Saturday, April 21, 2018

ECOSYSTEM Blog Tour -- Joshua David Bellin

I'm happy to be a stop on Joshua David Bellin's blog tour to celebrate the release of his newest book, ECOSYSTEM, which releases tomorrow.


 Don't forget to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway at the end of the post for a chance to win a signed copy!


Seventeen-year-old Sarah is a Sensor, gifted with the ability to survive within the sentient Ecosystem that swept away human civilization centuries ago. While the remnants of humankind huddle in small villages of stone, Sarah uses her psychic connection to the Ecosystem to travel freely in the wild in search of food, water, and fuel. Sarah doesn’t fear the Ecosystem—but she hates it for killing her mother when Sarah was a child. When she hunts, she hunts not only for her people’s sustenance but for revenge.

Then Miriam, an apprentice Sensor, is lost in the Ecosystem, and Sarah sets out to rescue her. Joining Sarah is Miriam’s beloved, Isaac, a boy who claims to possess knowledge of the Ecosystem that will help their people survive. The harrowing journey to find the missing apprentice takes Sarah and Isaac into the Ecosystem’s deadliest places. And it takes Sarah into the unexplored territory of her own heart, where she discovers feelings that threaten to tear her—and her society—apart.

A thrilling fantasy adventure from the author of Freefall and the Survival Colony series, Ecosystem is the first book in a YA trilogy that includes The Devouring Land (2019) and House of Earth, House of Stone (2020).


Ecosystem is a powerhouse of a novel. From the very first scene, Bellin draws you into a highly realized universe where the greatest threat to humans is the world around them. From bloodbirds to poisonrose to flameflies, there’s always something ready to harm or kill a person as soon as they step outside of their stone village.

Bellin’s writing is confident and clear, coaxing you into the world and the story. It’s apparent that he took great care in this project and that it’s close to his heart. As someone who reads a lot, I think that makes a subtle difference in the reading experience because it helps deepen the story.

What generally attracts me to stories is the protagonist. Here, it’s a fun and occasionally exasperating ride to step into Sarah’s shoes and find out where her journey—both physical and emotional—takes her. Like the stabbing nettles she sometimes encounters, she’s a bit prickly, especially at first. But as she learns to trust others and herself, she grows in confidence and grows on the reader.

This is a timely novel, too, that cautions against abusing the environment. It should seem like common sense, but in a time when recognizing climate change means going against business interests and profits, it’s a necessary and apt reminder.

Overall, Ecosystem is a thrilling, complex read. I’m eagerly awaiting the next book in the trilogy, The Devouring Land.

More About Josh 

Joshua David Bellin has been writing novels since he was eight years old (though the first few were admittedly very short). A college teacher by day, he is the author of three science fiction novels for teens and adults: the two-part Survival Colony series (Survival Colony 9 and Scavenger of Souls) and the deep-space adventure Freefall. His new book, the YA fantasy Ecosystem, releases on April 22, 2018 (Earth Day). Josh loves to read, watch movies, and spend time in Nature with his kids. Oh, yeah, and he likes monsters. Really scary monsters.

Find Josh online:

And find ECOSYSTEM at:

Josh will also be stopping by the Monessen Public Library on Saturday, May 19th.




a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, April 16, 2018

BOOK REVIEW: The Princess Deception, Nell Stark

I really enjoy Twelfth Night, and I'm an even bigger fan of She's the Man. When I saw this available on NetGalley, I jumped at the chance to read it. Modern adaptations of older works are always a lot of fun, especially when things get updated in unique ways. Because of that, I really, really wanted to love this one. However, I didn't.

The story is about Viola, the Princess of Belgium. When her twin brother, Sebastian, overdoses right before the month-long bid for the FIFA World Cup begins, she decides to play him while he goes to rehab so the bid can continue. Meanwhile, Missy Duke is a former pro soccer player who was forced to retire early because of a knee injury. Now, she's covering the Belgian-Dutch joint bid for a sports magazine/network. Cue the ensuing misunderstandings.

