Thursday, May 29, 2014

BEA Recap Day 2

I'm too tired to do a long post about today, but I thought I'd come do a little update.  Today the mad rush truly began.  But, surprisingly, it wasn't as crazy as I thought it would be.  Maybe it's because I went in with a pretty low-key attitude, but I didn't feel terribly overwhelmed.  I think it helped a lot that I met up with some really awesome bloggers who made the day incredibly fun.  Sure, I sat in a line for an hour and a half - but I was just sitting there chatting about books and blogging. Nothing bad about that! I am loving making new blogger friends!

Best author moment of the day for me was definitely meeting Julie Kagawa.  She was out taking pictures and video of the insanely long line that stretched around the convention center for the Teen Harlequin signing and she was nice enough to chat for a moment and take a picture with me!  Yay, Julie!  I was right in the front of that line because I was not about to miss out on Talon.  Of course, the book cover managed to get all creased in my bag, which made me very sad!  It was the only book that got damaged and it was the book that I was most excited about!  Sigh.  I suppose I'll survive (even though my OCD about books was triggered horribly!).

Me and the fabulous Ms. Julie Kagawa!

Okay, I'll write more about BEA later, but for now, I'm heading to bed!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

BEA Recap Day 1

Travel Woes

So, I made it through Day #1 of my very first BEA!!!  It was looking a little touch and go there for a while, since my flight was delayed by about 2 hours (and some flights from Chicago to NYC were cancelled).  I was just praying that I would make it here at all!  

My poor roommate (Jennifer from Live to Read, Read to Live) flew all the way in from Ireland and got here at 2:00 PM, but couldn't check in because she didn't have a credit card.  So I spent the day yesterday scrambling around, calling places, trying to get someone to help me figure out a way to get the poor girl checked in!  Luckily she had a book and didn't mind reading in the lobby while we got it all sorted out.  (Which we did finally.)  I didn't get in until after midnight and I did NOT want her to have to wait until then to check in!  Luckily, it all worked out. Oh, except then we found out that we only had one bed - even though I had called the front desk and confirmed the we would have two.  By that time, we were just happy she didn't have to sleep in the lobby, but it was all a bit crazy. "Hi, nice to meet you in person (in the middle of the night). Now let's share a bed."  Luckily we're both laid back people!

BEA Bloggers Conference
(And the Big Controversy)

So, on to today.  Today was the BEA Bloggers Conference.  I attended four sessions - the first two were great, and the second two were so-so.  The last session actually created a lot of controversy, but I'll tell you about that in a moment ...

Session 1 - Design 101
I got some really good design tips here, some of which I will probably incorporate into my blog (especially simplifying my sidebars).  My blog really doesn't mesh well with the current trend of "simple and uncluttered," but I don't know that I'll change it up too much.  Even though my header is a bit busy, I love it.  One thing I definitely DID get from this session is that I definitely want to migrate over to Wordpress. I've been wanting to do it for a while, but have been too nervous to actually take the plunge because I didn't want to lose my design, etc.  Ashley over at Nose Graze was one of the presenters and lots of people highly recommended her to help with a move to Wordpress, so I'll probably use her services (unless I can manage it all by my lonesome, but I'm not counting on that).

Session 2 - Software 101 
This was a very fun session, mostly due to the humorous bloggers on the panel - especially Sarah over at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books.  This session further convinced me that I should move over to Wordpress so that I can make use of awesome plug-ins like Jetpack and Co-scheduler.  It also made me think a bit more about my use of social media (or lack thereo) and how I can do better.

Session 3 - Blogging and the Law
This session wasn't super exciting, but I kind of didn't expect it to be.  I don't worry too much about someone plagiarizing me (though maybe I should) and I already know not to use images that aren't meant to be free and the other copyright info seemed only mildly applicable to me (though there were some interesting facts given that I hadn't really thought about before - such as the fact that we're not liable for comments made on our blog, etc).  The most interesting part of the session was hearing author Allison Leotta's personal story of how her book was stolen and republished under a different name by an "author" who just changed the main character to a man (turning it into a gay character) and a few other minor details.  Otherwise it was her book - word for word.  Wow! He did book signings and everything. Her publisher got everything shut down, and Leotta chose not to sue - which was refreshing to hear in this world of litigation. I really liked Leotta personally and would love to read one of her books now.

