Tag Archives: Balzer + Bray

Book Review + Giveaway: The Other Normals by Ned Vizzini

4 Oct

Book cover for The Other Normals by Ned Vizzini

Title: The Other Normals

Author: Ned Vizzini

Genre: Fantasy YA, Contemporary YA, gaming

Publisher: Balzer + Bray

Release date: September 25, 2012

Amazon | Goodreads

Source: ARC from the publisher

Summary: The Other Normals centers on 15-year-old Peregrine “Perry” Eckert, who’s seriously obsessed with an uber-dorky role-playing game called Creatures & Caverns. Concerned about his stunted social skills and need for fresh air, Perry’s parents decide to ship him off to summer camp to become a man. He anticipates the worst summer of his life until he arrives at camp and stumbles into the World of the Other Normals, a place where his nerdy childhood may serve him well — but not without connecting with the real world first.

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Guest Post: Ned Vizzini

4 Oct

Aka, the most awesome guest post ever because NED CODED IT FOR ME. I mean, honestly. Anyway, Ned’s about to give us all a rundown of his experiences with Dungeons & Dragons. Preview: It’s kind of awesome.

◊ ◊ ◊

How Dungeons & Dragons is Supposed to Be Played — With Friendship

The most important part of the Dungeons & Dragons manual, which has been sold with the game for almost 40 years, is the part that gives an example of how to play:


DM: You’ve been following this tunnel for about 120 yards. The water on the floor is ankle deep and very cold. Now and then you feel something brush against your foot. The smell of decay is getting stronger. The tunnel is gradually filling with a cold mist.
Fighter 1: I don’t like this at all. Can we see anything up ahead that looks like a doorway,or a branch in the tunnel?
DM: Within the range of your torchlight, the tunnel is more or less straight. You don’t see any branches or doorways.
Cleric: The wererat we hit had to come this way. There’s nowhere else to go.
Fighter 1: Unless we missed a hidden door along the way. I hate this place; it gives me the creeps.
Fighter 2: We have to track down that wererat. I say we keep going.

[taken from the AD&D Player’s Handbook 2nd Edition]

This is how all my Dungeons & Dragons games actually went:


DM: Okay so we’re starting a game and I’m the dungeon master and —
My Friend: Hold on, aren’t we doing the Barrathur campaign?
DM: No, Ned’s here. So we’re starting a new campaign.
My Friend: With a 1st level character?!
Me: Should I buy rope at the store before my character goes on this adventure?
My Friend: Rope! What’s wrong with — BRRRING BRRRING — hold on my mom’s calling!

So I didn’t have a ton of teenaged D&D experience before I wrote my new book The Other Normals:

The Other Normals -- Cover

But I do have an adult D&D story.

It happened at the Park Slope Food Coop, the world-famous cooperative supermarket in Brooklyn, which is a terrible place to be associated with or even to have heard of — but I have an excuse because I grew up near it.

Park Slope Food Coop

The Food Coop works on a membership basis. To be a member (and get access to the coop’s fresh, organic, inexpensive food) you have to do two hours and forty-five minutes of work there every month.

I volunteered one month to be a cashier, which was tough. You may think that the person who bags and rings up your groceries has an easy gig, but do YOU know the difference between mustard greens and chard? And can YOU select one or the other of these items in .05 seconds on a touch screen while dozens of people are waiting to buy their Amy’s microwave meals?

Microwave Amy's Kids Meal

And then there are the lulls… periods when no one is buying anything and you’re bored out of your skull… To get through these times, I brought the Monstrous Manual to the cash register.

Monstrous Manual

A woman came up with some chard and noticed the book.

“Do you play?”

I was confused. No woman had ever asked me about D&D before.

“Uh, not really… I just like the books…”

“My husband runs games. You should come play with him!”

Two weeks later I was at an apartment in Park Slope with five other guys who had been playing for years. Their level of employment ran from the “gigs” section of Craigslist to corporate law. The leader, Bryson, who was our dungeon master, taught preschool and said of his students: “Four-year-olds are just mean. Two-year-olds want to play with poop, three-year-olds are silly… but four-year-olds are treacherous.”

This was the group I should have found when I was younger. Our games were fun and they moved briskly — even though my characters died a lot. I would name characters things like “Bryshnnkim” that were selected by Samuel Stoddard’s Fantasy Name Generator. That annoyed Bryson and he’d drop lizard carcasses on me and kill me.

I’ll never forgot the day I was playing when I got the phone call.

It was Los Angeles. Someone I was working with was asking me, basically: what happened to your novel?

I had been working on this novel that seemed really exciting at the time, but it was becoming unusable. My career was in a lull that put the Food Coop to shame. I was treading water, wasting time… and on top of all that I was playing D&D!

I had to hide these truths on the call, of course. I said everything was fine and the novel was coming along great. But as I put my phone back in my pocket, I noticed that Bryson & company were staring at me. I’d taken the call in the kitchen and spent the entire time pacing in circles, flexing and clenching my fingers.

“Are you okay?”

“I… uh… I should go… I shouldn’t be playing right now. I have things to do.”

I got my coat and went to the door. There were some unappreciative hoots from my fellow players, but as I left, I’ll never forget what Bryson said. He said it to me quietly, just before I left.

“If things are messed up or whatever, you know, you can tell me. I don’t just play D&D with you. You’re my friend.”

◊ ◊ ◊

Thank you, Ned! I do not know the difference between mustard greens and chard, but I DO recognize a sweet guest post when I see one! So glad to have you on the blog today!

Now, everyone go check out my review of Ned’s book, THE OTHER NORMALS, and enter my giveaway!