I don't think it's a spoiler to say that Duke finds out about Viola's ruse, but I think she finds out way too easily. Ultimately, I think that's what dissatisfied me. The whole conceit of Twelfth Night is that pretty much no one knows that Cesario is really Viola, and a lot of the drama and comedy come from the audience knowing. Instead of being intrigued by "Sebastian" and then having to reevaluate when she finds out Sebastian is really Viola, Duke spends the majority of their relationship trying to figure out why Viola's doing it so she can break a story. More than that, though, they actually just don't spend a lot of time together. We're 40% in before they have a conversation in private, and the black moment comes at 70%, which doesn't leave them much time to develop a relationship.

My main complaint is possibly my own fault. I went into this with high expectations because, like I said, I enjoy Twelfth Night and especially She's the Man. So, my expectation was that this would be funny. Instead, it's very dramatic. That's fine, and the drama is mostly earned. Sebastian's overdose and subsequent rehabilitation are treated with the weight they deserve. Duke is still depressed over losing her soccer career. I just wanted this to be a lot more fun and filled with more shenanigans than it was.

There are some nice moments and observations in the writing, though. At one point, Viola notes how much she appreciates her circle of friends. Both Viola and Duke treat Sebastian's addiction as a disease and defend him against people who would "out" his addiction as a scandal. While posing as Sebastian, Viola realizes she shouldn't say a lot because men are often laconic when it comes their emotions, and she wonders "whether men felt as constrained by the norms governing their behavior as she did emulating them."

Because there's such a focus on a woman pretending to be a man and having to wear "masculine" clothing and on how people present gender, it made me think a lot about transgenderism and gender expression and passing and the "proper" amount of masculinity or femininity. I don't know if this can be classified as transgender representation, especially whether it can be classified as positive transgender representation. What I can say is that it made me think and made me want to learn more about transgender history.

Overall, The Princess Deception is an interesting book, but don't go into it expecting a faithful representation of Twelfth Night.

Thanks to NetGalley, Bold Strokes Books, and Nell Stark for the advanced e-copy in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

BOOK REVIEW: Where There's Hope: Healing, Moving Forward, and Never Giving Up, Elizabeth Smart

I vaguely remember the media coverage surrounding Elizabeth Smart's disappearance and subsequent rescue. She's only a year older than I am, and I didn't really pay attention to news until I got to high school at least. I remember her disappearance and her eventual rescue, but I didn't know any of the details. When I received this book through a Goodreads giveaway, I decided it'd be better to have more of an understanding of her ordeal. I listened to My Story on audiobook and found it moving and uplifting.

The subject of Where There's Hope: Healing, Moving Forward, and Never Giving Up is fairly self-explanatory. What I appreciated most about the book, though, is that it's not just Smart's story of moving on from her ordeal. In each chapter, she interviews one or two people who have been through or are currently dealing with difficult circumstances, and she doesn't shy away from those whose stories are far different than her own. In this way, it's not Smart telling the reader there's only one way to move on and that's her way. Instead, she presents other peoples' stories and examples in ways that allow the reader to see there are many roads to recovery. I also found the book to be well structured. Smart uses the interviews as well as her own experiences to highlight the themes of each chapter, among them hope, loss, faith, forgiveness, and more.

The one quibble I had is that during one chapter, a mother who lost her daughter to suicide after not being weaned off properly advises alternatives to antidepressants such as exercise and being in nature. The truth is just that everyone needs a different combination of healing options. While certain people do react poorly to antidepressants, they're extremely helpful for other people. I just think it's a tricky topic and Smart could've spent a bit more time on it.

Nonfiction, especially titles in the self-help category, tends to be subjective in a different way than fiction, so I find that I can't really judge this book or recommend it in the way I do novels. The only thing I can say is that if you are even a little bit intrigued, it's probably worth picking up.

Overall, I really enjoyed this reading experience. I dogeared a lot of pages and quotes to return to. I'm probably going to pass this on to my mom because I think she'd appreciate it, too. One of the marks of a really good book, for me, is if it keeps me thinking afterward, and this one certainly has.