Session 4 - The Publishing Process - How Bloggers Have Changed the Game
Okay,this is the session you've all been hearing about.  The big controversy.  The description for this session was written very poorly and was terribly misleading because it wasn't really about bloggers at all, but about YouTube vlogging.  Apparently, Alexandra Bracken worked with a very popular YouTube vlogger who really helped spread the word about The Darkest Minds.  That, in itself is great, but some statements were made alluding to how much better vlogging is than blogging because it reaches so many more people, and the atmosphere in the room started to get a little chilly.  I don't think the panel intended to make it sound like vlogging was amazing and blogging was unimportant, but it did start to kind of veer that way. Honestly, I think if the description had correctly stated that this session was going to specifically be about vlogging rather than blogging, I don't think it would have been so bad, but the focus was a big surprise to everyone except the panel.  And, in a room full of mostly bloggers (not vloggers) the statements that made it sound like vlogging was superior were met with increasing hostility - quite a few people actually walked out.

I actually felt really bad for Alexandra Bracken - I spoke to her afterward for a while and she seemed genuinely distressed that mixed messages were sent. She came prepared to talk about her experiences with vlogging because that's how the session was pitched to her and she never wanted to imply that vlogging was better (for the record, most of the statements that came off that way were from the vlogger herself, who I think really just wanted to share how awesome she thinks vlogging is and made the misstep of making comparisons between it and blogging that made blogging seem like the inferior choice).  Anyway, I just have to throw in a little defense for Alexandra Bracken because I talked to her a bit and she seemed genuinely very nice and hated the thought that her panel had upset people. (In fact, I just found out that Bracken addressed this today HERE.) 

Me and Alexandra Bracken

Books I Got

I was really surprised by how many books I already got today (and I didn't take all of the ones that were offered!)  Alexandra Bracken signed The Darkest Minds for me and Romina Russel signed Zodiac. Can't wait to start reading!

Night on the Town

Since I've never been to NYC, I was excited to see Times Square.  My roommate and I had dinner at a fun place called Ellen's Stardust Diner where all the servers are trying to make it on Broadway and they sing for you!  So much fun!

Well, I need to head to bed now, so I'll be awake tomorrow.  Feel free to ask any questions about the sessions in the comments or add your input if you were there!

ARC Review & Giveaway - My Last Kiss by Bethany Neal

Title: My Last Kiss
Author: Bethany Neal
Release Date: June 10, 2014
Pages: 368
Goodreads Rating: 3.87/5 Stars
My Rating: 4/5 Stars
My Content Rating: YA (Nothing more than kissing, Some violence)
Genre: YA Paranormal

Summary from Goodreads:  What if your last kiss was with the wrong boy? 

Cassidy Haines remembers her first kiss vividly. It was on the old covered bridge the summer before her freshman year with her boyfriend of three years, Ethan Keys. But her last kiss--the one she shared with someone at her seventeenth birthday party the night she died--is a blur. Cassidy is trapped in the living world, not only mourning the loss of her human body, but left with the grim suspicion that her untimely death wasn't a suicide as everyone assumes. She can't remember anything from the weeks leading up to her birthday and she's worried that she may have betrayed her boyfriend. 

If Cassidy is to uncover the truth about that fateful night and make amends with the only boy she'll ever love, she must face her past and all the decisions she made--good and bad--that led to her last kiss.

Bethany Neal's suspenseful debut novel is about the power of first love and the haunting lies that threaten to tear it apart.

My Last Kiss is an intriguing YA paranormal murder mystery.  Cassidy doesn't remember anything from the few weeks leading up to her death.  But, when she wakes up dead, she knows she didn't kill herself - but as she untangles the memories leading up to her death, she's afraid that she won't like what she ultimately finds.