Book Review: Unraveling by Elizabeth Norris

20 Apr

Book cover for Unraveling by Elizabeth NorrisTitle: Unraveling

Author: Elizabeth Norris

Genre: Science Fiction YA

Publisher: Balzer + Bray

Release date: April 24, 2012

Challenge: Debut Author Challenge

Source: DAC ARC Tour

Summary: Two days before the start of her junior year, seventeen-year-old Janelle Tenner is hit by a pickup truck and killed—as in blinding light, scenes of her life flashing before her, and then nothing. Except the next thing she knows, she’s opening her eyes to find Ben Michaels, a loner from her high school whom Janelle has never talked to, leaning over her. And even though it isn’t possible, she knows—with every fiber of her being—that Ben has somehow brought her back to life.

But her revival, and Ben’s possible role in it, is only the first of the puzzles that Janelle must solve. While snooping in her FBI agent father’s files for clues about her accident, she uncovers a clock that seems to be counting down to something—but to what? And when someone close to Janelle is killed, she can no longer deny what’s right in front of her: Everything that’s happened—the accident, the murder, the countdown clock, Ben’s sudden appearance in her life—points to the end of life as she knows it. And as the clock ticks down, she realizes that if she wants to put a stop to the end of the world, she’s going to need to uncover Ben’s secrets—and keep from falling in love with him in the process.

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Waiting on Wednesday (20): Through To You by Emily Hainsworth

28 Mar

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. I love it because it is basically a squee-fest where book lovers can choose one book that they are DYING to get their hands on. Check it out!

Through To You

by Emily Hainsworth

Book cover for Through To You by Emily Hainsworth

Camden Pike has been grief-stricken since his girlfriend, Viv, died. Viv was the last good thing in his life: helping him rebuild his identity after a career-ending football injury, picking up the pieces when his home life shattered, and healing his pain long after the meds wore off. And now, he’d give anything for one more glimpse of her. But when Cam makes a visit to the site of Viv’s deadly car accident, he sees some kind of apparition. And it isn’t Viv.

The apparition’s name is Nina, and she’s not a ghost. She’s a girl from a parallel world, and in this world, Viv is still alive. Cam can’t believe his wildest dreams have come true. All he can focus on is getting his girlfriend back, no matter the cost. But things are different in this other world: Viv and Cam have both made very different choices, things between them have changed in unexpected ways, and Viv isn’t the same girl he remembers. Nina is keeping some dangerous secrets, too, and the window between the worlds is shrinking every day.

As Cam comes to terms with who this Viv has become and the part Nina played in his parallel story, he’s forced to choose—stay with Viv or let her go—before the window closes between them once and for all.

Whew. WHOA, guys. This summary kind of blows my mind. Dead girlfriend IS ACTUALLY ALIVE in a PARALLEL UNIVERSE, except things over there are very different. So many juicy things are alluded to in this summary, I can’t even handle it. My mind is literally scrambling to wrap itself around all of this potential AWESOME. I love the idea of the parallel world being different from the current one. I’m imagining that maybe Cam and Viv aren’t together in the alternate reality, and that maybe Cam and Nina had something going on. But seriously, I know NOTHING. (Woop! Unintentional Jon Snow reference for all you Thronies!) But I can’t wait to read this book and FIND OUT. Just this synopsis had my pulse going a little bit. THROUGH TO YOU sounds majorly gripping and dramatic. I have this feeling that I’m going to read it and it’s going to leave me breathless from all of the things. Huzzah!

THROUGH TO YOU is coming out October 9, 2012 from Balzer + Bray.

Waiting on Wednesday (16): Defiance

29 Feb

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. I love it because it is basically a squee-fest where book lovers can choose one book that they are DYING to get their hands on. Check it out!

Defiance (Defiance #1)

by C.J. Redwine

Defiance, CJ Redwine, Fantasy, Fantasy YA, series, Young adult, fantasy, girl, red hair, forest

Within the walls of Baalboden, beneath the shadow of the city’s brutal leader, Rachel Adams has a secret. While other girls sew dresses, host dinner parties, and obey their male Protectors, Rachel knows how to survive in the wilderness and deftly wield a sword. When her father, Jared, fails to return from a courier mission and is declared dead, the Commander assigns Rachel a new Protector, her father’s apprentice, Logan—the same boy Rachel declared her love for two years ago, and the same boy who handed her heart right back to her. Left with nothing but fierce belief in her father’s survival, Rachel decides to escape and find him herself. But treason against the Commander carries a heavy price, and what awaits her in the Wasteland could destroy her.

At nineteen, Logan McEntire is many things. Orphan. Outcast. Inventor. As apprentice to the city’s top courier, Logan is focused on learning his trade so he can escape the tyranny of Baalboden. But his plan never included being responsible for his mentor’s impulsive daughter. Logan is determined to protect her, but when his escape plan goes wrong and Rachel pays the price, he realizes he has more at stake than disappointing Jared.

As Rachel and Logan battle their way through the Wasteland, stalked by a monster that can’t be killed and an army of assassins out for blood, they discover romance, heartbreak, and a truth that will incite a war decades in the making.

Um, DEFIANCE sounds like some seriously bananas fantasy, guys. I love the sound of the evil dictator, the secretly badass girl, an impervious-to-death monster, and the major TENSION that exists between the girl and the boy because they have HISTORY. Honestly. I’m drooling over this summary! Everything sounds so fraught and dangerous. Plus there’s that business about “a war decades in the making” that makes me anxious-excited for the rest of the books in this series. Guys, I feel like DEFIANCE is going to chew me up and spit me out a little bit. I AM IN.

DEFIANCE is coming out August 28, 2012 from Balzer + Bray.