ben, is a highly trained solider who lives his life mission to mission. Is he cool? Yes. Is he dangerous? Hell yea. Is he good? Now that right there is the million dollar question.

Throughout the book, Boy Nobody begins to reveal (or rather, remember) things from his past. Things from before he became Boy Nobody. Instead of following his instructions and completing his mission, he goes on a quest for answers, causing a whole lot of craziness in his wake.

One thing that makes me love the book is the relationship story line. I love how Ben and Sam aren’t immediately head-over-heels… it feels more real that way. They don’t trust each other (for good reason) and they have a lot of great entertaining conversations that drive the story line forward and have real substance.

The ending of the book took me by surprise. Well, I don’t know if surprise is the right word, because I expect nothing less than what happened from Boy Nobody… but I certainly didn’t see it coming. It broke my heart a little, and my only complaint is it didn’t break my heart enough.

I also feel like I am the Weapon would have been a great stand-alone book (besides the whole unresolved mysterious past). I don’t really feel compelled to read the second book, which is never exactly a good thing. But at the same time I’m curious, and I expect some pretty big things from I am the Mission.

I am going to give I am the Weapon four out of five hearts.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Author Q&A- Virginia Franken

Today I had the pleasure of interviewing Virginia Franken, the upcoming author of Life After Coffee, which comes out September 13th, 2016. Virginia has always loved writing, but it wasn’t until her first son was born that her writing turned into a serious goal. So, without any  further ado, I give you Virginia Franken’s interview!0311-Final(WEBonly)

Q: How long have you been writing?

A:  I loved writing stories and poems as a kid. I had a very supportive English teacher when I was about nine and she told me that if my dreams of making it as a prima ballerina fell to the wayside (ahem) then I should consider writing for a living! Not long after that, I wrote a poem about the time our fourth grade class had our underwear stolen from the local pool while we were swimming there (bizarre-but-true story) – it got published in the school paper and I was off.

Q: What inspires your writing? Do you have a muse?

A: It’s interesting that I only really started writing with any serious intention toward getting published after my first child was born. So I guess you could say that my son was/is my muse. I think I’d been expecting motherhood to define who I was as a person and cement my place on planet earth amongst the other humanoids. Didn’t work that way, and when I became a mother I was as grasping and confused about life as ever. So when my baby was about six weeks old, I start writing with one almighty burst – three books at once. One was a children’s novel that I showed to almost no one, another was a non-fiction book that I may well finish one day and the third was a memoir about dating in Los Angeles as a single mother. The dating book got a bit of interest from agents – but ultimately I’m glad it didn’t get published as it was too personal a book to be out in the public arena.

Q: Tell me about your upcoming book Life After Coffee! What was the original idea behind it?

A: Life After Coffee is about a globe-trotting coffee buyer, Amy, who loses her job, becomes a stay-at-home mom and finds out that it’s all much harder than it looks. There’s also a movie mogul ex-boyfriend of hers on the horizon, offering her an escape from the brutal reality of her life and she starts to find it’s all a bit tempting…

It’s essential a comic novel, but there are some very tough scenes when Amy’s leaving her kids behind in order to travel for work. This book was inspired by the difficulties I felt after I had my second child and I was dealing with the emotional turmoil of having to return to the office before I was anywhere near ready. I turned to the literary world for some comfort reading and couldn’t find any fiction written about the very specific heartache of my situation. After talking to friends who were going through the same ordeal, I came to realize that a woman can be smart, feminist and excellent at her job but still feel like the very fabric of her soul is being torn in two every morning when she leaves her baby behind for a day at work. There seems to be so little written about this very emotional topic–maybe because the women who are living it are far too busy to write about it as well!

Q: How do you hope Life After Coffee will affect people? How did writing it affect you?

A: I think it would be great if Life After Coffee could inspire some empathy for reluctant working moms. It’s not a PC thing to say, but nevertheless it is a fact that some women LAC coverfind it hard to leave their kids at home every day in order to go to work. Not all women get to choose whether to work or stay at home. And those women who have no choice but to put their kids in daycare and get to the office, haven’t always found their ways into fulfilling careers. More women are flying higher than ever – but for some women, the careers just never got going. Some jobs are just boring ass boring. Some women would prefer to stay at home and raise their kids themselves, some women would prefer to work part-time, some women would prefer not to return to work when their baby is 2 weeks/6 weeks/12 weeks old. But a lot of women in American get no choice. More so than ever women are the breadwinners and we are proud of what we are achieving. But we are also exhausted. We also wish we had more genuine choices about how we spend our day. Proper maternity leave, job-share opportunities, and reliable universal health care that’s not dependent upon employment status. We The Women wish our true voices could be heard, because all we hear right now is: do it harder, be it better, say it nicer, lean in further, but be careful not to lean in so far your forehead hits the floor cause it’s kinda dirty – everyone round here’s too busy working for The Man to have gotten round to mopping it…

Q: If you could sit down for a cup of tea with any author (dead or alive) who would it be and why?

A: Probably Mindy Kaling as she’s only down the street from me (well, we live in the same city anyway). But apart from the convenience of not having to travel through time or space to meet her – I think she’s just a truly brilliant comic writer. And besides, two minutes in we’d be laughing so hard that tea would suddenly seem way too formal so we’d just move onto a nice bottle of chilled white. And then after a couple of glasses of that we’d suddenly realize we were totally hungry and we’d probably get an Uber out to Malibu and go to this amazing fish and chips place I know. Then we’d strip down to our swimwear that would spontaneously appear under our cute outfits and run in and out of the waves all evening with the dolphins. I’ve no idea what specifics we’d talk about, but I know that whatever they were-they would be awesome. It really would be a magical day! Wanna come with?

Q: What is something you want the world to know?

A: That if you really close your eyes, open your heart and do your best to understand where someone else is coming from…there’s every chance they’ll try just as hard to understand you.


Thank you so much for being here, Virginia! I loved your answers and YES! Yes I want to come with you and Mindy!!!

Don’t forget to check out Life After Coffee and order it! It is not a book you are going to want to miss! See it on Amazon here.