The negatives:
  • Beginning felt drawn out.  The beginning of this book felt just a little bit long to me.  There were tons of mysteries in the book and I found myself a bit confused and very slightly bored at times in the beginning of the book as information is given out in small, somewhat confusing doses.  This is purposeful, but I just felt like we could have been given a couple of more significant clues earlier on to tide us over.  Once I got to the second half of the book (or perhaps even a bit earlier), things really picked up, though, and I found that I couldn't put the book down!
What I loved:
  • The mysteries.  Like I said above, this book was full of mysteries - not just who killed Cassidy (if anyone did), but what was happening between Cassidy and Ethan just before her death. The more that Cassidy learns, the more she realizes that the secrets don't even end there - more people may have been keeping things from her than she ever imagined. As the mysteries unwound, I was drawn in further and further.  By the second half of the book, I couldn't put it down!  (And I didn't - I stayed up way too late!)
  • Cassidy.  I really felt for Cassidy.  She experiences a painful death and then wakes up as a ghost, having no idea what happened to her.  Of course, she wants to find out.  But the more she learns, the more she realizes that nothing is what she thought - she can't even trust herself.  She starts to believe she may have even cheated on the boy she loves. Now if you read my reviews, you know that cheating is a touchy issue with me.  I can't stand it when we're supposed to root for the cheating couple to get together.  But that never felt like the case here.  I don't want to say too much, but I actually felt happy with the way it was all handled and with how maturely Cassidy dealt with all of her questions about her relationships.
  • Ethan.  LOVED Ethan.  I especially loved that, even though we get the feeling that things were difficult between Ethan and Cassidy before she died, he was still putting her first - even in death. The romance between Ethan and Cassidy was so sweet, and I hated to imagine that anything may have happened to mess things up between them.  And I REALLY hated the idea that Ethan could have had anything to do with her death.  I didn't want to believe it for a minute, but it was definitely hard to know what to believe.  There were no easy answers - everyone was a suspect.
My Last Kiss was a fantastic mystery filled with intrigue!  A great read!  I give it 4/5 stars.

***Disclosure: This book was provided to me by the author in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given. All opinions are my own***

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About the Author
Bethany Neal writes young-adult novels with a little dark side and a lot of kissing from her Ann Arbor, Michigan home. She is obsessed with (but not limited to): nail polish, ginormous rings, pigs, pickles, and dessert.

You can find her locked in her Writertorium for insane amounts of time. But, hey, insanity is fun! My Last Kiss is her first novel.

Author Links:
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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Review - Starcursed by Nandini Bajpai

Title: Starcursed
Author: Nandini Bajpai
Release Date: November 3, 2013
Pages: 284
Goodreads Rating: 4.08/5 Stars
My Rating: 5/5 Stars
My Content Rating: YA (Nothing more than kissing)

Summary from Goodreads:  In the ancient city of Ujjayani, the planets align to decide the fate of two starcursed lovers. Born under the curse of Mars, brilliant and beautiful Leelavati, daughter of the famed astronomer Bhaskarya Acharya of Ujjayani, knows she can never wed. But when her childhood playmate, the handsome and rich Rahul Nagarseth, returns from sea, their attraction is rekindled under stormy monsoon skies. As Leela, forced by fate to relinquish Rahul, tries to find solace in teaching at her fathers observatory, a fleeting alignment of the stars is discovered that can help overcome her curse. But Rahul is called away on a war to defend his kingdom. Can he return in time or will she lose him forever to the will of the planets? 

Set in turbulent twelfth century India, against the backdrop of the savage wars waged by Muhammad of Ghor and his band of Turkis, Starcursed is a sweeping tale of science, romance and adventure that will transport its readers to another world.

Starcursed is a sweet YA historical romance that captured my heart.  A story of truly star-crossed lovers. 

The negatives:
  • The cover.  While I love the background with the moon and stars and a distant city, the illustrators managed to make the beautiful Leela look downright ugly.  It's a shame, since I love to see a little diversity on my covers!
What I loved:
  • The setting.  I don't read historical fiction very often (unless it's with my kids for homeschooling), but this book almost sounded like it could pass for fantasy with the focus on Leela being Starcursed.  I'm so glad that I gave it a try.  Really plenty of fantasy authors could almost have based their societies on 12th century India. The culture and setting are rich in magnificent details - the monsoon season, and what it means to the people; gender roles and arranged marriages; a war with the Turkis; a smallpox outbreak; the belief in astrology - add in a little bit of magic and it could easily pass for fantasy.  Which is why I enjoyed it so much.  I LOVED that I got all of this rich worldbuilding - but with the knowledge that this was a real historical culture that I was learning about. This added an extra layer of interest!
  • Leela.  I absolutely adored Leela.  She was everything I love in a heroine - incredibly intelligent (her genius truly saves the day at one point in this book), yet caring and compassionate.  She is strong-willed, but she doesn't throw her family's reputation and culture aside for her own desires. She respects them and wants to please them (though she sometimes breaks the mold anyway).  Leela wrestles with the astrological beliefs of her society. On the one hand, her father, the man she respects more than anyone in the world, has taught her that the stars can truly affect her destiny. On the other hand, she doesn't feel like the horrible person her astrological reading insists she should be. This doubt brings her hope - hope that perhaps she can truly overcome her destiny - but it doesn't erase her fear.
  • Rahul.  Again, pretty much the perfect leading man. Rahul is intelligent, but not prideful, strong and capable in battle, but he doesn't have a warrior's spirit.  He understand Leela in a way that no one else ever really can. And though there are many obstacles that stand in their way (religion, caste, the stars), Rahul and Leela seem meant for one another.
  • The story. I found myself captivated by this story in so many ways. I didn't know how the romance between Leela and Rahul would work itself out (or if it would - the legend that's told at the beginning of the book didn't have a happy ending, and I wasn't sure if the book would either), so I was definitely waiting with bated breath to find out how it would all play out!
I highly recommend this book to YA readers who enjoy historical romance (or even fantasy!)  I give it 5/5 stars.

***Disclosure: This book was provided to me by the author in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given. All opinions are my own***

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About the Author
Nandini Bajpai grew up in New Delhi, India, one of four sisters and many cousins, in a family that liked to read.

She lived and worked in India, Australia, and the US, before settling in the Boston area with her husband, kids, and a fluctuating number and variety of pets. Although she dabbled in corporate finance, business analysis, and fostering shelter animals, her first love is writing.

Author Links:
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Monday, May 26, 2014

Review - These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

Series: Starbound #1
Author: Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
Release Date: December 10, 2013
Pages: 374
Goodreads Rating: 3.96/5 Stars
My Rating: 5/5 Stars
My Content Rating: YA (Characters have sex, but it's not described)

Summary from Goodreads:  It's a night like any other on board the Icarus. Then, catastrophe strikes: the massive luxury spaceliner is yanked out of hyperspace and plummets into the nearest planet. Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Merendsen survive. And they seem to be alone. 

Lilac is the daughter of the richest man in the universe. Tarver comes from nothing, a young war hero who learned long ago that girls like Lilac are more trouble than they’re worth. But with only each other to rely on, Lilac and Tarver must work together, making a tortuous journey across the eerie, deserted terrain to seek help. 

Then, against all odds, Lilac and Tarver find a strange blessing in the tragedy that has thrown them into each other’s arms. Without the hope of a future together in their own world, they begin to wonder—would they be better off staying here forever?

Everything changes when they uncover the truth behind the chilling whispers that haunt their every step. Lilac and Tarver may find a way off this planet. But they won’t be the same people who landed on it.


A timeless love story, THESE BROKEN STARS sets into motion a sweeping science fiction series of companion novels. The Starbound Trilogy: Three worlds. Three love stories. One enemy.

I won this book back in December and have been dying to read it ever since. Don't know why it took me so long!  This book was awesome!

These Broken Stars is an amazing YA sci-fi/fantasy romance.  The story follows Lilac and Tarver as they struggle to survive after their spacecraft crashes.  They are left to make their way across a hostile planet, completely alone, searching for rescue. But the planet seems to be home to something strange, and Lilac and Tarver start to think that they might be in more danger than they ever realized.

The negatives:
  • Characters didn't feel their ages.  I kept having to remind myself that these characters are supposed to be teenagers.  Neither of them felt or sounded like teenagers to me - which was nice in a lot of ways (I may have preferred it).  But I was surprised every time it was mentioned that Lilac was 16 (Tarver was a bit older, so his age didn't throw me as much).
  • Soft sci-fi.  For me, this was a plus (though true sci-fi fans might be disappointed).  There were definitely sci-fi elements to this book, but it wasn't hardcore sci-fi.  Once the spaceship crashes, Tarver and Lilac struggle to make their way through a foreign land, full of dangerous creatures and harsh conditions and Lilac is haunted by voices that only she can hear.  It all felt a bit more like fantasy than sci-fi, which was perfect for me.  It was the perfect blend of sci-fi, fantasy and adventure in my book.
  • The mystery.  There are so many mysteries set up in this book and twists and turns that I did not see coming.  From the very beginning of the book, we know that Tarver (and, we assume, Lilac) have been rescued because we get snippets of Tarver's debrief (or, perhaps, interrogation?) at the beginning of each chapter.  But these little snippets of information just serve to pique your interest more.  How were Tarver and Lilac rescued?  What happened to them on that planet?  What happened between them?  When Lilac begins hearing voices, the questions just get bigger.  And the payoff for all of these mysteries was amazing!
  • Tarver and Lilac.  I absolutely loved the romance in this book - it was perfectly done. It started out with a spark of interest between both characters, but there were realistic barriers that kept them apart and their initial interest turned toward a bit of antagonism - but that spark never quite went away.  Instead it steadily grew as the characters started to let down their guard.  Despite Lily's status as a debutante, her strength and tenacity won me over, just as it won Tarver over.  Both of the characters went through an incredible amount of growth throughout this book, and I loved going on that journey with them! 
I highly recommend this book! If you're a fan of futuristic fantasy with a touch of sci-fi, this is the book for you! I give it 5/5 stars.

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Sunday, May 25, 2014

Sunday Post & Giveaways Galore - 5/25/14

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer ~ It's a chance to share news~ A post to recap the past week on my blog and share news about what's coming up in the week ahead. 

Last week on FYFA:

It's been so nice to finally see the sunshine here in Chicagoland!  I've been working hard to get ready for BEA and I CAN'T WAIT!  Here's what you may have missed this past week on FYFA:
Coming this week on FYFA:

Since I'm heading out to BEA on Tuesday night, I might not be as active on my blog this week.  But I've still got some good things planned!
  • Starcursed by Nandini Bajpai (review)
  • My Last Kiss by Bethany Neal (review & giveaway)
  • Middle Grade Spotlight - The Unicorn Thief by R.R. Russell (review and giveaway)

Here's what I got this week!

eBooks for Review:

Paperbacks Won:
I won this one from the True North:Finding Us release party. Thanks  Samantha Jacobey!

Other Current Giveaways on FYFA:
(Besides the ones that are listed above.)
  • Orenda by Ruth Silver (review & giveaway) - Still time to enter to win a gift card and a copy of the book!
  • Shadow Fire by Kimber Leigh Wheaton (review & giveaway) - Last chance to enter to win a $25 gift card!
  • True North: Finding Us by Allie Juliette Mousseau (excerpt & giveaway- Still time to enter to win!
Even More Awesome Giveaways on Other Sites:

Lots of good stuff!  Have any giveaways running on your site right now?  
Feel free to share them in the comments!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Feature & Follow Friday - Convince Your Friends!

Alison Can Read Feature & Follow

Gain new followers and make new friends with the Book Blogger Feature & Follow! This is a blog hop that allows bloggers to gain new followers and find some awesome new blogs to follow themselves!

The Feature & Follow is hosted by TWO hosts, Parajunkee of Parajunkee's View and Alison of Alison Can Read. Each host has a blog that they feature each week!

So, if you're a blogger, come join in on the fun!

Here's today's question -

Question of the Week: Have you ever convinced someone to read a book, a series, or a whole genre? What book(s) and who was it? Did they like it?

My husband doesn't read books. At all. But I have convinced him to listen to some audiobooks. The first one I ever got him to listen to was The Hunger Games.  He listened to all three books and really loved them! He also really loved The Fifth Wave. If I read an action-oriented dystopian, I often recommend it to him - then we can finally talk books!

Follow on Bloglovin 

I prefer to be followed via Bloglovin', but another way will work if you don't do Bloglovin'.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Review & $25 Giveaway - Taking Angels by C.S. Yelle

Title: Taking Angels
Series: The Angels Crusades, #1
Author: C.S. Yelle
Release Date: March, 2013
Pages: 380
Goodreads Rating: 4.46/5 Stars
My Rating: 3.5/5 Stars
My Content Rating: YA (Nothing more than kissing)
Genre: YA Paranormal

Summary from Goodreads:  Britt Anderson went along with everything the doctors said for nearly four years, but she was still dying at eighteen. The cancer had won leaving her without a future, without any options, and without control. No control, except for how she would leave this world. As Britt tries to end her life by going into the frigid waters she realizes her mistake. She struggles to get back to shore, to cry out for help, but her atrophied muscles are useless and the frigid water steals the breath from her chemo-scarred lungs. Despite her father’s attempts to reach her, she flies over the waterfall.

When Allister Parks finds Britt’s fragile body on the riverbank something calls out to him. Ignoring the warnings of his sister, Allister brings Britt back from the edge of death. The only problem is that an Eternal like Allister isn’t allowed to touch those who have already passed from this world. It is forbidden; an infraction punishable by death.

As Britt relishes her new cancer-free life and senior year of high school, her very existence threatens Allister’s place in this world. Allister struggles to keep Britt a secret from the Eternal Council and out of the hands of the only Eternal who already knows the truth: the one who stole her guardian angel.

Taking Angels is a great new YA paranormal romance.  The synopsis describes it well, so I'm going to skip straight to my review.

The negatives:
  • Instalove.  If you read my reviews often (which I hope you do!), you know how I feel about instalove.  It really takes hugely extenuating circumstances for it to work for me.  This book did have one element that could have made it work - a supernatural reason for the instalove. Britt is special, and both angels and Eternals can sense her purity - that something special.  She draws them to her.  So instalove should be totally allowed, right?  But, it still just didn't work for me.  After Allister was initially drawn to her by that purity, I still wanted to see something develop between them organically, and I just never saw it.  I never believed in their deep love.  When more characters starting falling in love with Britt with absolutely no provocation, Yelle totally lost me in the romance department. 
What I loved:
  • Eternals and Guardian Angels.  I thought that the concept of this book was very unique, mixing the idea of Guardian Angels with something new - Eternals, which I had never heard of before (I assume Yelle made them up, but I guess I don't know for sure).  The interaction between humans, Eternals and angels was very interesting, and I thought that Yelle did a great job with worldbuilding - giving us their history and the rules of their societies without shoving tons of information at us at once or withholding too much for too long.  It's a delicate balance.
  • Cured.  I also loved the dynamic that Britt's miracle cure created in the book.  I've read other books where someone was brought back from the brink of death before, but it was always due to some sudden accident - never from a long-term illness. Britt had been battling cancer for so long, it was a way of life for her. She didn't have any prospects of a future life, and suddenly the world was opened up to her! I loved her response to that - even her reaction to the little things like being able to attend school again. It was very realistic.
  • Side effects.  When Britt is cured, there are some pretty interesting side effects. I don't want to get into what they are because that would be spoilery, but suffice it to say they add a few surprises to the book.
So, while the romance angle of this book didn't completely capture my heart, the rest of the story was great!  I give it 3.5/5 stars.

***Disclosure: This book was provided to me by the author in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given. All opinions are my own***

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About the Author
C.S. Yelle was born and raised in Grand Rapids, MN, the “almost” middle child of six.  He attended Grand Rapids Senior High School where he enjoyed music and sports.  He received his BS in Chemistry from Mayville State University, Mayville, ND in 1987.  He taught 7-12 Science and coached for six years in several North Dakota schools and currently works as an Executive Account Manager in the Water Treatment Industry where he has been for nearly seventeen years.  He is the father of four and grandfather of one.  He writes novels, screenplays, and an occasional short story.  He has been writing seriously for over ten years and plans to continue until his fingers are unable, maybe longer.  He currently resides in a Minneapolis, MN suburb with his wife Jennifer and their rat terrier, Holly.

Author Links:
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